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Under the tree

What is its name? His name? I cannot tell. He is one of nine, growing within two square meter patches on a concrete slab. His neighbors, like him, stand guard over stone-like benches.

He is property of the State, on the CSUN compound. I don't think he cares. It's now 8:30 pm, on Sunday, December 05, 1999. There are only 26 days left until Y2K. I don't think he cares about that either.

Maybe it's a she. A she? Are tree either hes or shes? Somehow I don't think so. Does he have a name? Does he speak, think? Does he remember things? Like the feel of the wind, or the warmth of the sun on his leaves?

Does he have a name? I'll call her Eve.

This tree, Eve, does she feel the light waves from my Minolta flash? Does she keep count of the people who pass underneath her branches?

A little while later, Eve has not moved, but I have. There are leaves on the ground, colleagues of the hanging ones. Spider-like branches web the night sky over my home town.

Eve has a strong trunk--granular bark full of crevasses and wrinkles. She has been on this word a while, maybe longer than I have. Every day, she sees the sun, the moon, the stars, just as I do.

She has been around this planet as many times as I have. The earth spins her as she spins me; round and round like a merry-go-round.

Someday, many years from now, as a parking lot or a younger shoot takes over her 37 square feet, she will warm a fireplace in Woodland Hills or Pacoima. She may not even be burned, but give a hiding place to cups and plates, or worms, beetles and greenish moss.

She may outlive me, and all of us. Sixty years from now, she may still be here, feeling the wind and the sun, and the tiny feet of a million ants climbing her body. She may outlive the school, the State even.

And maybe she will remember us, the students, the lovers, and the security guards, who strolled, held hands, and marched under her branches.

Now I look at this beautiful tree: hidden roots tapping the earth for food; high branches, like outstretched hands, reaching to the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Nothing fazes her. She is neither angry, afraid, nor stressed. She lives outdoors, strong enough not to need shelter against the eve's cool. She has everything she needs within her reach. Her branches mingle with those of her neighbors, entwined in embrace.

One day she will fall, having given food, shelter, and inspiration to a multitude of short-lived beings.
And now, I must leave. She remains, in this square of earth, tranquil, serene. How I wish I were like her. I must struggle, cold, with money not mine, on ground fleeting, in a house not my own, working for another.

Unlike Eve, I am selfish, greedy, self-pleasing. And I feel that me and mine should leave this planet alone, that Eve has a much better understanding of what it really means to live in harmony with Gaia. My specie kills, burns, flattens, and forgets. Hers nurtures, enriches, shelters, the ants, and us too.

I drive away. All these things I own, this car from the other side of the world, all the things I see, remind me that it is thanks to Eve and hers that I owe it all. We are nothing but parasites in a world engineered by her folks. I wish her well, really.

And now, in retrospect, I am awed by her wisdom, by her soothing touch on my soul. I am thankful I meet her, and that I got to know her.

Eve has not moved, but she has moved me.

©1999 Christopher Mahan.

Written for a class assignment. Was actually never read by the teacher, but I got an A in the class, so I don't care much...