This Musing was inspired by a very brave person. I wanted to find a small way to honor them and this was the result. You’re more than you think. Never forget it.
“Mother, will I grow big and strong like you?” Ash stretched his branches toward the sky. The warmth of the sun’s golden rays caressed his smooth mottled bark, and a gentle breeze tickled the tips of his most prized possession, his delicate leaves.
“You’ll grow tall with a sturdy trunk and big branches like your father.” The rush of air through his mother’s leaves filled him with hope. Her voice sank through the ground, resonated deep in his roots, and sent comfort coursing through him.
“You don’t have to grow as tall as anyone but yourself. You’ll always be what you were meant to be.” His father’s branches shook in his version of a laugh.
Ash looked around the forest. His relatives surrounded him, shared their love and thoughts with him and each other. Siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, all stood proud watching the heavens. They were there when he pushed through the soil, and even now, as his leaves unfurled, green and lush, they remained.
But something happened. Something changed.
As the sun broke the horizon on a new day, flinging pastels across the clouds. Ash could tell something was wrong. His leaves, the symbol of all he was, seemed looser. A cool morning wind swept through, and to his horror, several fronds blew away.
“What’s wrong, Ash?” Her voice was soothing, but nothing could calm him.
“My leaves, they’re falling off. How can I stop this?” Panic rose up from the tips of his roots, up his trunk, and through his branches.
“Be calm, son. This happens with the seasons, remember? You’re still my strong sapling.” His father’s voice was light and filled with love.
He wanted to bolster himself with his dad’s confidence and the love and reassurance he sensed from everyone around him, but he couldn’t. His leaves were falling, and he wanted them to stop.
He focused all his energy on trying to hold on to every stem, but try as he might, they broke free and fell to the ground. When the last one tumbled, he cried tears of sap down his body. “I’m not a tree without my leaves. Everyone else has them. Why can’t I keep mine?”
His mother’s pride raced through the ground and all but enveloped him. “Your leaves are gone, but what remains?”
“What do you mean? I don’t have anything left. The last one fell. It was all I had, and now it’s gone.” Ash wanted lightning to strike him, split his trunk in two, and set fire to his wood. How could he exist like this? He was surrounded by trees with luxurious greenery. Each of them sported broad, dense leaves that shaded him from the sun.
His father chimed in, and shared feelings of warmth. “What makes a tree, Ash? What makes it special?”
“Trees have leaves, Father.”
“And what else?” His mother shook a branch until a few of her leaves drifted down to rest on his bare bark.
How could she ask such a question? How could she understand? She still had her leaves.
“Look at the ground, son.” His father disturbed a few of his own leaves. They flitted to the ground and joined many others. Some were Ash’s, some weren’t. “There are lots of leaves there. Are they all trees?”
“No, of course not. A leaf isn’t a tree, Father.” Why were his parents talking in circles? Didn’t they understand he was in a crisis?
His mother let a few more of her leaves fall. “A trunk, bark, and branches. That’s what truly makes a tree, Ash. You have a sturdy trunk with deep roots that touch mine. You have thick branches that taper, and they reach higher every year. Your bark is smooth and flecked with color. You are a tree.”
“But I have no leaves! You and Father have leaves.”
A loud rustling filled the air as all the trees shook their branches. The voices of his family spoke as one, and Ash was nearly overcome with emotion. “Then we’ll shake our leaves free.”
He wept as beautiful green foliage rained down around him. Guilt seeped into his wood. This wasn’t right. “Stop! Don’t free your leaves. I may not have mine, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to see yours.”
His father stretched a branch to him and it creaked at being thrust into a new angle. “Remember what I told you, son. You are everything you are meant to be.”
“You are strong, determined, loving, and insightful. None of those qualities were bound to your leaves. You will be these things until the seasons change again.” His mother’s sap ran down her trunk, but love radiated from her and from those around him.
So he waited. Life went on. He continued to grow. When the seasons changed some of his leaves came back, but not like before. When they fell away again, the sadness returned, but he soaked up the love of his family.
Several seasons came and went. On one particular fall evening, a violent storm descended on the forest. Heavy rain and brutal winds ripped through. Branches were broken, leaves were lost, but Ash’s roots ran deeper than all others. His hold on the earth and to the trees kept his family safe.
The next day, he looked over his relatives. Some were broken, some savagely scarred, but they were still alive, and they’d heal in time. Relief surged through him as he thought over the events of the previous night.
Realization descended on him like a rock slide. “My leaves wouldn’t have saved them.” His parents were right. He was a strong, sturdy tree, and everything that made him a tree allowed him to save lives.
“I am everything I’m meant to be.”