A ragged tree trunk of seventeen feet once stood in the northeast corner of the ash grove where my siblings and I camped. There on our family farm where we grew up in Antelope County, that tree could have told some tales.
I traced the indentations insects left. Artistic tracks once covered by bark. I made out the shape of a penguin, as if penciled into the wood. One of the gnarled roots jumped out to my eye as an owl. Looking at the same whorl from a distance, took the outline of either a mother and baby or a rounded babe in the womb.
Have you hugged a tree lately? I used to scoff at the New Age, California image that phrase conjured up. Until I tried it.
My husband’s back was turned that long-ago day I got up-front and personal with said aged tree. I stepped onto two of the forked roots and wrapped my arms as far as they could reach around the rough bark.
The wind receded and then ceased. I was immediately taken back to the years I had hidden next to a tree trunk, for whatever reason, as a child. The sounds were reminiscent of what I absorbed while clutching a limb playing hide-and-seek.
Immense energy filled my very being, while peace poured through me. How could that be?
I clung to a created object of nature, no longer living, but it still contained the ability to zap my soul with vigor. I closed my eyes. The outside world no longer existed. It was just me and that tree trunk. I wanted to experience more trees, to feel the difference. I eventually opened my eyes and heard the breeze pick up again.
My husband called my name. “It’s time to hit the road.”
I stepped off the root, and back. I fixed my gaze a final time, and marveled at the countless creatures that had lived in that tree over the years. Birds, insects, and four-legged beings had made their homes and nurtured their young. Had flickers, squirrels, and worms housed in this woodland told their children tales of the seven Mosel children who once romped and played and laughed among the roots and trunks?
A stump not living still provided for other living creatures. It held earth’s energy and offered a hiding place. Solace.
My spirit soared with the meadowlark’s song as we drove through the grassland.
At the gated entrance to the home of my youth I raised my gaze to the cottonwood that had stood sentinel near the driveway for as long as I could remember.
The landscape, the trees of my youth, live on now in memory only.
Note: An earlier version of “Tree Tales” appeared in Plains Song Review, 2002 Volume IV.