The Gifted Tree

Video narration is available at Kimberly's YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/FcZYjdBqH9k

Nigel woke yearning for the Scottish bagpipes that used to serenade him first thing in the morning.

He supposed the musician had moved or found a new spot to play, seeking donations in a fairer spot. At any rate, the songs had been weeks gone and he missed it. Puttering into the kitchen he prepared his daily oatmeal and watched the coffee drip into his Grand Canyon mug procured years ago on a fun road trip he took with his mother. This mug made him happy and sad because she was gone and had been one of the only people in his small world that had really seen him clearly.

Mornings always felt best for Nigel. It held hope for activity and accomplishments. As the day wore on he could feel his energy flagging with every unwanted chore or human interaction. He was grateful his mother had left him her estate and some money that would keep him comfortable if he was really frugal. His needs were simple and it didn’t bother him to be on a tight budget.

Pulling on his hiking boots he set off outside with his rain jacket and hat. When it rained people weren’t outside and he could be in peace walking the streets towards the forest. Nigel never thought of himself as an introvert or someone who didn’t appreciate the company of others, it was just that very few understood his particular proclivity for dreaming. When he was a young child he would listen to music on his bed in the dark choreographing dances in his head, or sit in the grass imagining the lives of the tiny ants crawling up his legs. People would get offended when his attention was pulled to the images manifesting in his mind. Most importantly his problems with people occurred when he couldn’t separate how important nature was to him. A tree could speak to him louder than a loved one.

That’s where he was going today, to speak to the trees. He had his favorites, but he always made sure to seek out new ones who had something to say. The rainwater hit his face softly with big drops. It was one of those rain showers that feels refreshing and raises the potent smells of dirt. He needed that musky smell. It grounded him and he needed the trees to help, because lately Nigel had been feeling completely helpless. He was used to feeling misunderstood and living mostly alone, but this was different.  

Since the pandemic started 8 years ago so much had changed. The river had clogged with refuse from the homeless washing themselves and living under makeshift tents, stretching across bush branches and logs. Their dogs and cats sprawled on rocks and ledges fighting each other for the meaty remains of an injured sparrow or ground hog. All of them had been pushed out of their houses and apartments because they couldn’t pay. Then the landlords couldn’t pay and joined them. Then the government tried to pay and it was too late. Nigel followed the events as years went by and watched as family after family moved in to the dense woods. He observed as they learned how to build fires, defecate in holes, and shelter from exposure. On his walks, some of his ex-neighbors would wave slightly as he passed by.

Today’s forest felt fresh to him. While everyone took cover, Nigel reveled in how it made him feel alive and free. He wanted the water to soak into every single pore and fish its way through every organ, sluicing the dusty haze he felt on most days.

The life he had known was gone. The small ways he had managed to fit in to society didn’t make sense anymore. It all changed year by year as the virus kept batting away at humankind. He knew they had had a moment, a chance, to turn it around in the beginning but no one had wanted to adjust. No one would have believed him, if he had talked about the trees. Every time Nigel sat down with his rooted friends, they had told him this would happen and what needed to be altered, but what could Nigel do? He was just one man after all and an odd one at that. Not a leader; not someone people listened to, an old botanist with dirty hands. So he said nothing and stayed quiet as it all happened. He forgave himself for it, and prepared for what was to come.

These tall beacons of wisdom, beautiful branches hacked away, friendly leaves yanked down for bedding and protective bark knifed raw, he is amazed at how forgiving they are. Every time he comes to them, having to travel further and further as the masses populate their home, they still speak deeply and soundly in Nigel’s ear. Sometimes tears run down his face as he presses his old cheek against their rugged skin. He’ll sob and embrace the trunk, clasping on for his sanity and mourning the ones who died. The trees hold him, soothe him, and explain that all is not lost, that those who passed are food for those to come. They always say they’re grateful he can hear them; feeling less alone knowing he could.

Nigel spotted an ancient pine and sat in the squishy matter at its base feeling his ancient bones calling for the earth stronger than any other day. He knew he’d been dropped into a human body instead of living amongst his austere and elegant friends. The remembered details of his little life pummeled ceaselessly as his body submerged further under the wet torrent that tenderly released the hat from his head. He was so very tired. These daily walks were becoming more and more difficult, and pretty soon it will happen. And when it does, he thought, I’d like to be a tree. When he considered it; he’d never wanted anything else.

The End.

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Drawing Credit: “The Old Man And The Tree” by James Duncan via https://www.clockworkart.com/