While passing through a forest near the Yellow Brick Road, I heard a tree whimpering. I stopped by.
Hey Tree, are you okay?
TREE: Not really. It’s my 500th birthday…which isn’t completely weird for a tree of my type.
Then what’s the matter?
TREE: I’m freaking out over the number. I mean, I had no problem turning three hundred. Four hundred bothered me a little. But five hundred! I’m pretty paralyzed by the whole thing.
Everybody tells me not to obsess with the numbers.
TREE: But it’s more than that. I feel different. More fragile. And I hate the way I look.
I think there’s something stunning and sensual about your starkness.
TREE: Really? Thank you.
But I know what you mean about feeling very, very fragile. I’m the same way. Whenever something needs to heal in my body these days, it takes a lot longer.
TREE: Right. And the bark on my trunk is starting to fall off. And I have root damage so I lean to one side.
Is that painful?
TREE: On and off. But I’m really worried about what’s gonna happen in the winter. If there’s a huge icicle hanging from me, I could break a twig! And in the spring, I won’t be able to hold birds’ nests and squirrels bouncing all over my branches anymore. I could break a whole branch.
I hear ya.
TREE: And what if a mole digs too deep near my bad roots? I’ll fall!
Sometimes I tell people about my aches and pains so I won’t have to push myself too far and get hurt. Like, I tell people I have a bad back if I need to carry something heavy. I ask for help.
TREE: That’s an idea. I can tell the birds to go to another tree if I feel like I can’t handle them. But that also depresses me. I feel like I’m not as much part of the world as I used to be.
Yeah, I think that’s the hardest part of all this.
TREE: On the other hand, maybe there’s some good that comes from this sadness.
How do you see that?
TREE: Well, there are lots of other older trees here in the forest. We go way back.
TREE: So if aging is a natural part of life, at least I have other old trees to share the experience with. I mean, if we’re all going to grow older, there’s something beautiful and touching about others doing it with us. Think about how lonely it would be to grow old all alone….while everyone else was young.
TREE: But I’m still anxious.
Actually, I just thought of a way you could still feel part of the world. Would you consider going into the wish business?
TREE: What are you talking about?
I’ve seen trees around the world that try to help grant wishes. Like, banyan trees are into it.
TREE: I know a banyan in Hawaii. How does it work?
Well, a person stands by a tree and makes a wish or hopes for something. Then the person ties a colorful strip of cloth on the tree’s branch, and that cloth stands for the wish. Lots of other people come around and do the same thing till the tree is filled with awesome, colorful cloths.
And the cloths are lightweight.
TREE: Ya know, I like that. I’m gonna try it. Instead of carrying birds and squirrels, I’ll carry wishes and hopes. Here I go…
Cathi Turow 2017.