I Am

A squirrel hoarding its winter stash helped me get started a couple hundred years ago. The entire area was piney woods, so, for me to be able to spread my branches and roots in a tiny clearing was a blessing. Perhaps that squirrel knew exactly what he was doing. Or, the little stash of winter food happened to be in the right spot at the right moment, giving me life. My good fortune gave me space I needed to grow and find purpose. Now the certainty of a sunrise is accompanied by bird-song ringing from the tips of my branches.

I often wonder about the intention of their music. Does the song convey an important message? ‘Tis almost spring and I built a beautiful nest,’ or ‘the bugs are hatching on Cypress Bayou,’ or ‘I’m happy and I know it so I sing.’ Would the world change if bird-song stopped? Writing a story or growing deep roots, like song floating in morning air stay unnoticed until a special few pay attention. So why spend the effort? Would the world change if the music stopped? I do not want to know that answer.

Years ago, more than a century, a logging company moved its crew into this area. Trees were slaughtered so cities could be built. Did the loblolly pine grow straight and tall to be sacrificed in the construction of the 20th century? Did they have a choice? Why was I spared? Discrimination? Pine was then prize and oak was the outcast? When forests are leveled where do birds sing?

Boogie Woogie music filled the vacant air as slave descendants clear-cut all around me. When the ground lay bare their music disappeared. Only I remained, standing alone, the master of a meadow riddled with tire tracks and human debris.

After the energetic piano celebration came hammers and saws. New crews of dark brown people built houses; houses for fine, not-so-dark skinned people. I became the end of Birdsong Street. I regained purpose. Neighborhood children taught me how to be important. I am now the guardian of their secrets and a path to discovery. My roots grew deeper as the community embraced me. When children heard the music of their mother, I was the auditorium. I comforted the frustrated and counseled the energetic. Birds made a home and bugs nestled in my bark. I am privileged to be of service.

My leaves rot on top of my roots, completing a self-fulfilled prophecy. Animals of all shapes and sizes take comfort in my shade. I absorb sunshine, water and air, then release oxygen, feeding the breath of children who consider me a friend.

I am purposeful and important. I am a tree. I love my life. Please don’t ruin it.