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Tree Incarnation

by Marian Brooks

I’ve been rooted in mediocrity for so long, I’ve lost track of my own rings.

Sometimes the highlight of my day is watching baby acorns plummet to the ground. Once in a while, an impish offspring will bop a student or a professor on the top of the head. Gray squirrels chase each other up and down my limbs, tickling me into a smile. I’m ranked as one of the top lookout sites for black crows.

Otherwise, being a tree can be a fairly tedious profession. I wouldn’t recommend it. You can see from my wrinkled brow and impressive stature that I’m an elderly specimen with a high tolerance for shade.

By way of introduction, I’m Brenda, the Pin Oak tree, ninth on the right. I stand tall at the entrance to Rosemont College between Cecil and Homer. I’ve had some brilliant fall seasons, if I say so myself, but I think this may be one of my last. After the most recent pruning, some sneaky parasites had the guts to inch their way through the ends of my branches into my trunk. They are having a very long lunch at my expense. I don’t mind a few insects stealing some protein now and then but this is an armed invasion.

I’m irritated, too, by all of those sappy initials and hearts carved into my bark like trashy tattoos. Surely they’re obsolete by now. What could two fifteen-year olds know about forever?

I’ve had too much time to ponder my fate. Am I to be hacked to death and chucked into someone’s fireplace after all of my devoted years of service as a sentinel? Or, worse yet, be shredded to bits by a wood chipper? Is that all there is? I’d prefer to surrender, to fall gracefully to an ancient cradle when my time comes.

Excuse me for just a minute. I need to grab a helping of sunlight before I continue.

Perhaps it’s possible to choose an alternate future within the kingdom of trees.

In my next life I’ve imagined joining the evergreen family but ruled them out. One color is all you get for years and years, a bit dreary. Pounds of snow draped on those branches are too much of a liability, not to mention all those sharp pine cones in the shadows. That haughty Blue Spruce looks quite elegant as if posing for a post card from Maine — too prickly for my tastes.

Silver Birches provide shade and look lovely in clusters, hanging around picnics. They are fussy about their soil, however, and dreadfully nervous in cities.

How splendid it might be to bask in the sun all decked out as a Coconut Palm in Miami!

Silver Willows know how to whisper when the wind drifts through their canopies, but they’re destined to stand in soggy ground. No wonder they’re so grouchy. They can be aggressive on occasion, wrapping their roots around drain pipes, and serving as hosts for too many pests.

A Dogwood or a Cherry tree would be a welcome change. A little glitz wouldn’t hurt next time around. Those flowering fruit trees sure know all the tricks, pretending to be dead and then exploding with a flourish, just like that! I resent it.

But in good weather, a small boy wearing a Phillies baseball cap comes to read in my shade. He leaps among the leaves and collects my small, disappointing acorns. From their nest, baby sparrows are demanding lunch.

I will not abandon them yet. Hidden deep among our branches, trees have hearts.

Copyright © 2013 by Marian Brooks

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