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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Sapling

The Sapling
By Jesse Booth
Copyright 2017

The blades cut deeply through my body and I groan at their biting teeth. My branches sway, causing leaves to fall – a shadow of what is to come for me.
You helped me grow with your own hands, taking a branch from another tree in an orchard down the street and planting me in your backyard. You watered and fertilized me with such care and precision. As I grew into a sapling, that precision helped me form the foundation for strong roots. Day after day, I dug deeper and deeper into the luscious soil.
The rains fell upon me and I drank. Sunrays cascaded down on me and I absorbed them. My trunk thickened, and branches sprouted higher and farther.
A few years later, I scattered blossoms which were pollinated by buzzing bees, and I produced the first bits of fruit you so desperately wanted.
Year after year, I produced more and more for you. My bark stretched and began to crack and split. I was stronger than ever.
Many branches shot out, but you must have felt they were too much. You cut them from me, which caused me so much pain. I still have the scars from their removal.
You did bring me relief, though. You protected me from vicious pests who would eat away at me. You planted other trees by me, and our roots interlaced majestically. There is no other feeling that compares to the gentle touch of another living thing.
Harvest season would come, and I’d feel you holding onto my firm branches for stability as you picked the cherries that I so delicately grew. Each one of them contained a part of me – a seed that, had you decided to, could have been planted and grown into a tree just like me. I realize that was not your purpose or intent for harvesting my fruit. Still, I like to think that there could be another tree out there that came from me.
The cool temperatures would soon follow the harvest, and every year I shed my leaves, preparing for dormancy during the bitter cold winters. Many times I would wake up when the temperature would get warmer, only to be tricked. After sprouting hopeful blossoms, the temperature would drop again – typically after sundown. My blossoms would freeze, and I’d have to start over. Some years my crop of cherries would be smaller than others.
For thirty years you tended to me. You helped me stay alive. More than that, you made me thrive.
But I can no longer produce fruit. And although I provide shade from the cruel sun, that is not what you need me to do.
And now, you have nearly cut clean through my thick trunk. I can feel myself angling to the side, my life fluid flowing down to where you have cut away at me.
And then I fall with a booming crash, branches snapping with the collision with the ground.
The pain I feel is beyond comprehension. I’d take your pruning over this.
I can guess how the rest of this plays out. You’ll chop me up into chunks, let me dry out, then haul me away for use in the winter time to keep yourself warm. At least I’ll be able to provide you some comfort before the rest of me disappears forever. And my stump will remain a monument for what you have done this day until you find the means to pull it out and replace it with a young new tree. My purpose has been served.
The last thing I feel is your hand on my fallen trunk. It’s gentle and loving. How could these same hands have cut me down?

***

My sweet sapling, my holder of blossoms, my strong cherry tree – you have not fulfilled your purpose yet. You were my first tree that began this surrounding orchard. Felling you was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
You were my angel tree. I would sit under you after working in the orchard and read books. You provided a sanctuary and peace that not even my home can bring.
I cried under your bows when times were tough. I shouted for joy, touching you like this, during the good times. I may not have roots, but I do have a soul. So do you. And our souls are more intertwined than any roots could possibly be.
Through the years, I pruned your branches, and though it pained me to hurt you, I knew how much it would help you. Removing the weaker, unnecessary branches allowed for you to focus on making your strong ones even stronger. The scars you bare are trophies – proof that you have lived a good, long life. No being lives their life without picking up their own set of scars.
You are the mightiest tree in this orchard, and with my help, the surrounding trees have done their best to be like you. However, few trees rival your perfection. You were shaped by my hands to be something grand.
And my hands are not done shaping you.
My beloved cherry tree, though I weep seeing you dying, lying horizontally rather than standing vertically, I now carve you with precision. With loving care, I peel back your bark, exposing your green-brown flesh. Do not worry, my old friend: I have planned for this moment.
The skinniest parts of you I will sand down and form into wooden legs. They are among the strong branches you were able to focus on, and now will be tough enough to carry much more than just fruit.
With your long trunk, I am able to carve several long slabs which I will bond together to make one large slab. The strong wooden legs will support it, and with two other branches, I will create a stretcher to better support the legs. Around the large slab I will use skinnier lengths of your wood to build a frame. All of these pieces combined will form you into my dining room table.
And now that all of your pieces have been formed, I will polish you and cover you with a sealant. Such actions will preserve your live beauty forever.
 And so you see, my cherry tree, your wood is too fine for my fireplace. If you were the last bit of wood in all the world, and I had to endure the winter, I still would keep you here, in my dining room.
You are all assembled, and for the rest of my life, I get to have every meal with you. No harsh weather will tear at your limbs and rip up your leaves. No insects will threaten you with their pincers and mouths. No birds will chip away at you with their beaks. You are now a part of my living space, and although you no longer have physical roots, you will always remain planted here in my home.
Do not fear of what becomes of your prior living space, for next to your perfect stump I have planted a seed from your last harvest. I will see to its nurture and care. In time, its roots will intertwine with yours, and they will feel familiar, for you will always be a part of it, and it will always be a part of you.

You are precious, my cherry tree. You will forever be my sapling.

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