I confessed, I cringed the day my friend invited us to go see a tree. I rolled my eyes and found it hilarious. Me, going to see a tree? I see trees everyday, everywhere. That’s unheard of! The fact that it was even being proposed, was hysterical.
It was hot and muggy, sweltering kind of summer day! A day I yearned for a cool room and not the outdoors. I pictured myself indoors in an air conditioning room and not out gazing at any tree, let alone a big tree.
“What tree?” I asked and I quietly remarked, “Lord, what’s so special about the tree?”
“It is not any tree, it is the “Big Tree”, “The Senator”, she said.
“Big Tree…”, I muttered
“Have you ever heard about Sequoias over in California? It is from the same family and it has been around for years, more then three thousand years”. She added.
Oh God, I am about to go see a tree that has been around for three thousand years. It better be good. It better possess supernatural powers. I hoped it used its branches as a magic wand and cure me from the insane trip I was about to venture into. Why? Why? Why?… “What did I do to deserve this? This better be good!”, I murmured to myself.
My ignorant self paused for a second and reflected. Perhaps, I was freaking out and being a tutee for no reason. She said three thousand years, like in three plus zeros, zeros, zeros, like in more then one million ninety nine five thousand days and the thing was still alive, right?! I mean, it wouldn’t take a fool long enough to realize that it was significant! I caved in.
Curiosity suddenly took over and sucked me in with its tentacles. The need to learn. To know. To educate was persuasive. They became strong antidotes then my desire to stay at home in a cool room. I was going to see The Tree, its leaves, branches, trunks and roots. I wished it told stories and had pictures to share.
I still had the word “tree” pinned in my forehead as we drove to the park. The trip was uneventful, akin to me taking the next train home. I pondered about my misguided thoughts, misjudging its relevance as I fail to put its historical context into perspective, tumbling miserably at the unscripted interpretation of judging a book by its cover. I reminded myself that there was something more then met the eyes then a stuck up plant with handsome stems. The problem was that I conjectured it to be an ordinary tree as soon as I heard the word, tree. So, any chance of me making the trip memorable was slim to none.
I did not snap any pictures but hoped the tree told stories. I walked around dissecting it, hoping to find what, I don’t know but something to reassure me that all was alright, to prove me wrong. Just as fast I walked in, just as fast I retreated to my unguarded thought, back to my gutless fetal position! I was more obsessed with the bugs that were eating me alive, trying to fend them off then the event itself. So, the thought of going back to my air conditioning room, was once again alluring and became apparent as I did not intend to spend longer then 5 seconds gazing at the tree.
Fast forward to a few years later. I was visiting, this time with a few friends, when my friend suggested that we go see the Big Tree once again. Wait, hold your horses body! No need for high blood pressure here. I did not even cringe this time. I was excited, jumping up and down like a kid in a candy store. I was the first up and ready to go; perhaps, the weather had something to do with it.
It was winter, a cold, rainy, ugly day. A day anyone with any sense would not hesitate but suggest to stay home, lay in bed and count the stars. A gray winter coat kind of a day but it didn’t matter, we had an agenda and marching on, we did.
We arrived at the place and I could not help but notice that there was barely a car. The place was deserted, not even a soul. Maybe, people were hiding in the bushes ready to scream “Surprise!” to us. Why does it sound familiar?!
We had the whole place to ourselves and as we began walking through the trail, I began paying more attention to her particulars as her presence came into view. Mind you she could be a he as far as I was concerned but made it easy for myself and preferred to refer to her as she, stood alone. Tall, elegant, manicured, surrounded by bushes sitting in the middle of nowhere. Her height, her size, her history side by side dragging along.
I stood there fixated, observing, waiting for her to tell me stories. What she saw in the years past. What she heard. What it felt like being around all these years and live to tell about it? Who kissed her. Who kissed who. Who came by. What time they came. How long they stayed if they told her stories at all. I wanted her to describe the weather back in the stone ages, the temperature back in January 1875, the news, what was trending, if any at all? I questioned her about fashion, what it was like, what made her gorgeous? I mean, what kind girl would I be if I had not pinned the most sough-after question somewhere in the middle of my questionnaire? Did they walk, did they drive, did they bike? What cars folks drove back then, which color, which make? There were so many questions traveling through my brain that it overloaded my thoughts but there no answers. She didn’t say a word. She stood numb, quiet, like an elegant statuette, a green tour Eiffel. I guess her pride superseded her.
She stood erected, piercing, gazing at yesterday and tomorrow, majestic. I, on the other hand, tensed, curious, anxious. I hungered for her to burst from her shell, park her shyness, pull her diary, freak out and tell us straight, to go away and leave her alone. But no, she just stood there, motionless, like a tree that she was refusing to surrender, to share historical events that she had experienced and many can only read.
Yeah, it could only be! I woke up from my dream just in time and reminded myself that she was only a tree and not a being. An old tree without diapers or dentures, gray hair, arthritis or osteoporosis. An old tree that refused to die and defied the odds and was around for all well earned three thousand and four hundred years, oh Lord that’s a lot burgers, until some nuttiness did her in. Yes, someone did her in. http://www.wesh.com/hometest/30562154/detail.html
One early morning, there were no answers but questions. There were not stories but a story as she came to on January 16 inflicted by a regular who went to the site to use drugs and lit it her on fire. Today, The Senator sits in ruins, naked, smoldered, flustered by her demise. Tragic but it finally registered with me that I had been to places, glanced up at the wardrobes, spoken languages, danced to the drums of many who came to pay her a visit. I had a ball and was in awe that I had witnessed history. RIP Big Tree!