How Things Grow

Why do I not grow?  These leaves stay small and brittle.  They do not flair outwards like yours.  My bark is still soft, my branches are few.

Ah, said the old tree as it bent over the sapling.  Its leaves bristled against the young tree’s bark.

What you describe is not growth.

This is how you really grow.  In secret, discontent, discomfort, in ways that you don’t always want to.  You grow when your tendrils grow sore and strained, your young shoots get scorched in the sun.  You grow under the surface, in the cold, dark, wetness.  You will compete with the others for space, you will be assailed by owls and rodents.

You do not grow while thinking about growth.  You look back after a long life and notice it.

These leaves?  Do not envy them, for they reach their largest and brightest just before their death.

This is what the old tree said to the young sapling before it fell.

Cemetery

Rest in the shade of my boughs, and look out over the hill.  In the distance, a calming sea, an ocean breeze.  Once there was nothing here.

The first fishermen arrived.  They grew in number, they built huts, and the habitations grew in size.  Feasts were had.

When they were laid to rest, the most powerful among them sought the shade of my boughs.

Then the invaders came, wearing fierce expressions and loud explosions.  Overcoming the natives, they took from the land, extracting from it what they could.  They grew fat and jolly, they schemed in devious ways and built stone mansions, imported, from the spoils of their trade.

And yet – they all met the same fate, and now seek the shade of my boughs.

The next invaders were not of the overpowering, physical sort.  They came, full of ideas about how the world should be arranged and rearranged.  They are gentler, not given so much to violence, yet they do fight – and fight – over pieces of paper and the acceptance of ideas, about how best to arrange the resources amongst them.

And those who grow fat among them still grow smug, and satisfied, in their concept of wealth.

And yet – when they meet their ends they find solace in the shade of my boughs.

They are alike, all of them.  They laugh and cry, and they strive.  They do not stop striving, and in this they are alike and equal.

They don’t know that the rains wash their remains away to the foothills where everyone else is buried, where their bones mix with those of the sparrows and hogs and fish, to mix and form the loam in which my roots clench deep, to strengthen the trunks and branches for the shade – the shade of my boughs.