I Walked With My Son Into The Forest
Written by, Edward J. Kaull
I walked with my son into the forest. We rambled down a small path near our house that the deer and fox use as a trail but had become wide enough for us to explore. We saw a great tree and he bounded toward it like a tiny fawn. His eyes were sparkling with curiosity. “This tree was once small and thin but had grown up to be a strong and mighty tree.”, I told to him. He couldn’t help but look at it. It was a modern giant and was tangled with vines. The gnarled trunk twisted and turned until you reached the very top branches. The branches were thick and old and had carried so many beautiful birds that you could not imagine the colors even if you tried. As we talked, I knew he was trying to imagine all of this.
He threw a small rock into the green. I told him to close his eyes and to imagine the songs of the birds that filled that tree’s giant cloud of leaves and how the notes of those songs traveled far, far away to places we had never been. I told him to imagine that some of those songs floated over other smaller trees and then over grassy hills and fields and over small, tiny flowers dotting those hills. Then I explained that so many of these songs were only heard by other small animals in the quiet of the morning. “Like squirrels?”, he asked. I said, “Yes.” Then I told him that some of those songs were just for us but we would never know which ones. They just came and went and made us happy. A secret gift just for us.
I pointed into the upper branches of the tree and explained that the birds had raised their families in small nests in these large branches. I told him how the babies had flown away to start new families and that, one day, he would fly away and start his own family. He said he understood but I knew he didn’t.
We talked about how, in the fall, those leaves would change color and paint the sky and then slowly drop and then paint the ground. We spoke about how winter would finally come and you could only see the bare branches against the blue sky but that green shoots always cracked out of the hard bark and sprouted again….starting the cycle of life all over again…at least until this year.
This year the old tree had reached as high as it would ever reach. It would no longer spread it’s mighty branches like arms extending palms open to the sky as if looking up in communion. This year, it had fallen…quietly. We never heard it from the house. In fact, it had fallen so quietly that it was almost a hush when the other smaller trees and shrubs caught it in their branches and laid it softly on the earth. As this great tree sighed slowly into it’s final place in the forest there was a great silence. A slow mourning and a sadness for the passing of beauty and greatness. A life spent in service to the great forest and the great caretaker of the earth.
It had lived an unselfish life and had died, arms open wide. This great tree laid there surrounded by young saplings from the seeds it had dropped. Some of those saplings were already stretching through the canopy of green and toward the great blue sky. Eventually, this old tree would become part of the forest floor, shaded by other trees and the leaves of the ferns that would grow in it’s old bark. I tried to explain that this tree was like me and that I was sick. I tried to explain that one day I would go back to the earth because everything dies but, he is still too young. Nothing dies for him. It just goes away, the sun comes up again and he rides his bike. Oh my little love, I fight for you. I fight for your mom. I fight for us. He threw another rock and I walked into the forest a little deeper.