Sun warms my bare limbs. My last remaining leaf hangs quivering in a faint breeze. It is brown and brittle and will not survive its place this night. Neither will I. Storm clouds are building to the west. It will be the storm that will end me.
I have known this time was approaching. My roots no longer have a deep hold on the earth. My branches no longer reach for the sky—having become few, weak, broken, aged.
I was not always this way—an elder among the adolescent. Once I was young and strong, standing proudly in the copse of trees.
The land has changed much in the nearly four hundred springs I have stood here. I have known floods and drought. As my leaves have fallen I have remembered…..
I began as an acorn, fallen from my parent tree—long since gone and returned to the earth near me.
I can remember my first taste of sunlight and have reached for it every day since.
Grazing animals left me to grow—bison, deer, and horses; all respectful of my presence, leaving me on my quest for the sun.
As time passed, I grew tall enough to reward those who spare me on their own quest for nourishment, offering shade in the heat of summer. Birds nested in my higher limbs, or roosted, safe in their slumber.
Animals—brother squirrel, raccoon, opossum, among others, climbed my limbs. Deer ate of my fruit, the acorn.
More seasons came as well as man, setting their lodges among my fellow trees. Peaceful and respectful to their animal and plant brothers, taking only what they needed.
The peoples’ children played among my branches, their laughter as beautiful as birdsong.
Another race of man appeared, his skin a different color. It was a sorrowful time and soon the people who had lived in harmony with me disappeared along with many of the animals.
Springs passed and a new kind of beast rested beneath my shade, brought by the pale-skinned man.
The men built large lodges within sight of me and my fellow trees. As time passed, the men took them down, their sharp axes turning them into broken little pieces, and then taking them away.
I was somehow spared, but man still used me to take the life of others at the end of a rope. Perhaps that is why I was spared, for their use of me.
Later, a creature passed far in the distance, belching black smoke and the men moved closer to it and over time removed their lodges, board by board and moved closer to the great beasts.
Finally, I was left in peace, my company the cattle of man. Deer returned to share my acorns with the squirrels. Birds continued to raise their young.
There is beauty in the storm that approaches, the lightning reaching for the soil as my limbs reach for the sky.
There are little ones near me that will grow, nourished by my being.
The wind has arrived, drops of rain touching my bark.
I am not afraid as my last leaf falls.