When I was thirteen, there was a solitary place I found through explorations. A place of such peace, solitude, and true beauty, it took my breath away. There was a patch of woods across the road from our apartment complex, with a trail I loved to follow. Through my many explorations along this trail, I found a tiny, little-known path, which led to a clearing. In this clearing, stood a hug oak I came to know as “Crooked Tree”.
The clearing was roughly circular, about a hundred feet in diameter. Dark green grass grew everywhere, except in one spot: the very center. Amid the tall pines, small bushes, and tangled vines, stood Crooked Tree. A huge, massive, twisted oak, with long, leafy branches that stretched far out across the clearing. Very little grass grew at the foot of this tree. There was only dark brown dirt and dozens of dead leaves.
From the first moment I laid eyes on Crooked Tree, I felt a strong bond. He sent his telepathic message out from him. All around him, other trees formed their little cliques, woven together by the vines. But Crooked Tree stood alone, isolated. He was different from the others and was set apart from them. He knew he was different. But, for all his loneliness, he was the most beautiful and magnificent tree in those woods. He was almost enchanted.
For four years, he was my closest friend; the only one who seemed to understand. When I was lonely and depressed, I’d follow the trail that led to Crooked Tree. The trail was hidden behind a group of scraggly bushes. I’d part them to reveal the narrow, overgrown path. Ten feet further, vines, interwoven, hung from the trees in a semblance of a gateway. On the other side of the gate, the “enchanted forest” was so quiet. Then, there stood the beautiful but lonely Crooked Tree.
There was something majestic about this perennial giant. Although twisted by storms and wind, he stood so proud, as if watching lovingly over the others. A loyal king, affectionaely watching over his subjects. When the wind blew through his branches, the entire forest hushed to listen to the cry of the Spirit of the Oak. When he groaned under his own weight, it was the wail of a banshee. Truly magnificent was Crooked Tree.
When I was seventeen, we moved from there, on into Texarkana. I knew it would be a good while before I set foot in those woods again, so I paid a visit to my loyal friend. I sat beneath his beautiful branches and cried, as I swore to him that, someday, I would return.
A year passed, before that chance came. But, true to my promise, I did return.
I noticed, as I walked down the main trail, that it was much wider than I remembered. Also, many of the trees had been cut down. Fear gripped me, as I noticed the small bushes, the guardians of my paradise, were gone. The trail was now wide enough for a log truck to pass through. The wide, ugly road had even taken the gateway. Running down what was once a thin, little-known pathway, I was horrified at the ugliness that now surrounded me. The pines were gone, the bushes were gone. Even the strangling vines had been stripped away, leaving a stark barrenness.
When the clearing came in sight, I was devastated. It wasn’t circular, anyymore. It was without shape, and so much bigger than a hundred feet across. All the beaufiful green grass was replaced by criss-crossing tire tracks. But, worst of all, was the sight directly in front of me. Where once a beautiful oak had stood so proudly, there was a short, ugly stump. I could almost hear his death-cry, as he fell. Slowly, I walked forward, crying. In shock, I counted the rings. One hundred and one.
Crooked Tree had borne his isolaton for a little more than a century. He had seen many generations of plant-life and wildlife born, grow, and die, while he stood, watchful, but alone. Ignored and lonely. He was a powerful yet graceful symbol of Nature’s loving care. Then Man walked in and destroyed in moments what it took Her a hundred years to perfect.
Again, those woods are silent. But they no longer to stop and listen to his majestic wail. They now mourn his death.