The Kindness of Trees
When she was younger her short legs required the help of a stepladder to reach the lowest branch. But as her legs grew longer and stronger, they allowed her to jump up and catch the lowest hanging branch in her brown fists. Addie could see the entire world from up in that tree. Okay, maybe not the entire world, but almost her entire neighborhood, which was the world to her. Her favorite spot was a little more than halfway up the tree. There was a spot there where the branches intersected and made a crude seat for her to nestle in. She spent hours in that spot watching the world carry on below without her.
The leaves on the tree were large enough to hide her human form but small enough so she could still see most everything going on without having to move too much. It let her disengage ever so slightly from the world. She transformed into a tiny brown god and tried to gain perspective on a world she rarely understood. Down there the world was an unloving place. A place that told her she wasn’t enough because her skin was brown. A place that imposed its limits upon her and set its expectations of her low and expected her to do the same. It was a place filled with an unkind pain, a place that reminded her every day that there was no room for her, that she did not belong. It delivered a loud cruel message to her every day, one that differed profoundly from the story her parents told her. Her young mind was held prisoner to a daily battle between the two. But up in the tree, it was peacefully different. There she saw another world, a prettier one with rooftops, sloping yards, and flower bushes, and, in the fall, leaves painted in fiery hues of yellow, red, and orange.
Up there her mind was free to dream dreams unfettered. Up there her spirit was allowed to soar. Up there the gentle breezes that made the tree sway was like God rocking her in his arms and kissing wounds so deep no one else had the power to heal. The beauty of nature was her balm in Gilead. In the embrace of that tree, she knew she could be anything, do anything. It was there God told her to the secret of the tree: life loses its sting when you viewed things on a grander scale.
Addie is a grown woman now, but she never forgot the lessons she learned as she sat cradled among the branches. Though her parents have long since sold the house, and Addie’s tree along with it, she kept the lessons of the tree tucked inside her like a treasured secret. When life gets hard, and she loses her frame of reference, she’ll find a tree to lean against and gaze up into its woody arms, and she’ll sit still and listen and remember who she is.
Audra Russell is a freelance writer, blogger, and native Jersey girl who has been living in a Maryland world for the past 21 years. She’s held an array of jobs over the years, but her two undergraduate degrees in journalism show where her true passion lies.
She’s working on getting her first novel published. In the meantime, she keeps busy creating short stories and sharing writing tips and tricks for emerging writers.
When she’s not writing, reading, or honing her craft, she’s spending time with her family and growing food in her backyard farm (and trying to keep her chickens from stealing her tomatoes).
Oh…and she loves the smell of books, freshly sharpened number two pencils, and scotch tape. But who doesn’t, right?