As I was quietly walking along the brook, marvelling at the golden leaves slowly whirling down onto the running stream, a tree approached me. Indeed, I thought I heard it speak:

«I was once a healtly sapling,
that an old lady planted here,
in memory of her deceased son.
I was supposed to grow slim and fast,
Like many trees along the passing waters.
Winters came, and some were brutal.
Many plants died, frozen along the ice covered brook.
Then winds and storms,
And worms, too, as well as wicked sorts of bugs
Attacked my leaves, and gnawed at my cork;
Summers, so hot and dry
And endless months without a drop,
Scorched my leaves and drained my roots.
Squirrels, too, and deer,
And woodpeckers, took no notice of my declining airs.
Yet I made it!…

And now I stand, a gnarled tree,
Which let its wounds and scaths exposed…
As the water flows, carrying my leaves away,
Of gold and blood,
My crippled leaves and broken twigs…
And Here I stand, a gnarled tree.
My branches are a playground for merry squirrels, grey and black,
And in my shade, cute ducklings sit in a brood,
Chipmunks and toads find a home under my roots;
The winter breeze plays the harp and poignant tunes
Within my twigs and branches.
I have been standing here, year after year,
And passers-by politely hail me
When their legs grow weary.
Hundreds of sparrows flock to me
And God has His eye on each one of them!
I know.»

«Oh,» said the tree, «I think many of you resemble me:
they sprang so promising and strong
in their prime!
then school-time came and bullying
and endless hours of study
and boring homework
and yearning for love.
Then the moment to find a work and toil,
Year in and year out;
Family life, not always smooth and clean,
With ups and downs, and tragedies;
Many a day of pains and tears,
And unveiled lots of sleepless nights
And fatigue and illnesses;
Car crashes and falls, and heart attacks,
And cancer to crown so dreadful years of sufferings!
Yet there you are:
A passer-by who looks at me»

When I watch the kids from school, playing with golden leaves, and the peaceful ducks in their bright necks shining in the light, I think of the gnarled tree, that once approached me, on Brookside Drive.

Fr. Dominique+ (NY)


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