Tree lived atop a hill. It had
been twelve winters since Tree first sprouted as the only sapling on that hill
and twelve generous summers that helped him to grow strong and confident enough
to call the hill his own.
It was neither the tallest nor
the shortest hill, but it was a sturdy hill that afforded Tree good light for
his leaves and enough rain to keep his roots satiated. But most of all, being
the only sprout atop the hill other than the tiny grasses, there was a great
sense of silence and it was this silence that Tree cherished as peace. At the
foot of the hill was a meadow that produced much in chitchat amongst the
various sprouts, but Tree wanted nothing to do with it. He loved his silence as
he loved rubbing his leaves against the first rays of the warm morning sun.
In the thirteenth spring, in the
midst of the first rains of the year, a young raven perched in Tree's branches.
He worried that the bird was searching for a place to build a nest and, just as
spring follows summer, Tree knew that nests led to eggs and eggs led to noise.
He gave a quick shake of his branches.
The clumsy and freighted raven
dropped a small seed as it flew off. Tree tried to call to the raven, but the
black bird paid no mind, already occupied with another black winged friend in
the thralls of spring.
Tree looked down on the seed,
considered its small size and precarious situation, hidden under the shade of
Tree's full canopy. If trees could frown, or scowl, or even smile in contempt,
it was not done on this day. The rains continued to fall, followed by the
warmth of the generous sun, and Tree paid no more attention to the little seed
then he did to the tiny grasses tickling at his roots or the whispering
caterpillars slinking up his bark.
The days passed and Tree's leaves
turned from bright to dark green. Tree rubbed his leaves in and out of the rays
of the sun as he had done every year, scratching that most essential feeling he
felt deep in his trunk. His roots reached down into the soil, dipping into the
cool reserves of his hill. This, he believed, was the only way to be, with the
entire world open to his needs. And, as trees breath, Tree let out a long and
It was in this moment of apparent
self-epiphany that Tree noticed a sudden shift in the wind and heard a small
"Who are you?"
Tree looked around and saw
nothing. He checked his branches for another raven because he knew they liked
to play such tricks, especially after being shooed. When he glanced down he
saw, in the spot the seed had been forgotten, a small sprout of life looking
back up at him.
"Who are you?" the sprout
Caught quite by surprise with
nothing else to say, Tree responded with the first thing to come to him. "I am
The sprout looked away briefly to
consider this response, then, looking back up at Tree asked, "Who am I?"
At this, Tree felt a chuckle
escape him that rattled his leaves. The little sprout watched the bits of green
shimmer above her and the rustle of it all made her give a giggle. If trees
could smile, Tree would have grinned. He worked to shake his leaves again and
watched as the little sprout's yellow face glowed with a giddy joy. She turned
her head from side to side, trying to take in the immense scene of wonder above
her in its entirety. Tree watched this dance, as the little white pedals
surrounding her face trailed her smile. It was as if the breezes of spring had
grown proud and now worked meticulously to manifest the beauty of their motion
within the delicate nature of the sprout.
Tree stopped the rustling and
said, "I know who you are."
"Do you?" Two leaves sticking out
of either side of the sprout's stem clapped together in anticipation under her
yellow face. "Please say."
"You are Daisy."
Daisy sighed, as little daisies
often will, and stared in wonder as if picturing the label before her very
eyes. "Yes," she said. "I am Daisy."
The sun moved higher and higher
in the sky and between every rise and set Daisy managed to fit in enough
questions about the world around her to make the numbered stars jealous. She
asked about the different kinds of trees on the other hills and at the edges of
the meadow, what was the difference between a tree and a flower, and where do
clouds grow. She wanted to know if the birds in Tree's branches tickled and if
she would ever be as tall as Tree.
Tree took many of the questions
in stride, but often ended in a huff. He declared many of her questions to be
silly and even scolded her at times for thinking such ridiculous thoughts. He
found himself often talking to Daisy about what silence was and what a
cherished state it had been on his hill during the years before. Daisy
attempted to enter into this state of silence Tree spoke of, but she was not
very good at it. Tree groaned often, as trees are able to do.
Daisy's favorite topic, though,
and the one she managed to touch upon nearly every day was the sun. She asked
if the sun was a plant or an animal, or maybe some sort of flying rock, to
which tree would often scoff. It was, of course, a plant. She wanted to know how
it planted itself over there at night but then grew way over there, on the
other side, in the morning.
This made even Tree pause.
And where were its roots?
Tree was able to dismiss many of
these, but the question she asked the most had to do with their reliance on the
sun, and she liked to ask it just before she closed up her petals for the
"What if the sun does not grow
It was in this question where
Tree found true patience with Daisy because he knew where the question came
from. This was the exact question he had once asked himself. Only, as a young
sapling alone on the hill, there was no one there to answer it for him.
"Of course the sun will grow
tomorrow. We need to live and we need the sun for us to continue to live, and
so it will always be there tomorrow."
"But how do you know?" Daisy
"No more questions tonight. If
you close your pedals now I promise I'll part my leaves for you first thing in
the morning and the warmth will let you know that the sun is growing a new
And so it did. The sun continued
to climb higher in the sky with each passing day until it reached its highest
and hottest, and it was around this time that Tree noticed the first bee to
arrive on the hill. Daisy noticed it as well. It buzzed around Tree's trunk and
landed on his bark briefly before buzzing off into the meadow at the foot of
the hill now dotted with a variety of lively flowers.
"Tree, what was that?" Daisy
pointed after the little black and yellow dot disappearing into the tall
If trees could blush one might
have thought a forest fire had begun to blaze on Tree. "That was a bee."
"What does a bee do?"
Tree took a deep breath and
began. It was the first year he wished to have had a nest with tiny birds to
help as an example to the natural drifts of life.
He then explained to her about
wasps that were quite aggressive and would take everything until it was gone
and then move on. He talked about honeybees that would tend to bring sweet
pollen to share with flowers but would also place much of their own weight on
the flowers, as if they could not carry it themselves. And then Tree spoke of
the butterflies, how they had been through much and understood growth because
they had earned their wings and took pride in them.
The next day a wasp flew to the
top of their hill. It droned a couple aimless circles in the breeze until it
took notice of Daisy and set course for her. Daisy turned away to ignore the
wasp, but she could hear it move closer and closer.
The wasp almost upon her, close
enough that she could feel the buzz beating down on her back, Daisy committed
herself not to waver in her stance. Suddenly, she heard a swift rustle of
leaves cut though the air behind her. A slight breeze fell upon her back and as
she listened she noticed the buzzing was gone.
She turned and looked up at Tree.
He was staring out at the passing clouds with what could be called the smile of
"You don't need to protect me,"
"Oh, I know," said Tree. "That
one was for me."
The sun began to descend in the
sky and the days grew shorter and slowly became cooler.
Tree noticed a difference in
Daisy as well. She asked fewer questions and much of their days together were
spent in silence. Several times Tree turned to her spot in the grass expecting
to see her face looking up at him only to find her staring out at the meadow.
Tree began to ask Daisy more and
more questions. He wanted to know what she was thinking about or if she was
comfortable with the sun. Was she getting enough water from the hill or did she
see that blue jay the other day in his branches? Her answers were brief and
Tree felt that his questions weighed upon her in some way he could not
understand, but still he continued to ask them until he found himself asking
the same question over and over.
"Is something wrong, Daisy?"
"You are so quiet lately."
"Everything is fine. Stop
worrying about me."
But Tree could not. When he tried
to part his leaves to give Daisy extra sun she only asked him to close them.
One day when the wind was
especially still Daisy called for Tree's attention.
"Why am I not down in the meadow
with the other flowers?"
Tree explained to her the story
of the clumsy raven, as he had done many times before, and how he had not
expected much to come of it. This time, though, Daisy interrupted just as Tree
started in on her unexpected strength.
"But you must have known that I
did not belong up here."
"I hadn't thought of that," said
Tree. "There was no way for me to tell what would come from that tiny seed.
Your strength in such a situation surprised me just a much as it has surprised
"You ignored what you should have
been paying attention to," Daisy spoke with a steady distress. "You could have
swiped at me. Sent me down there amongst the others. In the meadow I might be
twice as tall as I am here in your shade, and I would be where I belong."
"That's not fair, Daisy. The wind
might have just as well blown you down to the meadow or any number of places.
And it was the raven that dropped you, not me. But you do not blame either of
them, do you?"
"I blame you for not looking
after your hill as all other trees would have."
This challenge cut into the grain
of the tree. It was true he had acted against his nature on that day, but it
did not frighten him then and he told himself that the little flower standing
next to him atop his hill did not frighten him now, but the latter was a lie.
"Look, you little thing," Tree
said. "You were not the first seed to land on this hill and you surely will not
be the last. But I have established my position here and am happy with the
depths of my roots. Truth be told, I was quite satisfied with my existence
before having to worry about parting my branches for a little sprout like you."
"No one asked you to part your
branches in the first place."
Tree looked out at the clouds as
the cold wind that smells of winter blew against his bark and stiffened his
branches, and he said, "Then I will not bother with it anymore."
The following days supplied much
for distraction between the two and the thriving silence between them. The
winds picked up considerably and thrashed at the top of the hill. The clouds
moved swiftly across the sky, bringing scattered showers and intermittently
blocking the sun. Tree occasionally turned to see Daisy straining her stem to
reach for a spot of sun leaking though his leaves only to have it disappear
into a shadow of cloud cover. He said nothing, though, and moved not a branch.
Tree's leaves began to change
color, at first falling only in the wind. But as the oranges and reds began to
set in all around him their fragile connection began to let go freely. It was a
familiar release for Tree as the weight of his branches lightened and he took
the opportunity one day to rustle his canopy.
At that, he heard a giggle. Turning,
he saw Daisy looking up at him.
"Do that again," she smiled.
Tree shook again and a layer of
yellow and orange twirled and trickled to the grass at his roots, catching the
sun as they fell.
Daisy's giggle turned to a
guffaw. "Look at all of them! The trees at the edge of the meadow aren't losing
Tree jerked on his trunk away
from the little flower, saying, "I'm not one of those trees."
"Looks like I won't have to work
so hard to get to the sun from now on."
If trees could scowl, Tree would
have had more wrinkles in his face than grooves in his bark. "You want the
sun?" he growled. "Here."
With that, Tree began to shake
his branches with a violence that startled even the wind. His branches thrashed
back and forth through the air as the leaves rained down on the earth around
When he was done, the top of the
hill was covered in a thin sheet of his weight. Tree turned to the spot of the
little sprout expecting to see her surprise, but when he looked down he saw
"Daisy?" He looked to the other
side of him thinking maybe his thrashing had thrown off his bearings, but all
around him there were only leaves. "Daisy, where are you?"
Then, peaking out from under a
small pile of yellow, tree saw a small ray of white. It was bent and laid limp.
Tree swiped his branches at the
pile, trying to make a breeze to move the leaves away, but nothing happened. He
swung again, this time harder, but still nothing. Without his leaves, the thin
limbs could cut through the air but did nothing to move it.
A slight wind surfaced over the
top of the hill, moving enough leaves to show the yellow center of Daisy's
face. Tree crooked his thick trunk towards her, trying to get as close as he
could, and found himself asking the question he had asked so many times before.
"Daisy," he said. "Daisy, are you
"I'm ok," Daisy replied.
"Can you get up?"
The little flower struggled
against the weight of the pile but quickly relented. "These short days have
been tough on me."
"What, the sun?" Tree asked. "You
haven't been getting enough sun." Tree parted his branches as wide as they
could go, but it made little difference. The sun was setting for the day and
the rays that did reach the hill were weak in their warmth.
"Don't worry," Daisy said. "The
sun will grow back tomorrow."
"No," said Tree, and he reached
one of his branches into the air and wrapped it around one of the sun's rays.
It was slippery and thin in his grasp, but he could feel it anchored stiff all
the way to the sun. He began to pull.
"What are you doing?" Daisy
But Tree paid no attention. He
reached with a second branch, and then a third. Wrapping them tightly around
the rays, he heaved from the core of his trunk, tugging and pulling at the
yellow orb in the sky.
The sun inched further down on it
course, unmoved by the strain at its rays, but Tree did not concede. He reached
for a fourth, a fifth, and a then sixth ray. Tugging hard at the inflexible
streaks of light that threatened with every jerk to slip away. His roots clung
to the bowels of the hill, reaching deeper than he ever had into the cool
The sun inched further down and
Tree felt the soil of the hill loose and settle below him. "What was that?"
Daisy asked, feeling the shift of the ground below her. The sun drifted further,
the soil shifted below the two, but Tree refused let go.
Wrapping his final bare limb
around a seventh ray, Tree took a deep breath and pulled with everything his
thick trunk could afford him. The ground below him trembled under the strain
that traveled up under his bark and worked its way into a single hidden crease
in his grain.
A loud crack echoed down from the
hill and out across the meadow.
"What happened?" Daisy asked.
"Tree, are you ok?" She listened for a long while as darkness filled the sky above
Finally, Tree said, "I'm fine,"
but that was a lie. The wind began to pick up again. He tried to look down at
her but could see nothing through the dark. "Are you ok?" he asked, but the
growing wind though his limbs shut out and possibility of hearing what he
feared might not be there at all.
All night the wind howled across
the hill, taking all of the leaves with it and scattering them far away. The
first rays of the morning sun revealed Tree standing crooked with a split
running half-way down his trunk. And next to the broken tree lie a still silent
If trees could cry, Tree would
The days continued to whip
through Tree's branches. The sun continued on its slow and inflexible decent
into winter and before Tree had noticed the hill was covered with a soft white
snow. Flakes gathered in the split of Tree's trunk, which was soft and tender
for quite some time, and the chill of them froze his exposed core until he grew
completely stiff. When the temperatures dipped low enough, hoarfrost clung to
his limbs. He slouched into the added weight on his branches, hoping his tilt
would turn to a full fall, but the frozen hill refused to yield its grip on his
The clinging cold, though, was
only of minor concern to Tree. Every night, Tree felt the cold creep slowly and
quietly into him, promising peace, but every morning at dawn the subtle warmth
of the winter sun landed on his bark like a blaze on a dry leaf in a drought,
promising another long and quiet day. The winter world held him motionless in
the cold and every pass of the sun warmed him just enough to allow him to
listen to every moment of passing silence.
When finally the snows began to
melt a new fear entered into Tree. He knew that when the snow had receded the
spot where the little sprout had stood for so long would be empty. And so, as
soon as the spring air had softened his trunk and the frost had lessened its
grip, Tree rolled as best he could against the ache of his split away from that
spot. He fixed his thoughts on the half of the world before him and let the
meadow, the spot, and everything behind him melt away.
The spring rains came and Tree
managed to open his bark enough to welcome them in. The leaves returned to his
branches, though his canopy did not look like it was going to be as full as
previous years. The split in his trunk was still tender and taking its toll,
but it was also mending. Patches were already covered and harder than before.
He had lost flexibility, but appeared to be gaining strength.
And then, one day, after a light
storm, Tree heard a voice. He looked around, but saw nothing. Thinking it might
be a bird in his branches trying to play a trick on him, Tree gave one quick
shake. Under the rustle of his leaves he heard three small giggles.
Turning around slowly, careful of
the remaining ache, he looked down and saw three sprouts.
"Do that again," said the first.
So Tree did and the three giggled again, clapping their leaves together in
"Who are you?" asked the second
"I am Tree," said Tree. "And you
all are Daisies."
"Daisies," said the first and the
three looked at each other in a shared awe.
"That's right," said Tree. "And
together we are going to be a meadow."