Beneath My Branches
Part eight, the final chapter of an eight part series
My branches, stretch to the heavens,
My roots reach for the heart of the earth.
I have stood in this grove for nearly half of a century.
I have weathered many seasons, withstood many storms.
I have watched children grow into men.
Those men have since led their own children to my ground.
To collect my fruit, to feast on my bounty.
To swing from my limbs, and take refuge in the shade they provide.
I am the only one of my kind in this grove.
I had a companion with me at one time, but they succumbed to disease many seasons ago now.
Men came with their saws and axes, came and carried my companion away piece by piece.
Now only I remain.
And I stand tall and strong.
My branches spread wide, and my fruit is plentiful. Plump, sweet, and delectable.
It is thanks to the butterflies, bees and beetles that I can produce my fruit.
They come from miles around to drink my sweet nectar, bringing superfluous pollen with them.
Worn like bags of weighted treasure hung beneath their hips. They come waddling in, and out of the blossoms. Buzzing to and fro, spraying blooms in gilded dust.
As the petals drop, they cover the ground beneath like a plush and fragrant snowfall. My fruit begins to swell, at first small and hard, like a little green stone, only to grow plump and full of juice as the weeks progress.
I grow to harbor life, to nourish, to sustain.
To provide shelter for the birds and that rest among my leaves, to support in entertaining the children that swing from my arms.
I uphold my role with the utmost sincerity.
It is my thorough pleasure to provide all that I do. This forest takes good care of me. The men who tend this forest tend to me with care and concern. Their children cherish me.
Once long ago, my tremendous trunk split during a massive storm. It was a storm to end all storms. Upon its passing, men came to prune my branches back so that my trunk could mend. So that I could continue to nourish and provide.
One summer, not too long ago, a raging fire swept through this stand. Men came with buckets, shovels and pitchforks. They came and battled the blaze, they kept me from harm.
In return I gave to them more pears than their families could gather, keeping their larters stocked full through the autumn and winter.
But men are not always as kind to one another as they are to me.
During my time in this wood I have silently observed men in the midst of quarrels, fights, and acts of desperation alike.
I have seen them turn on each other in times of scarcity. Seen them abuse one another through moments of fear.
I once saw a man beat his brother black and blue, before leaving him for dead at the base of my trunk. That man lay on the ground beneath me in recovery for a night and a day before a woman came to his aid, and finally took his aching body home.
Quite recently, I watched a man dig in fervorous degrangement, a tidy hole in the earth beneath my branches. I watched as he hurriedly dropped a box into the hole and desperately covered it up. I never saw him again after that night.
Instead, two young boys came the very next evening, and triumphantly carried away the treasure he had so feverishly planted amongst my roots. To see one man's loss become a child's jubilant gain.
I have seen men near starved, only to come upon my life saving harvest. And I have, with one pear at a time, helped them recover their strength.
Men can be gentle as well. On the occasion men do decide to show one another kindness, it is a thing of breathtaking beauty.
I have seen a brother retrieve a piece of fruit from my branches for his sister, who was too small to reach it for herself.
I have sheltered a young couple in the throws of passion. Making boisterous love on the earth beneath me without shame, and with little regard for their woodland observers.
Although the birds make comment, the butterflies do not.
And I, ever silent, watch on. Watch on and marvel at the constantly curious goings on beneath my branches.