Trees root us to life. Traditionally, cultures believed trees to be life-giving, and modern science proves our ancestors were right. Trees provide oxegyn, shade and building materials. What would a world without trees look like? Life in the extreme polar regions hints at the bleakness — we would miss trees.
Writers explored all that trees have to offer. Some wondered what their loss might mean.
The following are based on the May 16, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that goes in search of trees.
PART I (10-minute read)
Planning a Poem by TNKerr
The hour is early – predawn.
The clouds – vanished,
the storm – over,
the moon – full.
I shiver by the back window, listening to some nameless chanteuse croon and confess from the confines of the FM dial.
Warming my hands on a cup of tea, I watch the last two leafs in the tree.
They dance in the moonlight. Embracing, spinning, reaching – enjoying one another.
Caressing like lovers until one falls away; surrendering to the pressure of the wind and the weight of the clinging raindrops.
The fallen leaf touches down. I pore over archaic words and phrases, planning a poem.
Knowledge of Tree by D. Avery
He’d gone to her, as most did, as a last resort.
“The peace you seek is held by a special tree.”
And so he wandered. He’d crossed desert landscapes and alpine heights but none of the few trees encountered were the one. Deep in the forests he searched among the many trees, seeking the special one.
After many seasons he knew well the different tribes of trees, recognized their many gifts. Resting now, back against a sturdy trunk, cooled by the leafy whispering shade, he realized he had long ago ceased to search for the one. He sighed, content.
The Golden Tree by Gordon Le Pard
The tree was new to him, a massive silver needled pine. He climbed off his horse and walked slowly round the fallen giant, in the root plate he noticed a yellow glint, carelessly he dropped the golden nugget in his pocket, then found what he was looking for. In what had been the topmost branches were mature cones. Carefully he collected the seed.
His letter to Kew began; “Wonderful discoveries, you must think I have been manufacturing pines, I have found so many.”
He never mentioned the gold, to the plant hunter David Douglas, trees were much more important.
The Last Forest by H.R.R. Gorman
I plodded into the forest with a tape measure. The age of a tree couldn’t be divined without coring, but I don’t have that equipment. Size will have to suffice.
Grandma once told me that the forests hold memories and grudges. She taught me how to ask forgiveness from the apple tree in the backyard, to seek the oldest tree for the absolution from a grove.
I decorated what limbs I could with prayer tags. “Please, don’t leave. Please grow again.”
It didn’t work, but maybe that wasn’t the oldest. A lot of trees had a five inch diameter.
Lucy Lockett’s Missing Trees by JulesPaige
within a mist dream
desert sands cover the land
cacti arms blooming
Where is the sprocket, asks Lucy Lockett
To turn on the watering hose, who knows?
Where are the oaks and willows, north moss for pillows
In this dust dream of desert rust?
Show me a sign, with an arrow to the Pine.
within a mist dream
Haleakala rises high
date palms far below
Where’s the maples and wild crab apples.
Tossing and turning, is a fever burning?
And where’s the spade, I laid?
A plum, peach, yes one of each!
Let a ripe apricot, hit the spot!
Oh Tannenbaum by Annette Rochelle Aben
The local radio station announced they were reviving a time-honored tradition for the holidays. The Carol Tree would “dance” to the music and all were invited to gather around to witness the jolly sight.
She had never heard of such a thing but needed to be there. It did not disappoint! Bright colored strings of holiday lights were blinking in time to the rock and roll oldies pumped through the speakers at the base of the stately pine tree. Oh, so much fun and it was difficult to know who had a better time, the people or the tree.
Tree Search Exclusive Tours, Ltd. by Chelsea Owen
“And this…” he paused, turned, faced the group with the red sun at his back and ash clouds beneath his boots. “Is where trees once stood.”
If the group had breath to gasp between their regulated air streams, perhaps they would have gasped. At least they stood in silence. Wearing the most stylish protective suits and SCBA money could buy, they stood in silence.
He shook his head inside his own, more functional suit. What good did these exclusive tours do, anyway? Surely these people, heads of companies responsible for the radioactive waste around him, did not actually care…
Homecoming! by Anurag Bakhshi
I’d returned home after a long time, but I knew in my heart that I would find her in the grove, picking up those lovely oranges.
And I was right.
There she stood, head wrapped in her red scarf. My heart leaped up, and I started grinning like an ass.
I moved closer, wanting to surprise her.
Startled, she turned around! A horrified look came on her face, and as she threw an orange violently at me, she exclaimed, “YOU! I thought I’d driven you away permanently. Grandma was right, you donkeys don’t have much brains, do you?”
What Lives in Trees? by Norah Colvin
The teacher displayed photographs of trees.
“We’ve been learning about where animals live. Today, we’ll list animals that live in trees.”
Hands shot up, bursting to contribute.
The teacher wrote:
possums, koalas, beetles, snakes, birds …
Amir’s English was developing but his classmates were puzzled when he said what sounded like ‘goat’.
“Repeat,” encouraged the teacher.
When asked, Amir drew a tree with a recognisable goat standing in it.
“Not story,” smiled the teacher. “Real.”
Amir nodded and pointed to the laptop. “Google.”
A quick search confirmed it.
Everyone cheered. Amir added to their knowledge tree that day.
Children !!! by Brendan Thomas
“Careful. Stop swaying. You’ll shed leaves, maybe break a branch.”
“But it’s fun. Weeeeeeeeeee.”
“Listen to Dad. He lost branches playing like that. They never grew back to full size.”
But he didn’t listen. He swayed watching with glee as leaves fell, some swirling in the chaotic wind, some falling slowly to his roots.
“Look I’m naked,” he shouted.
Finally strength won. The sound of timber cracking as a branch fell to the ground. Surprise, anguish, large sobs,
“I’m broken. It hurts Mum.”
“I know son. It’ll grow back bigger than before,” she lied.
His father looked away,
Childhood Memory by Nancy Brady
Before Mister Rogers Neighborhood and Sesame Street, there was a local program called Luci’s Toy Shop.
Luci had puppet characters including George the Giraffe, Dragon, and Mr. Tree.
Mr. Tree talked after he was awakened with a song.
“Hi there, Mr. Tree, we’re very glad to see you.
Wake up Mr. Tree; it’s daytime, can’t you see?’
With a big yawn, Mr. Tree would finally wake up, and he and Luci would converse about the day of the week. Eventually, Luci would slip, saying the word sleep and Mr. Tree would fall back to sleep until the next time.
It’s Not Where You Walk, It’s Who You’re With by Anne Goodwin
Swinging my arms, I followed him up the slope towards the spinney. Casual. As if a country walk with my dad were an everyday thing.
He pointed out the ash and the spindly silver birch, its bark like alligator skin. I showed him a squirrel, scampering across the path, up a tree trunk shelved with bracken fungus.
At a sudden tapping, he grabbed my shoulder. Though we strained our eyes and necks to scan the treetops, the woodpecker eluded us. It didn’t matter; the shared not-seeing made me feel close to him. For the first time, he’d seen me.
Space. Boring! by Floridaborne
Most people have to share a small cabin with three other people. I get a 4 x 6 room. They want windows, but I don’t care to see what’s coming at the ship.
I spend my days cleaning floors, repairing worn machinery that creates our food, and thinking about my father’s Earth stories.
He died last year, on my 10th birthday… radiation leak in the engine section. The bastard didn’t die quick.
With his final breath he said, “I wanted to touch one last tree.”
If we find a habitable planet, the trees can have his ashes.
Trees by Roberta Eaton
The enormous tree drew her. Its branches reached up into the bright, blue sky, far above its fellows. She knew only too well that all of the trees were nourished with the flesh of humans deemed by society to be wasteful squanderers, but she still admire this particular tree’s tenacity in beating its competition and achieving such great proportions. She thought of another tree. The one she had seen on the eve of the Great War after the bombs had rained down. She recalled the tendrils of fire running up its wide trunk and licking greedily at its branches.
Aftermath by Sarah Whiley
My feet crunched on the blackened ground. Even the rocks had not been spared. So intense was the heat from the bushfire, they too had been singed.
All around me was devastation.
Twisted sheets of metal were all that was left of the house. I bent down and touched the ground where our mailbox once stood, my fingers trailing through the ash.
I trudged the perimeter fence and noted with irony, the eucalypts still standing.
But still standing.
Then, I saw a tiny patch of green – the tree already beginning to regenerate itself!
We too would rebuild.
Through the Woods by Susan Sleggs
Me and my dog walk down the hill through the woods to the river most days, usually to bring the cows back up to the barn. In the springtime we pick leeks that grow under the black walnut trees. Rascal rolls in them and Mama gets mad because he stinks. In the fall we collect the nuts. They’re bitter but add a good flavor to cookies. If we sit quiet under the willow in the summer we see beaver swimming and deer drinking. I wish the house had been built down by the river. It’d save lots of walking.
Laid to Rest (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Danni asked Ike to fall the tree, an ancient Ponderosa with thick plates of bark assembled like puzzle pieces. She estimated it had stood over the abandoned cemetery at least three centuries before burials. Mostly sawyers and log-camp followers found final rest beneath its branches. A hundred years ago, this Ponderosa would have netted the logging company enough money to cover wages. Yet they had spared the tree. Danni didn’t guess why, but she asked her husband to fall it because he understood the code of the forest. He’d remove the diseased old-timer with respect to those it guarded.
Twin Trees by Kerry E.B. Black
They grew from a single trunk, an anomaly of separate identities jointed by common roots dug deep into the loam of fallen ancestors. They vied for sunlight, pushed against each other’s branches in an attempt for superiority, but neither bested the other. Their leaves shook to distinguish themselves, but noone addressed them as individuals. In concert, they burst into flower, fleshed out greenery in time. By autumn, their leaves rustled the same impatient song. After years of struggle, they towered over others, since woodsmen stayed their axes when confronted by twin trunks. Others wished they, too, had a lifetime companion.
Garden Tree by Anita Dawes
I don’t have to go too far to find a great tree.
It is in my garden, my beautiful gum tree.
Tall and magnificent, a small amount of wind
sets it swaying like a row of flamenco dancers
I can almost hear the roots tapping away
in time with the rhythm above.
Soothing and calming my mind.
I sit there often unburdening the misery
I have accrued over the last few days.
I know it listens, never judging.
The soft sway of its leaves above my head,
A blessing, a benediction.
Gentle giants, they are the air we breathe…
Exposed by D. Avery
Strong leaders of proud communities, they were protectors, providers of sanctuary, comfort, inspiration.
How they danced! Sweeping, stretching, swaying movements, at once bold and gentle, a beautiful ballet.
They were poets and prophets, translating the ancient secrets of stone, their every whispered word lyrical and mystical. They were emissaries, bridging Heaven and Earth. They were heard by any who listened.
Nobody listened. Their ballet became frenzied, their movements frantic and desperate. Their toppled bodies and exposed roots a broken covenant, we are disconnected.
The sky is falling.
We didn’t listen.
They are silenced, gone. Winds and waters roar, unimpeded.
PART II (10-minute read)
Comforts of Crab Apples by Kerry E.B. Black
She’d grown too old to climb, but the crab apple tree in her family’s backyard remained her favorite spot. She leaned against its rough bark to meditate or reflect as life rearranged. Here, beneath a tree whose bitter fruit none ate, in whose boughs she hid as a child when life bruised her burgeoning psyche, she regained balance. In the spring, lovely pink-kissed blossoms speckled new grass like fairydust. Summer shade soothed. Autumn saw a lack-luster display of spotted, pale yellow foliage, while Winter’s bare branches reached toward Heaven like prayers, yet year-round, this tree welcomed and comforted her.
Our Tree by Di @pensitivity101
It was just one, but in the company of others.
It was an elm, or was it an oak?
It was tall, and had several broken branches, one of which dipped down to the earth as if bowing in servitude.
It was along this path, or was it that one?
No, it was this way, towards the clearing, where it stood magnificent and almost alone.
One mile in, or maybe two? So long ago. It may not even still be there.
I hope so.
We designated it as Our Tree, and buried bottles with love messages in its roots.
Island of Trees by Bill Engleson
They’re always there, you know. Likely always have been.
Eons, I expect.
I don’t think about them much. Maybe I should. There’s that old saying…you can’t see the forest for the…and here I am, knowing they are there. In my face. Never really paying them any heed.
Like the air.
The dying air.
Or the sea.
The dying sea.
Every so often, we get hit with storms. Fierce gales, they are. Whipping in from the north, the south, occasionally from the west.
The trees sway.
They surely loom.
Sometimes, threatening, bending towards me,
towards my house,
Alive by Carol Arcus
It was dark when she woke, wintertime, dark mornings and cold biting winds. The coffee machine made a hum that could wake the dead. She smiled knowing her husband and daughter would rise soon.
She looked forward to speaking to her son.
He loved the trees, the hills around the property were his refuge, especially when he was ill. She always took him to that one special tree at sunset. It was summer then, those glorious warm days.
Today she stood under the tree, and chatted about everything.
He was still alive to her, this way, under this tree.
Carved in Wood by Sally Cronin
She traced the names, carved in the bark of their special tree fifty years ago, with her fingertips.
Peter loves Sarah forever.
But they had taken different paths. She to a wonderful husband and children, and now as a widow and grandmother. She often wondered what had happened to him, and if he had been happy. On a whim, she had returned to the wood to see the bluebells, that like their romance flowered so briefly. Beneath the carving were numbers. Intrigued she took out her mobile and dialled.
‘Hello, who is this?’
‘What took you so long?’
Apple Tree by Ann Edall-Robson
“No thanks, just looking for the kids.”
He pointed out the window.
“They’ve been out there toe to toe debating for quite a while.”
A quiet rumbling from Mac told Mrs. Johnson he was laughing.
“He sure gets under her skin.”
“And she pushes back just as hard.”
Mrs. Johnson’s comment was accentuated by Hanna poking Tal in the cheese before walking towards the barn.
“We’ll need to keep an eye on those two. Might be the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.”
Liz heard the door close, leaving her alone in the cookhouse.
White Pine by Sascha Darlington
I wanted to return to my soul home, West Virginia. Didi wanted to go with me for a white pine, a strategy he plotted with his younger brother Uli.
Funny how all these years later, I don’t remember walking the soil with him, him being there, although we did dig up pines. A neighbor mowed over mine, devastating me during the break-up. Mother yelled at him despite neighborly kindness. She could be a fierce mother lion.
So many years later, air conditioning humming, my always love snoring, I consider affectionate memories, although coldness pervades, just like Didi’s eyes, calculating.
The Red Maple by tracey
She bought the house in winter and didn’t realize the tree in the backyard was dead until spring. She had it removed at the end of the summer and told herself she didn’t want to rake leaves anyway.
As the year progressed she thought the yard looked naked and found she missed raking leaves.
In the spring she wandered around the nursery feeling overwhelmed until she saw a six-foot tall red maple. Her tree.
She took her home and named her ‘Betty’.
Thirty years later her heart still contracted with joy as she raked up Betty’s jewel colored leaves.
The Tree Fort by Susan Zutautas
Johnny and Cindy were at Grandma’s summer cottage having a heated argument. Cindy wanted to see Johnny’s tree fort, but he wouldn’t hear of it.
When Johnny left, over to the tree she went climbing the rungs up and into
the fort. She was sitting with her back against a curtain when Johnny appeared.
“There’s not enough room, leave now!”
“Sure, there is,” Cindy replied, moving back thinking there was a wall behind the curtain. Out she went, falling onto the ground just missing a boulder.
Startled but fine Cindy got up, brushed herself off, never again to return.
Tree of Memories by Ritu Bhathal
I need to find it.
I know it’s here somewhere.
We used to visit here regularly when we were courting.
Where is that tree?
I think it was an Oak.
Huge sprawling branches that created a vast canopy, under which we used to sit, backs resting against the thick, sturdy trunk.
It was here we had our first kiss.
Here, we professed our love.
Here, you proposed.
Is it this one? My fingers trail over the rough bark. A spark of memory.
Here, my love, I’ll lay you to rest, scattered amongst the memories of our love.
Renewal by Saifun Hassam
Ancient olive trees grew on the cliffs overlooking the sea and along the foothills of the extinct volcano. One flagstone path led to a grove of olive trees planted around a stone fountain. Their great gnarled trunks were intricate colorful patterns of countless shades of brown and yellow. Warm sea breezes set their silvery green leaves sparkling in the afternoon sun.
Ammerra loved these ancient trees. Legends spoke of how the trees grew again when the volcano erupted covering the foothills with lava and ash. She loved the peace and solace here, a sense of renewal through life’s difficulties.
Portents by Joanne Fisher
Aalen was suspended above the Bloodwood, the most ancient and sacred tree in their forest. The tree was part of their spring rites when they celebrated the fertility of their people and the forest. As she hung there she noticed there was huge crack in the Bloodwood that went down the entire tree, as if it was ready to split open.
Aalen awoke with a start. She could hear Ashalla softly breathing beside her. Vilja was curled up beside the glowing embers. Bleary-eyed she got up realising they hadn’t set a watch. In the dark she pondered the dream.
A Momentary Silence by Nicole Horlings
The forest was silent. Where there should have been birdsong, there was only the sound of the wind howled as it thrust through the charred remains of a thicket. He held out hope that their tree had been untouched, since it stood alone in the center of the clearing, a tall and proud elder watching over the saplings as they grew up.
Alas, the forest fire had been indiscriminate in its rage. Their carved heart was ashy beneath the gentle caress of his fingers.
But as they had repaired the damage from their fights, the forest too would regrow.
Medicinal Mango by Abhijit Ray
“Your mother is not well Sakharam,” the village doctor announced, “feed her mango from Nawab’s orchard.”
“An hour’s walk from the bus stop,” man spoke again before Sakharam could protest at this unusual prescription, “mango from Nawab’s orchard are medicinal.”
“Brother how far the famous mango orchard?” after almost an hour’s trek, the least he could do for his ailing mother, Sakharam asked a road side vendor, “one with medicinal fruits!”
“God! Another one!” exclaimed the tea seller, “Nawab sold his orchard almost a decade back. A warehouse came up in its place. You have walked past it.”
Restoring a Giant by Jo Hawk
The forest of Laurel’s childhood was gone. She remembered great stands of the mighty American Chestnut tree, which grew nearly one hundred feet tall with trunks ten feet in diameter. It was once the most common hardwood tree in the Northeastern United States. The tree’s wood was rot-resistant, straight-grained, and it produced nuts that fed cattle, hogs and other wildlife. Laurel remembered eating roasted chestnuts every fall.
A tree that had survived for 40 million years, disappeared in 40, destroyed by the chestnut blight. Her children worked to restore a forest they had never seen and could only imagine.
*** To learn more about restoration efforts, check out The American Chestnut Foundation.
In Place of Majesty by Jen Goldie
The area I live in, is one of the oldest communities
In Toronto, Ontario. It is referred to, as “The City of Trees”.
One day on my usual walk I discovered them preparing
to cut down this magnificent tree. I was astounded
It was obviously a done deal to accommodate
some new town houses. I sadly, day by day, watched
the construction of these narrow row houses. They
left the stump of the tree sitting there. I now
pass and think of the tragedy.
Four narrow townhouses at the edge of a road in
place of majesty.
Paperbark by calmkate
I stand tall, like to shed my bark.
human beans use it to create art
sentinels that guard sacred grounds
unusual majestic versatility astounds
shorter ones produce tea tree oil
we prefer to grow in swampy soil
Australian natives we grow quick
bark is whitish papery n thick
all trees contribute to clean the air
home to many creatures, we care
we grow nuts and fruits with flair
mango plums peach and pear
destroying us is mighty unfair
we grow with grace don’t make us rare
plant more and hug us if you dare
we are vital for survival
A FINAL WORD FROM THE CHARACTERS AT THE RANCH
Highku by D. Avery
“Look up, Pal. I’m here.”
“Kid, what’re you doin’ up in thet tree?”
“It’s my poet-tree. I’m writin’. Told ya, I ain’t waitin’ on whats-her-name. Here’s yer buckaroo-ku:
when the people fall
and no trees remain to hear
deserts on the march.”
“Two things Kid. First, ya lifted that last line from Paul Sears’ book he wrote back in Dust Bowl days.”
“Yeah, but no one knows that, Pal.”
“Second, that ain’t buckaroo-ku.”
“No thet’s highku.”
“‘Cause yer so high up in thet tree. Now git down.”
“About that, Pal… Kin you git me a ladder?”
Up a Tree Without a Pal by D. Avery
“Kid, ya mean ta tell me yer stuck up in thet there tree?”
“Yep. Seems with trees what climbs up cain’t always climb down.”
“An’ now ya ‘spect me ta git a ladder an’ hep ya git down?”
“Yeah, was hopin’ ya would.”
“Sorry Kid. Ya said ta heck with our writer, so jist now, I’m gonna go write my own flash. Ya kin wait fer D. Avery ta show up and write ya down outta there, or ya kin write the ending yerself. But me, I’m goin’ off ta write a story.”
“It’s called ‘Tree Huggin’ Kid’.”
Coffee & Reverse Prose by Susan Sleggs
“Kid, if you think about it, you can get down.”
“Yes you can. Think about the position of your hands and feet took for each climbing step and reverse them.”
“That’d be like writing prose backwards. I only know how to go forward.”
“Not true….you know how to edit by rearranging or removing. In this case you just have to rearrange by going backwards.”
“Maybe I’ll try it come daylight.”
“I’ll have the Ranch cook brew up some strong coffee in the morning…..smelling that’ll get you moving.”
“Maybe now is a better time if there’s coffee.”
At Home in a Tree by Charli Mills
A tree stretched its limbs upward and felt the weight of a human nestled in its branches. The tree’s bark tingled where boots had scurried upward more clumsily than the thorny grip of a black bear or the agility of a cat. But the end results remained – the human was stuck. Several visitors tried to coax the perched one down. Stubborn as a cat, the human remained stuck. After the bipeds left, the human hollered. The tree rustled, attempting a buckaroo lullabye –
Get along little humie, get along,
Rest in my branches,
For I will be your new home.
Shorty’s Call by Charli Mills
“Kid, get yer carcass outta my apple tree. Boots on the ground.”
“Pal? Hey Pay – where’d you go off to?”
“Pal’s huggin’ a tree.”
“Kid, looks like that thar tree is huggin’ you.”
“Quilter said somethin’ ‘bout reverse prosin’ my way down.”
“Yep, that Quilter’s a wise gal. Not a wise acre like you or yer Pal.”
“Quilter sure does know her pieces.”
“Sure does. Kid, time you make hay and git down.”
“Down is not lookin’up fer me.”
“Now Kid, I might hav’ta wrangle ya from them thar branches. Don’t make me fetch the Poet Lariat.”