Swinging on the Tree
by Jennifer Sturch
The soil is rich where I grew up. It captures a seed and nurtures it until the seedling thrives, and even then it doesn’t let go. It continues to cultivate the growth throughout its lifetime. I suppose that’s nature’s pact: to foster and bloom until it’s necessary to die. But still the roots remain buried beneath the soil. Dead or alive, something will always endure, holding onto its own memories.
Sometimes nature hides its beauty because of pain. Some call it hibernation. Some call it depression. It’s the in-between place — not quite alive, not quite dead — just giving pause... because to do otherwise in either direction would be too painful. It’s not time. Not yet.
Being around death so much drained the life from me. I sagged, lackluster, and rarely had visitors, except when it was killing time.
Life, at the moment that it was taken, screamed out with a longing to keep going. When it bellowed, the energy reverberated and carried through space and time for all eternity with a never-ending cry, “Why?” It burrowed within me and festered and turned and wallowed. It never stopped...
And the next hanging continued the cry “Why?” and bent me down, still further.
Then, one day when I was bent so low, a little girl touched my hanging limb and said, “You look so sad. Where did all your leaves go?”
“Maybe you don’t get enough water like the other trees do. Maybe the water rolls down the hill and feeds the other trees more water than you? See?”
She pointed to the other trees, so full and lush, basking in the vibrant sun.
What was she saying?
“I know! I can bring you some water!”
She trotted away, pony-tail prancing behind her.
Wait! I yearned to know, “Why?” My bare branches reached out with a gust of wind toward the child in a desperate attempt to find understanding, to find... what?
And, as if in answer to my plea, the echoes of so many falsehoods heard at the myriad spectacle lynchings came back to me:
A father, his strong arm around the narrow shoulders of his young son saying, “You see there, son? This is proof of their inferiority. Remember this.”
His son looking at the tears rolling down the dark face as the noose was placed over his head like a crown of thorns and the white boy snickering, “Crybaby!” noting the proud puff of his father’s chest; the rope being flung over my limb as I hear clearly through the ruckus.
“Adam and Eve were white, sugar. On the sixth day, God created the animals. You remember that from Sunday school, don’t you, child?”; feeling the burn of the rope as the poor man is strung up, the rope slicing through my flesh and through his in tandem, both of our souls screaming “Why?”; my limbs embracing him as he leaves his body.
Then, the ancestors of my ancestors spoke to me from the Garden of Eden and uttered only words of love as the little girl watered my roots.
“There,” she said. “Now you will feel better.”
Closed up in my sorrows and fears, I hadn’t noticed that time had continued without me and that the hangings had stopped. Nurturing comes in many forms and in surprising ways.
My leaves began to grow in earnest when I noticed the cruelty had ceased. The spectacle lynchings have turned into joyous occasions of holiday picnics and celebrations. The rope burning on my flesh is now the rope of the tire swing as children push each other back and forth feeling the exuberance of life, using me for support, not as an executioner.
My low-lying limbs which once resembled and felt like crooked, arthritic fingers are now transformed and move in the gentle summer breezes, sounding like soft feathered whispers to anyone who will listen.
Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Sturch