These tales are sad. It was a sadness that was part of the truth the forest around us. So much is written about the beauty and grandeur of the woods, but there’s so little that reflects the great losses the trees suffer, which I suppose is why these stories came to me.
Her name was Kerpy and she started life many long years ago as a tiny threadling, a mere wisp of lichen, attached to the topmost twig of the tallest pine tree in the little glade. Of course, back then her tree wasn’t the tallest. As it grew, so did she. When her tree reached it’s prime and really was the tallest in the glade, she was as plump and green as a lichen could get.
Many seasons passed and she and her tree shared many stories and laughed with the chittering squirrels that came up every summer to harvest the pine cones.
One fine blustery day, the wind brought news of a plague coming across the mountains and up the valleys from the south. Her tree prepared as best it could, and Kerpy sent as much energy and thoughts as she could spare through her branch to help in the fight.
Perhaps her efforts helped, because it seemed like the plague passed through the valley, leaving the glade, and her tree, untouched. Then one day she noticed one of the low branches, so long that it almost brushed the ground, had lost its needles. They were scattered across the forest floor, all dry and empty of life.
She twisted around and saw that other branches low down were looking ill as well.
She sent her thoughts to the tree and asked what was happening. The tree sadly swayed in the breeze, and in her heart, she knew.
At first she ranted and raged at the tree, telling it to fight, to push the invaders from its body, to stem the flow of its lifeblood from the wounds the beetles left behind. It was battling the invader the best it knew how, so she hung from her branch and sent more energy, but one day, a bright summers day, she felt her tree succumb.
Her grief tore at her, but what could she do? She was only one piece of lichen at the top of a dying tree.
Winter came and Kerpy closed her mind and her senses. Perhaps the cold would kill the invader.
Winter passed and the next summer too, a cool one, and she wondered if her tree might be one of the lucky few to survive.
The plague was halfway up the trunk when that first branch to lose its needles, the lowest one, cracked and fell away.
Lichens live for a very long time, and Kerpy knew she’d survive a fall from her tree and then spread her threadings across the ground until they reached another tree, but it didn’t seem right somehow, to leave her friend. So she stayed with her tree as the plague beetles rose up, up its trunk, sucking the life out of it.
Kerpy and her tree had long conversations that lasted for months at a time. They told each other stories of old things, and green growing things, and rocks and rain, and snow. Her tree was glad of the company, but there came a time when it withdrew, and faded away.
She was alone.
Death crept along the topmost branch, her branch, but it wasn’t going to get her, not yet.
She wafted back and forth in the breeze, loosening her anchor to the branch.
A beetle crept closer, its nasty clacking mandibles snipping at the dead bark seeking a soft spot to burrow in and lay its eggs.
Kerpy broke free and floated down to the branch below her. It too was dead, but she hung there, pirouetting in the wind, Celebrating the long, long life of her tree.
From branch to branch she went, around and around, closer to the ground with each branch, remembering every moment of her life, of her tree’s life.
She danced and she laughed, and put every bit of her spirit into her stories. The wind blew her about and carried her stories away to the other trees and animals and plants of the forest.
It took her many long weeks to finally reach the lowest branch on the tree. She was tired and withered, but she was satisfied.
It was time to fall.
The wind gently shook her free, for she was fragile and dried out. It dropped her to the forest floor among the rustling needles that had fallen from her tree. She snuggled down into them and sent out tiny tendrils of her essence into the soft cool earth.
The last thing she felt as she surrendered her Self to the Cycle of Life was a giant crash that shook the whole glade.
Her tree had fallen.