Many things stir around me as the shadows slowly shorten and the sun makes its way overhead. A slight breeze carries the faint air of rejuvenation. The creatures around me seem to be more alert to the changes and revel in this newfound warmth. Colors are becoming brighter, buds forming and roots emerging from the ground, and I remain the same.
There’s not much loss for me with the skies getting dimmer and nights getting colder. Others’ leaves wither and fall while mine remain. I am never changing through the changing times and endless cycles of birth, death, and rebirth. I am ever here.
But this routine of sequences is disrupted by the emergence in our home by these strange beings. They stand tall, some more than others, and they come among us. They pluck our offspring and cut us down and sometimes even go beyond into the thickness where the sun can’t easily peek through my brothers and sisters.
At first, I hated them for always taking and tearing away, but the more I observed, I noticed that they don’t differ from us that much. They do what’s necessary to survive and thrive, not taking what’s more than needed and show genuine respect.
Watching them come and go as the days get longer and the sun gets higher brings me a sense of serenity that makes the monotony of my existence worthwhile. While I don’t provide the food they need, the shorter beings come around to chase and stalk each other. They do this daily, almost like a ritual. They hide behind us or go around in circles. One in particular always clings or crouches down and presses against my bark. Something changes within me whenever I feel its touch, something so deep I can feel it down to my roots.
Day in and day out, I anticipate the closeness. When the smaller beings aren’t encircling each other, one sometimes comes to sit near me or pick my seeds. I don't enjoy the sensation, but they seem to enjoy the action.
When the sun sits highest in the sky, and my shadow casts dark and steep across the cold ground, I’m met with the softest of vibrations at my trunk. Everything around me feels so still, save for other creatures’ occasional sounds and the distant sound of the other beings. This is different from the silence that comes with the chill; it’s almost ideal tranquility that I hope to provide for eternity.
Many moons and suns pass, and then there comes a time when I am longer acquainted with the tugging on my leaves or the sensations on my bark. There are still small beings who come and perform the same rituals as before, but they are not among them. I can’t help but wait and hope that one day I’ll feel a slight pressure near my roots or those soft vibrations that make me spread out my leaves a little more to make sure I can feel them as long as possible.
So much time has passed that I can’t recall what I felt or if I really felt anything at all. Was it as warm as the newly-risen sun when it first starts to seep across the ground, enveloping me? Did those little vibrations cause air as cold as the wind to blow gently enough to sway me and take pieces of me away to start anew?
All fall back into the evenness of time until I have my answer. It is but a fleeting moment, but I feel it again. The presence is bigger and stronger, but all the familiar. My eternity feels like an instant when I am met with a recognizable feeling of comfort. And it is only an instant. This bittersweet feeling of gratitude and rejection quickly begins to take over. An appreciation for something that I have longed for to finally come back to me and sacrifice because I can never truly have what has finally come back to me.
Oh, how I desperately wish to be one with these beings and one of these beings.
More moons and suns pass, and I am left with this aching all the more. The days are getting shorter, and I am getting weary. The infrequent interactions are getting scarcer until they are gone. As the days are slowly getting shorter, I sense a being upon me. A broader, even firmer grip wraps around the base near my roots. Then more come through my branches. Sharp, strong forces come down hard through my bark.
And with one last strike, my seemingly everlasting existence has seen its last sunrise.
Night settles in, and my eyes have already adjusted. I ease out of one of my carefully placed burrows in search of food. Head low, I perk my ears up for any sounds of life above or below ground. Duskiness stretches its way across the land, slowly heading toward me, threatening to leave me in obscurity as if I was the one being pursued. A slight breeze rustles through my fur and brings a faint scent, heightening my senses. The last streaks of sunlight are behind me, and I need to increase my focus to secure my prey. Advancing forward, I adjust my ears and wait to feel for the tiniest disturbances and vibrations at my feet.
It doesn’t take long to finally sense what I’ve been waiting for. Making swift yet silent strides, I spot a ball of fur slowly trying to make its way underground to its home. Sadly, it won’t make it that far. My stance, legs readied. Eyes forward, an unbreakable focus. A jump, precise and efficient. Staring down, I can see and almost smell the fear. In its eyes, I know what has always been laid out before us; predator and prey in our eternal struggle for survival in an environment where those roles can be easily reversed. My paw is applying enough pressure to ensure my target won’t escape.
Before it would think to make the slightest move, my jaw is eagerly sinking into its neck. Another successful hunt to sate me for another day. I dare not get too greedy. I usually take food to bring back to one of my burrows, but it is not yet cold enough, and the night has fully set, so there will be plenty of choices. Finishing up, I head to my other spots I’ve marked. Going towards the edge of my territory, I stop to take my fill of the sweetness from plants as I pass by. Once it becomes harder to hide among the woods, I see my next target. Bare trees grouped together to line the waters, and tall, hairless beings that seem to have a vague similarity to me are on their hind legs walking and chattering about. I will never understand why they choose to live so closely together. Eating too! How do they not fight or run out? But I know they have many things scattered and left about when they are gathered close like this.
This particular night, they are all gathered in a clearing in the center. I am usually unable to get this close; whenever I come near to look for food, some of them are out and chase me off. This time, I sneak close enough, guided by the shadows, to see what is going on and catch some scraps. Following their eyes, I see what has everyone’s attention.
A female is holding what looks like her cub. Curiosity gets the better of me because everyone is crowding around. Taking advantage of their distraction and this newfound proximity, I have them both in full view. All my senses have stopped working except my sight. So many forces around me won’t allow me to look away.
I usually limit my interactions with these beings because instinct gives me pause that I could just as quickly be like my meal to them from earlier. Yet, there is a too great familiarity with what I’m looking at. And those eyes. The color is the same as the ground, but the welcoming calmness in them calls to me.
I want to step forward, and I almost do until my senses return and alert me of steps coming toward me. I quickly make my way back to the seclusion of the woods and do my usual wandering until the first lights pour across the sky.