I cannot tell whether or not trees care about me.
I have known about trees practically all of my life, and for as long as I have been aware of them, I have assumed they have had as much care and interest in me as I have had in them. That is why I tell trees my every woe and discontent. That is why I spend so much time staring at trees and waiting for them to speak back. That is why I have been so patient with trees even when they do things like almost fall on me or not support my weight on their limbs or provide shade for hostile creatures like the deer across the river.
I have given trees a lot of my time and energy, and I have always assumed that such time and energy were reciprocated. However, a recent event has made me question the trees’ dedication to me.
I was sitting under a tree, gathering shade and enjoying the scratchiness of its bark, when I noticed something interesting about the tree: it was a home. The tree had a large number of tiny ants climbing in and out of its base through small holes and between scales of bark. It was a fascinating sight, and I spent quite some time just staring at it.
Right in the middle of taking in the majesty of these ants, a limb from the tree fell onto my head.
That is okay. That has happened before. It will happen again. It did, though, make me think: why do the ants get to live here? Ants live in this tree and the tree is perfectly fine with it. Do I get to live in this tree? No. In fact, this tree attacks me when I use it for shade. And every time I have slept in the branches of it, I have fallen out of the tree, finding myself slamming into the forest floor, far below the tree.
During this thought, I considered the ants. Despite being able to live here, I am sure there are some things about this tree the ants do not get to enjoy. What if a limb falls on them? A limb that would leave a bump on my head would completely destroy them.
I do not think that tree (or any tree) hates me or the ants. I think trees might just be indifferent. They provide wonderful shade and lovely homes for some creatures, but they can also crush us and throw us from their tops, and they seem to do this indiscriminately.
I thought trees were there for me. For the ants. For the creatures of the forest. I do not think they are there for themselves, but they are definitely not here for any of us. Maybe trees just are. Trees are just here to be trees, whether that helps or hurts us is more up to us than it is to any tree.
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