The Tree and the Hourglass
It’s amazing what one notices, when one finds out their time for noticing is coming to an end. Like you have spent your entire life walking around with your eyes shaded by a translucent curtain, and then one day, they are reopened like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. I wonder if we ever truly see things, even as a child. Like a new born seeing its mother’s breast for the first time. No, I don’t think we ever really care to see anything for what it truly is, until our eyes are awakened by the foresight of never seeing anything again. I think a man born without sight sees more with one simple touch of the hand then we do our entire lives. Sure, I suppose we see a lot, but do we ever stop to realize what we’re seeing? To let it sink in to our over developed alien brains? I think not. We are too busy rushing to our early graves to stop and “listen” to what we are actually seeing.
Oh, you must think ol’ gramps is off his rocker, or I’m hitting the glaucoma medicine too hard. But it’s none of that. Words are just hard to choreograph together when you get to be my age. By the time the words in my mind reach their destination at the end of this pen, it’s too late to realize that half of them got on the wrong train; probably half way to Denver by now. Hell, when you get to be my age most words can’t even find the train station.
I guess I’m one of the lucky ones though. Still got my wits about me, most of my hair, (although, lately it’s retreating faster than the Yankees in 1812) and my eye sight is still fair. Ah yes, my eye sight. That’s what this babbling old fool was talking about before I got off track. Lucky because unlike most, I’ve been given the gift of “true” sight again; sure it comes with a cost, a cost we all must pay in the end. But knowing my time is near; my payment comes with a gift.
Like I said, my time here is short and I’ve got all my affairs in order. Having no children of my own, and my wife long dead from the same disease that is taking me, I have sold this old Victorian style house, (that I’ve called home for my entire life) to a nice young couple from Calgary. All my finances I have signed over to a charity that helps fund the reforestation of the British Columbia rain forest. I hope to redeem myself with this action; maybe old St. Peter will save me a seat.
I suppose I should get to the point of my story before my time is up. The old Maple tree in the back yard that my father planted, some hundred odd years ago, twenty years before I came screaming in to this world. The Maple is long past its prime, (just as I am) and the nice young couple wants me to get it cut down before they move, in fear of it landing on the house from a big northern wind that comes tearing through here often. I suppose they’re right.
After all the papers were signed and the lawyers paid, I came home to rest on my old wooden rocking chair out back. To try and enjoy one of the last beautiful days in September, before that north wind picks up and freezes the earth for its long winter’s slumber. This is when I noticed this tree for the first time. Well sure, I must have noticed this tree before, living here my entire life. Yes it’s true, obviously I knew of this tree, but I always took that old symbol of my country for granted, but on this beautiful September afternoon, I truly saw it for the first time.
That day I melted into my rocking chair, overwhelmingly mesmerized by its true beauty and magnificence. The hours passed as I listened with my eyes to its ancient tales. The tree engulfed my every thought and filled my mind with endless questions, and endless words, with ever ending answers. I wondered why these things had never occurred to me before; sitting here in the back of my house like I’ve done thousands of times before, (often with a cold beer in my hand after a long day’s work). I realized that my eyes were truly open. It was like everything had its own special glow, its own beautiful life force. I swear, (like an innocent man swears on the bible) that for a split second all the mysteries of the Universe were split wide open just for me! Then I blinked, and they were gone faster than they came.
I sat in my rocker, (like I’m sitting now) staring up at this depressing, deformed demon trying to free itself from Hades, reaching up to grasp the heavens with its gnarled knuckles, attached to countless deformed fingers. Forever grasping for the unattainable, yet never giving up its inner fortitude. I pondered if this monstrous gift to creativity felt pain, like when it lost one of its limbs in a wind storm. Or the time when I was a child and it got struck by an oblique bolt of electricity from the same heavens that it tumultuously grasps for. I wondered if the tree had a memory of its own. If it remembered me and my tire swing that I use to oscillate from as a child? If it remembered the birds that returned every spring from their winter migration, to nest in its friendly arms? Did it get lonely in the autumn when they left? Standing alone like a naked soldier at attention, did it want to go with them? To free itself from its permanent hell? I felt sad for such a thing, to have to die every fall, only to erupt back to life in the spring; each new blossom like a million middle fingers saying, “up yours!” to old man winter. I remember hearing one time that trees are the souls of the damned, destined to live their lives trapped in the earth. I found this couldn’t be truer.
I wept the day the Marks Brothers tree service came to my door. I remember seeing the maple in all its ancient glory for the last time. I was reminded of the way a father looks on his daughter’s wedding day. The way he tries to hide the look of contempt in his eyes. The few short moments right after he gives his little girl away, but before he takes his seat; those are sad moments often missed by the unintuitive. It seemed to me drastically arbitrary for such an ancient stubborn creature to come crashing down to the very same earth it had been trying to free itself from for more than ten decades. Over a hundred years to climb, and less than an hour to fall.
So that’s what I leave, these words that got on the right train. And I couldn’t have finished at a better time. The last few drops of sand are falling in my hour glass. Making me too weak to write and barely finish a thought. So now I ask you, the one with all that sand still left in the top half of your hourglass…
Have you ever seen a tree?
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