The Lone Pine
Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
The forest was filled with the sounds of machines. Rough men with chainsaws and loading trucks dominated the area, cutting down the mass of pine trees that stretched out for miles. One exquisitely great tree, the one they called ‘Lone Pine’, overlooked it all with a mixture of pride and sorrow. Pride, for he was the biggest tree, the master of all, the one left alone to grow stronger each year. Sorrow, for all his companions were taken away every time winter showed its snowy head. Of course they were replaced by new ones, but after years and years the giant tree did not bother getting too close to any of them anymore. Instead, he had become an advisor and leader to the other trees, using his size and the strength of his roots to impress. One time, a lady pine had been so amazed that she had dropped all her needles in awe. Now that was a tale worth telling to the young ones!
‘Lone Pine’ always remained while everyone else left, hauled away to the big mass of rock in the distance that the cutting men called a city. Why trees would be brought into a structure made out of stone was a complete mystery to him. Surely there would be no dirt to grow in, no water to drink. The thought alone filled him with fear. His fellows were brought to their doom. Most likely without any hope of survival. He looked with regret towards the trucks now pulling into the city. The sun was going down and silence slowly set in as the final men turned off their chainsaws and left the site. As always, ‘Lone Pine’ was the only one left. Looking around one last time, he decided to go to sleep. After all, tomorrow the new trees would arrive and he wanted to be well-rested for their welcome party. So he allowed the darkness of sleep to envelop him.
The next morning ‘Lone Pine’ was woken up by a mixture of sounds he was definitely not used to. One was an enormous mix of the kinds of klaxons the cutting men used in their trucks. The other was definitely engines, thousands of them. And then there were the voices, wave upon wave. The tree opened that what humans would call eyes, and what he saw was more terrible than anything he had ever imagined before. Somehow, the cutting men had brought him down in his sleep and taken him to the city. He had been placed in some kind of enormous stone clearing, surrounded by countless stone structures. Many of them were transparent, and in them ‘Lone Pine’ could see people sitting, people running around, people gesturing to groups of other people. Wherever he looked, however, there was no sign of his fellow trees. Perhaps for them it was already too late. The king of the forest would obviously be an interesting prisoner, though, one worthy of showcasing to the people of the city. As he thought about this, he noticed the jewelry that had been hung on him. Jewelry, as if he were a woman! He had never been this humiliated in his entire life! Surely everyone would come and laugh at him, laugh at the shiny red and silver balls, laugh at the silly pieces of cloth that were draped on his branches, and roll on the floor when they saw the ridiculous star on top of his trunk. He chanced a look down towards the square, but could see no one laughing at him. In fact, nobody seemed to even have the time or interest to look at him. This made him even angrier. It would not do! He began to shake, so that he could shower the people down below with the decoration that had been hung on him. He was so angry that it would have worked, were it not for the lack of roots. Apparently these had been left behind in the forest. Even more infuriated by this, ‘Lone Pine’ doubled his efforts. He tried and tried, shook and shook until the sun went down and he could do no more. And he had not succeeded in throwing down even one of the little glass balls.
Anger made way for sadness. No more would he enjoy the fresh air or the open night sky of the forest. No more would he impress his fellow trees. No more would lady trees drop their needles for him. These times were over. ‘Lone Pine’, for the first time in his entire life, was truly alone.
In his grief he did not notice that the square had filled up with people, all looking up at him in expectation. When an amplified voice started speaking he noticed though. He also noticed that no one was laughing at him. Then, one by one, lights started flicking on in the buildings surrounding the square, and that’s when he saw. His fellow trees, all decorated as well, surrounded by people laughing happily, brightened the numerous rooms of the buildings. When they saw ‘Lone Pine’ in the middle of the square, he could swear many of them began to glow even more. His heart lifted.
Music began playing. The amplified voice had stopped speaking. The people down in the square were now chanting words that the tree could not understand. But he understood the meaning of the cheering, as the beautiful lights on his branches were turned on. The sound was deafening. Never had ‘Lone Pine’ been this impressive! He looked around, filling up with pride once again. He had not been taken captive and nor had his fellow trees been. He had been recruited. Recruited to be admired, to fill people’s hearts with happiness. He had no idea how long this would last, but he knew that he would cherish every moment of it. People and trees alike, admiring him! It was too good to be true.
Not too good to be true for one family, though. They were simply staring sadly at their own tree. The excitement had been too much for her, and she had dropped all her needles.