Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I Thought I Heard You Laughing

Here is a essay I wrote in my freshman year of college (which was in 1999, and yes I graduated from college in 2009!) I don't remember the assignment, only that the teacher and other people I have read this too have greatly enjoyed this essay. It is about sadly, what I would consider a story of what was a good friend to me as a child. (Confusing sentence, I know). Mind you, this essay has many errors, yet I feel like rewriting it as I wrote it then and not trying to improve it.

As a child, I hated how the cold winter months creeped by. I would stand in my bedroom, staring out the window, my forehead pressed against the cold glass, hating the cold white world outside my window. I'd gaze down the long stretch of pasture, which was our backyard, searching for my tree, which was hiding among the rows of trees down at the bottom of the pasture. I longed to be down there, sitting in my tree, to get away from my brother's loud tantrums; to get away from my mother who was always yelling at us for something; to get away from the monotony of the four walls that surrounded me. I hated the suffocation of the cold days that kept me captive inside the anger-filled house. However,, the spring and summer months always came, like the key that unlocks a cage, and I would be outside flying across the pasture like a cheetah running across an open field, ducking through the trees, dodging the tall grass, finally reaching my tree. It was the perfect climbing tree because it had a low V, which served as an excellent stepping stool up into it's heights, which held so many possibilities. 

When I was young, my tree was primarily a hiding spot from my angry mother. I was too afraid to venture very far up into the higher branches, for fear of falling. I was content sitting in my little perch six feet above the ground, letting the tree gently rock me, as the wind moved through it shaking hands with all the branches. I was pleased with myself for having found such a perfect hiding place, as I listened to my mother yelling for me up in the yard. I knew that she would never find me, and that I could keep neglecting my household chores. I felt like a secret safely kept by my tree; as I was unnoticed by the passing cars, or birds perched among the neighboring trees, or by the roaming barn cats down in the grass below. I was a secret observer of the world around me, sitting in my tree. 

As I got older, the tree meant more to me. I visited the tree more often for the silence it offered. I would climb into the highest branches, looking out over the tops of the neighboring trees, seeing my house looking so innocent, in the distance, atop the slight upward slope of the pasture. I'd let my eyes roam across the endless wheat fields that came tumbling over the tops of distant hills, like worn silk falling down in gentle folds around our land. I felt peace here. 

I visited the tree after long stressful days to cry out loud, without any human ears to hear me; only the silent staring owls, skiddish rabbits, and prowling barn cats heard me crying. I would go there on nights when the moon was full, to soothe my broken heart after being hurt by a friend. In the mild winter months, I tromped through the snow, to climb up into the naked branches, to cool my anger after a fight with a family member. I would sit there and watch the snow dancing in endless circles across the open pasture and fields, one swirl of snow chasing after another, then disappearing, only to reappear seconds later, which would go racing yet again after another circle of snowflakes.

Sitting there over the years, I thought about life, my family, my dreams, and my goals. I discovered who I was, my love for nature, animals, silence, and peace. A lot of my art and poetry was inspired as I sat there at different times of the passing seasons, seeing so many different things, thinking so many different thoughts. 

As an adult, I still visited my tree, even after I moved out. I'd drive the eight miles to spend a few minutes in my tree, to think about a problem, to relieve my stress, to feel the quiet of the day. However, as my life became more hectic, I found that I did not always have the time to take the trip out there. I missed the quiet solitude that my tree offered. I felt like a child lost without my comforting security blanket, but I knew that I had to move on with my life, that I would have to say goodbye to my loyal friend of so many years. 

On the day that I made my last visit, it was a cool autumn day, bright yellow and orange leaves were shimmering in the sun, clapping politely in the breeze. I drove the eight miles and parked along the road; climbed though the barbed wire fence into the pasture, ducked through the trees, and stood in front of my tree one more last time. I didn’t have to climb it; I could climb it inside my head, feeling the rough bark beneath my fingertips, hearing my shoes biting into the branches, seeing the view from the top. I reached out and touched the tree with my fingertips and realized that the tears were falling down my face. Through my tears, I heard myself softly say “Thank you.” Then I smiled to myself, suddenly feeling stupid crying over a dumb tree that had been here long before I was born, and that would be there for many more years to come. It was just doing its job day in and day out; standing there silently, offering up its branches to whoever might come to visit. However, for eleven years of my life it had felt my sadness, anger, pain, and hate. It had heard my cries, my questions, my fears; it had listened to my deepest troubling thoughts, my dreams, my goals, and now I shared with it my love, and for the first time ever my laughter. As I turned and walked away, a sudden breeze gently shook the branches of my silent friend, and I could almost hear the tree say, “I thought I heard you laughing.”

~And ironically, yes Shel Silverstein's book The Giving Tree, was a book, I hold dear to my heart ~

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