Rekha Garton – A self portrait in the woods
It was only a seed and being a child I didn’t understand why I had to take care of it. The clay pot was on my windowsill for what seemed like forever before a small bit of green appeared. Even then it was not something I paid much attention to. I watered it occasionally but only at the constant prodding from my father and in spite of my neglect it grew into a spindly little plant.
“It’s time” my father announced one day.
“For what?” I asked.
He smiled back at me and said “For an adventure of course”
I remember it was raining that day, a soft gentle spring rain that was like a warm caress on my skin.
We walked a long ways into the forest, much further than I had ever been before.
When we stopped he leaned over and whispered into my ear “This place is special because it is surrounded by Christmas trees”. “But remember this, what we do today is not for now, but for when you are a woman” he continued.
I looked at him, puzzled at his quiet words and as he stood and looked up into the tree canopy it was then I realized why he had whispered to me.
The forest was serene and the rain, more like a mist, danced in the light above us.
I reached for his hand and as his warm hand enveloped mine it made me smile.
Looking up at him he seemed to be as tall as the trees and I could see him smiling too.
He knelt down next to me and said “Right here, we should plant it right here next to mine”
He took a trowel out of his coat pocket and handed it to me and pointing said “Dig here”
I took the trowel in my two hands and tried to dig but my small hands were no match for the heavy soil.
“Here, let me help” my father said as he wrapped both his hands over mine and together we worked the soil.
“That looks about right” my father said “Now let me show you how to plant your tree”
It wasn’t until that very moment that I realized what we were doing.
A tree, that spindly twig that sat on my windowsill was a tree!
He took both my hands and together we lifted the clay pot.
With one hand on the base of the sapling we turned it over and then with the handle of the trowel tapped the base of the pot.
Loosened it fell into our hands.
“Careful now” my father said as we turned the plant over and lowered it into the hole.
“Push the soil back into the hole and make sure to press it down all around” he said
Together we pushed and tamped the soil until it was filled.
“It’s done” he said “Your tree is now free to grow tall and strong” he said as he smiled at me.
He took my hand as we rose to our feet and together we looked down.
“It looks so small and alone” I said
“Yes it does but it’s not alone” he said smiling as he looked down at me “There” he said as he pointed to a tree “That’s the tree I planted with my father when I was your age”.
“It’s so big” I said surprised “like you”
“And your tree will grow too” he said “just like you will”
I quietly pondered that for a moment as I looked up at my father.
“Look!” I cried out “A rainbow!” as I pointed up into the trees.
A bit of sunlight had broken through the clouds and illuminated the swirling mist the rain had become creating a splash of rainbow in the treetops.
“Yes it is a rainbow” my father replied as I leaned against his leg.
“You must be getting tired” my father said as he reached down and lifted me up.
I rested my head on his shoulder as he said “Time to get you home, enough adventure for one day and you’ll know when to return here”
As he turned and walked away I could see over his shoulder that a shaft of sunlight was now touching my tree making it appear to glow. And there to the side, also in the sunlight, was my fathers tree.
I thought to myself “My little tree doesn’t look so lonely now” as I fell asleep in my father’s arms.
Life is always pushing you forward away from the past so I hadn’t thought of my tree for many years. It wasn’t until I read my father’s journal and found the passage of our adventure together that I decided to visit our trees.
It wasn’t hard to find and not as far to walk as I remembered and the circle of pine trees my father called Christmas trees were still there.
My father has been gone a year now and in the clearing I discover that so is his tree, as is mine and many others.
I step onto the stump that was his tree, close my eyes and recall that day so long ago with my father.
I want to weep out loud but the quiet serenity of the forest seems to drain away my sadness into a calm repose that I have not felt in long while.
I am again that little girl planting a tree in the forest with my father and I realize that it doesn’t matter that our trees are now gone, because I am the seed my father planted and I have grown tall and strong.
I open my eyes and reach up into the sunlight and I know that I am not alone as I can still feel my father’s hand on mine.