What is this creature that has settled itself upon my roots, curled its limbs around the base of my trunk? It is one of the quick-moving, unrooted ones. One of the ones with loose, smooth bark in many bright colors (some colors that leaves and flowers and water and earth make, some colors I can’t describe). This one, strangely, is colored not so differently from a tree in summer, though it is winter now. Perhaps it moves so quickly that it has come from a summer land.
The creature is gentle, moving my two-year twigs (delicate with the chill) out of the way with stubbly twigs the width of my ten- or fifteen-year branches. Its trunk is many times mine in diameter, the size of a seventy-year one of my brethren, but its height is less than that of a sapling. Its warmth (warmth! what magic, to hold onto the summer heat so many months into winter!) seeps into my trunk as it settles its trunk flat against mine, making my wood tingle with the memory of the spring thaw. My sap aches to flow, my pent-up buds are eager for sun—but that’s how it always is this time of year, anytime the sun on my bark hints at spring warmth.
This creature is still now, but I feel its energy, sense the fresh carbon dioxide it produces (although, alas, I have no leaves to take it in), and the warmth it leaks. How does it carry so much heat? Does it ever run out? It presses its round, stubby upper limb against my trunk, and ah!—the pain—not like the pain of a torn limb, but pain like losing your first set of leaves, or a storm that threatens your roots. But this creature has neither leaves nor roots. Where, then, lies its pain? Perhaps wherever it comes from, there is some change of seasons or some dark storm coming. Maybe it threatens some part of this creature I cannot see or recognize—after all, so many of these rootless ones are mysterious to me. But I remember the pain of losing my leaves the first time, the surprise and the ache and oh, the loss, the fear that I was dying, and the storms that rolled in, and the cold that threatened to seep into my very cells! I didn’t know if I could endure it, was certain that the fierce freezing winds would rip me from the earth and take me away! When that first spring came, the sun had never seemed so bright and warm, the flow of my sap had never felt cleaner, water had never tasted so good, and I stretched my leaves wide to receive it all.
Perhaps this creature is living through its first winter. But no—I have seen the seedlings of their kind, their trunks broader than mine but no taller than I was as a seedling. This one, surely, has seen many more winters than that, perhaps even as many as I (though I know that these quick-moving creatures are also short-lived). And there is no storm near here, but perhaps there is one where it comes from. Perhaps it has come here to be away from the storm.