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By guest writer
McKenzie Toomey

I sat down in the shade of the towering White Oak, and I watched the branches sway above me. The leaves rustled against each other in the wind, almost whispering to me. I rested my hands on the outcropping roots that grew nearly six feet out from the tree’s base, and I felt the energy that flowed through the tree, the energy that had created this mammoth of nature, the energy that sustained this ancient Oak.

It was then that I heard the tree speak.

“I have seen this neighborhood grow. From the very first houses, I have watched the people who live here. I saw houses built and rebuilt taller. I still tower over them all. I have lovingly watched over the children playing in my road–I still do. While human life grows only up and outward, I grow both towards the sky and earth. I can feel the rich, dark dirt surrounding my roots. I have buried myself in centuries of history in my long life. I have seen so much human happiness, sadness too. I never grow tired of watching you younger ones. So much life. So much movement. I haven’t moved once in my life of one hundred and seventy years.”

I asked the tree, “What do you remember from before the neighborhood”

“Before your neighborhood there was farmland. I do not know how I survived the cull, but I was never cut down. During the autumn harvest, farmers would rest in my shade. My brothers were not so lucky.”

“Before even that, I was fed by the Lake. I was only ten years old when settlers began to mutilate my forest. I did not ask my ancestors the right questions before they were cut. They would be around three hundred years old today. They knew things that no mere man could ever know.

I paused, before asking, “Do you ever grow tired of this life?” The wind must have blown harder because the trunk of the tree groaned loudly. The branches shook–it almost sounded like laughter.

“Child, I do dream of a different life. I dream I can provide shade for natural species and grass, not this fake-turf I suddenly see everywhere. I dream of the days when Coal Creek had not yet changed her path, and my roots were still nourished by the mountain-water she carries. I dream of a future where I do not smell the ashes of my brothers, where there is no talk of a dying planet. I have no plans of dying. I have no plans to rot. I was here long before you, and I will be here long after you leave…”

The leaves settled, and I felt the energy beneath my fingers continue to flow up the roots. I opened my eyes. It was almost sunset.

McKenzie Toomey wrote this article in honor of Bellevue Arbor Day on October 22, 2022. McKenzie is a senior at the International School in Bellevue. Our thanks to McKenzie for sharing this article with us.

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