By Jiwon Hwang
I buried a seed in the forest. Buried it deep within the warm soil underneath my brown leather boots. It is my very own seed, and I will follow it through the tests of time.
I ran every morning to greet the seed. I nurtured it, gave it strength, and willed for the faintest sign of growth, because it would be a shame to let such a seed die. I controlled the amount of water it absorbed, protected it from heavy amounts of rain. I let it bathe in the dappled sunlight, peeking through the shade of magnificent green leaves of the forest. The sprout was going to come out soon. That’s what I believed.
With great patience and restraint, I checked for the first signs of emergence, for something to poke through the hard shell of the seed. I never pestered or tried to force it out, that would only mean the seed wasn’t ready yet. The seed needed to open up to me first, and after then, I would tell it all my stories, my secrets. I would allow it to grow.
The next time I visit the seed, it has changed. The tiny seed has grown, surviving the first stages of childhood, now a sapling. Thin and frail but strong, the tree holds its own against the harsh winds blown from the north. During winter, it stands courageously brave through the cold, and welcomes the blanket of snow that covers the miles and miles of woodsy nature. It glitters like ice and shines brightly, firmly planted for all to see. Only when everything melts, melts into nothing but thin air, does it falter, the tiniest moment of hesitation. But only for a moment.
Seasons have flown by, and now, it’s late spring. Buds are blooming widely, flowers are filled with pollen as bees buzz about. The birds chirp merrily, high and low as they sing, echoing throughout the forest. A gentle breeze blows and the trees sway to the beat of the orchestra, as buzzing, chirping, rustling comes together. A little bit more learning, and soon the fruits will ripen.
Although the days are bright and filled with colour, it is dark when I sneak out through my window to run towards the tree. Waving my flashlight around, I allow my feet to guide me, they still remembers the path. We pass the flowing river, pass the arch of trees side by side next to the path, and walk through the rocky trails to reach my destination, to find it among hundreds of its own kind. Gently touching the sides of one particular tree, I know it’s the one when I feel it. My hand, once filled with scratches and slivers from climbing up and down, remembers the roughness of its bark, its branches, and the different nooks and crannies along the sides of its trunk.
Standing proud and silent in the dark, this tree has a goal; a goal to reach the sky. Growing taller and taller, it will release clean air for all the wilderness it inhabitants. Who knows, it might even save a life or two. I want to be a doctor when I grow up, and this tree’s goal fits right with mine. We’re both off to save lives.
It was maybe 3 or 4 years later when I returned to the forest. It was autumn, the perfect season for nature walks surrounded by golden yellow and orange leaves. As I walked, I listened, and remembered. Sounds of crunching leaves, chatting squirrels, and whispering leaves. I was walking through memory lane, past the flowing rivers, the arch of trees and the rocky trails. I began to remember the sounds of the forest, it was beckoning me. Caught up in the rush of my life, I stopped coming back to this forest, and as time passed by, I had forgotten all about the tree.
It was still striking and beautiful, with fallen leaves surrounding bottom in a beautiful clash of red, orange and yellow. It was breathtaking, a piece of nature more glorious than ever before, but to me, it looked lonely, and not quite what it used to be. No longer surrounded by the many animals of the forest, no longer bright with flowers, and no longer proud, as it had once stood in the midst of the buzzing excitement that filled the air. The branches stripped and bared, too embarrassed to face all that is left. A loss of innocence, and the tree can no longer live completely sheltered beneath the tall canopy of trees amidst the sky. From now on, the tree can only depend on itself.
1 year later
After the autumn walk through the forest, I never went to see the tree again. It was as if I had never known about the tree, and my life resumed. I made new friends, relationships, and accomplishments that I was proud of; was thankful for. But time to time, in the few minutes in bed before I fell asleep, or during the awfully short bus ride home, I remembered the tree and what it gave me. The many obstacles overcome, the changes I had experienced, and the illuminated moments in the spotlight I had come to enjoy.
It was cold that fateful day. The forest howling, wind spitting strands of hair into my face, and the ground, hard and solid from the icy weather. It was beginning to drizzle, and I was tearing my way through the forest when I spotted a girl, who was small but bright, and lit up the forest like a candle in a dimly-lit room. She had eyes that were big and round, which peered up at a tree. A tree with bulging roots, a thick trunk, and branches that seemed to stretch all the way to the sky. A tree that I recognized.
And in her hand, fisted tightly inside her warm pocket,
Was a single seed.