Cruel Beauty

by Hannah Bagley

A person looking up at the stars
A person looking up at the stars. Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

I have witnessed cruelty before.

I have watched as stars have exploded before my eyes. I have witnessed their last fiery moments as supernovas expand into cosmic graveyards. I have watched them tear down innocent galaxies in their wake and feel no remorse for it. There is nothing colder and more ruthless than atoms burning at hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit.

I also have witnessed beauty in many forms.

I have watched as planets have been born, bursting to life with explosions of energy. Though their lifeforms take their time, their formations are glorious. Brilliant pockets of energy build and build, shaking their universe until bright blues and reds and greens collide together and form some kind of star that floats aimlessly until it is pulled in the direction of a sun. The little ones always search for warmth and comfort, for they cannot keep their own heat regulated at their core. The larger ones are usually more independent and can create their own solar systems; it just takes a little time.

However, there always must be a push and a pull.

While their creation is magnificent, their downfalls are usually just as so. Some planets go quietly, but others go out with the same fervor as before. I’ve always preferred the passionate ones, the ones that put up a fight. Their final moments are spent delaying the inevitable. Flurries of rage, uneasiness, and fear race throughout the skies, but nature loves to win in the end. Their last moments of hope and drive are what keeps their memory and spirits alive, even after they are gone. Like embers of a fire that just cannot and will not die.

Since the first sparks of my existence, I have taken on many forms. I have watched from a distance as the planetary alignments have taken place, and I have also been part of their new life. I have flown with birds and walked amongst giants. I have lived among monarchs and survived with those who are the least fortunate. I have pollinated with bees, and I have mined under the ground for treasures of coal and gold. I have given life and I have taken it.

In my lifetimes, I have travelled to different lands. I have watched as flowers have bloomed and withered, as civilizations have built and decayed, and as saplings have sprouted into giant sequoias. Unlike the planets, all of these things are slow, terribly, painfully slow.

I have always enjoyed watching the smaller beauties of life unfold. Watching trees grow as their skin breaks and cracks into spider veins of rough bark has always been fascinating to me. I am envious of their resilience to the pains of this life. Out of most things I have witnessed, the trees always stand the proudest and the longest. Even I am not as resilient as a tree though the rings around my eyes do grow more abundant with my age, much like their internal rings. Unlike the trees, I do not have to be cut down and reworked to see how the years have been shaping me. I do not have to be shown cruelty to see my aging.

Even now in the brutal wreckage of a forest fire, I sit counting the rings of the massive stump next to me and I know that this tree was passionate and beautiful. I know that despite all of the cruelty in this world, this tree was resilient. I know it could have been pitted against a supernova.

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