by Janel Heasley

redwood trees
Redwood trees. Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

The mist comes off the sea, just like every other morning. It feels cool against me and leaves salty dew drops on the needles of my branches. It comes rolling in in little wisps that turn to thick fog hanging in the air, blocking the tops of the surrounding trees. and trickling down to the trail winding through the forest.

When the first groups of tourists come in, they breathe that salty sea air into their lungs, deeply. They marvel at how beautiful it looks winding through the tops of our branches, blocking out the early light. I can hear their voices echoing throughout the forest even from the beginning of the trail.

By the time they reach the middle of the trail, the sun has broken through the mist. Burning it away into nothing. The rays shine down on me, and I reach out to the sun. Two thousand years, she has been my constant companion, the one I know like my own roots.

Every day, she warms me, bathes me in her divine glow.

Every day, I strain to be closer to her, to feel just a little more of that warmth before she sets again.

Three-hundred-sixty-five days in a year, and each one of them I spend reaching for the sun. Each year, each ring added to my core signifies only the amount of time I spend growing and soaring to be closer to her.

People come from all over the world to see me, and they marvel at my height, my width, my beauty, my age, my will to survive thousands of years.

They surround me with laughter and fill me with joy. They look up at me like I fill their world with awe and wonder. They like to feel small in a world that sometimes makes them feel too big, too seen. They like to be reminded that there is more to the world than their heartbreak and pain. They like to be reminded that the world can be a beautiful place, if only they would let it.

Of course, there are those who would rather cut me down. Those who would rather see me burn. There are those who believe that nature is not as important as money. That joy cannot be found in what earth has to offer, but rather search for what they can take from the earth, what they can steal from her, who has already given them so much.

They want to use me as a piece to be shown, to put a slice of me in a museum and ship the rest to a factory, to be torn apart and used for the floor of a new house, a dresser for an apartment, a swing set for a backyard, or even a boat for sailing along the misty sea. Even those who want to ‘help’ us do so by setting us ablaze and cutting us in half, to ‘renew,’ ‘refresh,’ and ‘refertilize’ the land. Help us suck up more carbon they keep pumping into us.

They forget we existed and thrived without them for thousands of years. These days it’s hard to tell who’s trying to help us and who’s trying to hurt us. The two look so similar now.

They don’t understand, and they never will. No matter whether they love us or want to use us, they can never know what it means to be thousands of years old. To feel the sea battering against the coastline. To watch the storms roll in and the wind try to knock us down or the lightning try to strike us from existence. They will never know what it means to set down roots so deeply into the earth that you become as immovable as a mountain. They will never understand what it means to watch those around you become a pawn in the environmental wars. They will never know what it means to see others be swung and chopped at until they shake the earth with the weight of their fall, while standing there and wondering whether that axe will take a swing at you next.

Whether they want to hurt us or help us, it is all in the name of humanity.  It will never be in our name; it will never be truly for us.

So, I will continue to bathe in the mist of the sea each morning and reach out to the rays of sun that reach out to me each day. When the sun sets, I will rest, and I will continue on as I have for the past two millennia, waiting for the day when they decide to burn us all down, but selfishly hoping that the sun takes them first.

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