The lush brown soil parted ever so slightly, a sapling taking its first tentative moves above terra firma. Years later, it will recall, not so much a cogent memory, but the intuited feeling that it was safe, that it was protected, surrounded as it was by so many of its own kind.
Childhood and adolescence were fraught times, a distinct fragility marking existence in this and all facets of nature. The dispositive moments came frequently, but the little tree was graced with good fortune. A hiker’s errant bootstep came mere millimeters from ending the production altogether. Birds, ravenous in the spring thaw, always seemed to like the neighbors more. It was not all serendipity though: the tiny conifer was hardy, fought with its brethren over precious resources and won. While there were socialist tendencies in this milieu, mostly it was a zero-sum affair.
Still maturing, but firmly ensconced in its environment, the tree had grown tall enough to glimpse the larger forest in which it was found. The sight of such broad majesty was captivating and instilled a sense of pride. Taking note of its deciduous cousins’ cycles enabled a loose tracking of time and health. And so it was, the rhythm of the arbor: tempests and tranquility, on repeat.
Animals held a constant source of fascination, were a necessary component of the ecosystem. None inspired more wonder and fear than the bipedal versions, whose nebulous presence made them at once part and apart. Their attire evolved, but the twin impulses of escape and extraction continued unabated. Of course, these were mutually exclusive: one could not sojourn into a place that no longer existed. Although their adornments and equipment made it easier to identify the tribes, it was the energy that trailed them that was the most telling marker of their intentions.
The noises became less organic, more mechanical. Different eras saw varying degrees of human input and degradation, but the larger pattern could be easily gleaned from a mere glance from the tips of its needles. What was once an unblemished carpet had become pockmarked, whole neighborhoods subjected to the ignominy of clearcutting.
Perhaps it was the approach of middle age, but the now-towering pine could have sworn that it used to snow more, to rain with more regularity, to be more temperate and predictable. It was becoming increasingly difficult to scrounge the elements needed to keep its cells healthy and happy.
The intermittent arbor-ocide, sometimes via arboricide, eased some population pressure, made the competition for water more tolerable, but it was hard to shake the feeling that it was only a brief reprieve. The pace of construction accelerated with such vehemence that it seemed that deforestation was not a process, but had happened instantaneously.
Then, one spring, they finally came for the tree. Its cache had been the last holdout, an island amidst a sea of sameness. Just as the horror of the chainsaw was to be applied to its trunk, one enterprising human, noting the irony that this new community was to be named for woods, thought it best to at least keep one remnant of that concept.
Glimpsed from afar, the stout tree stands backdropped by modernity, a lone pine as bulwark against the madness. For now.