Me The Tree

by Erika Byrne-Ludwig

am a tree. A crepe myrtle. I was planted into the ground over a year ago. So I've lived in this corner of the garden and grown with other trees for a while now, enough to have had a large bloom and I'm now up to my second spring. I've had plenty of time to observe my environment and what place I hold in the hierachy of trees in the garden.

As I am a deciduous tree, my leaves have all fallen to the grass below, mostly in a week of heavy wind. I am left with a few seed pods which decorate my bare branches while I prepare for my long sleep. As you can imagine I'm still a very young tree. The sinewy aspect has not appeared yet. I'm rather plain compared to the mottley look I will don later. Just give me time.

Mr and Mrs Viola visit their son, Biniou, every Saturday. As spring arrives, some people are eager to see flowers. I cannot understand such hurry. Instead of letting nature follow its course. I'm here aiming at Mr Viola. He makes me feel anxious. The three of them are standing in front of me and staring at my branches. In the eyes of the lady I see a smile of encouragement and promise. I read some trust and hope in Biniou's. It's in the eyes of the man that I see something more sinister.

"That tree is dead," he says.

"No, it's not. Just wait. He's silently alive."

This naturally saddens me. Death is not a cheerful thought. The young man doesn't say anything. I value him for having called me "The Giant" because I had outgrown other trees. That was when I was in bloom last summer. I can still hear Mrs Viola praise me: "Look at these beautiful crinkled white flowers, dangling gracefully in the warm sun - a cloud of crisp white frothy blooms." She was saying it to her son, even adding that it was "quite eye-catchy". He then poured a bit of water where my roots grow. And weeded around my trunk.

A week later.

Here they come. Stares. Mrs Viola's eyes are smiling as before, filled with comforting thoughts. Biniou checked me during the week. It's Mr Viola whom I have to watch. He touches my branches with great doubts and disdain. Even pinches them a bit too hard. I hear him repeat to his wife that I am definitely dead, "a dead stick" are his exact words.

That makes me cry inside my husk and my sap is getting curdled with fear. If I could only express to him how wrong he is. Mrs Viola says: "No, this tree is full of hidden life, he is rejuvenating himself." That's exactly what I'm doing.

A week later.

Stares. "I'm going to pull this tree out and complain to the nursery." Mrs Viola is appalled, sees my dilemna and strokes me. She repeats the same words of hope and how beautiful my flowers will be. As for myself, I know deep in my heart that I am alive and I thank her for seeing it too.

A week later.

I haven't changed in appearance though I've become a bit morose. I know it's Saturday and he will come. Will he come with a saw, an axe, or a hoe to uproot me? Mrs Viola had clipped my branches late last winter to keep me in shape and in health. The tickling and annoying suckers also had to go. She treated me like a nurse would, knowing exactly what I required. Throughout the summer she encouraged a second bloom by removing my faded flowers. And was careful to leave a few capsules, still green, so as to avoid complete bareness in winter. She definitely is a true gardener. Mr Viola tries to be but fails.

Two weeks later.

Something has moved up my trunk, down my branches to the tip of the branchlets. I jitter with impatience. What is he going to say this time? Stares. Even Biniou is here today. Their heads are very close to me. The three of them smile. I'm exhibiting a few buds. "Look!" Biniou says, touching a bud, visibly excited. He might even water me this evening. In the meantime I enjoy their joy.

Mr Viola still wants to see a few more buds to be fully satisfied. At least he won't be coming with his tools. Mrs Viola speaks on my behalf. She expects me to grow at least half a metre the next two seasons and carry much more blooms than before. Exactly. Yes, take a good look at me, Mr Viola! I'm alive alright. As I lay dormant, I never stopped growing inside my tender bark, and I could hear all the whispers around me, feel the slightest breeze through my naked branches, the slightest sunray on my very thin shell. I even listened with some awe to the rustling of the flowering gum at night.