Out in the graveyard, a strange old tree grows. If you look closely, you can see many faces in its bark. It’s an enchanted tree, for sure, and it’s very, very old. It could be at least as old as our country. Time hasn’t done anything to it but gnarl it a bit. It seems to have gone through many tragedies that might have killed another tree, but not this one. It seems appropriate that it’s in a graveyard, with its strange eyes looking out at everything, yet refusing to die.
|An old Maine graveyard tree.|
“Not so!” said the tree. “I die all the time.”
“What?” I asked.
“I die all the time.”
“I think so, too,” he said, “but I did not make the rules.”
“If you die all the time, how is it that you’re still here?”
“Ah, well, you have to die the proper way, you see.”
“And that would be . . . how?” I asked.
“See, you have to be the trunk and not the leaf.”
“The trunk and not the leaf?”
“Yes,” he said, rolling his many eyes on his many faces. “Then you can die as often as you must. People are so transient. I have seen them come and I have seen them go. They are born and then they die. But in between, there are many other deaths. In the following spring after a death, they would be wise to set out new leaves as I do each time I die. Be the trunk and not the leaf. Death is a dream.”
“We have not mastered that yet,” I said.
“Not the final death,” he said, “None of us master that. But the everyday deaths, the losses, the sorrows, the defeats and humiliations. Those deaths are worse than the final death. Be the trunk and not the leaf. Grieve, go onward, grieve again, and go onward yet again.”
“And will I be as beautiful as you if I do?” I meant it as an insult because what he said made perfect sense and I didn’t like being bettered by a tree.
“Ha! That would be something!” he said in the typical fashion of one who has weathered storms much fiercer than anything I could muster.