Near the edge of the field was a tree stump. For as long as I could remember it had been there, almost hidden in the bushes at the edge of the field, right near the road. It was at church. Now, church was a log cabin in the middle of the woods, and every time we drove up and saw the great pines in front of the building I felt as if I’d gone to a special, hidden place.
I was wandering around, as I was wont to do, when I saw that a small tree had sprung up in the stump—no taller than my hand, its new leaves unfurled. I remembered it because it struck me as an awesome place for a tree, and because it survived.
How long does it take for a tree to grow from a tiny spurt of a thing to just a bit taller than my head? Six years—perhaps more? Whenever I remembered, I would visit the little sapling, having unofficially adopted the tree. When its roots were too big for the trunk and its weight too heavy, it fell a bit, but soon it had grown up straight again—making the curve of its thin trunk almost like a J. Now, it’s not that unusual a shape for a tree—I’d seen far stranger—but somehow the tenacity of what I thought of as my tree endeared it to me.
For years, we were occasional companions—when I was walking outside in that direction, I’d make a little detour and see how it had gotten on.
This story isn’t about church. A story about church would have to be far longer—but, because it takes place there, I must, of course, mention something.
That something was known as the “Wider Welcome.” I once drew a rather unflattering comic of the idea—a sketch of church almost eclipsed by great, yawning doors with the dreadful words emblazoned atop them. It had been circulating for years—the idea that someday, when we got enough money, we would fix the place up, making it more appealing to the ‘younger crowd’; which would, the advocates of the plan assured—allow the church to ‘grow.’
I had almost convinced myself it would never happen, but of course it did. I stayed very far away and tried not to watch as the halls that had been as familiar to me as my own home were altered and changed, as holes were ripped in the ground, and—in a parody of my comic—the side door (which everyone used as the front) was enlarged with double doors, a porch, and some nice-looking pillars.
But as I said, that’s a different story. I had gotten over it—or rather, locked up my grief somewhere inside, tightly, where I didn’t have to look at it—as if that way I could pretend it wasn’t there. It was helped by the fact that at that time we, through a conspiracy of circumstances, mostly stopped going to church.
We still went there sometimes, though.
I was wandering around, as I liked to do—the grounds were mostly untouched, besides the addition of a few bushes; which looked, to my view, rather silly just standing there—but I appreciated the effort.
Eventually, I found myself going in that direction, and made a detour to check on my favorite tree.
For a moment, I could not think of a thing. There, in front of me, was a tree stump, with another, smaller, stump growing out of it.
It hadn’t been doing any harm—it hadn’t been blocking any wires. It was mostly hidden near the drive, situated between the bushes and at the edge where the grass and the wild met.
There was no reason to do it, but they had cut down my tree.
Sara Barkat, Tweetspeak writer, written at age 14