During the tough first two years, the sapling had to fight for its life. The older more mature members of the immediate area crowded the young ones, pulling the very air from them. Still, the generously provided sunlight found a path through the thick branches above the wheezing seedling. Rain, of course, never posed a problem, thanks to gravity. The water droplets always sought the low ground, and as soon as they did, the thirsty dirt sponged them up. The young bud would then drink from the soil as its tiny subterranean tentacles sucked up the precious liquid. The miniscule bowels converted the water and solar energy into cellular structure, and the teeny twig launched its thrust towards the heavens.
Back in those days, clean fresh air filled the neighborhood, just enough oxygen and more than enough carbon dioxide. With the advent of leaves, respiration got to be a lot of fun. Breathing consumed hardly any energy and offered enormous benefits.
Constant growth soon forced the elders to cede the land to the newest member of their community. The adolescent tree had grown high enough to compete for the valuable sunshine and air. The elders realized and accepted nature’s law. After all, the forest had plenty of water and virtually an infinite amount of air, so why not encourage those stronger members of the species to survive.
Through the years, the natural elements of life and growth added much to the character of the tree. Though the older counterparts were prone to disease and death, the relatively young and fruitful tree prospered and watched children sprout in the woods. But, it seemed, the newer saplings took a much longer time to mature. Indeed, more than ever before failed to reach maturity.
It must have been the air. Going through the strongest years of its life, the tree would not have noticed a subtle change in the air, but the change must have been there. Air provided an important link to life for the younger ones. Tall enough now to see above all others, the tree could detect civilization creeping toward the innocent forest from the horizon. Did this strange grayness have anything to do with the poor quality of the air? No. Whatever was happening that far away could not possibly have affected his timberland.
One morning, the tree heard strange animal clatters in the woods. It also detected the sounds of very loud insects, followed by rat-a-tat-tats of what must have been gigantic woodpeckers. Both pests, though not seen, frightened the tree. In all its years, neither insects nor woodpeckers beset the tree. Many of its fellow companions fell to the deadly results of such visitations. The tree shuddered from its roots. Straining its long bark in an effort to spot the exact source of these new noises, the tree found nothing.
Some time after first hearing the hums and crashes, the tree sensed the forest had lost some of its density. The tree blamed the loss on its own growth. Deep down, the tree worried. The forest thinned because the saplings did not mature. The saplings did not mature because they could not get enough good air. Perhaps the tree grew too big and deprived the young ones of this life sustaining sustenance. Self-guilt spread throughout its limbs.
As summer approached, the tree perceived more light from the vertical direction. The mysteriousness of the horizon had oozed closer. It must be man. Man’s growing season coincided with the growing season of the forest. Fewer and fewer seedlings took root. The burden of personal responsibility weighed down upon the tree’s conscience.
Finally the origins of the strange noises revealed themselves. Hundreds of animals – man – busily dismantled the older trees. Man transplanted younger trees into the clearings where they could freely partake of all the air and oxygen they needed. Man cared for them and encouraged their unbridled growth.
This made the tree very happy. The forest could survive. Soon, the whole area would consist of young trees and the woodland would return flush to its usual density. The tree would spend the remaining centuries of its life as the elder, all the older trees having been removed to make room for the youngsters. The tree sighed contentedly…