We were born around the same time, in different places, under different circumstances. I noticed you one day while I was fishing—a young, budding pine standing there against the elements. You seemed happy, your branches and van-gogh-tree-roots-and-trunksneedles outstretched towards the raging sun; your roots planted firmly in the Earth.

Somehow you made it out of the safe canopy of the dark forest and onto the bank of Old Man Walter’s pond. We sat on the bank together every day. I would try to catch a bluegill or a sunfish big enough to brag about back at Fred’s Tire Store and bait shop, which sat adjacent to the old family cemetery. 

We were friends. At least I thought so. You were even there for me during the harsh winter. The bitter cold would cut through me like a whaler’s shank, but you stood strong. I admired you. The winters always passed, and each spring brought new stories ready to escape from the dreams and imaginations conceived during the boredom of cabin fever.

We talked, we laughed; sometimes we cried—together—there in the warm Kentucky sunlight that shined on us like fortunate sons of the Commonwealth. You always listened. Now and then it rained, and we both got wet. The smell of rich pine needles always drifted in from the crowded evergreen forest from where you came. We both grew taller and taller above the fertile soil.

Several years passed; I never forgot you.

Then one December day—just before Christmas—I walked that path to Old Man Walter’s pond I’d walked a thousand times. I froze in my tracks. My heart stopped. You were gone. All that was left was an empty hole in the ground. A few mangled roots marked your struggle to no avail. I turned to hear the forest weep, but it was silent. Detached in the distance.

I sat down in the snow and cried a mother’s cry—a cry to an indifferent universe.