The Girl and the Tree



The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.

Psalm 24:1

I noticed the tree, naked against the sky. Twisted, leafless, grotesque beauty, reaching out of the packed earth. The sun was setting, the sky streaked amber. Gnarled fingers of bark grasped, empty-handed, at the fading sunlight.

She paused there, by the tree, her face golden in the dying light, and mopped the perspiration from her brow with the red-plaid flannel of her sleeve.

She was young, perhaps 20. With both hands she lifted long, thick hair off her neck — dark hair, black as the approaching night. Her slender fingers brushed sweat-dampened tendrils from her face. Then, her palms flat against the small of her back, she stretched — cat-like, I thought — and smiled, the features of her dark, tired face suddenly radiant.

Where was that smile born? In a memory? A dream? A hope? A face remembered, a joke recalled? Or was it simply this moment of wonder? The sunlight fading, the night approaching. A tree dying, yet alive, holding some mystery, a memory, caught like a kite in its withered branches.

She had worked since dawn, the young woman. Hard work. In the field perhaps, or the nearby packing shed. Doubtless, every muscle ached. It showed in the slightest stoop of fatigue, in the way she walked, in the relish of so brief a break, pausing in the sunset to mop her brow, brush her hair, stretch her back, smile.

She walked on, and the sun descended beneath the horizon, pulling the blanket of twilight up and over the naked form of a dying tree. And everything was alive.

Copyright © 2011 by James P. Long | Faith and Imagination