"I'm getting old" says tired old tree
Who will come and visit me?
I'll settle in before winter comes
And lean towards the setting sun.
It was the month of December on the shores of Silver Lake. Crystals twinkled and sprinkled on the water. George walked through the garden in his shiny red boots. He was used to hearing all kinds of sounds in the garden, birds singing and squirrels chirping, but now, all was quiet and still. The was a gentle hush in the garden as it was now falling asleep.
Inside the house, his mother was busy baking cookies and simmering hot apple cider. George could smell the cinnamon and nutmeg all throughout the house. He loved a hot cup of cider after walking outside all day in the cold, crisp air. "This is a time for giving to others" she would say. " A time to make gifts and share them with our family and friends." Even though it was hard, he learned to share his favorite cookies with his neighbors and friends. How he delighted to see their smiling faces as they opened up a tin of star-shaped cookies.
As George wandered through the garden, he poked about here and there with his favorite walking stick. He looked for worms and beetles and bugs, but could not find any. Most of the birds had flown away for the winter. Even the busy squirrels were not there to wiggle their fluffy tails at him, inviting him to play. All was quiet.
And to add to the hush of this time of year, there was not much color in the garden. All of the blossoms had faded and the bulbs lay asleep under the ground until spring. He could see brown on the barks of the trees and grey in the sky. But the evergreens did shine bright. The cedars, spruces, and pines filled his heart with joy. "I never really noticed you before in the spring and summer" he said to them with a smile. "Now that all is brown, I can see your bright green needles."
Just then, George heard a sound above him. It was a cackling and a crackling. Two big brother crows flapped their wings and then "whoosh!" they flew away towards the shore. As George looked up, he saw the tree that the black birds were in.It was Grandfather Cottonwood Tree, his favorite tree that he had climbed last year for the very first time.
But now, there were no leaves on this tree.It was bare, brown and dry. George saw new things he had never noticed before about the tree. "I never noticed how big your trunk was before" he said to the tree. How strong and mighty you are! The tree stretched and yawned and leaned down towards the ground as if to settle down for a long winter's nap. George ran his soft small hands along the trunk of the tree."Oh, how rough and dry you are!" he said. He looked and saw no nests in the tree. There were no birds, or animals to be found. Then George began to wonder.
"I don't see any animals here around you. I wonder if you are lonely" he said to the tree. "I have family and friends and neighbors to play with. Perhaps you too would like some friends." George thought about the Christmas tree that hung so proudly in his home. It was decorated with all kinds of fancy things-shiny glitter, candles, apples and a gold star at the top. There were even a few red robins that his mother had stitched out of wool felt. He loved looking at that tree each night and watching it twinkle in the darkness. That tree was magic.
And then, George got an idea. It was a special idea. He ran to the garden shed and got his little willow basket, some scissors and some twine. Then he walked through the garden, looking for little treasures. "There IS still some color left!" he said as he snipped some fat, red rose hips and some long juniper branches full of purple blue berries.
He also snipped some red vines that had dried black berries and an evergreen vine with white berries. He even cut some cedar sprigs and a few pine boughs with pinecones till on them. "Oh, there's LOTS to see this time of year in the garden!" he exclaimed. And he kept filling his basket until it was full to the brim.
And then George tip toed into his mother's sewing room and gathered some colorful tufts of wool and some pretty threads from her scrap basket. And in the kitchen, he quietly took one red apple from the bowl on the dining room table. He polished it and made it shine brightly. "Now I have something to give to another!" he said to himself as he walked out the door.
George skipped to the Grandfather Cottonwood tree and emptied his basket of treasures on the ground. "See?" he said to the tree. "These are all for you! You have given so much to me in all of the seasons. I have climbed you in the spring, took naps under your summer shade and played peek a boo in your autumn leaves. Now I want to give back to you!"
George carefully cut pieces of string and tied them to the vines, branches and sprigs. One by one, he strung them along the lower branches of the tree. The berries looked just like a string of colored lights shining in the sun. "And here" he said, as he squeezed the soft cedar needles. "See how good this smells? Just like the cookies baking in our house, you too can smell the cedar from this bough." The old tree bent down as if to take in the fragrance of the fresh greenery.
Then, George spread little tufts of colored wool in the hollow of the tree, as if to make a wee nest. He strung the scraps of pretty threads in the branches and they blew softly in the gentle breeze. He place the red apple among his twisting roots. The shiny red could easily be seen against the brown on the bark. "There!" he said. Now you too are quite fancy, just like the Christmas tree in our house!"
The old tree admired the colors that hung from his branches. Just then, a handsome blue jay landed on his branch and nibbled on some of the berries. And soon after, brother squirrel hopped over and started to nibble on the apple. The old tree listened to the squirrel's stories of all the friends he had met that day on his adventures on Silver Lake. And as the sun was setting, a sleepy mother mouse arrived with her 3 babies and they curled up in the little woolly nest. Grandfather tree now had many friends.
The old tree was no longer lonely. He was happy to be with his newly found friends, the bird, the squirrel and the family of mice. George knew the tree was content. Once again, he rubbed his soft, white hands along the tree's bark as if to say "Merry Christmas dear friend." The tree nodded in return in silent reply as if to say "Thank you George. You have given me the best gift of all. The gift of companionship."
Later that night, as George entered his home, he put his little red boots to dry by the fire and smiled to himself as he thought of Grandfather Cottonwood tree, surrounded by his new friends. He imagined the tree was smiling inside, just as George was too. How happy he was to give back to the old tree.
"I am old" says tired old tree
There was a time when I was young and free
Thank you George, for your treasures fine
You truly are a friend of mine."
written by Christine Summerfield-December 2017