I am currently reading “The Boys on the Boat.” At one point boatbuilder George Pocock explained how as he studies the wood, it reveals more than a tree’s age. It tells “the whole story of the tree’s life over as much as two thousand years. Their thickness and thinness spoke of hard years of bitter struggle intermingled with rich years of sudden growth. The different colors spoke of the various soild and minerals that the tree’s root encountered, some harsh and stunting, some rich and nourishing. Flaws and irregularities told how the trees endured fires and lightning strikes and windstorms and infestations and yet continued to grow…The wood taught us about survival, about overcoming difficulty, about prevailing over adversity, but it also taught us something about the underlying reason for surviving in the first place.” Perhaps Pocock’s description explains my fascination with trees, and why I photograph them so often.
Therefore, this seems to be a good time to share a story I wrote a few years ago. It happens to be only one of a few attempts at fiction.
So this is how it will end—crumpled on the road next to a curb in the Wall Street District of New York City.
As I listen to the rush of traffic around me, I think this scenario is a far cry from the lush forests of Southwest Michigan. For a hundred years, I enjoyed the sweet songs of birds, insects, and wind caressing the trunk of the Bitternut Hickory where I resided. I felt the sting of sleet and snow in the winter, and welcomed the cool, refreshing rain of spring and summer. The warmth of the sun, in all seasons, embraced me. It was a peaceful existence.
Then one day, lumberjacks arrived. They saw the potential of the tree, and soon I felt myself plummeting to the forest floor, strapped to a logging truck and sent to a sawmill.
My wood was hard and durable, and there were many options to dictate what my purpose would be. Would I be crafted into a piece of furniture to serve humans, or would I adorn their home as paneling? Would I become a dowel, tool handle or a ladder? No, I would become an educational tool—an artist’s human mannequin.
What an adventure was in store for me, as I bid farewell to the solitude of the forest and travelled with many of my kind directly to New York City. In a loft high above the bustling city, what views I beheld— a magnificent skyline that included the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center and the activity on the Hudson River.
I was maneuvered in every imaginable position, encouraging students to unleash their talents to expound on the barebones I presented to them. Some were successful, but others were doomed to accept their basic stick figure abilities.
I sometimes coordinated my time with human models, which was always interesting to me. Male and female bodies were quite magnificent with both their perfections and imperfections. It made me feel quite insignificant in my blandness. I often thought it was a shame that they felt it necessary to clothe themselves, but considering the erratic temperature changes of the outside world, I guess they had no other choice.
Although I occasionally missed the quite beauty of the forest, I found satisfaction and fulfillment in the wilds of New York City.
Certainly, it must have been a mistake that resulted in my current placement on this hard street. A move to another loft found me tossed in an incorrect box destined for the trash heap. A careless sanitation employee allowed me to fall to the ground, and he had neither the time nor inclination to pick me up.
My situation looked dismal. Wait—I have caught the eye of a tall, thin, casually dressed man. He removes his glasses and focuses the lens of his camera on my crumpled body. His interest in me gives me hope. He seems artist. Perhaps he still sees my potential and even beauty, and will give me a new life and purpose.
What is that sound? Oh no, my final thoughts as the city street cleaner scoops me up.