I Am a Tree by Mildred Grant

      “Hello, my name is Belinda. Belinda Birch. These are my two sisters, Beulah and Bertha. We enjoy living in this moss bed. We have so many forest friends who come to visit us that we’re never lonely. Sometimes, especially during the summer, we have humans who come to visit and pick the delicious, beautiful blue berries growing all around the edges of our moss bed.

            “Don’t you agree, girls?” I asked.

            Beulah and Bertha clapped their leafy branches in approval.

            “Oh, listen, girls. I think I hear the children coming now. I hope the little brown-haired girl sits in the space between our tree trunks again. She seems to fit just right,” I said. “The birds and bears have left plenty of ripe berries so I hope they stop here.”

            This time the children’s mom was with them.

            “Children, show me where you want to pick,” the Mom said, as the older boy held out his arm indicating the whole perimeter of the moss bed. The Mom agreed that there were a great number of bushes full of fruit that should keep the four older ones busy for a while and easily fill their containers.

            The barefoot little brown-haired girl immediately sat in her perfect seat formed by our three birch tree trunks.

            “Oh, how perfect,” I sighed ecstatically. My sisters agreed with bowing branches and clapping leaves.

            Startled, the little girl looked up, saying, “You spoke to me! I didn’t expect to hear you say words.”

            Equally astonished, I said, “I don’t pretend to understand, but I’m so happy to be able to tell you how glad my sisters and I are to have you with us.” Again the happy swaying of branches.

            As she picked the nearest ripe berries, ‘little brown hair’ asked, “ Am I the only human you can talk with?”

            “You’re the only one I’ve ever had an answer from,” I replied. “Our forest friends understand when I speak words, though none of them can respond with words.”

            Looking up to reply, the little girl noticed something special and beautiful partially hidden by a piece of curled birch bark. “What is that?” she asked.

            “Oh,” I replied. “That is a Luna moth. Her name is Luci and she’s resting with me today. She just laid her eggs and is very tired. Luci will fly away when evening comes.”

            Hopping up, ‘little brown hair’ called over her shoulder, “I’ll be right back to fill my pail again.”

            Belinda and her sisters wondered –would everything be the same when little-brown-hair came back again?

            Flash forward many years later, a group of adult berry pickers, following the directions of the eldest of their party, came walking along the old stone wall toward remembered fields of blue berries. At a barway in the wall, the older woman said, “Here’s where the moss bed is—or, at least used to be. I’m going to step in and look around. No, I have my cane; you don’t need to come with me.”

            The rest of the group moved on as the woman stepped beyond the wall and a bit to her left. She had hoped that there would be some indication that the three birches had really been there. Yes! There are three rotted stumps, still in a triangle, with several young birch trees scattered around them.

            “I don’t remember the seat being this low,” the woman observed.

            “Your legs were much shorter when you last sat here,” said a soft voice, seeming to come from the area near the end of the woman’s cane. “Beulah and Bertha doubted that you would ever come back, but I was sure you would return.”

            “Are you—? Yes! Belinda, there you are,” the woman said, poking carefully with her cane through the weeds at her feet and discovering the remains of a large birch tree trunk.

            Belinda sighed, “Now I can finish returning to the soil in peace.”

            The surrounding young birches swayed their branches and clapped their leaves in farewell as the old woman struggled to her feet and left the moss bed forever.

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