Suffer and Thrive: A Story of a Lifetime told by an Ancient Oak Tree By Lily Gebauer

My story begins in a deep, dark forest on the edge of what was a Native American tribe’s land. It was the spring, and all the beautiful flowers were opening their petals and releasing their sweet aroma.

“Ina?” asked a small child, who goes by Dowanhowee. She had the most beautiful voice in the tribe at just six years old, hence her name, meaning singing voice. Leaves and sticks were trapped in her long, braided hair. “Why must we plant this tree? We have many others in this wood.”

“Cincala, I am planting this tree here for you,” replied her mother, who the girl calls Ina. “Because you are the most precious thing in my life.”

The girl smiled. “Thank you, Ina.”

Her mother nodded and buried the seed. The two returned to the village.

Many years later, in the harvest season, I saw men unlike any I’d seen before trampling through the forest speaking a different language. They had pale, pasty skin and colorful clothing. I stood and observed. What are these strange men doing here in the wood? I thought to myself. They continued their march through the forest, walking around me. You see, I had grown larger than the small seed. I had become a sturdy tree who could not be walked upon. I watched and listened intently until the crunching of the leaves faded into silence.

Nightfall came soon after. I could see the glow of a bonfire in the starry sky and the faint sound of the worshipping dance. It was a beautiful sight, these rituals. With the dancing and the drumming and the village singing. Every time, out of all the music, I could only truly listen to the girl’s voice, Dowanhowee. It was clear and lovely, every note rang gracefully like an angel. Oh, how I had wished to see her yet again. Shortly, I would.

Disease struck the natives. People were searching everywhere for a cure. None of the people could fathom where the disease came from, but I knew. It was the strange men who I had seen before. It had just been weeks and nearly the whole tribe had been wiped out. Except one. The little girl I had seen so many years ago was now a grown woman. Sobbing, she collapsed on my roots.

Why are you here? I had tried to speak to her.

“Oh, mother,” She cried to me. “Are you still with me?”

Her mother had passed, infected by the disease.

There was no response. Just the sound of birds singing and my leaves rustling.

She started to sing. I let my branches cover her from the wind and snow.

The song was brief. She leaned her head against my bark. With no words, she left.

I never saw her again.

Hundreds of years passed, many seasons came and went. The strange men cut down some of the trees in the wood and expanded what was the native’s land. I was angry at these men and women for killing what I had once loved. Battles took place. Wars, over land or money. I ignored them, wanting nothing to do with these people. Nevertheless, I learned and interpreted their simple language so I could understand what they were saying.

A small boy came to the wood one day. He had to be five or six years old. He looked up at the top of my branches and grinned. Leaping up, he grabbed hold of my lowest branch and slipped. The boy, who I would later find out was named Eryk, started to cry. I remembered how Dowanhowee cried. I mustered my strength and reached down to pick him up. I could not. Instead, I made leaves fall upon him until he stopped crying.

Eryk came every weekend to climb me. As the years went on, he grew older. I knew we had become friends. One day, he came to me with tears in his eyes.

“My old friend,” he said, “I have come of age and must go to war.” He sat in my roots, where the girl did. I poured my leaves upon him as I did when he was young. He stood up and walked away.

I never saw him again.

It was 1863. The world was in chaos. I had been a witness to thousands of murders. A soldier came to me, bloodied and wounded. He slumped in a heap at my roots. I protected him from the cold night. Slowly, he made his way up until he leaned on my trunk. I poured my leaves on him yet again, in an attempt to ease his suffering.

He smiled and whispered, “Thank you.” His eyelids drooped and never opened again.

It is autumn and my leaves are a deep gold. My time has come, men are coming with saws and axes to take me down. I hope, before my roots are pulled out of the ground and the forest is gone, you will see the beauty of life and read my story. Just an old oak tree, who has seen people suffer and thrive.

Works Cited

Bare Oak Tree. Digital image. Web. 3 Feb. 2017. <>.

Oak Leaf Silhouette. Digital image. Web. 3 Feb. 2017. <>.

Oak Sapling Black. Digital image. Web. 3 Feb. 2017. <>.

Oak Tree Black. Digital image. Web. 3 Feb. 2017. <>.

Oak Tree with Sunlight. Digital image. Web. 3 Feb. 2017. <>.

Bird in Forest. Digital image. Web. 7 Feb. 2017. <>.

Forest. Digital image. Web. 7 Feb. 2017. <>.

Tree in Forest. Digital image. Web. 7 Feb. 2017. <>.

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