Deep in the forest there is a tree. I ride by it from time to time and stop beneath its branches which reach out across the forest and grow towards the light of the sun. Nestled deep within the center of the tree is a hole where a limb once fell off. This hole is now occupied by a hive of bees which buzz away, night and day. Bringing pollen from the beauty upon the fields, the bees produce honey and stash it away for safe keeping within the tree.
The bees work tirelessly all day long, contributing their efforts to the honey within the hive. The tree knows this as it feels the pulse and hum of the hive, warming their home in the night and cooling it during the day. It could be said that the hive and the tree work together as one.
Sometimes a black bear wanders around from time to time clawing at the tree, leaving its bark torn and tattered; but for the most part the bear just rubs against it leaving its hair matted along the scratched surface of the tree. The bear knows the hive is there and sometimes it takes from the hive. The bear has to climb high up and loiter as it takes the honey, but pays a price written in the stingers which dot the bear’s nose, still pulsing from the bees that gave their lives protecting the hive. However, the bear accepts this lapse in comfort for the gain of honey; for the most part, the bees forget it as well and resume like always, building the hive.
As the bees rebuild and restock, so does the tree. The claw marks the bear leaves in the bark, heal with each passing season. A living thing, its bark grows over the scars throughout the day; breathing in the light of the sun and air, contributing back a new wealth of oxygen for the bees and every other creature that loves the tree within the forest, even the bear.
That tree still stands there, with the bees inside its heart; pulsing and buzzing away like always; yet the tree is beginning to lean. Some of its arms are no longer filled with leaves. Some of its branches are bony and naked; no longer contributing its gifts to the forest. And as the tree provides less to the forest, the forest no longer provides as much to the tree. The tree begins to lean ever more as its strong roots lose purchase on the rocky soil, slowly dying. As more roots lose hold on the earth, more branches fall to the ground and break.
Eventually, the tree topples over such that the heart of the tree that held the bees is now at ground level. The bear comes and takes from the hive every day now since it’s much easier for the bear to take a little honey and run away. Each day, the hive gets smaller and smaller. The bees for sure try to keep the hive alive in the heart of the tree, but after many raids on the hive by the bear, their honey depleted; the bees take flight to find another tree to begin the cycle again.
On my ride through the woods, I still stop to imagine this tree; its towering majesty softening the glow of sunshine upon me as I rest where it once stood. Peering up through the hole left in the forest canopy, my eyes narrow to the shaft of harsh bright light issued from the world beyond the forest. I recall the light of the world, filtered in green; a pleasant reminder of the life giving properties of the tree in balance. From the sun and the air came the tree, and in return; the tree gave all back. The hum of the bees in its heart was the sound of life contributing to others.
I still ride to this place and cast my eyes in dispassionate remembrance of the tree that used to be. It’s now shattered where it fell. Its roots, no longer deep in the ground, have been torn from the earth. The tree and roots now lie exposed, bathed in unfiltered white light from the space in the forest canopy above. The hole within the tree is still there, yet the bees are gone and so is the bear. The only reminders left are the last scars the bear made in the bark as it grabbed the last of the honey shortly before the bees flew away.
The bees left to find another tree to populate and the bears in kind have moved on. I get back on my bike and pedal away to find the bees, yet I’m haunted by the tree that used to be.