Tree to Heaven

“It’s called a Tree to Heaven.” She said, pressing the seed into my palm and closing my fingers around it.

“They grow in Utah. At least, that’s where I got this one.”

“Really?” I asked, not really caring. It wasn’t as if I didn’t believe her.

“Really.” She replied, setting my coffee on the table.

“Why are you giving this to me?” I asked, finally looking up at her. She stared back at me with eyes of molten molasses, her gaze burning me with a muted and masked intensity that I could not fathom.

“Maybe you need it.” Was all she said as she walked away.

Her shift must have changed then, and I never saw her again.

 

For some reason though, I kept that seed. I still have it, securely tucked in my wallet along with my first penny-candy wrapper, an old library card from the Eschwen Library in Quincy Arizona, the picture of the dog that ran away when I was seven. Sometimes, when I am searching for spare change I realize how absurd the whole thing is, carrying around a seed from an unknown woman in a coffee shop.

Occasionally I’ll find it; resting between dirty old nickels and I can’t help but to silence that rational voice telling me I should throw it out. The silly seed is just a waste of space, in all probability it’s dead anyway.

At times like that I always refold my wallet, return it to my back pocket and seed goes back to sitting, calmly among loose change. Sometimes I get the feeling it’s waiting for me. After all, it has all the time in the world.

So a Tree to Heaven became a part of me, a small thing that stayed in my pocket, but seemed to accumulate meaning with age. There were moments, days, weeks, that I forgot about it, but it always becomes found again, sooner then later. With it I am whisked back through ‘drive-thru’s’, and red lights, coffee beans, and goldfish. The smile of flight attends blending seamlessly with the wail of a baby in the market place. Through cold refreshing rains and sunsets, dancing by fire, and traveling musicians. The days when all you need is a hug, and someone you don’t quite know gives you one. Back to the foggy day when a beautiful, nameless woman thought that maybe all I needed was a tree.

Though it has never gotten any larger, it has grown. It has been a small thing, but a reminder. Of where I’ve been, where I could go. It’s a minuscule object that signifies everything I could be to someone else, and perhaps that is the most important thing of all.

 

So now I stand, on the edge of the yard of the house I have bought. The home I now share with my wife and three children. My two dogs that have a penchant for chasing bees, and my wife’s white Persian cat. The sun is rising, but hasn’t yet warmed enough to burn off the mist that lingers around my feet. I can hear the creek flowing in the distance. It’s quiet though. I have woken too early for the bird songs and the squirrel chatter that carries on the wind. Before me is a small hole, about five inches deep, two inches wide.

There is a seed in my palm, little different from when it was first handed to me. It is older now, tarnished, though I suppose that should be expected. Years of travel have worn parts of it smooth, placed small dents and divets where there were none before. I wonder how different I am now then I was that day. I still sit alone in coffee shops, and still stare aimlessly out windows.

Kneeling in the dark earth I gently place this seed, my traveling companion for so long, into the dark ground. My confidante of so many years, my keeper of so many secrets, the silent watcher, reverently recording my life, a nothing that has so slowly worked its way into becoming a beautiful something. Finally setting it to rest in its own home, long after I’ve found mine.

I’ll never stop wondering why it was me that she chose of all people. Because whatever she saw in me, whatever instinct she had, was exactly what I needed.

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