A winter love story

Don’t you think that stories are sometimes like butterflies? They come unexpectedly, and if you’re not ready with a net of words, they flit away and are lost.

All winter long, I walk past a tiny white moth story on my way to work. There is nothing large or flashy about it; you must look closely. In fact, if you miss my story today, that means it has already escaped the story net (which has had several large holes ever since I snagged some poky, unfriendly stories. I need to fix it someday…)

This story begins with an old birch tree.  Once upon a time, she must have been young, slender and smooth as all maiden birches are. But now she is thick with the heaviness with years and twisted by the wind.

Not far from her is a pine tree. He is a solid, steady gentleman.

Stripped of her shimmering green-gold leaves, the birch trembles as the wind combs her long black fingertips. All over her body, bark is peeling. Not, you understand, like a young birch, where smooth bark lifts to show creamy pastel colours. She peels as if she had no more heart for smoothness. Dark black knots – scars of lost branches? – spot her twisted core. The white bark seems almost desperate to leave her, stripping itself to hang in tangled knots.

The gentleman pine watches her, all day, all night. He has stood there for so long. He loves the birch lady. Every year, he grows long green needles. He grows hundreds and hundreds of them. When all the other trees bow to winter and lose their leaves, he holds to his needles. Because (he will tell you) someday, he will be allowed to move. He wants to be ready to mend the white lady.

Just so they stand. She, once having a goddess’ beauty, now claws space when the wind passes. He stands firm, and evergreen with hope.

And when the wind knocks the lady’s fingertips and teases her bark, it makes the pine tree cry, “whoooo, whooooo”.

That is how they stand, and that is the story I promised you. It is a simple one, a bit sad, but sweet. I hope the pine tree gets to his lady one day, even if scientists talk about root systems until one almost believes it is truly impossible for trees to move. But then, we all know that stranger things than this have happened, regardless of science, don’t we?


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