Florida Time Forgot, Mark Renz 1-239-368-3252

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The Bench

Photo and story by Mark Renz

I was dropped here as a seed
by something with wings
or hooves or claws
I really don't remember
Or perhaps I landed
after hearing that soothing wind instrument
forced through forgiving leaves
rocking the branches of my mother tree
Disperse! Disperse!
The chorus sang
Followed by a quiet stillness
as I felt alone and vulnerable
and no longer connected
I recall my puny size
as I held my ground
while just a common seed
and -- after several attempts
of pushing through a blanket
of matted grasses and fungi...
I finally sprouted a thin
and flexible trunk
and drank in the morning dew
I soon found a friend...
a pine sapling
and a shrub of saw palmetto
and we waved at each other
on windy days
and shivered together on cooler nights
Springs and summers came and went
while my tender branches added length
and my trunk added girth
Robins begin to explore my hidden cavities
and contemplate raising a family
Dew was not enough to quench my thirst
I needed rain and it poured
My leaves sprouted and multiplied
Star-shaped bromeliads become cisterns,
trapping water for visitors
who flew over and crawled in
and whose lives were as brief
as a setting sun
I realized and appreciated
my good fortune and prosperity
And below ground the music returned!
I could feel it first in my roots
a heavy bass...trombones...
a soothing cello...slow, deliberate
And the sounds reverberated up my trunk
then spread to my branches
and the leaves sang sweetly...
Disperse! Disperse!
Kaplonk! Kaplonk! Kaplonk!
More saplings and grandsaplings!
My family grew tall and traveled
to other fields beyond my reach...
Everyone began to look up to me
and leaned on me for support
By then I had become a habitat
and shade for scores of woodland creatures
Reaching maturity in my third century
and feeling as if I was on top of the world
No one was stronger, no one more flexible
No one happier or more sure of purpose
And for what seemed like an eternity
for a rooted life,
I flourished and watched
as the forest also flourished around me
I survived Arctic blasts of icy wind
fiery infernos brought on by bursts
of lightening that snapped at the air
and ignited everything within reach
And deep in the fibers of my inner trunk
I fought off micro organisms hungry
for the taste of wood
But the only thing constant is change
which I first noticed midway through
my fifth century
A feeling at first, starting with my arms
which became brittle and easy to break
Slow to heal
Rain continued to reach my roots
but they were also slow to respond,
to pass along my life blood
I remained full of great cheer
for below me, spread out over acres
and acres...
My offspring...were themselves maturing
and playing out their magnificent
supporting roles
And time...as slow as it passes
Is quickly used up
And like my birth
I scarcely remember my fall
though the sound was loud enough
to remind the living
that life is as frail as it is beautiful
and to remind me that I am now ready
for my next role
as a bench for the weary to sit on and rest
and contemplate their own journey