Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Every Dark Cloud has a Silver Lining" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (02/28/08)
TITLE: Her Tree
By Sheri Gordon
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She heard, more than saw, a multitude of birds playing in the tree. Her tree. The birds’ symphony was joined by muted laughter from children playing at the school behind the house. The school where she once worked as a yard duty attendant. <i>Before.</i> Where her two granddaughters and their friends would run to give grandma a hug when they came outside for recess.
But that was all <i>before.</i> Now, her daily hugs came from the birch tree. Her tree. It was there in the morning, to greet her with shimmering leaves, gold from the sunlight, and birds darting in and out of its safety. It was there in the afternoon, to delight her with a ballet of foliage dancing in the wind. And it was there in the moonlit night, comforting her with familiar shadows on the wall.
But today, her tree would be taken from her. Something about the roots causing cracks in the foundation of the house. No one seemed to care that the absence of the tree would cause a crack—no, a chasm—in <i>her</i> foundation.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the loud whir of a chainsaw…followed by a second…and a third. Turning away from the window, she buried her head under her pillow, and fell asleep to the incessant drone of the grinding machines.
She floated in a dream back to <i>before</i>…
When they first moved into this house and the birch tree did not yet reach the second story. And the day her five-year old daughter climbed to the top and hollered, “Look at me, Mommy,” displaying her toothless grin. And years later, when the tree finally reached the top of the house, and her son discovered he could climb to the top, get on the roof, and climb down the other side—faster than he could actually walk around the outside of the house. And then most recently, after <i>before</i>, when the birch tree became her refuge…her comfort…her peace.
When everything else in her life had become uncertain, chaotic, tragic, meaningless…her tree was still there. Unmoving. Secure. Stable. Sure.
The deafening silence cut short her tranquil dream. No more noise from the chainsaws. It was done. She would not come out from under the safety of her pillow. She did not want to face the stark nothingness outside her window.
Was she slipping back into a state of slumber?
No—she really could hear the calling voices. And the laughter of children. Hesitantly, she removed the pillow from over her head—and the chorus grew louder. She gingerly turned her head toward the noise, and the bare window…the void of glimmering leaves momentarily blinding her.
And she saw outside her window, not a multitude of chattering birds, but a multitude of chattering children--led by her two granddaughters--all waving and calling to her from the schoolyard, once veiled by the giant white birch tree.
Yes, her tree was gone—but her smile and joy were just beginning to return.
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