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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
03/05/08


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She lay in bed, staring at the white birch tree outside the second story window. Warm tears flowed freely down her face—some dripping from her nose, others bringing their saltiness to the edge of her mouth.

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. Before. Where her two granddaughters and their friends would run to give grandma a hug when they came outside for recess.

But that was all before. 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 her 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 before

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 before, 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.

“Grandma. Grandma.”

Was she slipping back into a state of slumber?

“Grandma. Grandma.”

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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This article has been read 907 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Marita Vandertogt03/06/08
This is a perfect take on the topic. An easy, enjoyable read with just a touch of nostalgia. Loved it!
Catrina Bradley 03/06/08
Beautifully written, deeply touching. I love her silver lining. Well Done!
Jan Ackerson 03/06/08
This is beautiful, lyrical prose, doing a superb job of evoking several poignant emotions. It covers such a tiny slice of life, yet with such richness. Gorgeous.
Sharlyn Guthrie03/07/08
I love it! I could feel her pain and then the dawning of a new joy.
Patty Wysong03/08/08
Beautiful. An excellent example of the topic, but more than that, a wonderful story. I really enjoyed this.
LauraLee Shaw03/09/08
Your descriptions are breathtaking. You really took me inside this story and moved my heart in the process.
Just ONE of many examples of taking a common phrase and making it come alive for the reader:
Warm tears flowed freely down her face—some dripping from her nose, others bringing their saltiness to the edge of her mouth.
Johnna Stein03/10/08
Beautifully written. I could picture it all. I especially love "ballet of foliage dancing in the wind".
Leigh MacKelvey03/11/08
Besides the descriptions that charmed everyone, I liked the "before" as a time order word. I know how people measure time by "before' and "after' when thinking of their lives. Your MC was brought to life with full characterization. This was a wonderful example of how the senses can be written into a piece of prose so that becomes so much more than written words.
Karen Wilber 03/11/08
Oh, this is such a COOL story. I love it when she realizes that she can see the children after the tree is cut down.
Seema Bagai 03/11/08
Poetry in prose. At the beginning, I was worried that something was seriously wrong with the MC. Glad she found her silver lining.
Debbie Wistrom03/11/08
I too was upset but the removal of the tree, there is something so innately wrong with that. I could feel the lose, the chasm. Wonderful silver lining, she will be blessed by her new scenery.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/12/08
Your imagery is, as always, beautiful. I loved the happy ending to what looked like a grim future for your MC.
Sara Harricharan 03/12/08
This is a favorite of mine this week. I loved how the tree was her 'friend'. I was wondering how something good could come out of something like that, but you pulled it off real well. Your last paragraph was my favorite, I really liked the lines where she wondered if they knew what would happen to HER foundation. A great piece! ^_^
Joanne Sher 03/12/08
Wonderful descriptions - both visual and emotional - in this piece. I was enraptured.
Joshua Janoski03/12/08
My parents had a pine tree at one time that ended up being removed. I thought it was strange that I would miss a tree, but your story helped me realize why I missed it. There were lots of great memories that the tree brought out in me.

I loved the ending. The descriptions were wonderful too! It was a perfect story for the topic. Thank you so much for sharing.
Beth LaBuff 03/15/08
I can see this, "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." Your writing is beautiful. Your ending is perfect!