A Short Story.
(Potential Trigger Warning)
My name is Delilah.
As a tiny, uprooted redwood sapling, I was brought to this city of refuge in the hands of the Master Gardener. In my previous environment, I’d had many near-misses with death because the person I had been gifted to hadn’t seen my value. My worth. I was only an object for him to plant and uproot in whatever ways he wished, and according to whatever whims took his fancy.
The person I had been gifted to purposely planted me in harsh conditions and he would do so just to see if I could survive. Sadistically, when it looked like I could survive, he would grab at my tiny stem and tear me out of the place I had done my best to grow in. In the tearing, my roots would snap, my new leaves would die back, and I would be in distress until he planted me in a new place of his choosing.
Some of the places I had been “planted” by the person I had been gifted to, weren’t fit for a tree. I had been submerged in water, left out in the harsh sun with my roots exposed, placed in a freezer, cut at by an axe, treated ill by others, and so forth. But I never gave up.
The person I had been gifted to hadn’t known how to cherish living things and because of that, I felt sorry for him. He was in far worse condition than me, because he couldn’t see the harm he was doing. So I stayed, stayed a little longer, and stayed some more, hoping against hope that if I just kept forgiving him, just kept loving him, and just kept extending him mercy, that his behaviour would change. But it did not.
One day, after a particularly heinous encounter where the person I had been gifted to had decided to burn my leaves with a cigarette lighter one by traumatic one, he discarded me recklessly onto a trash heap and left me there to die. And as I saw the back of the one I had been gifted to head inside our yard and slam the gate in a fit of rage, I mustered up the strength to cry out for the Master Gardner. He would need to intervene on my behalf. If He didn’t, I… well, I couldn’t think about that. With everything within me, I cried out and then passed out from the fatigue of the day.
I awoke several hours later to the sound of a kind voice singing softly over me and as my blurry vision cleared, I saw that the owner of that voice was the Master Gardener. I was so relieved that He had come to remove me from my harsh environment, that I took my first deep breath in a long time and pushed back at the lump of emotion that rose in my throat.
The Master Gardener studied me. “Rest now,” He said. “I know you don’t feel it yet, but you are safe. And I’m going to find the perfect place for you so that you can grow freely and to your fullest potential.”
He cupped his hands carefully about my roots so I wouldn’t be scorched by the sun, and as we walked forward—me in His care, and He in my sight—I began to feel hope for the first time.
The Master Gardner walked across states, through forests, and over fields until He entered a place that was called, City of Refuge. The grounds of City of Refuge were beautiful. I could smell the fresh peat and the see the results of recent rain. I heard the sounds of the forest and the conversations of growing trees, and as I listened, the Master Gardener kept on searching. He was looking for a special place of nurture, just for me, he told me.
Because of the abuse I had endured, I had never grown past the size of a sapling. The Master Gardener knew I needed a place where I could grow at my own pace, free of judgment, but lavish with love. I would need full sun to light shade, and the right acidic balance for my soil.
One evening, just on dusk, the Master Gardener stooped down and placed me gently in a soft bed of nutritious soil. It was in a place between two towering redwoods called, Open Arms, and Gentle Direction. The soil I was sat in was lightly damp, and cool, which was foreign to me as I had been used to only harsh conditions.
I tried to stand on my own in the soil but I couldn’t. I was too weak and my damaged roots weren’t able to anchor me, so I sat there on a lean until morning.
Upon dawn’s rising, I became aware of several deep voices swirling about me. I felt the roots of Open Arms and Gentle Direction entwine around my own.
“We’ve got you,” said Open Arms. “You’re a redwood just like us.”
“We see you for who you really are, Delilah,” said Gentle Direction.
I had never felt affection before. Nor had I felt a part of a community. I had never received any support or affirmation. Something in me rose up. “I can do it on my own!” I yelled, as I tried to wriggle free from the roots of the caring trees. “Let. Me. Go!”
Open Arms and Gentle Direction relaxed their roots just enough so that I began to topple.
“Little One,” said Gentle Direction. “The Master Gardener told us a little about what you have been through.”
“It doesn’t matter what happened to me,” I said. “I will stand on my own because I always survive. It’s what I do.”
“We know you are strong. We can see that. But we also know that you are tired. We can see that you feel weak. And we know that your roots are unable to hold onto the soil in order to support you right now. Let us know when you want us to support you again… we are here if you need us.”
“I don’t need anyone. But thanks anyway. I should be able to grow on my own!” I said.
“You have been strong for a long time now,” said Open Arms. “You have haven’t even had the necessary nutrients for your body to grow… are you hungry? Would you like some food?”
I attempted to drag the nutrients up from the soil into my roots, but I didn’t have enough energy to do so, and my roots weren’t even able to source the nutrients… I was hungry. Very hungry. “Well, maybe I could eat a little?” I said, hesitantly.
“Ok, but you should know that in order to receive food from us, you’re going to need to allow us to wrap our roots around you again. That is how we feed any tree that is sick or dying. Would you give us permission to do that for you?”
“Ok,” I said.
I felt the slow and gentle wrapping around of the roots of Open Arms and Gentle Direction. Kindness felt so foreign to me. It sort of made me feel at ease, but it also highlighted my own feelings of worthlessness at the same time.
I fought the desire to tell Open Arms and Gentle Direction to back away again because the desire to appease my hunger was much stronger than my self-loathing.
“You’re going to feel a slight pinch,” said Open Arms. “Are you ready?”
“Yes,” I said. I felt a slight nip as of one Open Arms’ tiniest roots began to feed nutrients into my broken tap root. The nutrients were rich and satisfying all at once. I had never tasted anything of the like before.
“Delilah, it would be easier for you to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients if you were standing upright. Can I please help you stand?” said Gentle Direction.
Beginning to feel the positive effects of the nutrients flowing through my system, I told Gentle Direction, “yes.”
Slowly, Gentle Direction’s roots tightened a little more around my own roots and I felt myself shift in the soil to a standing position.
Being a part of a new community would be a strange new journey for me, but I felt like I was up for the challenge.
Not only did Open Arms and Gentle Direction help me to stand in my new home, but because I was also not strong enough to draw nutrients from the soil, they continued to feed me until I was able to draw food from the soil by myself.
* * *
My name is Delilah. I am a tall, strong redwood tree standing in the middle of a forest of other tall, strong redwood trees. This city of refuge is where the weak become strong and the strong help the weak. We feed each other, hold each other up, and acknowledge the life we each carry inside.