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Thu. January 26, 2023
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The Olde Oak
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Excerpt from climate change themed children's book, The Budgies of Fairborne Farmes.  By Nicole Pylawka.

And still Daisy and Pinky tiptoed and loop de looped and disagreed and tiptoed and loop de looped and disagreed, each sure she was right. And meanwhile, to their left, the biggest and the oldest and the grandest of all the old oak trees stretched out its branches to greet them, as if to say, “Wait! Don’t go! Come back! Come back and stay! I’ve been waiting so long for you to play! Won’t you please, please stay? Come climb and stay and play!” A lonely, wooden swing tied long ago to one of the branches swung back and forth in the cooler than the coolest cool, cool spring breeze. The swing had been waiting so very long for the children to return from town to swing and laugh and play their summer days away there. But none had come yet as the winter snows had just melted into spring and the after-school evening air was still too chilly for playing in. No, the swing would have to wait for the short spring nights to fade into the long hazy days of summer and the children and their laughter would return right along with them. And at long last, the long-forgotten wooden swing would no longer be long-lost and all alone in the world. And even higher within those branches rested a secret tree house, complete with a long-forgotten tattered sign above its door that read “All Are Welcome” calling Daisy and Pinky to come inside and play. But their angry eyes did not see it.

The foolish wanderers had missed all the sights and they refused to listen, even though the wise old tree was full of ancient secrets. Longer than long ago as a young seedling riding a tumbleweed as it jumped and bucked upon the wild wind like a cowboy at a rodeo, the oak had decided to stop tumbling in the breeze and call that very spot its home. So the seedling fell out of the ocean of wind-waves and flowed to the ground, damp with rain, and planted itself into its own little spot in the world as it splashed into a tiny puddle far below. And there it stayed. For many years it stayed there.  And there it waited for the rains. Many rainshowers came and went. And as the ground softened, it sunk its roots deep into the world. One day those roots began creeping through the soil, exploring the world beyond their home. The seedling stretched its scruffy, spindly roots and grew and grew and grew. It stretched itself bravely out beyond its own little spot in the world and in doing so, its roots became even thicker and stronger until one day it became a full-grown tree. That oak cared enough to sink its thick, gnarled roots even deeper into the soil and listen carefully to all The World of All Worlds had to say. Its roots travelled deeply into The World of All Worlds and its branches stretched far and wide and strong and reached for the sky, and its leaves hung on tightly even through the roughest winds. This tree had seen many children come and go through its many years in the world. The children would always visit and play in the summer and return to school in the fall. And one day those same little children would grow too big to visit the treehouse and swing upon the branches. And the old tree would never see them again. For some reason, those same little children who had loved the tree so very much, forgot to care for the old oak and its world once they grew up. But happily, a new group of children would show up to play every summer and the world would spin again yet again and again for the old oak. And it hoped that new group of children would be the children who never forgot.

And since this tree was the strongest, the oldest and the wisest, and because it knew all the secrets buried deeply within this world, and because its roots ran the deepest, it had been chosen long ago to speak first for all the other very different trees upon the hilltop. It spoke for all the tree-creatures great and small, from ants to squirrels to robins, living within it. And indeed, it even spoke for the very creatures in the soil beneath it, from tunneling earthworms to mound-building moles to rascally roley-polies, those little bugs so shy they curled themselves into a ball to hide from the world whenever a stranger was near. This tree was the only wise old oak among all the cherry, apple and peach trees growing there upon The Hill of All Hills. But longer than long ago, the trees and all the tree-creatures that depended on them, from nest-builders to soil-crawlers to dirt-burrowers, had decided that even though they all looked very different from each other and lived in very different spots upon the hill, they were all more alike than they were different and perhaps, just perhaps, that was all that ever really mattered. And the old oak spoke for them all.  

So the great oak tree caught the breeze that morning and let it pull its secrets up, up, up through its roots like fresh-squeezed strawberry lemonade through a juicy dandelion-stem straw. And like a waterfall in an underground cave, the secrets spilled from deep within The World of All Worlds and spiraled up through the insides of the great oak tree like a swishing pot of Grammy’s cold stew. The secrets then went hopping, popping and cracking along the bark of its trunk like summer lightning in a hayfield and out along each branch before finally shaking like Pally’s sputtering, broken lawn mower through the leaves and out onto the winds in the hope that the voice of the great oak tree would finally be heard. Once the oldest tree’s crackling voice was set upon the breeze, it reached its gnarled root-fingers out to all the other trees atop The Hill of All Hills like spindly, gnarled beams of sunshine poking through barn slats. The roots of all the trees clasped one another, intertwined and joined their very different voices into a singular beautiful note. Their voices flowed among the leaves, whispering their secrets from one tree and on to the next, speaking their Breeze-Speak and releasing their hope out into the world. They hoped someday, someone, somewhere would wander by and care enough to listen. But the two quarreling friends, Daisy and Pinky, did not hear the voice of the trees and tree-creatures whispering to them. Their ears were too full of shouting, angry words so they did not listen to the gentle wind rustling through the leaves. So the wise old tree would have to wait yet another day to share its secrets with new friends. The wise old tree would have to wait through the spring. The wise old tree would have to wait all the way to summer for the children to return. So the old oak and all the tree and soil-creatures shared the hope the tree had kept packed deeply inside its thick trunk, that perhaps, just perhaps, one day, wiser adventurers would pass beneath its branches. And so they listened, and hoped, and waited.  

Nicole Pylawka is a staff member, editor and now contributor for International Affairs Forum. With an educational background in Communications, Digital Project Management and Peacebuilding from the United States Institute of Peace, her experience spans finance, events and global communications. She is creating a series of books for younger readers with a global focus, intent on achieving understanding across cultures and inspiring passport ownership while learning to care for the environment along the way. She hopes to share her love of travel and languages, Ukrainian, French, Spanish and Turkish, believing travel and language studies can lead to understanding across borders.     

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