tree rings

by Kristen

Cells haul life from root to crown. Xylem cell upon xylem cell upon xylem cell carry water and minerals from the deepest root to the farthest leaf, a microscopic bucket brigade. And the tree grows year by year: ring upon ring upon ring of cells. The inner rings—the strong, dead core of heartwood—encased by years of expansion unaware how active the new, young layers are. The outer rings—the vital sapwood—unaware how their growth is shaped by the rings from which they spring.

Like family. Generations upon generations are shaped by those before them. I stand because they stood. They support me as I will support those yet to come.

Even in my prime—my generation pulsing with possibility—I’m no longer in the youngest, outermost layer. A new ring rises. Pressed from both sides, confined by the rigid walls of the generations, soon my ring will be entombed deep in the heart of the tree.

And like the xylem cell passing the bucket of sustenance to the next xylem cell—not worried about the rings deeper in the tree—I look out more than I look in. But as the years pass each bucket grows heavier, weighted down with water and nitrogen and potassium and memories. I long to hear the rings falling silent behind me speak again, to tap into their trove of memories.

So I call back into the heartwood and listen. I add as much as I can carry from their worn buckets to my own. I murmur the story of our tree—the generations’ mingled memories—into the sapwood before me that they might carry it from root to crown, xylem cell upon xylem cell upon xylem cell, ring upon ring upon ring.


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