Back to main blog page
The Lonely Tree, story by Gabriella van Rij, art by Yoko Matsuoka
Oct 11, 2018

The Lonely Tree

It's October. The seasons are changing...

And the leaves are falling off the branches as I hop and skip down the sidewalk on my way to my friend’s house.

I suddenly stop and look at this old tree. I take another good look, and, yes, I can see it! The tree is sad. Really sad.

How odd… Can a tree be sad? Should I check on it? I promised my mom no delays...

Mhm… I look again.

OK, I think, I will do this.

I run up to the tree and walk all around it while letting my hand caress the tree trunk. Oops! I almost fell! I must watch out! The roots of the tree make the ground very bumpy.

I don’t know how, but I can see sadness. It looks like the tree is pulling a very sad face, so I come closer and say, “Tree, are you sad?”

The old tree lets out a long sigh. “Yes, little lady, I am. I am old, and I don’t think I can survive another winter, standing here all alone with no other trees in sight. I did not bloom much either this spring, and now I have very few leaves left…”

“Oh,” said the little girl, intently watching the tree. “Well, I am sure surprised trees can be sad, but that makes me think of something my grandpa told me. Do you want to hear it?”

“Are you sure you have the time for me?” the tree asks.

“Sure!” says the little girl. “I will make time. My friend can wait a little.” The girl sits down on one of the roots and starts telling him what she learned.

“My grandpa says that trees have a beautiful way of communicating with other trees that we don’t have—it’s through their roots. And you, Mr. Tree, have big, beautiful roots that I can see! So you don’t need to be lonely! Did you forget to talk to the other trees?”

“No… I did not. But the tree near me died and they have not replaced it with a new tree, so that is why I am lonely.”

“Ah,” says the little girl, “will a bush do? I have a bush in my yard. It is not very big, but I can bring it over with my friend and replant it next to you for comfort. Would that help?”

“You would do that for an old tree?”

“Of course, Mr. Tree! I will do that for you. Tomorrow I will be back with my friend.”

She stands on her tip-toes and leans on a branch and says, “Goodbye. I will be back, I promise, Mr. Tree, but don’t be sad any longer, OK?”

Mr. Tree shakes his branches in agreement and murmurs, “Thank you.” He is very touched by the little girl’s kind offer.

Resource:

Two decades ago, while researching her doctoral thesis, ecologist Suzanne Simard discovered that trees communicate their needs and send each other nutrients via a network of latticed fungi buried in the soil — in other words, she found, they “talk” to each other.