Milford Trees, Inc.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Resident

By Barbara Currier Bell

I am alive. I go through the processes essential to life. I come into being. I eat, sleep, eliminate, reproduce, grow old, and die. I struggle through setbacks, success. I adapt.
I make my energy directly from the sun, a feat impossible for animals. In doing so, I use carbon dioxide as a basic fuel and end up with oxygen as a waste product, the opposite of what happens in mammals. I don’t try to maintain my body heat against changing external conditions; instead, my temperature matches the weather. I don’t have a brain, but I have sensors that respond to temperature, light, and moisture. When certain signals arrive, I shut down, much as a fish does, under the ice, or a bear, hibernating, or a cicada, during its long siesta. In response to other signals, I awake.
I can survey far distances, because I’m a giant, typically the height of a nine-story building, but sometimes as big as a 36-floor skyscraper. It’s true I start small, but I grow a bit every year, with some fat years, some lean. Unlike mammals, I don’t have growth spurts when I’m young and then stop changing size. I grow constantly in three dimensions: a little wider, along my entire length; voluminously, at my deepest point; and taller, up high.
I don’t have blood, but I do have bodily fluids. I suck gallons of water from around my ankles, and sweat it out through my scalp. I don’t have many unique organs with specialized functions, but I do have a few distinct tissue types that perform generalized functions to keep me strong. I can get sick from diseases, injury, starvation, and mistreatment, just like every other living being, but I also have ways to fight back, much like an animal’s immune system. The result of this toughness, plus my frequent, unhurried rests, is that I’m long-lived. I can stick around for several centuries, and some distant cousins of mine have even lasted for millenia.
I live in Milford. A few of my numerous children will no doubt leave my side and make their homes far away, but I’ll remain in this sandy alluvial soil with all the members of my diverse society, many thousands of us. Why should I want to travel? I can move around as much as I like right here, twisting my body, bending it high or low, grasping my supports more firmly, positioning myself to catch the sun. I have compatriots standing near, with a whole network of ecologically-related species, large and small, to sustain us.
I guess you could say I’m happy. Most of what goes on around me is a blur. I can’t focus on it any more than an eye can follow the movement of a hummingbird’s wings. I have no way to register pain. But I can respond to resonances from the deep earth’s core. And, at times, wrapped in sky, I can experience something like an embrace.