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Copyright 2013. LeighLa Graham. All rights reserved.

   I had been climbing trees forever. Mother insisted she birthed me in a hundred year old oak, my leafy fists and bark-covered body waving and swaying with life's rhythm. Heights never bothered me and summer offered the best time to fly. With the smell of green leaves, brush of bark against my skin, and safety of the branches, I could reach out and touch the sky. Whether cloudless or gray, its expanse embraced me in a warm blanket.
   The temperament of a tree was steady, unwavering, and predictable. From my high perch, I experienced the wind in its purest form. On breezy days, the gusts whipped my hair around my face and obscured my vision. On mild days, it gently caressed my skin, gentle as a mother's heartbeat. If a storm moved in unexpectedly, I knew exactly where to hide; the right arrangement of branches sheltered me from the hardest rain.  
   In early spring when new buds erupted on silent cue, I heard growth humming in my ears. Leaves unfurling and speaking their will to the world; yellow stems pushing through forgiving soil, searching for light; tiny lungs breathing in, breathing out; slow gray days churning and changing, granting color.  
   The long days of summer aroused nature to precarious life. Sitting comfortably on a limb, ants skipping over my arms, I watched birds tending nests of tiny gaping beaks with obsessive necessity. Silent and still, I dared witness nature's grand bargain: life and death mingling in bitter-sweet symphony. 
   The inevitable arrival of shorter, colder days sparked slow and steady changes. I witnessed lush green foliage burst with joy before the unavoidable, colorless wrinkle of death; curtains of orange and red leaves slapped and cursed knobbed stems in furious runaway dreams, only recognizing the nightmare when surrounded by brethren in forlorn heaps, blowing and drying. The meteoric rise of winter invariably stripped ash and oak, birch and elm down to their pristine nakedness—stoic witnesses to nature's wrath.