A Beautiful View
The Juniper tree had stood in the stony ground on the rim of the Grand Canyon for many, many years.
There were times no matter what the weather or what the day looked like the Juniper would think back to when it was a small sapling; when the wind and the cold threatened to tear it from its fragile roots or on the other days – like this one – where the sun was bright and nourishing and the Juniper could feel the warmth in its sap and its roots digging deeper into the hard-packed soil. A few clouds hung low on the horizon on the far North rim.
When the day came that it grew tall enough to see over the edge, the Juniper thought to itself, “I must have the most beautiful view in the entire world.” The Juniper had never seen the entire world, of course but in the part of the world it could see, it knew it was the best anyone could ask for.
Only a few feet away was the wide expanse of the massive Grand Canyon, its ever changing shape and colors paraded over the horizon as far as the Juniper could see and then met the sky on the North end very, very far away. Each day the sun would rise bringing an entirely new sunrise and even more spectacular sunset along with different encounters and adventures. Well, as much adventure as being a Juniper could bring.
Now the Juniper was older and its branches were bent this way and that like an old man who reminds us of someone we might know. It had lost count of how many Winters, Summers, Springs and Autumns it had seen but it was indeed a great many.
Being a Juniper, it didn’t have leaves that changed into hues of gold and yellow, reds and oranges like some of the other taller trees on the rim. It only had thin needles that when cold weather came, fell to the ground and were carried deep into the Canyon by the ever-present wind. In the Spring the Juniper would make the most magnificent pine cones which opened with seeds that too were blown away or eaten by four-legged forest friends. The Juniper didn’t mind. It couldn’t change what it was and believed it too, was very beautiful.
Juniper’s oldest and most notorious friend was the Wind. Wind had been Juniper’s companion for as long as it could recall, shoving it this way and that like an older sibling does to a younger one. Some days Wind made Juniper’s branches gently sway and other days forced them into painful angles; almost to the breaking point. Given all that, Wind visited every day no matter what the weather.
“Hello Juniper. How are you today?”
“I’m well, Wind, thank you.”
“I just wanted to stop by and tell you that later today there’s going to be a storm.” said Wind, matter of fact.
“Is there?” inquired Juniper. “From which direction? Will it be a hard storm or just blustery?” Wind laughed and gusted at a high branch, poking fun.
“Oh, it’s going to come from the North and I’ll be bringing powerful rain with me. You remember rain, don’t you Juniper?”
Having spoken to Wind every day (and knowing Wind doesn’t always tell the truth) Juniper said, “Well, I’ll have to be prepared and let my roots grab firmly. And why yes, you brought rain with you just last week if I recall. It was very nourishing. I was terribly thirsty that day!”
The wind scoffed, shrugged, glanced into the canyon and commented, “It’s a big storm from up way up in the mountains. There could be Lightning, you know. But I can’t say for sure.” Wind again gusted but at a different branch. Juniper was prepared. Wind had toyed with Juniper many times before.
“I think you’ve met Lightning, have you not.” asked Wind, knowing full well Juniper had. Wind danced and circled Juniper.
Wind blew some dust from the rocky ground at Juniper. “You know I have, Wind. I seem to remember the spring you brought lightning with you to visit, and Lightning reached from the sky and struck me.”
“Oh Juniper, we were just playing with you.” said Wind. “We didn’t mean you any harm.” Wind circled Juniper, fluttering its branches. A few needles fell to the ground and rolled away close to the edge. Wind blew the needles over the steep edge.
In fact, Wind hadn’t been playing that night long ago.
That night Wind came late and unexpected. Fog had rolled in like tendrils, thick with moisture. Across the Canyon to the North, Juniper saw Lightning flash in bright forks of jagged light, illuminating the canyon for only brief seconds, casting shadows into the depths and sending white spears high into the colossal thunderheads above. Bolt after bolt crisscrossed the sky and brought with it loud claps of thunder that bounced to and fro off the Canyon’s walls echoing far into the distance.
The clouds moved South quickly towards Juniper, pushed by Wind. Juniper had a feeling Wind was playing a trick but became nervous as the rain began to fall. Slowly and gently at first, then gradually the rain began to pelt the ground. Larger drops followed and the ground became damp, then wet, then soaked. Raindrops pounded Juniper who dug roots deeper into the ground. Streaks of Lightning filled the sky and thunder boomed all around. The rain, pushed by Wind had become a sheet of near horizontal drops. Juniper bore down. Between claps of thunder, Juniper could hear Wind laughing and teasing. “Wake up, Juniper! I brought a friend to see you!” Wind cackled with delight.
Juniper said nothing. Then from high up in the clouds a dagger of lightning struck Juniper and sheared off an entire branch, leaving the end scorched and hot. Juniper almost cried out in pain and was sad to see Wind and Lightning ganging up. The rain soaked the burned branch and doused the glowing embers, cooling the wound. But the branch lay on the ground, still and lifeless.
“Did that hurt, Juniper?” asked Wind in a mean and teasing tone. “We can do it again if you’d like. We can do it over and over until you’re nothing but a burning stump in the ground, can’t we Lightning?” Wind did not always know when too much was too far. Lightning played along, sending another bolt through the sky followed by a loud crack.
Juniper caught its breath. “If that is what you want Wind, I cannot stop you. I’m just a tree and you are the Wind. You can move anywhere you want and I can’t. I am here. I have always been here and I will stay here. You can choose to split me half, you can try to tear me from the ground, but I will endure.”
Wind howled around Juniper. “You have only been in that spot your entire life. I have been everywhere. I have seen the wonders of this canyon. I’ve seen the source of waters that make the river, I’ve seen the river carve canyons and cliffs, I’ve been to every corner and back a thousand times. You’ll never see what I have seen.” Wind’s words hissed and hurt Juniper.
Juniper looked at the branch on the ground. Lightning, seeing Juniper receded high into the clouds and calmed the rain. Lightning felt ashamed that Wind had talked it into hurting Juniper. There was no more thunder, no more flashes of light in the sky. Lightning left Wind and Juniper alone.
Juniper let the words sink in. Juniper thought about its time here on the rim of the Canyon; about the sunny days and the snowy days and days filled with crisp, clean air and the views! Oh the views!
Wind circled and Juniper said, “Wind, you’re right. I’ve been here my entire life. I am not you. I cannot move. I am rooted here. But moving where and when you please does not make you mightier than me.
“Do you see the branch you and Lightning took from me?” Wind said nothing, but swirled fog at Juniper’s feet. “There was a family of Woodpeckers that made their nest in that branch. It was their home.” Wind stopped for a moment, stunned.
Juniper continued, “They have lived there as my friends for many years, coming back every spring. I welcomed them and looked forward to their return. Now I am missing a branch and they no longer have a home.
Wind became still. Quiet.
“That same branch would drop pinecones with seeds in them for some of the animals to eat and to put away for winter. Now I cannot make as many pinecones and some of my animal friends will have to go elsewhere for food. I have known many of them for years and now I may never see some of them again.”
Wind said nothing still.
“I will miss my friend Crow who now will not be able to land on his favorite branch. I will miss my conversations with him and I will also miss sharing the silence of singular moments of beauty and understanding that defy words.”
Juniper spoke calmly. “Wind, you may be able to move all over the Canyon and look at everything, but you do not see anything. I have seen thousands of sunrises and sunsets. I have witnessed colors and hues change countless times all from the same spot. I’ve seen other trees grow and die. I’ve seen the Canyon change slowly over the decades all from this one spot. I have seen the beauty of the world from where I stand and from where I stand I have the most beautiful view in the world.”
Juniper used a branch to motion for Wind to move closer. Wind reluctantly did so.
Juniper whispered, “Wind, you may move through my needles, you may tear at my roots, you may cover me in dust, but you cannot and will not ever move me.”
“Have you ever forgiven me for that night, Juniper?” asked Wind in a very serious tone. After that night Wind had indeed felt very bad. Juniper did not speak to wind for many, many seasons following. Wind would stop by only to be met with silence. Wind could not take back what it had done nor could it find a way to apologize not just for the singular action, but the pain it had caused Juniper’s other friends. Wind hoped that time would heal but it found out that time only deadens the pain. Sometimes the words that need to be said are indeed the hardest words to say.
“I think you know the answer to that, Wind. Why, we’re talking now, aren’t we?” There was a smile to Juniper’s voice.
Wind followed up with, “But you haven’t forgotten either, have you, Juniper?”
“No,” said Juniper, sighing softly. “I have not.”
A silence fell between the two. Each reflecting on the moment. Across the Canyon the storm clouds appeared denser and menacing; threatening rain and moving closer.
“You know what, Juniper?” asked Wind.
“No, Wind. What?”
“I don’t really feel like rain today.”, Wind mused. “Maybe I’ll go chase those dark clouds away. I think a sunset would be more beautiful, don’t you?”
“We’ll have the most beautiful view in the world.”