I stooped, bending low to scoop up more of the brittle branches that littered the area. Strong winds in the night had pummeled the old tree, stripping her of some of her nascent green cover. The sun made a slow descent behind me in the western sky, casting a softly flattering light on the elderly mesquite. Not even a tree, but one of the lower caste of flora called shrubs, she defied her genes and grew straighter and taller than most of her kind dared.
Unlike graying, thin haired women who try to hide their bald spots with elaborately poofed comb overs, she presented no camouflage. Early spring wooed her like a lovesick teenager, gifting her with a brilliant but still sparse topping of lime colored leaves.
Rather than shattering in the numerous hurricanes and tropical storms that had furiously blustered at her in her seven-plus decades, she bent her limbs; warped them at odd angles in her bid for survival. It left her pointed fixedly to the north, like a rocket ever ready for launch.
Her rough bark displayed hard won scars; where a young boy (my dad) hacked into her trying to get a rope and tire swing to hang properly, where two teens (one of them me) backed into her trying to make a fancy exit, and where an older man (my grandfather) hooked an ancient, metal spoked wagon wheel into her side to use as a makeshift serving table for his legendary fish fries. She forgave all, but kept as her payment that wagon wheel, grafting it into herself more tightly each year.
I slipped one of the snapped limbs close to my nose and inhaled deeply. The sweet intensity buried within each one would be released in the fire pit that night, sending delicate tendrils of smoke and that unmatched, heady aroma wafting to the stars.
I carried the last bundle of sticks off and thought of the retirement packet I was excited to be filling out. After 29 years in education, I chuckled as I thought of how much like the tree I am. Journeying through all the educational and technological upheavals of the past thirty years, molding myself more than I ever thought I would to circumstances and environments, I, too, had changed markedly from where I began.
And just like the old mesquite, I hope this old girl will keep her slightly camouflaged face trained straight ahead, ready for the new season.
(But unlike the tree, I have very thick hair.)