And What Does the Sequoia Say?

by Teddi DiCanio

When events in Afghanistan too a nasty turn, thoughts of the tree kept him going. An IED caught the edge of a truck, leaving two soldiers badly injured. He’d gone through worse incidents, but he’d also gone through too many by that time. That night, after his injured buddies were operated on, he wrote a note to the tree.

The tree was a Sequoia, centuries old, and favorite of his family’s. His family loved to camp nearby. They always visited the tree. On their last trip before he was deployed, his parents danced around it as their children sang the melody of a Strauss waltz, Voice of Spring. It was autumn at the time.

Years earlier, after a fight with their mother, his younger brother had run away from their tent in the middle of the night. They found him curled up by the tree. His sister, a poetry fanatic, was enamored of the fact the Sequoia shared its name with the man who had created the writing system for the Cherokee language.

Now he dreamed about that tree. All his notes to it said he would go visit the tree as soon as he got home. He woke up from one dream worrying whether he should go see the tree before he saw his family. No. They would meet him at the airport.

Should he wait until then to say he wanted to go see the tree immediately or write them in advance? Wait. If he wrote them they’d go into panic mode about his emotional well-being. He was fine. Knowing he would go see the tree was a comforting distraction from his present horrendous surroundings.

He arrived at San Francisco’s airport. When he explained to his family he wanted to go see the tree, they looked at one another. “I’m not nuts,” he said, trying to reassure them. “The chaos of war is jarring. Thinking about that quiet place and that tree, well, it was soothing.”

His father finally spoke. “There’s chaos here, too. Have you heard about the wildfires?”

He had, but had not thought of them in conjunction with his tree. “Are you telling me it’s gone?”

“I don’t know. There were fires in that area. Sequoias can withstand some fire. They need fire to pop out their seeds.”

His mother spoke. “Let’s grab a bite and just go. We’ll find out if it is still there.”

The tree still stood, but was visibly damaged. The soldier felt wretched. Two forest rangers were working in the area. One said, “As bad as it looks, I think it will survive. It, they, all need time to heal.”