Sandie at A Bloggable Life has come up trumps again with another unusual writing prompt!
Just like the last time, Sandie posted a picture on the site and urged readers to use it as inspiration for an original piece of writing. This time there was no stream of consciousness suggestion, so I went my own way with it.
Here is the picture:
Here is the description of the photograph from A Bloggable Life:
Last summer, my family and I were out for a leisurely weekend drive, exploring some of the small towns that surround Kansas City. After a particularly flat and barren stretch, I noticed my hubby and kids had fallen asleep in the car, leaving me to experience portions of northwest Missouri on my own.
An hour later I happened upon this strange sight, stuck smack in the middle of a field: a lone tree, perched curiously upon a tall mound of soil. There was nothing else around for miles. Striking me as odd, I pulled the car over and snapped this photo from the side of the road. To this day, I wonder why that tree was left like that.
Here is my (written on lunch break at work, so forgive the roughness) story:
The old man trudges resolutely, bent low against the violent storm. He is dressed in ill-fitting clothes which blow behind him and snap like a banner in the wind. His sparse hair is filthy, framing his head like a halo in the dim light. One gnarled hand clasps an old rag against his withered face – his only capitulation to the invasive dust although it does not stop his coughing. His other hand clings desperately to the frayed guide rope which struggles against his weak fingers.
It is not a great distance but his strength is waning and it takes him the better part of an hour to navigate the path from his house to the barn. From where the rope is anchored he turns right and walks three shaky paces, hand held out until he feels the rough tickle of branches against his palm. In the storm he dare not open his eyes.
He tucks the cloth away to free both hands and then creeps blindly forward until his toes bump against the circle of fence posts– a protection he has built around the base of the tree. He kneels as if at an altar, feeling down towards where the posts are buried in the earth. It is as he thought it would be; the wind has worked its black magic; only a few of the posts remain buried.
He gropes around beside him until he grips the handle of the hammer. He stands, positioning himself for the next task. He takes very careful aim, raises the hammer and brings it down against the top of one post then judges its depth by its neighbour. The posts slide roughly into the dry earth. When he has finished the circle he lays the hammer down and once more covers his face with the cloth from his pocket.
As he struggles his way back to the house he considers again the futile nature of his actions. He knows that the tree is dead; there has been no rain for too long. The earth is disappearing beneath him and he knows that the wooden enclosure he has built does nothing but prevent the wind from carrying the tree away, roots and all, to blow across the countryside.
He also knows that it was her tree and that he cannot bear to lose it like he lost her.
The old man trudges resolutely, bent low against the violent storm.
His sons arrive after the rains come, but they are too late; the old man has died. The house and the barn have collapsed yet their foundations rise above the ground like grim monuments.
They are amazed at how much of the earth has vanished, the destruction is devastating. Still, there is life on the old farm; their mother’s apple tree, brought with them from back East so many years ago, has survived the drought and the dust both, though they cannot imagine how.
The men stand for a long while staring at the tree, its fresh green shoots defiant in the barren landscape. They do not need to dig far to free the roots from the ground. They work silently as the wrap the roots in burlap and load the tree into the back of their truck.
With one last look at the ruination and a quiet acknowledgement of grief they get into their truck and drive home to Missouri.
So, yeah, I went with the Dust Bowl. I like the idea that the tree is a relic of bad times past which was saved as a reminder of good times. I had to relocate the tree to an area devastated by the dust bowl, but solved that at the end by having family members moving the tree to its current location.
I had a lot of fun writing this piece, picturing the sad old man walking back and forth every day to protect the tree, an homage to his late wife. I just like the image, I suppose.
What about you? What do you think that tree in the picture is doing stranded on top of that impossibly tall stack of soil? I’d love to hear your ideas!
Thanks again to Sandie. I love her blog and you all should, too. (That’s an order!)