“Once upon a time, there were three bears: Father Bear, Mother Bear, and Baby Bear. The three bears lived in…” My mother’s voice echoed through my head as I scrambled around the roots of a grand hemlock tree affectionately nicknamed “Grandpa Spruce”. We dubbed the tree a spruce before knowing its true identity and the name stuck, so Spruce it was. “Gol..dilocks..I am..” I panted as I tried to scramble my way up a small protruding part of the trunk, trying to investigate a mysterious hollow in the bark. I paused to catch my breath and groped around the tree to find a crevice to grasp onto. Rough bark passed through my fumbling fingers, a few knobby stubs, then the trunk sloped upward and outward like an inflated balloon. Looking up I saw, in two knots and projecting branch, a momma bear. She was slightly chubby, with an upturned nose and cheerful expression. As my eyes swept the bark above her, there was a fox-like, fiesty face, clearly the Little Bear, and, of course, the hefty branch to the right was Pappa Bear. I tried to reach Mother Bear, but alas: I could only tickle her chin. I knew it! Three bears lived in Grandpa Spruce and I was Goldilocks.
Several years later, I conquered the first branch of the Grandpa Spruce. I stood proudly on the large bumpy bough with the wind pulling my hair. I was finally above the funny face of the Momma Bear. This branch would be my base, my hidey hole, my retreat for sipping cool lemonade on a hot summer’s day. As I carefully inspected every inch of the trunk, the foxy face of Little Bear winked at me. Grandpa Spruce’s “base” branch lived up to its expectations for years to come. It was the ideal spot for evading the “it” person while playing tag. It was the spot where I could find solace while writing my first essay, when, in frustration, I scrambled up the Momma Bear’s face and onto the base, still clutching a pencil and some note paper. An hour later, I produced a beautiful draft on atoms. And yet, I never get into the Bear’s house. Ropes were draped over the tree, which broke down after their first use. Planks were stacked on top of the limb. Plans were made to build a giant scaffolding around the massive trunk. But regardless of the various amenities added and adjusted, the tree somehow rejected all of them, quietly protecting its sovereignty, with the Three Bears staring quietly from their citadel.
One spring, my hand easily touched a branch above my head. I had grown over the years, from my “Goldilocks” into a quiet, mature teen. Hoisting myself up onto the branch, I slid into a crevice formed between three large, thick limbs spurring from the main trunk. From there an enchanting picture opened to my sight: valleys, light green mountains, sparkling, playful rivers and streams, wide lush fields, a marsh, flooded with specks of green, the nearby stream glistening in the sunlight, indeed, the true home of the Bears. On the trunk, below me, Baby Bear seemed to be winking at me with his funny little eye.
PLANT. LIVE. GROW.