Looking Up to Giants
Emma Fox, Division 2, 12th grade #ws17e-s3d2

The immense trees are the first thing that catch your eye, every single time. They are mammoth, colossal, humongous, gargantuan, but even those words don’t really do them justice. They are simply, undeniably big. It seems impossible that trees could be this large, but yet here you are, staring up at them. It's weirdly addicting, craning your neck at unnatural angles in order to truly take in their magnitude. Something about trees this big demands to be stared at, over and over. The sky is suddenly reduced to fragments of blue winking through emerald green canopies. From where you stand on the ground, the light of day is only a distant memory. The smell of fresh air is tempered by the musty scent of growing things. All you can see is wood and leaves and needles and trees that can't help but make you feel small.

You walk through the grove with your dad. He seems to you as tall and silent and steady as these trees, and as you crane your head back to catch a glimpse of his face, you almost can’t make out his features in the dusky light that is filtered through the trees. You try to widen your stride to match his as the two of you stroll down forest paths, contemplative and still. When you are with your mom you talk, when you are with your brother you laugh, but when you are with your dad you walk and listen. And wonder. You wonder if you will ever measure up to the gentle but forbidding giant that is your father.

Stopping to examine a particular tree, you notice that it isn’t the dull brown of the dirt below your feet. Rather, it is a striking red that compliments the dun green of the needles perfectly. The bark is laid in strips as wide as your hand, and you suspect that ten of you couldn’t fit your arms around the whole trunk. The tree’s roots wind around the base and snake out into the path, creating speed bumps for unsuspecting hikers. It is a perfect specimen at first glance.

But a closer look reveals a few surprises. The bark is peeling in some places. Scars, gifts from fire and animals, criss-cross the trunk as far up as you can see. Kneeling down, you can see the hole at the base of the trunk where chittering chipmunks have obviously made their home. As you search for more scars and imperfections, it strikes you exactly how long this tree must have been here. It has seen fires and floods and winds and snows and mist. It has lived while revolutions, regimes, and rulers grew old and died. And it will just keep getting bigger. It will keep growing, stretching up into the endless sky, until the day that a hand or a wind will bring it back to earth.

Your dad taps you on the shoulder. It is time to leave. Regretfully you stand to leave the tree and continue down the trail. As you scurry to catch up with your dad, he looks down and gives you a smile and you grin back up at him.
Walking together again, you have to resist the urge to keep looking up him. It has occurred to you for the first time that those lines on your dad’s face that you’ve always assumed to be the gifts of age could be hiding a little bit more. There is story behind the care lines on his forehead, behind the scar on his chin, behind the crinkles around his eyes that only appear when he smiles. And suddenly you realize that though your dad has always seemed immovable and constant, it’s not always going to be that way. Maybe those stories are important than you first thought.

You have leave the grove, but every year you come back. And every year you convince yourself that those trees can’t be as big as they were last year. That it was just your imagination. You are bigger, older, stronger, wiser now. Surely the magic that these trees seem to hold over you will disappear this year and you’ll be able to see them as they truly are. But still, every year, the trees tower over you, tower over everything. They fill your vision, they consume the sky. They are tall, unreachable. They are always there. And try as you might, you are never going to be big enough, old enough, strong enough, wise enough to even get close to matching them.

And your dad is there too. He walks beside you, gazes at the trees with you. Sometimes, if you are lucky, he will tell you a story or a fact about these trees. And you will smile and try to walk like he does, talk like he does, watch like he does, listen like he does. Because just like the trees, sometimes your dad is something tall and vast and unreachable. Something unknowable.

But one day, as you walk among these red and green giants, your dad says something to you, and you answer. The exchange is trivial, mundane, but you realize something odd. You aren’t looking up anymore.
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