It was not old, as trees count years, when it succumbed to disease or gravity or storm. I found it lying on the beach at the base of a cliff, its naked frame silver and black. Worn root stumps reached from the butt, fingers scoured away by surf and time.
I spied a stone grasped firmly by these hands that once had called earth “home.” Unseen and silent, years before, the tree had found a prize and, Gollum-like, had coveted it. With each successive season, the tree bound the stone more tightly to itself, crafting a perfect cradle and wrapping it in a swirl of wooden blanket.
Now the tree slept in death under a blue, blue sky and salted wind, while the stone peered out and waited.
Signs of the living were all around, in the cry of gulls and the wisps of grass reaching from tree trunk pockets. Scars traced the paths of insects returning the old skeleton to the earth from which it came. Soon, at least in the way stones count years, the tree must give back its treasure.
It occurred to me that this might not be the first time the stone had been claimed in secret by one who forgot or never realized that it is not possible to carry this world’s treasure into the next. I saw a successive line of trees over eons, grasping first a granite mountain and then a broken outcrop, later a boulder and eventually a rock, each tree relinquishing its treasure at death. How many in this field of stones had once been the prize of one who could not hold it?
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jamie Maciejewski belongs to Wordways, a group of women on the Olympic Peninsula who write and share pilgrimages of faith and life. She leads her local Habitat for Humanity, is part of a small Lutheran congregation in Chimacum where she sometimes preaches, and attends seminary part-time. Jamie, her husband, and their two sons on the brink of adulthood live on Marrowstone Island, where word canvasses are tucked at the edges of most every path.
Thank you for painting, so clearly and poetically, this observance of transitions all around us and in us.