nadir (NAY-der), noun
Rock-bottom, the lowest of the low, the worst a thing can get or become.
A tree stands alone, scraggly and gnarled, beaten down by too much weather. It has aged in a way that only it thinks is ugly. Those of us who rest upon its trunk feel its branches wrap majestically around the sky, shading us from the harsh world that is easier to bear with a companion. Even a companion that is stubborn enough to survive when the world seems to insist it shouldn’t.
The world is telling him from every angle. Rocks push up at his roots, tearing him from the earth. He reaches down with all of his energy, the tips of his fingers extended to grasp hold of the ground. He breaks through the mountainside at uncomfortable angles. Rocks are an illusion of security, and all he wants is to reach below them to the heart of the earth. It is foolish to befriend a rock. They pop up so quickly and so close. It seems they will never leave you. And they won’t. It will be you who leaves them, unwillingly and shamefully. When each rock decides he has spent enough time supporting you, he wants to breathe on his own now and you have become a burden.
The sky, who showers this tree with sunshine and rain, who nourishes so kindly, is not always a friend either. The same sky whips him with icy winds and cuts through his bark with lightning. Beaten down by thunder for so many years, this tree is ashamed to shine forward, to look boldly at the world and resist defeat. Instead, it crumples. It forgoes its good posture for an uncouth slouch. Perhaps the wind would be less harsh if he were smaller.
But this tree is not small. He does not know what his strengths are or how beautiful he has become. To this tree, the world has crushed him. As winter approaches, he fears he will not survive. The rocks on the mountainside uproot him, shoving him from his home, and the wind has become frigid and unkind. This winter, the tree thinks, will be his nadir.
Blinded by the burden of bad weather, he cannot see me leaning against his trunk. He does not know he has been protecting me from all the harshness around us. His senses have become numb and he can’t feel my warm body pressed against his. I feel his grip loosening. I feel the rocks winning. They push him up and his outstretched fingers, the lifeblood to his roots, are letting go.
He tells me to find a new tree. He tells me that his shade is no longer soothing, that his bark will start to scratch.
But he cannot see what I see. He cannot see that the cracks in the rocks below him are large now. They have grown with him and for years the strength of his roots have been forcing their way to the ground. He has been fighting these same rocks all of his life and he cannot see that he is in fact, winning. Above me is a beautiful arrangement of foliage, twisted and confused by many winters telling him he’s weak and many summers spent propping himself back up.
Reluctantly, I stand. I brush myself off and climb over his unearthed roots. I look back at the concave in his trunk where I have nestled for many years. I am certain that when I return, he will still be there, stubbornly fighting the weather and insisting he’s not strong enough to survive.