His trees are still marked. The flagging is faded and falling.
It isn’t that the trees he didn’t mark weren’t special. You keep some things and you let others go.
You decide what to carry and what to set down. You decide what to change and how to change it and how to keep only parts of others.
In the end, the story is told whether you’re active in it or not. We don’t own our own stories; sometimes we just play a part. Others will read it in what we’ve written, what we’ve saved, the words that have passed between us, or even in the flags we’ve tied to saplings to save because if for no other reason, we just liked them.
Author’s note: A few years ago on the way to a funeral reception for one of the best men I’ve ever known, I noticed several small trees marked with flagging tape in the woods along his driveway. I took note of what they were: redbuds, a sassafras or two, some other species. It struck me that this was a lasting signature on the land (as Aldo Leopold once wrote was written with the axe and spade rather than the pen). Now several years later the flagging is mostly still there and the trees a little larger now – obviously saved from the brush hog and chainsaw. I’ve thought about this. Those who know me lately know I have great respect for the storyteller, whether that be in words, light, or whatever medium the Muse inspires. Our stories are more often than not misunderstood in our own time, and perhaps even more so later on. And sometimes, they’re as simple as just liking a tree because we think it’s special in its own way.