guardians of the green

by Aqeela Naqvi

I lay beneath the cover of trees, the day warm against my skin…watching glimpses of sunlight make their way across the leaves, flecks striking branches as they dance together, swaying in the breeze.

My hand finds a root splayed tenderly beneath my arm, and I’m struck suddenly with the strangeness of it all. That these holders of secrets, silent, ancient, should stand gazing upon the years—upon us—soldiers, perpetually on their watch. Towering figures forced to contemplate the whims of men, to watch as children feign themselves warriors and chase shadows in the dark. How they must laugh at the king’s strut which fumbles when meeting a risen root, a tower so easily toppled…

Gladiators, who find themselves prisoners of men who see bark only for its roughness; who hack away at them, tearing against the fabric of the universe that they might make more room for themselves. Men, whose hands are too calloused to feel the magic pulsing beneath them, whose hearts are too deaf to hear the life beating, exuberant, in every ring of age.

It must be something, I think, as I listen to soft shh-ing of leaves, to stand, watching this progressive regression, this inverted elevation. To provide shade to eyes whose thrones, no matter how large, still squint in the glory of the sun. To give shelter to hands stained with blood as red as the sparks that jump from the fires at which they warm themselves.

What it must be, to see generation after generation pass through their midst, a battalion of ants striking at blades of grass, proclaiming glory at the overturning of pebbles. How frustrating, to witness the seduction by the mirror’s siren song, its tale of broken pasts…the abandoned reflection of self written in the sky, its promise of an enduring future.

I watch as the light skips, a delicate pirouette against this chlorophyll canopy, and feel a great sadness settle over me, the grief of these roots, their moss covered limbs lamenting the condition of man. The perpetual survey of lives unlived; satiated bodies, starved souls. The constant guardians of history, somber keepers of sunlight that leaps impatiently on their boughs, yearning for man to once, turn his head upward—raise his head so he might see the nobility of custodians who, when their boughs become heavy with fruit, bow themselves in humility. That man might understand, and embrace this realm that stands still between time’s hands ever-moving hands, where the universe itself surrenders to this glorious submission;

that we might lay beneath the cover of trees, breathe in the ancient scent of an awaiting sunlight, let it weave through us and warm our skin;

that we might watch as its rays make their way across our hearts, flecks striking tendrils as they dance together, swaying upon our souls.