The juniper sprouted. She saw immediately that the ground was soft and luxurious. The lives of others were in her roots and the water that came, funneled slow and steady to her roots. She reveled in her tiny sprout state. Hiding among the pine straw and the random vines, the tiny alligator juniper noticed a constant parade of creatures trampling the ground over and over just a short distance away. Still. Life is life and she did her mighty best to grow.
Years later, another sprout grew.
She was a bit concerned. It was close. A bit too close but still. The water flowed and the people, as she grew to name them, still passed by, never stopping to see them.
The sprout grew. A ponderosa pine. The little juniper trembled. Perhaps she should have made a fuss. Made the people trample the pine. Still. The pine was quiet. Not a fuss. The juniper trembled. There wasn’t a lot of room. What if the water dried up?
The water still flowed. Year after year. Some years it was pretty lean. The juniper dug her roots in. It was a pocket, she realized. Deep and full of many years growth of leaves. The ponderosa roots found the pocket as well. The pocket went deep. It was a crevasse in the cliff face. Their roots intertwined. They probed, deeper and deeper.
Over and over, the roots dug deep while the top grew tall. Just two feet apart, the trees grew.
Juniper led the way. Up and up. It was a miracle. There was a space in the canopy and the sun shone down. Juniper made it a race. She grew as fast as she could. Shade made by the juniper cut the chances of the other plants. All except the ponderosa. The ponderosa loved the shade. It made it strong.
Years passed. The juniper grew tall and strong. The ponderosa grew slow and steady. It took many years. People passed by. The trail became hard packed and deep. It was a long time but eventually the trail dropped to the roots of the two trees.
The juniper cried out each time her roots were trampled.
“Hush’, the ponderosa whispered. “Dig deeper. The humans tread just the top. We are stronger than that.”
“I need the surface roots,” she cried.
“Spread out, then,” the ponderosa said. It hugged his friend, sending root tendrils to her.
The roots spread. Each crack in the rock. Each small crevasse with decaying leaves was a chance for the juniper. The ponderosa followed its friend. The juniper struggled. Each human trampled its basic root. She wailed in pain. The ponderosa hugged its friend as best it could.
“Stay brave!” the ponderosa sent to its friend with its roots.
The juniper struggled. “Just a moment. Just a bit when no one is squashing me.
For the ponderosa, it waited. It grew. It soaked in the rich, soft mulch of the forest as it seeped down the cliff face to the roots of itself and its friend.
It took many years. The juniper and the ponderosa had grown many feet. The people began to move around them. That made them happy. The water still flowed down the cliff face. It still puddled in the space in their roots.
It took many years but eventually Ponderosa grew taller than its friend Juniper.
It was a pleasant life in their little canyon. The world around them changed, then changed again, then again. The air became cleaner, more people came, sometimes just to stand and stare. Houses were built right on the edge of the canyon but not within the canyon itself. Then, fewer people came. Fewer mechanical birds flew through the air. The land and water became cleaner. Juniper and Ponderosa wondered about it but were happy anyway.
Every day the trees enjoyed the sun or rain or snow in its proper seasons. The sumac came and went, short lived that they were. The same for the shrub oaks and the few maples that lived in the canyon.
Through it all the trees shared each other and the canyon. They were the longest-lived trees around. But it couldn’t last forever. Even the longest-lived trees must die eventually. Juniper, as the oldest, grew yellow on the few branches she had left. She’d seen a thousand years and even her love for Ponderosa couldn’t stop the march of time.
Ponderosa mourned Juniper, her rough trunk remaining just inches away. Gray, twisted, jagged, it reminded the Ponderosa of all of the storms the pair had withstood over the centuries. Then, the Ponderosa also began to fail. It took time to die but even the mighty tree had to pass. Their remaining branches, drying in the hot sun, remained intertwined, their trunks together.
Birds made hollows in the trunks to have babies. Woodpeckers came and drilled little holes to gather the insects that infested the dead wood. Moss grew in the shade, and lichen gathered in the wooden hollows. A different kind of life began in their remains as children of the trees grew around them.
Their deaths were not sad. They continued to bring life to the canyon and, they loved each other to the end.