The Tree’s Promise
The Tree’s Promise Written by Emma Bonn The brush is thick in this area. Tall oak trees outline the paved avenues of man’s endeavors. They stand silent marking a boundary, claiming dark soils for themselves. Cracked bark laden with a creeping green hue keeps watch over the greenhouses of a nearby plant nursery. These elders watch as new leaves sprout and push forward through the seemingly never ending sky. Blue False Indigo, Butterfly Weed, and Basil find a safe place to grow within the improvised houses. Some of them are newcomers to the island and others native friends. The battered fencing is outlined with the delicate fronds of Queen Anne’s Lace. Her white clustered flowers are a beacon to many winged visitors and the thick foliage provides cover for wandering cats. As the sun begins to set these felines become active and hopeful for a meal. Adult cats with fur bristled with sand and soil weave in and out between the low lying leaves. Ferns dance with one another, swaying around the cats’ touch. A subtle wind joins in, willing the fronds to intertwine and become woven together. In this silent way the community of stray cats comes together. They each have distinctly colored fur and behind their quiet eyes’ is a hidden story. Their left ears are clipped, only telling that they are fixed and belong to the woods as feral cats. We ventured out to meet them. A small row of metal traps journeyed together on the back seat. As I turned my head, bright streaks of the setting sun’s light glimmered off the metallic sides. The car slowly made its progress towards the tree line. As we parked the tires slid over gravel and small stones making a crinkling sound. We opened the car doors, a familiar sight to the cats. More faces appeared from behind the greenhouse. They rubbed into one another as they came through a narrow gap in the fence line. The relationships and trust they had with each other was easily noticed. Some affectionately greeted by rubbing foreheads, while others touched their noses together with whiskers gently embracing. My blue eyes were met with pairs of golden glances. Wild eyes, yet still thoughtful and contemplative. They were hungry and waiting for us to feed them. We spotted two new faces in the moving mosaic before us. A mostly black cat with a delicate white line leading up his forehead sauntered along the fence. The other was a tabby with white tipping all four of his paws. The tabby was distinguished and seemed to be older. He sat beneath the dappled shadows of an oak tree. His thick coat was dulled with sand and small entanglements of brush. He would look at us and then close his eyes slowly, the blinking drawing more attention to the thick lines drawn about his eyes. Beautiful scrolls and hidden prose lay painted on his fur. From around the back of the car we opened paper plates and a can of store bought tuna fish. I carefully placed the tempting meals at the back of the traps and made them ready. Holding them within our grasp we walked to place the traps. Our sandals made shallow imprints on the soil with tiny paw prints encircling our feet. We walked away, leaving the traps to do their work. Watching from afar we waited, sitting silently next to each other. We did not dare utter the slightest sound to startle the cats. The still air of the car became thick with our hopes. After a long while we checked our traps to find two without ear tips had ventured in. I wrapped colored beach towels over each to help calm the cats as we carried them back to the car. A soft wind picked up and with it leaves dark with pigment chimed, sending a guided message that they would be safe and return home the next day. The cats nestled in the aluminum traps, clinging to the bottom of the crate, its silver carpet beneath their paw pads. We stood next to them with the car door open, satisfied that we were able to catch and help these two. The tiger with white markings looked up with wide eyes. His nose was scratched and marked. This male had lived a rough life on his own scavenging for meals. We had heard this one was limping, the after effects of a past injury. The old trees could sympathize, with cracked bark and missing limps from weathering island storms. The next day the cats were brought back. Their noses flared, quickly flooding with the wood’s scent. They could sense they were home. The ground was slightly damp from an early morning rain making the earthen tones vibrant. The laced leaves of Queen Anne’s flower were in full view before them welcoming them back. The trap clicked open, making a clanking metal song. Off sleek silhouettes sprinted away from the sidewalk. The fronds swayed as they made progress towards the tree line. They were home as the trees had promised.