Forty-Third Ring

Halfway through the tedious count my eyes began to cross. I put a finger on one of the wider rings to mark my place.

“Ninety-seven… ninety-eight… ninety-nine.“ I said to myself as I finished counting. “Wow…”

Ninety-nine clear rings. Taking in to account questionable layers near the bark and several areas made uncertain by chainsaw damage, this oak was easily a hundred years old. But for last week’s ice storm it would still be living. Fallen across the park trail, the city had cut the hefty trunk into several pieces to remove the obstruction.

One hundred years.

That would mean a tiny acorn sprouted and began to form its first ring around the time Woodrow Wilson signed the Treaty of Versailles. Perhaps it emerged just as the Grand Canyon became a national park. Or maybe it struggled towards the light as Congress guaranteed voting rights to all women.

A year passed, a ring formed. Repeat. No matter what… years and rings. Years and rings upon years and rings and Amelia Earhart was flying solo across the Atlantic, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president, and wind whipped across the growing tree just as it did the flag that flew over the Winter Olympics in 1932.

The same year my father was born.

Passage of more time, formation of more rings. Growth was never deterred. Through the horror of the Boston Marathon bombing or NASA’s breathtaking photos of Saturn, a ring was forming. Even as the extraordinary life of Nelson Mandela came to an end, yet another ring formed, in 2013.

The same year my father died.

From the time it gripped earth as a sprouting acorn until the day heavy ice brought it down, the tree not only survived; it grew. Regardless. This majestic beast existed during years of peace and years of war. From its first to its last, so much happened between the rings.

As a sapling, it was already on its way to grandeur before my father was born and it continued to grow after he was gone. One ring the year of his birth, another the year of his death. All he ever did, and was, happened between those rings.

Touching the center of the cross-section of trunk, I dragged my finger towards the outer edge, moving slowly over each of those circular markers of time. I stopped for a second on the forty-third ring. If my calculations were correct, this one was the year I was born, 1962.

I’m unable to articulate what I felt at that moment. There I sat, straddling the trunk of a fallen tree, deep in the throes of profound thought due to the sight of a jagged circle inside a tree? I pressed my finger tight against that forty-third ring.

It was beautiful, I thought, as I noticed a young sapling growing nearby.

“It’s making rings.”  I said out loud. I glanced back down at the one beneath my finger.

My first.

Somewhere in the sapling will be another.

My last.

But what am I going to do between the rings?

Stuart M. Perkins





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151 responses to “Forty-Third Ring

  1. Just keep doing what you are doing!

  2. How sadly, bitterly sweet, Stuart.

  3. I love that tree. It makes me all the more grateful for the ones still standing and making rings.

  4. This is such a profound message. I’ve been working as the 6th grade Exceptional Children teacher at my middle school for the past few months. Right now they only see what’s in front of them instead of the big picture of life. They are bombarded by drama and negative thoughts towards themselves, especially since they have disabilities. In the last two weeks, I’ve been able to have heart to heart conversations that led to discussions about their future and encouraging them to think more thoughtfully about themselves and where they want to be. I think this story would be so inspiring. Would you mind if I shared it with my students?

  5. You’re a good writer, as I’ve said before but it bears repeating. From one to another, thank you. In the blogosphere, social media and pretty much everywhere where incompetent to shit writing prevails, you’re a jewel of literary pleasure.

  6. my sweet louise

    Beautiful writing! I was captivated. Almost as if I, too, had witnessed the falling of this great treasure. Poignant. Draws the reader in to want to know more of the stories that connected the rings of that once towering tree. Your writing is a gift!


    Oh Stuart, this is so good! Thank you for this! What will I do, or any of us do before time or events stop us. We just don’t know when our own ‘ice storm’ will hit, do we? And how prophetic to tie the rings to life and world events. That one grand tree didn’t get mixed up in the good or bad occurring around it, it just kept doing what it was intended to do. Oh my! You are something else. I needed to read this one today. It is truly a message for the world. Thank you!

  8. Beautiful Stuart! Wonderful example of contemplative mindfulness…

  9. I LOVE this. I just posted one similar. But… this… was beautiful.

  10. Beautifully written and a beauiful subject…. 🙂 I love me some trees… thank you … 😉

  11. I had two thoughts: 1. The types of trees that make rings only grow in temperate climates, where they stop growing in the winter. 2. I wonder if our bones make rings?

  12. Excellent! One of your most introspective pieces!

  13. What a treat to read! Thanks for liking one of my pieces – that’s what brought me here!

    I love getting lost in historical timelines wherever they occur – in tree rings, in novels, in random Wikipedia articles about obscure topics – considering where my lifetime intersects with other stories. Fascinating, how tangled everything is, and how differently it looks from a more distant, condensed perspective. Beautiful piece; thank you for sharing it!

  14. Between the rings! That is awesome. Thank you.

  15. I will follow you glady 😊

  16. As David said: Lord, make me to know the number of my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom. (my paraphrase from memory).
    Thank you for the thought provoking post. I was just cutting up some trees the other day!
    Ron Bouchard

  17. hearmorefromgod

    Amen! It’s like the dates on a tombstone 1986 – 2082. it’s what’s in the – (dash) that counts

  18. gorseinonboy

    Beautiful sentiments beautifully expressed…

  19. Wonderful essay. It’s the dash between your birthday and date of passing that count.

  20. …and most of us thought it was just a tree until you shared the history of its 100 years. Thank you so much for sharing this story.

  21. I like the way you tied the rings in the tree trunk to life and history events. It is like a metaphor, creating a larger view of the world than just the tree trunk.

  22. This is beautiful. Thank You!!! 🙂

  23. Your narration is so engaging. I love every single piece of yours

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