Today marked the first day in a long many that I was able to separate from my colleagues and escape from this extensive journey through this maze that has consumed the whole of my life for the past seventeen weeks. Never had the words of Poe struck so closely to the core of my being than when I found myself wandering, weak and weary, through a forest I seemed to have no business being in. Because our humble camp couldn't provide for me the salvation I needed, I decided then to look for it elsewhere. My wanderlust took me through the dense underbrush, deeper still into the forest and further from the path carved and worn by those who pass unwaveringly through this woodland. It is at their misfortune that I was able to discover a not so well-hidden but clearly undiscovered, and therefore unsullied paradise among the rich nature that surrounded me. I traipsed along a small brook that wound its way ad libitum through a grove of aspens that whispered to me a soothing melody, which, when combined with the song of the free-running water and the quiet calm of the brisk air, created a certain euphoric chorus in the serenity of the deep wood.

I had to let the stream continue on without me when I noticed a slightly different and distinctly unorthodox tune calling to me from the hollow walls of the trees to my left. I made my way towards it with a keen eye and a fixed attention to its hum. The closer I got to it, the more clearly I could make out what it was, until finally I found myself standing in a clearing in front of the most impressive and daunting of any tree I've yet laid eyes on. It stood clearly taller than the others, raised above the ground I stood on by a steep basin, and surrounded by a vale of floral undergrowth.

I watched it wind up and up, reaching for the unreachable sky, broadening its girth and extending its presence as it went higher. This tree, unlike any other, was not a tree to be climbed, but rather a tree that climbed itself. Its branches reached also for the sky, as opposed to those we are used to which reach outward or try to grasp the firm earth at the base. Everything about this tree made it unique, including the shade it provided. For once in my life, I felt as though I stood in a shadow cast by a tree- a whole tree, and not just the cover of its upper extremities. Strangely though, even with the knowledge that I came to this place to escape the burden of thought and release my conscious into the bliss of a serene relaxation in the presence of complete simplicity, I found myself able to think of nothing but this tree. Perhaps equally as strange was the fact that this ceaseless pensiveness was in fact relaxing to my mind. Relaxing, I assume, because instead of my normal contemplation that leaves me questioning and lusting for a deeper understanding, my deliberation was mainly plain observation and apprehension. I couldn't escape the rapture of the tree, as the more I focused on it, the more detail I noticed. In fact, it almost seemed to breed detail as I looked up its trunk and into the vastities of its upper portions.

Even beyond its size its image portrayed and exhibited great power. This tree of steel had weathered the test of time, strived and succeeded in existing in this forest through wind and rain, and stood as the founding and colossal living piece, despite its static disposition. It no longer moved with the wind or changed form at the hands of men, though it clearly did at one time. The way its branches grew was solemn proof of its will to survive, and its strength of spirit. Though obviously cut back by forces out of its control, its base forced it to grow still; to fight the gravity that forced it towards the earth, to fight and reach upward toward the sky, toward the one thing it could not attain, but still strived for. All of its branches competed to be the first to reach the sky, but clearly were also working together at the same time as they came from the same base. I felt myself, as well as the burden of man in the base of that tree, with the weight of a world of hope, expectations and aspirations all on top of it, and perhaps this was the reason that I felt so drawn to it. The ability of that tree to stand so firmly, so concrete, stare adversity in the face and continue upward was comparable to the journey that I and the others have been on- a journey through a forest we've never trekked; on a path that we are uncertain has the end we seek, if it even has an end at all. This tree was a tree with more to express, more to say, and more to be understood than will ever be possible to explain in words. Its power to speak without words- to find a way to somehow connect and work around the limits of its expression by simply displaying courage and commitment, perseverance and desire to survive and reach the sky, proved to me that despite the uncertainty we have of our purpose, we must continue to pursue it. This tree, here in the midst of a wood that we pass through without bothering to look around to see what it holds, proves that there is more out there than what we see from the clear-cut path. This tree is an example of what one can find if only they take the time to pay attention to what is there in front of them. This tree is more than just a tree of steel; this tree is a tree of hope, a tree of inspiration, an embodiment of me and of the journey. This tree is a Tree of Life.