The Little Sapling
2023, Senior, Creative Writing
Climate Hero: Elizabeth Wathuti, Green Generation Initiative
The little sapling knew no family.
Her parents: ripped in half by the ruthless animals wielding sharp blades that cut through the years-old bark as if it were nothing. Her friends, the flowers: taken by large yellow giants that made loud sounds and gouged out craters in the already scarred ground. Her sisters: trampled on, time and time again, until one day they were beaten so badly they could not get up. The elders she had respected for as long as she could remember: gone in a second, as if their history and perseverance through droughts, floods, winds, and storms meant nothing.
But despite her sorrow, the little sapling wanted nothing more than to grow into a large, towering tree so that she might give back to the earth, as her ancestors had done before her. She didn’t think the world would change, but it didn’t matter. She was born to give, and she wanted nothing more than to do that.
Yet over time, she saw her community get ripped apart by the two-legged monsters who took and took and took, and never gave anything in return. And so, she no longer wanted to give anything to the human creatures who had stolen her home, her family, her happiness.
The little sapling knew that soon it would be her turn to go, so when the day came, she was prepared. She was determined not to watch her end, so she kept her sights on the ground directly in front of her, brown and warm and soft. The creature loomed over her and stood right in front of her small body as her petite leaves trembled in fear.
Oddly enough, the human did not crush or uproot her. With a gentleness that the sapling didn’t think was possible, the creature reached out with a five-fingered hand and softly brushed against one of the little sapling’s barely grown leaves.
“I will not hurt you, little one. I promise. You and I are both Nature’s daughters, and I will not let my sister perish.”
The sapling was wary, yet found something else inside her, too. A strange flickering light that sparked to life the moment the words were spoken. Hope. She dared a glance upward and looked upon the face of the monster. Or perhaps her savior?
Skin dark like the color of fresh soil and eyes that sparkled with the twinkle you only saw when the sun hit clear water. The little sapling thought she had forgotten what clean water looked like, having grown accustomed to only seeing gray, murky streams, like the color of a dying plant. The human reached out with a tentative hand and stroked the sapling’s leaves once more, and despite all that she had seen and all that she knew to be true, the sapling was certain in this one fact: the creature would not hurt her.
After all, they were of the same mother: Nature.
The little sapling lost all her family, but she had found a sister.
Years passed, and the little sapling grew into a wise tree. Whenever she would feel lonely, her sister would visit her and give her some fresh, pure water or new, rich soil. As they grew closer, the tree began to grow taller. From her new heights, however, she could witness more pain and destruction. Friends, family, and strangers being cut down over and over again. And so, as the years went by, that one flicker of hope that had sparked to life began to dim, getting darker and darker with each passing year.
One day, she saw the yellow giants and humans doing what they do best: killing. Her new sister had not visited in a while, and so the tree knew that eventually it would be her time to go. And this time, no one would save her.
But as she watched the slaughter, she saw something new. An army. Wielding clay earthen pots and green baby seeds, the humans fanned out farther than she could see. At the head of them was her sister: a commander, leading her army through the depths of war. She led them through the grave of the fallen, and her clear voice reached the tree like a precious song of a nightingale. They walked past the yellow giants and wherever they saw destruction, they created life, placing down one baby seed after another. The tree wanted to yell out to them and tell them it was useless, for the yellow giants would simply kill them again. Yet as the tree watched, she saw her sister, her soil-colored sister, make her way through the bodies to the yellow giants and the two-leggeds who had killed so many. The tree wanted to warn her sister, to tell her that those humans were not like the army she had enlisted, that they were evil. But alas, she could only watch as her sister moved her hands and her tiny mouth – as if that would be enough to stop them.
The tree looked down toward the rough, scarred brown soil, scared of what she might see if she looked upward. The tree stayed like that, afraid of the flicker of hope, afraid of the yellow giants, and afraid that her sister and her army could not help her. But then, the tree felt a smooth touch against her years-old bark. A touch so gentle and pure it could only be one person, and so the tree looked up to see her sister.
“Do not worry, not-so-little one. They will never hurt you again.” Next to her sister, the tree saw the two-legged monsters who had been with the evil yellow giants, and her leaves drooped in fear. Her sister spoke up as she stroked the tree’s rough, coarse bark.
“These men will not hurt you. They are Nature’s sons too. They just needed to remember.” And so, the humans gently reached a hand out to touch her trunk, and the tree let them. As the whole army gathered around, the war still being waged around them, they all laid a hand on her, almost reverently. Her sister, eyes sparkling as the tree always remembered, spoke again.
“You see, my wise tree? We are all the same. We can all help you. After all, Nature is our mother, and we protect our own.”
As the year passed by, the wise tree saw more pain, more destruction. But with it, she saw her brothers and her sisters, fighting to save Nature. That flicker of hope had grown into a raging fire, and the tree would never let it go out. She would fight for her home, as would her brothers and sisters, who grew in number every day.
And so, as new saplings grew from the fertile, soft ground, the tree began to teach them, as the elders she had once known had done for her. She taught them about the humans and the army that had saved her. She taught them about Nature’s sons and daughters and how they would always be there to protect the trees. The little saplings would ask her about the yellow giants and how it was possible to trust the two-legged creatures. The tree simply responded with the truth: they couldn’t trust all the land beings, but they would be safe with those she had learned to trust, starting with her sister.
* * *
The large, mighty tree that had once been a little sapling had lost her family long ago. But she had found a new one. and she knew that this family would not be taken from her without a fight. And now, for the first time since she had seen her family destroyed, the tree was ready to give back to the world. She wanted to give and give and give until she had nothing left, because she had finally found a family to whom she was forever indebted and grateful to.
Her friends: the neighboring flowers, made of pure white, scarlet red, and fiery orange.
Her students: the little saplings that she knew would one day grow tall and wise.
Her protectors: the two-legged army who had saved her and so many others.
And her sister, the person who had rescued her when she had no one else, when she had very nearly lost all hope: Elizabeth Wathuti.
My climate hero is Elizabeth Wathuti, who is currently 27 years old and the founder of the Green Generation Initiative. She works to save the environment by planting trees and educating younger kids, and this is what inspired me. As I wrote my short story, I wanted to style it like a children’s book by using simple writing so that it could reach younger audiences. I used the perspective of a tree to highlight how we as humans have the ability to cause a great deal of harm to nature, but at the same time, we have the capacity to change and care for our environment. At the start of the story, the tree sees all humans as evil, but over time learns to trust and believe in them. Overall, through my experience in writing this, I began to feel more hopeful myself, knowing how hard people like Elizabeth Wathuti fight to preserve our world.