One writer's experiment to tackle any subject his friends come up with.

Taken Root

There was a tree in the field, a tree she went to often. To think, to breathe, to weep, and once even for a first kiss. Years later she would see it in dreams and always wake with a sense of wonder and loss. Today, she chose it as the place to open the letter.



That was harder than I thought it’d be. Looks good, though. And worth it. It’s a beautiful little tree. Very little. Almost as young as Helen. Hope she enjoys it.


She’ll love it. I always have. Smell that earth. And still, I can smell the brook. Never seemed real, down in the valley, seeing it, hearing it, but you can really smell it. Pure, raw life. Tadpoles, crawfish, moss, water moving through everything. Sat here so much myself, shoulda planted something here years ago. Those moments that make you commit – it was time. Boy, I could use a rest. Jack will tell me I should have waited, or let him do it. But we’d already waited too long. This is what we talked about, and I’m holding up fine, just a little winded. It was a good delivery, after all.


This is my absolutely favorite spot. Mommy made it for me. She just put this tree here and made it my spot. She says the tree is the same age as me but it really was growing somewhere else before she put it here. Mommy says it was growing in a nursery. It was old enough to leave the nursery when she got it. But she said she still had to take good care of it and make sure it grew up right where she put it. Now I can just come out here by myself and the tree lives in nature. Sometimes I bring it some water to help it grow a little more, but Daddy says it doesn’t need it. But it likes it.


Mommy used to bring me out here, even when I was too little to walk. The tree was too little to sit under, so we sat beside it and read, or nursed, or sang songs. Mommy likes to talk about the other plants around here, and the animals too. She says they all work together, and that’s what nature is.




Shawn, you can just go rot in a pit! You jerk! Why did I bring you here? Now I have to think about you, see that ugly scar you put on my tree. Maybe Dad could carve it right, get rid of your initials. I’ll keep mine, and change yours out for everybody else. Maybe Mom could help.


Why did you have to go off – that stupid Sandy!


No, I was the stupid one. She knew. I was stupid.




Alright, let me see if I can get all of it without looking. Rain condenses from water vapor and falls to the earth. Tree’s roots absorb that water from the ground. The roots take that moisture throughout the tree to feed it – God that’s boring. Everybody says our planet is powered by the sun, like it’s a big battery, charging everything. I guess so, but without water, none of that energy would go anywhere. It would be static light on a cold face, like Mars. Water is what makes the sun work. It’s like this constantly moving embrace of the world. It holds, warms, bathes, feeds. It’s animated by the sun, holds its warmth until it gets too much, then has to fall to earth, and take the sun with it, feeding pure life into everything, passing through the planet, washing it all new again, filtering through beautiful dirt, coursing under us in great life-vein aquifers and cycling itself back up, again pushed by the sun, called back to heaven to release its beauty again to the air.


Water makes us all the same, moves everything through and between us. It is life, always moving, always invigorating, through and under and around us all the time, in every space, in all its forms.


Yeah, but is that going to help me pass Science?



Education is a huge investment of time and money, Lauren; it needs to count for something. I just think Helen should look into an area she’s not going to regret spending five years of her life on. Is it wrong to consider other options? Why am I always in the position of bringing everybody down out of the clouds?




Mom, oh Mom, what am I supposed to do now? I’m crumbling. I’m sliding. It’s like I’m missing a foundation I never knew was there. One drunk idiot can take it away in a heartbeat. I’m so sorry, Mom. I wish we’d had more time. Dad is trying, but it’s hard for both of us. Mom, I miss you so much. It’s hard to even just sit here under the tree now. I just feel like I need you too much, like life can’t make sense when something this important gets decided by pointless chance. I don’t feel like I can change plans with school; I know Dad thinks the scholarship was a miracle. Mom, what should I do?






How could you sell the farm? What am I supposed to come home to now, your downtown loft? Is there even room for me there? I don’t want to hear again about how you couldn’t afford to keep it. It’s just “illogical” to keep a farm when you work in the city, isn’t it?


Well you won’t have to worry about putting me up next month. Guess I’ll go to the Keys with Shane after all.






Daphne, dear, you’ve got to come inside, it’s raining! You realize you can’t play outside every waking moment – you’re gonna have wrinkles by the time you’re eight. Come here, let’s get this filth off your hands.


Now, we have dinner plans tonight, with the Jacobsons. I need you to be on your best behavior, and keep your shoes on. No complaints, please. You know this is very important for Mommy.




That’s okay. I can’t help it if they refuse to see the opportunity. It’s time for us to refocus our goals anyway, dear. I’ve been hearing good things about the housing market in Chicago. I think we could do very well there. What do you say? You and me, Wonder Twins, right?




What do you mean, you’re not coming? All teenage girls want to see these guys! Your friends would kill for these tickets! Oh, sorry, not your friends. I honestly don’t know what you see in them. Sure, Sandy’s fun. Everybody’s fun. But she has zero drive. She’s not going anywhere. Seriously, dear, we gotta set some priorities.




You honestly have no idea, Daphne. Do you realize how old I was when I lost my mother? Do you know what I would give to have her back, to have another day? You and me, we’re all each other really has in the world. You don’t just take that casually.


I can’t convince you of my motives. If all these years of my affection are so much dirt in your mouth, I don’t know what to do.






I want to say I’m sorry for all the time we’ve spent apart. I’ve missed you so much. I’m sorry about the way we last left each other, but I mostly regret taking so long to get back in touch. Part of me sees the last ten years as a pointless void.


But part of me knows it needed to happen. I saw your unhappiness, Mom. It was a tangible presence throughout my youth. I loved you, and I knew absolutely that you loved me. But as I got older I began to understand the choices you’d made, and how they’d impacted your life. I saw the things you’d decided to fix yourself on, instead of fixing what was wrong. I felt like you needed me too much, and it wasn’t healthy for either of us. Years after leaving, I realized I had done so to have the freedom to become myself.


Now I realize, thanks to your own grace and backbone, the same has happened for you. I haven’t been completely out of touch, as I know you haven’t either. Grandad told me you have a little place outside of town now, and his face lit up when he talked about the creek testing you’re doing for the Conservancy.


He also said you have a little land out there, and were planning to start an orchard. It sounds beautiful. If it’s alright, I was hoping I could come out and help sometime. The doctors said to rest up for a few weeks, but I don’t want to wait too long. I was hoping you could meet Helen.


Your Loving Daughter,



Copyright Cole Bennett, all rights reserved


9 Comments to “3/28/11-JENNIFER QUICK JONES”

  1. Cole says:

    Jen! Did you just come up with that? So much promise! I love the open-endedness of it. Fertile, fertile stuff.

  2. Cole Bennett says:

    Well, there it is, number two!

  3. Eric T Morrow says:

    Wow. Love, love, LOVE the beautiful description of water, rain, and sun.

  4. Jen says:

    Dear Cole:
    My problem is, I want to do something perfectly, and so I wait until I have time and then I never even get it started, much less finished.
    I wanted to do justice to the story you wrote and to tell you how much I loved it. What’s funny is that the idea is from a real tree, and all of the things I said were true, except for the part about the letter (though I probably wrote some letters from under the tree, but none of them particularly monumental).
    Now that I’ve read your story, I picture these events in this place, and if I ever get to see that tree again, apart from in my dreams I’ll think of your words as much as my own memories.
    I always enjoy letters in stories, but I loved the idea of letters AS the story. How we build a rich idea of what these people’s lives are like through the words they chose to share on paper.
    Thanks for a good cry, which I needed. And thank you for planting my idea like a seed and turning it into something amazing. I’m honored.

  5. Cole Bennett says:

    Dearest Jen!

    I am so lucky to have such beautiful, brilliant friends. And this experiment is turning out to be such a wonderful education in the power of words. Thank you so much for yours.

    Your friend,

  6. Joe says:

    I like moving through the years. I like the changes.
    What I worry about is that you have to encapsize character and situation in a few lines. Since we and you don’t have time to truly understand the people involved, we reach for short-hand. That’s less satisfying. We cannot be surprised since we don’t know enough to be surprised.

    • Cole Bennett says:

      Hoorah, a critique! Thanks Joe. I was worried no one would take me seriously when I said I wanted to improve. You sum up the doubts I’ve had about the piece very well. Last night I was taking notes, and wrote:

      …It turned into a grand scope, and at some point I decided on vignettes which gave glimpses into her life… I keep thinking it may be too restrictive… it could be a novel, but this was the format I took for shortening it. Each vignette makes sense, and one sees the progression, but I’m sure a more skilled writer would be able to make them each much more poignant, as well as telling more of a story with them. Is it a cheat, to simply show where a person is without really showing how they got there? Is that what I’ve done? Or have I paired things down to the critical essence, and given only the absolutely most necessary elements, painting a grand story with a few deft strokes? Probably the former. ;)

      Thanks for bringing your writer’s hat to the forum, Joe. I really appreciate it.


  7. Debbie Korando says:

    Cole, I’m EXCITED about your writing and reading more. And, more and more. I feel like you painted a grand story with a few deft strokes. Yet, your characters intrigue me and I find myself wanting to more someday. I love the energy you have in your writing. Keep on keeping on with your writing, creating.

    Someone very close to you recommended I come here to visit your world of writing. I love the story of the serious monkey, am pulled in by the way you wrote this story, and was intrigued with the way you weaved in and out of Science Fiction and reality in the story with Charon.

    Like I said, I look forward to more, much more from you. Keep writing from your heart…

    From one yearning writer’s soul to another,


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