He has no idea since when he exists. One day he just was there. In the beginning he was just a little sapling. That was fine, because all his chestnut tree friends were small as well. He grew up together with them and reached an impressive size of 25m. The old chestnut tree is proud of this. With the years he grew more pensive. For a long time, he led a carefree life. He felt good and had a great time with his friends. It could have gone on like this forever.
But something bothered him. He had a terrible itch. His enemy is the horse-chestnut miner. This micromoth makes itself at home in his leaves even as a caterpillar and apparently spends its whole life there. How many times has he tried to get rid of this pesky insect! At least sometimes humans tackle his enemy. Then the old chestnut tree can breathe freely for a short time.
He has no concept of time. He just knows that it has been a few winters since the tracks of the Lilliputian train have been laid near him. If children wave to him, he rejoices. And once two men had a chat standing directly in front of him. The taller of the two said, “Do you know that there’s a total of 2.236.760 m2 forest area in the Prater? And 5.707 m2 of stagnant waters? Additionally, more than 821.000 m2 meadow area? The green lung of the Prater is extraordinary.” The shorter man nodded approvingly. “The things you are able to remember” he exclaimed, “but the numbers are indeed impressive.”
The old chestnut tree cannot do math. But he knows that in the Prater’s main avenue, where he is allowed to spend his whole life, more than 2000 of his kind are firmly rooted. People mostly pass him by unheeding. For them, one tree is much like any other. They do not contemplate one specific tree, but just glance the trees with one look. Whereas every single tree is a living being! And an avenue just a broader street planted left and right with trees. But for all the avenue one must not overlook the single trees!
Today is a happy day for the old chestnut tree. A child throws a ball into the air. Again and again. And suddenly the ball gets caught in its branches. The small boy begins to cry. “Dad, dad! My ball! I want my ball back!” The boy’s father tries to shoot the ball with chestnuts, so it will fall to the ground. But all the effort yields no result. The boy’s crying unsettles the old chestnut tree so much that he drops the burden. The boy has his ball back! “Dad, dad! The ball dropped all by its own!” “That can happen”, says the father. “No, no, no! The chestnut tree helped. It saw how much the ball means to me. I want to visit the tree every day because it helped me.” The old chestnut tree has conquered a boy’s heart.
© Jürgen Heimlich 2021-11-10