My identity has 2 main aspects. One nurtured and grown. The other, built and hardened. They are like white and black, acid and base, life and death. They don’t go together. Yet sometimes, rarely, they do.

The first one, I was born with. It was a seed. It started small, but it grew. As it grew, I grew too. Eventually it became the right size. It started making flowers, and those flowers, making fruit. Finally, the fruit dropped off. The gardener planted those fruits, tended to them, as they grew into trees. Then came her husband. He planted a new tree. It was a different variety. The new tree’s roots intertwined with the old tree just before its first winter. At first, the old tree helped the new tree, keeping it alive through the cold hard winter. The new tree grew quickly, eventually becoming larger than the old tree. Then the new tree began helping the old tree. They grew faster together than they would have apart, each giving something to the other.

The second aspect was a building. It started off as a foundation, taking work to build. I learned from the architect how to build it. It became strong as I became stronger. I spent my time working on the building, making it taller, larger. Until, the architect had another job. A job more interesting. A job with more potential started building up the second building. It consumed all my time. Soon it passed the first building. Then there was a third building, then a fourth, then a fifth. The building became a town, a town of many

Eventually the town enclosed the trees. They had grown into a forest now. For a while, the planners couldn’t decide what to do with them. Normally, the town would have chopped down the forest. Instead, they turned the forest into a park. The forest and the town helped each other. The town fixing the park, and the park making the town better. As the town grew, the architect became tired. He stopped teaching me how to build the tall building but helped keep the small ones growing.

As the town grew larger more people came in. Most of them came for the buildings and the architectural wonders. Some came for the park. The forest inside a town. A lot of them stayed, built buildings of their own. The town grew and grew but it never became a city. The forest stayed the same. Eventually the buildings grew very tall. More and more tourists came to see them. The trees were still there. Each year they got stronger and stronger. People still came to see them. People pressured the mayor to make a choice; forest or city, they asked. But he wanted both. He wanted it to be like no city had ever been before.

Eventually the city started to decline. As people left, buildings started crumbling. The trees stayed, but the city fell. Slowly at first, but faster and faster towards the end. Only a handful of the buildings survived. The most important, the largest. They seemed smaller now. Less important. The trees kept growing and growing. Taking up more and more space. Eventually, the now small town was surrounded by trees. The town slowly lost buildings. Buildings crumbled slowly. Some of them were still there. But then, the tallest one started to crumble. Pieces slowly fell off. Eventually, there was just a small town. All the buildings had fallen down. All that was left was pictures; memories of what used be.

The town persisted. It stayed alive. Through earthquake, lightning, rainstorm, it existed. After a while it became a popular tourist destination itself. To see the town that grew a city, to see the town surrounded by a forest. After a while it reached the point where it wasn’t just alive, it was thriving. Like a cactus in the desert, when all thought it was dead, it thrived. All these tourists brought money, trade, and skills to the town. It grew and flourished. Eventually it had everything a city would have, but it wasn’t a city. It was still a town as it would always be.

Then it happened. A storm so great, the city shook, the forest fell, the people died. The few survivors had no supplies. Slowly they left. They left the houses to be destroyed, they left the forest as it was. Shredded, falling, blowing away. The city and the forest fell together. Eventually the forest was left with two trees. They were the oldest of the forest. As the last building of the town fell, the trees branches dying, each tree produced a seed. They were small, small enough to be carried by the wind. The seeds dropped off the tree. As they were blowing away the final trees fell. The seeds landed in a field far away. They landed right beside each other. Together they would grow a new tree, a new forest of trees.