Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • I walked past this tree stump nearly every day for three years without seeing it. I noticed it, but didn't see it.

    Back then, I was studying photography and took my camera with me everywhere. I thought I was good at seeing things - I'd snap eight to 10 shots of whatever caught my eye, then go in search of something new. But really, I was not seeing anything.

    When my photography teacher handed us an assignment to photograph something five different ways, I immediately knew what my subject would be. The next day, on a cool and cloudy March afternoon, I headed for the tree stump with a purpose.

    It was larger than I expected, with a fascinating array of textures and shapes and shades of lightness and dark. The roots were exposed in parts and the ground had fallen away in places, revealing dark, mysterious openings. I imagined creatures lived in there; a spider or two or some bugs or ants.

    I sat on top and contemplated its current state. Was it chopped down? Did it fall in a storm? How tall did it used to be? And how old? I tried to count rings but found myself happily distracted by a series of cracks the size of the Grand Canyon and grains of sand as big as boulders. Up close, it was another world.

    I stood on the stump and surveyed it from above. I lay on my back on the ground and followed the trunk into the sky so that it intersected with branches of other living trees, momentarily bringing it back to life. I traced the smooth lines on its sides, then walked away and looked at it from a short distance.

    I pondered the fact that it was rooted in the ground but no longer had branches reaching into the sky. Did it suffer from ghost limbs that felt the leaves drop off in autumn and new ones emerge in spring?

    I had no answers, but enjoyed the questions, enjoyed connecting with what used to be. And, indeed, what was still there.

    I spent a good hour with this tree stump and returned the next day for an even longer visit. In those quiet, contemplative moments, the dead tree came alive and revealed its beauty to me.

    And I learned to truly see.
    • Share

    Connected stories:


Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.