--by Horatio Algeranon
They stand like sentries on mountain ridges in the Great American Desert,
Forever guarding the same few square feet of earth
From the relentless onslaught of searing summer heat, icy winter cold, driving rain, crackling lightning, swirling snow and gale-force winds.
They survive for thousands of years,
Clinging to life more tenaciously than any other life form,
On barren land that holds only a few drops of moisture and few nutrients.
The only things holding them back from the abyss
Are the unwavering Sun and a narrow thread of live bark, feeding a few live needles and cones
Within a mass of mostly dead, gnarled and twisted branches, which point toward escape from the incessant winds.
Though some were living long before the birth of Christ, they know nothing of human history.
But they know the climatic history of their own microcosm by heart, having precisley inscribed it in their annual growth rings.
They patiently watch the passing of time -- the years, centuries and millenia -- with absolute indifference -- and certainly without complaint.
Each new hardship is simply endured like its predecessors -- and all those that will follow.
About the simple act of living -- and dying - the Bristlecone pines might reveal important secrets,
If we are not too impatient to stop and listen to the winds whispering in their branches --and not too proud to admit that a humble pine tree might have something important to tell us