Once upon a time, there was a little pine cone that was trying to find its home. It looked in the forests, where most of the other little pine cones had chosen, and it looked in the meadows and on the mountains. Nothing seemed right, but the little pine cone was patient. It wanted to find the right place. Finally, it ventured upon the most beautiful spot in the world: a large, flat rock directly beside the sea.

“That’s not safe!” its friends cried, alarmed. “You won’t be able to put down deep roots on a rock. What if a terrible storm comes and takes your life? Come and live with us in the forest, where you will be sheltered among us and live long.”

But the little pine cone did not heed them, because it had seen the beauty of the ocean and heard the lullaby of the waves at night, and it didn’t want to leave.

So, it put as many roots out as it could, with as much strength as it had, and anchored itself to the rock. And it grew. It grew straighter, and stronger, and taller than many of its friends, because what it lacked in roots it compensated in strength of spirit. Many winter storms came and went, bending the pine tree but never breaking it.

The pine tree stood like a sentinel. It watched the sun and moon rise and set and learned the many moods of the ocean. It became attuned to the winds and the weather. The pine tree saw many wonders: the soft spray of surfacing whales, the migration of the sea birds, the seals at play, the lobster boats and the fisherman hauling the traps in and out, year after year. The tree housed squirrels and birds, felt the warm sun in the summer and soft blankets of snow in the winter. It grew old.

All of the little pine cone’s friends in the forest, who were now also old pine trees, marveled at this and asked, “Aren’t you afraid, now that you are old, that you won’t be strong enough to hold on to the rock if a storm comes?” But the pine tree just rustled his branches knowingly, because they didn’t understand that living long, and being safe, was not the most important thing to him. It was being home, surrounded by what he loved, and he was happy and content here.

One winter day in January, a howling storm came across the sea. The old pine tree watched it come, the dark clouds like an army, thunder like horses’ hooves. He wasn’t sure whether this would be his time. The force of the wind pressed in upon him relentlessly. He clung to the rock with all of the might left in his roots. The rain fell like tears. He could feel his roots start to slip. The old pine tree looked at his friends in the forest. They were battered, but they were safe. They would not fall. Their roots were deep. His were not, but none of them had seen the wonders that he had. I would choose this place again, he thought, a thousand times.

And then he smiled, and let go, and as the sea and the rain and the wind said good bye to their old friend, a little pine cone fell from his branches and landed on the flat rock.