atree: a story
The Tree is an ancient symbol in many cultures. The Tree of Knowledge, the Family Tree, and the Tree Of Life are three powerful examples.
"Every atom belonging to you belongs to me.”
- Walt Whitman
Picture if you will, a Tree. An old Tree that stands in the middle of a small town. It has always been there, further back than the oldest citizen can recall. An engraved plaque rests in the ground nearby. I would like to tell you what is written on the plaque, and why this Tree is such a special Tree.
This Tree is known as …well …legends about this particular Tree abound; treasure buried underneath, magickal workings, shape shifting gnomes and faeries inside, that sort of thing. Perhaps I should tell you one of those legends first? No. Let me tell you of a more recent occurrence in the life of this Tree.
It so happens, mostly for reasons of greed, prank, or science, there is periodic digging around this Tree, both officially and unofficially, skillfully and unskillfully. In fact, the last time there was digging the Tree almost died. Quick attention to its welfare barely saved it. The fact is the Tree is in danger again, in danger of being split into pieces and hauled away and perhaps shipped to carpenters and craftsman for homes or furniture.
You see, there are those who want to dig this Tree up once and for all to make way for something else, something better, something more profitable for the New Age. They say that in a few years people won’t remember the old Tree anyway, they’ll be so happy with what has replaced it. And, if there is a treasure beneath it? Well, if they find a fortune in the process, all the better.
There has been no end of discussion in the meeting chambers of City Hall. Strong voices, ardent longing, fist pounding, each of them sure that they have the best idea.
Some, especially the older ones, are outraged by all this. Others see themselves as progressive and modern, and still others, perhaps most, are indifferent.
Some have suggested that the Tree be relocated. Some think that if the Tree is relocated they might as well dig all the way to the bottom of its roots to see if indeed there is any treasure there. Of course, the fiscally minded want to know how the treasure will be spent, and by whom.
There have been many of these hearings, committees, and fact finding studies. Actually, at one point it seemed a decision had been made, but now, at the last moment the project has been halted and sent back for further review. Something about new evidence.
All the citizens of this town received by mail a short handwritten note requesting their presence at a Town Meeting. Something about the way it was written, the way it felt in the hand as it was read, convinced the reader that attendance at this meeting was especially important to them personally. Everyone spoke in earnest and with conviction when discussing the invitation with others at work, on the train, over coffee, or in their dimly lit bedroom as their heads lay softly on the pillow nose to nose with a loved one. All were in agreement. All were curious. And eventhough none quite knew why, all were confident that this meeting was a significant moment in the history of their town and their lives.
When all the townspeople were gathered in the chambers at City Hall, located alongside the park where the Tree stands, a child of indistinguishable gender, walked quite unabashedly into the center of the hallowed chamber. The room was silent save the echoes of muffled coughs, a sneeze, a mother's hand swatting the bare legs and sun browned arms of her fidgety brood.
There was something familiar about this Child in their midst; a familiarity that was keenly felt by each of them. This Child was uniquely recognizable to all those present, yet none knew its name. If the truth were to be told, those present would say that this Child reminded them of themselves when they were about that age. In fact, that is the truth. Each saw this Child as a mirror image of their own Self when they were just about that age; the same nose, that crooked little mouth, the jaunty walk.
After a moment, the Child spoke. “What does the Tree want? Has anyone asked the Tree?”
That voice! It too was immediately recognizable as their own. The effect of hearing it was like someone calling your name in a crowded place and you turn to look to see if they mean to call you. There was stunned silence now, a lot of head nodding, whispers behind hands. Some were reacting to the Mystery of the Child, some to the question; most were simply astonished.
And they had no argument or reply to the question the Child was asking. Nor did the Child hurry them to answer. Kindness and Love were at the heart of the asking and are the root of the solution. “What does the Tree want? Has anyone asked the Tree?”
“Well, no,” they finally managed to reply.
The Child smiled, looked at each one present there and walked out of the chambers, through heavy doors, down marble steps, across the street, and into the lush green park. They all followed, silently, as if drawn forward by memories from their own past.
This Child stood by the huge trunk of the Tree, walked around it three times and then moved to the periphery, to make another, larger circle around all of them. The Child spoke softly, yet each could hear the message as clearly as an eagerly awaited secret whispered in their ear. The timbre of its voice vibrated in their hearts as the Child spoke.
"This Tree that has stood here among you further back then the oldest citizen can recall. This Tree whose roots extend far beneath the earth, whose arms extend high into the heavens knows the answer in its heart. If you listen you will here its Truth."
The Child walked around the great Tree, again looked at each and every one of them, smiled, placed its arms around the great gnarly trunk, hugged it tightly, and dissolved into it
At that very moment, each of those gathered there saw the Tree differently than they had ever seen it before. It was somehow recognizable, acutely familiar, a familiarity that was keenly felt by each of them. If the truth is to be told, those present would say that the Tree reminded them of themselves. In fact, this is the truth. Each saw this Tree as a mirror image of their own Self; the same knot holes, the crooked little crevices in the bark, and the jaunty way it waved its limbs.
In the hush of their amazement they heard a Child’s laughter in the leaves. They stood there peacefully gathered in a circle around this great Tree in the center of their town, looking at themselves in each other each reassured of the Hope and Love in their hearts.
Now, if you were to go to this Tree, to try to listen for its secrets, and if you were to look down at the plaque placed in the ground alongside it, you would see, in raised letters pitted from age but brightly polished, and hear as clearly as an eagerly awaited secret whispered in your ear - your very own Name.
Copyright © 1997 Mark Hannan