… A PARABLE
Do you know the story about the trees that wanted to travel?
These were young, tall, beautiful, trees, and they were able to see very far away. The horizons they saw looked so sunny and pleasantly warm, and appealing. So the trees wondered if not maybe in those lands, far, far away, there was no winter, and they might not have to lose their proud, glorious leavage and maybe they didn’t have to sleep through an entire cold, bleak season only to wake to the same old corn fields.
So they started dreaming about the faraway lands with shimmering white brooks and friendly flowers and strange squirrels. They wondered what it would be like to be caressed and tickled by those flowers, put to sleep by the incessant giggles of those sweet, funny squirrels. Each spring, when the earth thawed, they would begin to stretch and move and try to take at least one step towards the faraway horizons they so longed for. They tried to lift their roots like a shy bride lifts her train on her way out of the church, they tried to drag their dusty bark a little closer to their dream. They were never successful. They prayed and prayed, night after night in the lonely wind, they cried tears of jelly, they implored Heaven.
“Wait a little”, Heaven said. Each time, their prayers were heard, and yet, Heaven said, each time, “Wait a little”.
They asked older trees about it: “How come you are so at peace? Can you not see the lovely horizons?”, they would ask. But the old trees were wise and rarely spoke. “We have a different journey”, they said, and then looked around to their fruits with their inner seeds, as they lay scattered around on the ground, bathing in their forefathers’ shade.
“They are just sad, too sad to leave their seeds alone, too frightened”, the young trees thought. “They have wasted their entire energy in bearing fruit, and now they can no longer leave, they can no longer reach the horizon. But we, why should we also waste our precious sap on those heavy round things that burden our branches and tie us down?”
Little by little, the young trees became depressed. They simply wanted to travel, they wanted to be free, to move to different places, not to be burdened with fruit, because fruit, they felt, brings responsibility, and responsibility brings sadness, and sadness stops one from moving.
“After all, look what happened to the old trees”, they thought.
They were young, they were so young and full of life and did not want to wait anymore.
“We are taller than the old ones, and our sight is better. They do not know how wonderful the horizons are, but we do, and we want to go! Wind, will you help us?”
“Of course, said the wind, I will help you.”
“Oh, how great!”, rejoiced the young trees. “So do it, do it now!”
“But the time is not right!”, said the Wind, astonished. “Because you have no flowers yet, and no fruit, and there is no seed to carry”.
“It makes no difference, to us”, said the trees, “oh, please, please, mighty Wind, start up a storm and pull us from our roots and transport us, through the stars, towards the gleaming horizons!”
“But then the old trees will be gone too”, said the wind. “And I cannot take them against their will. What shall we do?”
“Make a tornado, said the youngsters, take only us, the old ones are sullen and gray and rarely talk. We want to be alone, free from them, too.”
So the wind said “Ok” and started up a tornado, and uprooted many of the young trees, and they were transported through the sky, at incredible speeds, and through the stars, and fell on the horizon. They fell flat on their backs, and the earth was hard and coarse and it hurt a little, but “no matter”, they said, “how wonderful that we have arrived”. So they rejoiced.
But after a while, they got thirsty.
“Mighty Rain”, they pleaded, “will you help us?”
“Of course I will help you”, Rain said.
“Then give us a little water!”
“But the time is not right”, Rain said astonished, “because your roots are not in the ground and cannot garner my water.”
“No matter”, said the trees, “oh, please, will you sprinkle us with a little water!”
“Ok”, said the rain, and sprayed them with nourishing water. But they were still on their backs, and pretty soon after, the sun came out again. After all, this horizon was always sunny and without winter. And they had no roots. They struggled and crept, but they could no longer stay erect on their own. But they couldn’t complain. The scenery, the landscape, the sun and the soil, everything was so new to them, and so interesting. So they were contented. Thirsty but contented.
But then one of them caught rot on the side he was lying on, the side that never saw the sun anymore, and got really sick. They nurtured it from afar, but they were very young, and did not know of the cures of the old. So their friend withered away, little by little, and eventually, with a pleading whimper, he died. The other trees became very sad, and worried that they might catch the disease too. They started trying to avoid touching each other, they kept their branches only to themselves, and didn’t reach out anymore. Pretty soon they also stopped speaking, and pretty soon they forgot how to speak altogether. People started coming to the site where the trees had rained down and hauling them in their carriages to their stoves.
“How poetical”, the other trees thought, “here we are needed, we make warmth for these nice people.”
But soon there was nothing left from them but ashes.
And so, one by one, the trees died. Only one was left in the field, a tall, beautiful, young tree, who began to wonder about the journey.
“Was it the right thing, should I have stayed back home?” These were the questions that his mind fretted with. Here he was on a lovely horizon, but he was, once again, stuck and lonely. And his roots nearly rotted away like all the others.
Just then, a forester came, and saw the beautiful tree, how knotless his wood was, and how neat. “What a wonderful kitchen table I could make from this one”, he said to himself, but the sound immediately woke up the tree, and he replied: “Please, don’t, don’t chop me apart”, the tree said, suddenly remembering his forgotten language. “Please help me up on my feet, I mean on my roots, and I will be a beautiful tree for you, I will adorn your yard or your forest, and I will give you shade and pleasant smells all year long.”
“But the soil here is not suited for you”, the forester said.
“Oh, but it is, I will grow and flourish… how can it not be?”
“Well, said the man scratching his head, I simply have never seen any tree quite like you in these parts, I do not know if you can grow here, and you are also so weak…”
“Oh, please try” mighty Man, “plant me please, and nourish my soil, and I will be your pride.”
“Ok”, said the man, and he did. And the tree had a hard time at first, but then he grew and flourished. He felt a little stronger. He was so grateful to the man, and he felt so lucky indeed, that he didn’t dare to remind him of his dream, to travel the world. He decided to stay this time, even though he missed the corn fields, he missed giving his shade to them and he even missed sleeping during winter. But how could he make the journey back? Back to himself? “There is no way”, he resigned himself to the thought. And thus, because he had promised the man, he spread his roots and even bore fruit and he watched his seeds get carried by the Wind to distant places, and watered by the Rain, and he watched his offspring grow at the hem of his shade and he watched them bear fruit of their own, and spread their seeds. And he got old, very old, and very wise, because the man was a good master, and did not cut him down.
But then in the end, as he watched his offspring create first a bush, then a grove, then a whole forest whose end he could not perceive, as he watched it spread his seed further and further away to fill the horizon, it occurred to him.
“I understand now”, he whispered, now that he rarely ever spoke anymore. “I understand the old trees now. I understand their journey, for they travelled too. And so have I, since I first arrived here. I have travelled back to myself, after all.”
And the real journey after the storm was this: they bore fruit, and seed of their own type, and then the Wind would say, “Very well, I will help you when the time is right”, and carry their seed to proper fertile soil, and then the Rain would say, “Very well, I will help you when the time is right”, and water their seed, and a twig would grow out of it, and then that twig would become a tree and spread its seed to fertile soil, and the men would say, “Very well, I will help you, because the soil is right”, and nurture the soil and gather the fruits and plant their seeds and so on until the horizon was reached.
And now, he understood Heaven, when Heaven said “Wait a little”.