A Parable Remembered by Maureen Carlson
copyright 2014 Maureen Carlson
The storyteller woke up from a deep sleep. She didn’t know where she was or how long she’d been away, but as she opened her eyes she saw afternoon-sunlight filtering through the spring-budding trees that surrounded the glen where she lay. She stayed very, very still, resting in the support of the earth beneath her. Looking up, she blessed the shelter of the sky above her. She breathed in and out, at one with the everness of the in-between. She took in a deep breath and blew out a song of thanksgiving, singing words that took form and became visible in the air, wrapping themselves around the breeze, floating up to hang from the limbs, as fragile as dew.
A giggle and rustle from a limb of the old Maple, which stood sentry above her, sent a sprinkling of words cascading down around her, and she laughed at the magic of the jumbled phrases which composed themselves upon her resting body. “And Page Tendril Him ” said one, and “Put My For So Away” said another. The urge to actively voice these words into a story caused her to sit up, reach into her back pocket, pull out her storytelling hat and put it on. She was ready to begin.
The hat, which was covered with leaves and petals and vines that reached out, circling her head like a crown, must have been a signal, for out from the forest and down from the trees came the faerie folk, both big and small, all resembling humans but with ears that stood straight out from their heads, all twice as large as the ears of an average human girl. She carefully picked up the words “For So” and hung them from the nearest branch. Then she began.
“For so many years, “ she said, “the apple tree which you see there, just over there, right in front of those three blue spruce, those three, the ones that line up to form a triangle, for so many years the apple tree didn’t know how to grow. You see, it’s the only apple tree in this glen, or even in this part of the forest, so it didn’t have a vision of how it was supposed to be. And this apple tree took “Beingness” very, very seriously. For it was an apple tree that pondered. It was a pondering tree. A pondering apple tree, indeed.
And so, through all of the sunrises and through all the long days and through all of the seasons, it pondered. It thought about beauty and purpose, how to be real, what it meant to be authentic, and how it might become whole. It also wondered often, very often indeed, where and how it fit into the life of the forest, all very big thoughts for a small apple tree, but it was a pondering tree, so that’s what it did. It pondered. And each day it looked to the trees around it to teach it how to be.
In its youth it thought maybe it should grow tall and pointy like the spruce trees, but that didn’t work out. One glimpse in the reflecting pool that appeared during the mid-summer rains dashed that dream. Out from its middle were springing branches that made it look round like the moon. Like the moon! Not comely at all for a spruce! And the spruce were disappointed. This tree that grew so close to them, in their very shadow, wasn’t like them at all. No, indeed.
After that, feeling a bit uncomfortable, but being stuck where it was, it looked out across the glen and saw an Oak. And so the apple tree tried to be an Oak, and then a Maple and then a Linden, but none of these were just right for it, either. They didn’t fit the apple tree’s pattern. This truth was revealed by the maturing leaves that drifted down in the fall, each revealing distinctive shapes so different from the simple pointy ovals of the apple leaves. So, because the apple tree didn’t know how to grow, it put away its dreams and just stoically hugged the soil and did what trees do. It grew. In spite of itself it grew. Even pondering trees, at least ones that let their roots go deep into the soil, will grow given enough rain and sun and room to be. And so the years passed, strung together by memories stitched into the tendril of time.
One day a boy came into the woods. A human boy. A human boy carrying a book. A human boy carrying a book about trees. At least that’s what it said on the cover. It said T-R-E-E-S. Trees. He walked through the glen and over to the pondering tree, then he reached high up into the top of the tree that was round like a moon and he plucked off from it something that was round, round just like the tree, a bit lopsided, but smooth and hard and a brilliant yellow, like the sun.
The pondering tree was surprised, for it hadn’t seen that round globe growing from it’s branches. It was embarrassed. That thing that grew from its branches wasn’t capped like the acorns or winged like the fruit that grew on the Maple and the Linden, and it certainly wasn’t layered like the seeds from the spruce. If it could have it would have bowed its head in shame and become invisible like the fairies who often perched in its branches, gossiping about the world around them. But, it couldn’t, and it didn’t, and so it just watched, and listened.
The boy took the round yellow globe, looked around him and then sat down under the tree, leaning against what by now, after all of these years, had become a quite sturdy trunk. He took a bite, an actual BITE from the globe, and he smiled. Then he opened his book and looked at each page until he came to one that pictured pointy oval leaves and round yellow globes and a tree that was the shape of the moon. He took a pen from one pocket and a square of plastic from the other. On the plastic he wrote the words Yellow Delicious Apple Tree. Then he took a piece of string and tied the plastic to one of the pondering tree’s branches. Then he left.
The apple tree didn’t know quite what to do. Or what to ponder. It had spent so many years pondering how to be whole and what it meant to be authentic and now here was this sign, hung right there for all to see, that proclaimed it to be an apple tree. And, not only an apple tree, but an apple tree with a specific name, a Yellow Delicious Apple Tree. And, not only that, there apparently were so many apple trees just like it in the world that its kind was pictured in a book. A book about trees. A book about the whole family of trees. A whole family of trees of which it was a member. It belonged to a whole family of trees. It belonged. Just like it was.
The apple tree smiled, well, it ALMOST smiled. Apple trees don’t have mouths, after all, just roots and bark and leaves and stems to drink in the world around them. But, if it would have had a mouth, it would have smiled. For, indeed, it was a funny thing to ponder how it had been a whole, authentic Yellow Delicious Apple Tree even when it was just a twig with a tiny root and one leaf poking out from the top. It had always, always, been true and whole and just as it was supposed to be, even when it was just a seed, just one brown seed, like the one that the boy had left, displayed there in the center of the apple that was lying under the apple tree.
The pondering tree looked at the seeds and imagined how it might help those seeds, those seeds that, given enough soil and rain and sun and room, could grow into Yellow Delicious Apple Trees, grow to strength and maturity just like it had done. Yes, in spite of all of its ponderings and wondering about who it was and how it might be authentic and whole, it had grown into a very fine tree. A very fine tree, indeed. A very fine Yellow Delicious Apple Tree.
Saying that, softly, to itself, it stretched itself as tall as it could, spread its branches and all of its leaves to the sun, and pondered all of the ways that it might add beauty to the world. And so it did, just by being itself.