Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Cherry Tree on Lonely Knoll

Nestled high up in the northern mountains, Woody Valley abounds with trees of all kinds – tall trees and short trees; proud ones and feeble ones; those whose barks are as dark as soot, and others whose barks are as light as chalk. The air here is cool and fresh, laced with the sweet scent of perpetual blossoms, and ringing with the melodies of merry birds and calls of mimicking monkeys as they leap from tree to tree.

Now, Woody Valley has, in the midst of it, a knoll – a very small mound – that was once barren. It wasn’t that Lonely Knoll was dry or infertile – it was just that, for some strange reason, no tree wanted to take root there. The only moving thing you could probably spot on the knoll was a puzzled rabbit, emerging out of his burrow, hopping here and there among the bushes, and quickly sinking underground again.

One day, the rabbits, during one of their excursions for food, hopped upon a hoard of bright red succulent cherries. In triumph, they carried each and every cherry back to the knoll and hoarded them in their burrows. All night they feasted upon them –.they even held a pip-spitting contest to see which one could expel a pip to the farthest distance – until they were all bloated and sick at the mere sight of them.

Two such gamed seeds lay huddled together in a rabbit home. To these, Lonely Knoll fed warmth and moisture and they sprouted, side by side. Quickly, they grew in depth, height and girth. In a year, the stems of the twins fused, becoming one. They stood and grew all the more powerful for their union. Seasons turned, the years rolled, and branches that were slender became as thick as the mother trunk once was, while the mother trunk grew to cover even more of the knoll, until the towering Cherry tree looked breathtakingly royal.

Countless birds came to sing upon its dense green foliage, and many made their home in them. Monkeys, squirrels, and honeybees all lived together in the tree, while deer, wild horses and herds of buffalo came to feed off its tasty fruit and the green grass that grew in the cool shade. Once, even a large snake made its nest in the Cherry Tree for a season, gobbling up a few rabbits during the tenure of its stay, but thankfully, after she was done mothering its offspring, they all went away, never to return.

The Cherry Tree became the happy home for a countless creatures.

One evening, an enormous dark cloud, with thunder rumbling in its belly, crept angrily upon the land. It kept forking out bolts of lightning, striking peaks of lofty mountains that lay under its shadow, as it itself sailed on towards the Valley. At its approach, the animals shivered and the birds quivered. The cloud presently eyed the Cherry Tree on Lonely Knoll. It saw its lofty leafy crown borne upon its proud boughs. Grinding its teeth with fury and malice – for this dark cloud was the sort that hated the sight of anything beautiful – it grew blacker than the blackest night.

From deep within its guts, it shot out an evil bolt that struck the tree with lethal force. There was a blinding streak, a deafening crack, and a part of the tree burst into flames. Pandemonium reigned as the creatures shrieked, ‘The knoll is on fire! The tree is being consumed!’ Had it not been for the abundant moisture inside its trunks, the whole tree would have been certainly reduced to ashes.

The morning sun arose to find the Cherry Tree drooping in pain. It had lost two of its big boughs, and with it, much foliage and fruit was singed. The frightened animals that had lodged in it had all but gone. The tree felt crippled and forlorn. It wept amber over its burns, and soon the tears congealed to form crystals that shone like jewels in the sun. When autumn came, the balmy day breeze instilled the tree with courage. Winter’s lullaby caused it to enter deep sleep – for the withered tree needed that – and it slumbered all the way until spring.

One April dawn, the sun smiled – for look! – the tree had put forth a new tender shoot at the same place the one of the two fallen boughs had been attached. And the following week, there were three more tender shoots close to the first one. The spring sun, the morning dew and the westerly wind allied together to nurse the four tender shoots, which now began to grow at a vigorous pace. The tree, for its part, sent its roots deeper and wider into the earth, until they dipped into a subterranean stream, from where they drank deep.

Soon, the animals returned, many of them with gifts. The bees were the first to arrive with their honeycombs. A colony of green ants set up base near the roots to ward off any harmful creatures. In the first year, the Cherry Tree yielded its tastiest fruit ever, because the bees and the ants worked in frantic unison. As the new branches grew, the monkeys pressured them to grow horizontally rather than skywards. At first, everyone used to reprove the monkeys for their senseless behavior, but soon they realized that the monkeys meant well, for now the tree gave more shade, and it was less likely to be struck by an evil cloud’s eye on account of its diminished height. Then the monkeys received praise for their wisdom.

If you visit Woody Valley, you can still see the Cherry Tree on Lonely Knoll. You will still see the pearls of golden amber that cling to its wrinkled bark at the very place the two mighty limbs once grew. Sit under the shade of its branches and recall how in place of the two old that were lost, four new were gained. Then feel the power of the living tree seep in and regenerate you too.

For with time, love and endurance, even the hate of darkest cloud can be undone.

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