THE FALLEN TREEAn Allegory on Handicaps (By Henry Close)

There are many different kinds of trees in a tropical rain forest.  Some are tall and slender, with leaves only at the very top.  Others have branches and limbs all up and down the trunks.  Some of the limbs point up toward the sky, while some point straight out or even downward.  On some the bark is soft and smooth, while on others it is rough and scratchy.  Some have large sturdy leaves, while others have leaves that are small and dainty.  The fruits may be large or small, sweet or not so sweet.  Each tree has its own characteristics, its own ways to survive, its own functions.

This great diversity invites and supports a great variety of living beings.  Birds and butterflies, ferns and orchids, monkeys and even certain kinds of frogs and snails make their homes in the trees of these forests.

In one of the rain forests of South America, there was a beautiful young Lydiamosa tree.  These trees grow very slowly as they stretch upward, to take their place among the other tall and stately trees of the forest.  They reach toward the warm sun that bathes their leaves with light, and stretch their roots outward to find support and nutrients.

One Lydiamosa tree was particularly striking.  The seed from which she had sprouted had fallen under the edge of a huge rock.  So as the little tree grew, she had to work her way around this terrible obstacle.  There was a big scar all along one side where she had scraped against the rock, trying to establish her place in the forest.  But she did grow, and became a fine young tree.

As the tree grew taller and taller, she began to imagine what it would be like to be fully grown.

 

She gazed upward at the mature trees whose leaves formed the canopy of the forest.  There were great magnificent birds who nested in their branches:  eagles and falcons and osprey and others.  The trees seemed so proud to have these noble creatures living in their branches.  The little Lydiamosa tree longed for the time when she too would have a nest of eagles in her branches.

One day, there was a terrible storm in the forest.  The wind pulled and tugged on the branches as the raindrops beat against the leaves.  One of the old weathered giants of the forest was trying very hard to resist.  But when a fierce gust of wind struck him, he could resist no more, and fell.

As the giant tree fell to the ground, one of its large branches crashed against the young Lydiamosa tree.  She first tried to support the falling giant, but it was too heavy.  She then tried to squirm out of its grasp, but she could not.  In the end, she was pushed to the ground and pinned under the huge limb.

Finally the storm was over.  The little tree felt sore all over.  Many of her twigs and leaves had been blown away. Some of her branches had been scraped off as she fell.  Other branches were twisted into ugly, deformed shapes.  Some of her strongest limbs had been broken.

Worst of all, she had fallen flat on the ground.  Many of her roots had been pulled out of the ground and broken. They were now dangling helplessly from her base.  Even those roots that survived were painfully bent and bruised. The little tree wondered if she would die.

After a while, the tree realized that many of her roots were still firmly anchored in the earth.  They still fed her the nourishment she needed to grow and to be strong.  But she was pinned under the fallen giant.

As time passed, the little tree took stock of her situation.  She pointed some of her new branches upward, and they began to grow.  Eventually, they would reach several feet toward the sky, but they would never grow any taller than the little bushes and shrubs that lined the forest floor.  She would never be able to grow really tall, to be the tree she was intended to be.  She would never join the canopy of gigantic trees that towered over her.  No eagles would ever nest in her branches.

The little tree was very sad for a long time.  Sometimes she wished she had died in the storm.  Sometimes she wished that something would happen to her to take away her unhappy life.

She looked at the other Lydiamosa trees.  They were growing new twigs and leaves to repair the storm damage. They were looking up at the canopy above them, that they would soon join.  They were eagerly waiting for the eagles or osprey that would nest in their branches.

They didn’t seem to notice their sister who had fallen to the ground.  They couldn’t possibly know how her dreams had been shattered.  They seemed indifferent to her suffering.

One day, the little tree heard a strange noise.  It was a song, a soft gentle song.  She looked very carefully and finally saw a beautiful little green and yellow bird with a little patch of bright red on the very top of his head.  Soon another bird appeared, and the two of them sang and sang and sang.

Then the birds left that place, and flew all through the forest, staying very close to the ground.  It seemed to the little Lydiamosa tree that they were looking for something.  Maybe they were looking for a place to build their nest, a place that would be safe from the big birds that nested in the tops of the huge trees.

The little tree looked at her own branches.  She remembered how they had been twisted when she fell.  It seemed to her now that those twisted branches would be a wonderful place for songbirds to build their home.  The grotesquely shaped branches would protect the little birds from any danger.

She began to rustle her leaves and shake her branches.  Soon the song birds saw her, and realized that they had found the perfect place to build their nest.

The Lydiamosa tree was so excited that she forgot all about the storm.  She forgot that she had been pulled to the ground and would never be able to grow tall.  She forgot all about her brothers and sisters, and the eagles that would nest in their branches.  All she thought about was the two songbirds who were able to find a place of safety because of her injuries.

As time went by, the little tree found many things to be happy about.

She was proud of how well she had recovered.  She was fascinated by the many different kinds of birds and butterflies that lived in the lower part of the forest.  She would never have seen any of them if she had grown tall and stately.  She loved the beautiful colors and delicate fragrances of the flowers that grew near the ground.  She would have never experienced any of these things if she had kept on growing tall.

She was especially pleased that she could give the songbirds a home.

Oh yes, there were times when she was sad.  There were times when her trunk was sore from the damage of the storm.  There were times when she envied her brothers and sisters.  Sometimes when the eagles soared high above the forest, and swooped down toward the trees in appreciation, she wished she was one of those who was being appreciated.  Sometimes she cried when she realized how different her life might have been.

Then she would remember the songbirds.  They seemed to sense when she was feeling sad, and would sing a special song just for her.  Or they would fly playfully among her branches, as though to say, “Thank you.”  Or sometimes they would just sit quietly on a twig to share with her the pleasures of an evening breeze and the fragrance of flower that was filling the world with loveliness.

Suddenly the little tree understood.  The songbirds loved her.

It didn’t matter to them what she might have become.  It didn’t matter to the songbirds what her brothers and sisters were like.  It didn’t matter to them about the eagles’ nests.  It didn’t matter to them that she wasn’t magnificent.  All that mattered to them was their relationship with her.  She was there for them, she was part of their world, and they belonged together.

Finally the little tree understood some very important things.

First, she understood how wonderful it was to be alive, to have a place in the world.  It was wonderful to be loved, and to be able to love in return.

Even more important than that, she now understood some things about herself.

If someone loved her, that meant that she was loveable.  If she gave love, that meant that she was a loving being. Yes, in the depth of her heart, she knew that she was loveable and loving.

One day the songbirds would be gone.  Trees live a lot longer than birds.  There would be no one there to love her and for her to love.  Oh yes, there would probably be some other song birds that would come and nest in her branches some day.  But eventually they too would leave.  Even so, she would still know about herself.  She would know she was a loving and loveable being.

And that has made all the difference.