Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Little Tree

Up at the top of Yosemite Park

Where the mountains are stony and bare

There lives a small tree with a story to tell

As its branches reach into the air…

I had been climbing all day with my friend, Paul. We wanted to take in the enormously stunning grandeur of Yosemite’s glacier carved park; its waterfalls careening down into the valley and tall, granite peaks stretching out past a horizon of clear, blue sky. We had climbed all day, quite small on the little trail that took us up to the top of Nevada Falls, our bodies aching from the grueling ascent, comforted only by the thought of the awesome views we would soon get to see.

When we got to the top it wasn’t grandeur, or majesty, or beauty that caught my eye. Those things were there, of course, but the thing I noticed most was a little tree growing straight out of the solid granite, right at the top of the falls. It seemed out of place, this scrawny little tree with its branches all spindly and lean. There were other trees in the area that were bigger, stronger or more beautiful, having found deep soil and lots of water to nourish their roots. Some trees had even found large cracks in the rock, where they would have a place right alongside other trees. But this little tree was all by itself, completely different from all the glorious beauty surrounding it, quite content to be a little tree right where it was. What was even more amazing was that compared with all the other trees its branches were the most pinecone-laden, puny limbs that I had ever seen in my life.

So I said, “little tree, what are you doin’?! You’re pinecones aren’t gonna do squat here on this solid rock! Those seeds will never find a place to grow. You might as well just give up.”

The little tree didn’t say anything back. It just stood there quietly, happily displaying hundreds and hundreds of pinecones ready to fall. I stared at it for a few more seconds, wondering how this tree was even alive in the first place, when an idea popped into my head.

“You know, that tree doesn’t know any better,” I thought. “It’s just a little tree, doing what it was made to do; producing pinecones. It doesn’t care where it is or what might happen. It’s being the best little tree it possibly can, even in a strange and unlikely place.”

Before long, another idea popped into my head. “Who knows, maybe one of those pinecones will get blown off the cliff to find some soil in the valley below. Or maybe it will rain and wash some of those pinecones into the waterfall where they’ll be carried downstream to a rich and fertile shore far away. Maybe there’s already a bunch of trees right now stretching their branches toward the sky, growing into bigger and stronger trees than the little tree that produced them in the first place. Who knows how important that little tree could be?”

I didn’t stay there forever, and the tree didn’t say anything cute or clever. It didn’t turn into a magical elf, or fairy, or genie that could grant me three wishes. It just sat there, slowly growing pinecones as I explored the rest of the mountaintop, taking in all the views. When I finally left I had pictures, just like everyone else, of huge mountains, cascading waterfalls and beautiful meadows to remind me of Yosemite National Park. But the biggest wonder of all, the most powerful picture I’ll take, is the memory of a little tree, in an unlikely place, producing lots and lots of pinecones.

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