Talas and Lilanthro walked together in reflective silence through the forest. Lilanthro experienced waves of excitement and nervousness playing through her body as she moved, but the familiarity of the forest environment also soothed her. She smiled with inner warmth at the sights, sounds and smells of many kindred beings as they glided onwards. As ever, she could not sense what Talas’s thoughts might be. He emanated a silken glow of love, calm and knowingness as he always did, but whatever other thoughts and feelings might be passing fleetingly through his depths or lingering there for a while, she could not tell.
They walked all morning through parts of the forest unknown to Lilanthro, travelling always further away from the direction of her home. Around midday Lilanthro sensed they were drawing near. She was aware of an ancient presence. Something was here that had been here far longer than the surrounding forest. It was by no means as old as the rocks into which the roots of so many plants buried themselves, but still it had seen many summers and winters passing, and had created a deep impression of belonging which hung tangibly in the air.
Quite suddenly the space opened up and there it was. The king of trees stood in its own small clearing, with a ring of respectful sunlight surrounding it. The tree did not demand this space, its branches spread outwards in a welcoming gesture not an arrogant one, but still the other trees had of one accord grown at a distance and bowed down around it. The tree was vast. Its trunk was thick, gnarled and solid with a girth which had to be walked around to be fully appreciated. Its branches expanded out from a low height and continued expanding gloriously outwards up to its highest reaches. The branches wove their own patterns of exploration, criss crossing and experimenting with many different directions and unexpected twists. The tree’s abundant upwelling of life reached to the furthest end of every branch where leaves adorned it in every available space. The leaves themselves were a richly jewelled green that flashed darker and lighter as they moved, displaying their upper and under sides as they danced with the sun. Their movements were entrancing, Lilanthro watched them responding like a flock of birds in flight as ripples of wind washed through them and felt herself following the pull of their graceful dance.
Lilanthro could have stood for hours in silent communication with this tree, listening to its slow melodic voice and feeling her way into its patient stillness and intoxicatingly alive movements. But Talas gently touched her arm and guided her to a rock in the clearing where they could both sit and look at the tree.
“Lilanthro, I know there is much you already know about this tree and much you can learn without my help. But on this one occasion I would like to teach you a little bit about what I know. Would that be all right with you?”
“Of course Talas! Please, I am eager to learn anything that you can teach me…”
“Thank you Lilanthro. Then I shall begin. Everyone alive knows everything they need to know, there are no real secrets in this world. The answers are deep down inside every one of us… Bit we tend to forget them. Life is a dance whose very first movement is forgetfulness, and the rest of the dance is spent remembering that which we forgot. So I am going to imagine now that there may be things you have forgotten about this tree. I am going to tell you the story of this tree’s life as if you have never heard it before. Most of it you will know as I speak it, but there may be moments where you realise that you had forgotten a tiny detail and my words may rekindle the truth of it for you. Do you understand?”
“Then I will continue. This is the oldest tree in the forest for many miles around. It has stood on this very spot for nigh on five hundred years. It has seen five hundred summers and five hundred winters. It was alive before any of the surrounding trees were born. It has seen other trees come and go throughout its long life. But it was not always as majestic as it is now.
Once upon a time, it was just a tiny seed lying half buried in the ground. How it got here is a tale that stretches too far back for us to reach right now. But if you had wandered through this forest when it lay here and you had picked up the seed, you would never have guessed to what great heights and majesty this tree would grow. Imagine, if you came from another world and had never seen a tree… If someone showed you a seed and then a tree and told you that one would become the other… you would likely laugh and never believe them. How could something so small, fragile and unassuming ever become so vast?
But from the tiny seed, a tiny tree did indeed emerge. Imagine Lilanthro, how small and tentative that tiny plant was at first. How thin and soft its stem and how small its network of roots. It took many years for that tiny plant to grow up towards the light and for its roots to spread out and down into the soil and rock. I wonder how many baby leaves, as tenderly soft and delicately coloured as it is possible for a leaf to be, budded, unfolded, expanded, matured and died before this tree became full grown. Thousands maybe, or thousands of thousands even… A seemingly infinite number of leaves have lived, died and returned to the soil around this tree, year in year out, before it even reached maturity. I wonder how many millions more have gone through the same cycle in all the long years since…
There must have been times when this tree almost died… A harsh winter while it was so very young, animals that could have eaten it, other trees reaching upwards and outwards which could have smothered out the light… But survive it did, to reach its peak, and since then it has lived for several hundred years in relative security, through so many winters, springs, summers and autumns.
It has felt the ebb and flow of the forest and the subtle changes over time. It has seen other plants live, grow and die around it. It has heard and felt a hundred thousand animals and birds come and go. And it has unceasingly gone through its own cycle of growth and death, wakefulness and sleep.
Imagine, Lilanthro, if you had lived the life of this tree. Imagine, being the young plant reaching up to the sun, how you would instinctively have known what you needed to do. Your roots would have crept out into the soil to seek the minerals, moisture and firm foundation. Your stem would have grown upwards sending your leaves up to the sunlight to make food and find air. You would have rejoiced in both sunlight and rain, feeling every drop of each with joyful gratitude. There was no need to question, every cell in your being yearned to grow and knew how to do it.
Imagine, Lilanthro, as you grew up how aware you would have become of the turning of the seasons and the necessity of each one for your existence. Every spring would have brought a reminder of your early youth as you felt your sap flowing freely and your leaves opening with soft, childlike excitement, eager to show off their bright green-ness to the world. The summers would have felt like a gift of abundance as you displayed your flowers and fruit, dancing in full glory. In autumn you would have felt the mellowing of energy, the beauty of fiery colours all around and the acceptance of what was to lie ahead. And the winters, oh in the winters, you would have gladly pulled your sap inwards and rested, dreamily sleeping your way through the cold and the dark, trusting that spring would return again. You would not have fought any of the seasons, not clung to spring or resisted winter. For you knew that to hold on to the freshness of spring would mean to lose the wonders of summer, and to hold back from the darkness of winter would mean to forfeit the joyous rebirth of spring. You knew how each season flows ever onwards into the next, each bringing its own rewards and sacrifices. You lived fully every moment of every season, while gladly relinquishing your hold when the time came.
Imagine, Lilanthro, as you approached maturity, how you may have looked around you at all the other animals and plants that came and went, rejoicing in the multitude of life and marvelling at the richness of it. It would never have occurred to you to wish you could be one of them instead of what you were… You are a tree, you know your shape and form, you know what you are, you know your purpose. You do not question why you are a tree instead of an ant, you trust that you are meant to be a tree. You do not look with envy at the wolves, wanting their strength and wild nature for yourself. You do not wish to be an owl, and have its capacity for flight, or doom yourself to live in a constant state of ‘if only, if only…’ You allow all of life around you to be as it is, and allow yourself to be as you are.
Now imagine, Lilanthro, that you are the tree in full maturity, having been this way for many years. Imagine how your awareness of your place in the world would have expanded and deepened over time. Marvel at how many small creatures have sought shelter amongst your comforting roots and hollows, and how willingly you have offered it. Remember how many other creatures have made a home within your branches and how gladly you have protected them and watched their families grow. And smile at how many more creatures have been nourished by your rich nectar and fruits, year in, year out. You know full well that your generous outpourings have helped you as much as them, enabling your life energy to be passed on to a new generation, to your many children. The cycle of inward and outward flow is so natural, one simply cannot exist without the other. If you gave all your nourishment outwards without replenishing it you would soon weaken and die, and then none of the animals would benefit from your generosity. If you kept your bounty for yourself and held back your sweet nectar and fruits, your essence would fade away and your purpose in this life would never be fulfilled. You give out and you take in, just as you breathe out and in, in constant flow. Can you imagine a feeling aligned with love at the thought of this ceaseless flow, which has given you so much and enabled you to give so much out to the world? How does it feel, Lilanthro, what does this feeling look like, what does it sound like, how does it taste?
Hold that feeling close as you imagine you are the tree standing before us now, having lived a long, rich life. Can you sense an even deeper knowledge that you hold within you at the meeting point of inward and outward flow? Imagine that you know in this deepest place that you are not really a tree at all, you are playing at being one, and playing your part whole-heartedly, but really, you, the wolf, the ant, the butterfly… are not quite what you seem. You are delicate patterns in a beautiful, woven tapestry. Can you see the tapestry Lilanthro? There are many wonderfully woven forms on this tapestry, but if you look beneath the forms, you see that they are all woven with the same thread. This one, silken, many coloured thread creates your being and connects you to every other being in the tapestry. The thread has woven you into a tree, and woven the ant into an ant, but when you look just at the thread, you see that you are all one. Who wove this tapestry, I wonder, was it you or was it someone else? Maybe it was the part of you who is the thread rather than the tree… The tapestry spreads out in all directions further than the eye can follow. Is it infinite do you think? You know your place within the tapestry, you know how to be completely yourself, completely, wholly a tree because this is what you have been woven to be, and it is through your tree-ness that you can give to the world and receive from it. You are here to experience your unique place within the tapestry and through your form, the thread can manifest love. But you know that you are also not really a tree, you are the living thread that weaves all things, you are the one behind the many and the source of all love. You are both form and source, at one and the same time.
Lastly, imagine Lilanthro, being this tree in the near future, not so far away, maybe another hundred years or so. Imagine feeling your sap starting to fade, knowing your time is ending as it must, knowing you will soon no longer be the tallest, oldest tree in the forest, but that you will die and fade away. Imagine knowing that your body will be consumed by the forest, that it will decay and rot as new young trees spring up in your place. Winter is calling you home, your form is about to dissolve. You know there is no need to fear, you trust the thread which weaves the tapestry so you will go, happily, gladly, gratefully, giving yourself willingly into life’s hands and letting death envelop you. Day and night are a tiny part of the cycling of the seasons, the seasons are a tiny part of the cycling of your life, and your life is a tiny part of ever greater cycles… And all these are but beautiful, spiralling patterns on the tapestry. Your form will fade away, but the thread will not. Part of you will die, but the other part, the thread… I wonder what beautiful forms it may weave next as it continues its endless expression of love?”
As Talas’s words died away, a silence enveloped the girl, the man and the tree in an embrace that for a fleeting moment melted the boundaries between them so that they became as one…
Then the sounds of the forest re-asserted themselves and Lilanthro shook herself awake as if from a deep sleep where she had dreamt longingly and joyfully of home…