Once there was a place of many trees, and many people who lived with them. Each person has their own special tree, which they chose for themselves. They tree they chose would give them a purpose. Each person would learn all their life from their one, special tree.
One young boy could not decide which tree to choose as his special tree. He liked all the trees so much and couldn’t choose just one out of them all.
His father’s tree was the Redwood. It was the tallest of all the trees. He would say, “Choose the Redwood, son, because it is the biggest, tallest and strongest tree of them all! Everyone looks up to a man who has the Redwood as his tree!”
His mother’s tree was the Willow, which had thin, flexible branches that swayed with the breeze. She would say, “I like the Willow because it is yielding, yet strong. Of course, I would be pleased if you chose the Willow, but I will accept whatever choice you make.”
The young boy went around to ask different people about their trees and learned about many of them. He learned that the Yew wakes good arrows and that the Sandalwood made a wonderful incense. He found out that the Mango tree provided a generous amount of sweet fruit and good shade. He knew that Cedar naturally smelled good and was capable of being made into many different things. He even went to and elder who had the Banyan as his tree. “The Banyan is very old and sees and remembers everything,” the elder said. “It tells me that it has watched you learning about all the trees and perhaps you need a tree that you can make yourself. A tree that can be any tree.”
“A tree that can be any tree?” the young boy wondered. “How can that be?”
“Keep looking, keep asking, keep learning, and you will find it,” the elder said, and would say no more.
The young boy continued to look, to ask and to learn until he was a young man and he still did not find his tree. His friends had all found their own trees and made fun of him, calling him “Treeless Boy”. People avoided him and talked behind his back, saying he was too strange or too stupid to find a tree of his own. His father was ashamed of him and felt embarrassed that his only son could not find a tree at his age. His mother was concerned but told him “I believe in you. You will find your tree when it is the right time.”
Finally, the young man left home to find his tree. He decided he would not return until he had found the tree that was right for him. He packed a small pot and some soil so he could plant the seed of his tree once he found it. He packed a few tools for his journey and was ready to go. He said good bye to his mother and father and set out to find his one special tree.
For many days the young man wandered and he was glad he had learned about so many trees. He knew which ones to eat from, which ones to build shelters from, and which branches on the ground were good for building a fire. He wondered how people could go through life knowing only one tree.
One day the young man met a group of people called the Treeless Ones. None of them had their own tree and they spent their time playing and running in the fields. The young man said “Hello! I’m trying to find my special tree. Can you help me?”
“You don’t need a tree!” they told him. “Come live with us and you can take what you need from all the other trees! Why do you need just one? Wouldn’t you like to just play all day?”
The young man thought about this. He did know about many different trees and how to make use of them. Since he couldn’t find one of his own, perhaps they were right.
He joined the Treeless Ones for a while and enjoyed finally being accepted even though he had no tree of his own. He liked to play and run in the fields and be able to get what he needed from every kind of tree, but one day he realized that he wasn’t truly happy. Something was missing. He felt deep inside that there truly was a special tree for him somewhere. Even though he had no tree, he knew he didn’t belong with the Treeless Ones.
Once again, the young man set out on his own and was lonely and sad, but he knew he was on the right path. He continued to wander and met many more people and learned about trees he had never heard of at home, but still did not find his own tree.
One day he was very, very sad ad he sat at the edge of a cliff by the sea. He looked out at the ocean and wept. He was ready to just give up and go back home. He closed his eyes and cried himself to sleep, deciding that he would quit his quest and travel back home the next day.
In the morning he awoke to a beautiful sunrise and sat up to watch it. “Well, “ he said to himself, “I guess it’s time to go home.”
He stood up, took a few steps and slipped and fell off the cliff and landed on a small ledge which saved his life. After he caught his breath, he turned around and saw a very young tree growing in the side of the cliff. He decided that he would bring this tree home, whatever it was, just so he could come home with something.
He gently uprooted it and climbed up to the top of the cliff. Once he was safely away fro the edge of the cliff, he took the small pot and the soil out of his backpack and planted the small tree in it.
He realized the tree was just a little too big to fit into his backpack. He knew he couldn’t carry it in his hands everywhere he went. What was he going to do with it?
He sat and looked at this little tree and then he had an idea. He found a pair of scissors and some string in his backpack. He cut off a branch and tied it to another branch on the tree. He did this to a few more branches until it would fit in the backpack. He thought the tree looked even more beautiful and was very happy with it.
The young man realized he could have all the trees. He would just keep them small and make them beautiful. He placed the little tree in his backpack and started on his way home. Every day he would make sure that the tree had enough water and that it spent enough time in the sunlight. The branches slowly bent to conform to the inside of the backpack and with every change, the young man found it more and more beautiful.
After many days he made it back home and proudly showed his tree to his parents.
“You call that a tree!?” hid father exclaimed. “What can you do with that scrawny thing? Wouldn’t it have been easier if you just chose the Redwood like I did?”
The young man felt ashamed and sad that his father didn’t understand his choice.
He showed the tree to his mother next.
“Well, it’s different, but very beautiful. If it makes you happy, then I am happy for you,” she said.
He then took his tiny tree to show his friends and they laughed at him just like they did when he had no tree. “Ha ha ha! What are you going to do with that puny, worthless tree?” they taunted. “That’s not even a real tree! Just some branches all tied together! What good will that do?”
The young man showed the tree to more people, but no one seemed to understand his tree. Many of them thought it was beautiful too, but wondered what the purpose of the tree was.
Feeling disheartened, the young man finally took his tree to the elder. The elder was proud of him, and said “Ah! Just like I said! A tree you can make yourself! You can make any tree look as beautiful as this, as long as you keep them tiny, like this one. This is an art, young man. An art called Bonsai! No one has done this for a very long time. You have a natural talent! You should be called Bonsai Boy!”
The young man had an idea. He built a small shop at the edge of the village and collected very young saplings. Every day he would rearrange the branches; cutting, tying and carefully shaping them to grow in a beautiful way. Each one was different, and each one was beautiful.
As the young man grew, people would come from all over the land to buy his bonsai trees. People called him the Bonsai Boy even when he became older. Eventually, you could see his bonsai on every porch and in every window. The people were happier now, because they could still have their special tree, yet also have the beauty and wisdom of other trees to learn from and admire.
Later in his life, he had a son of his own. When his son ws old enough, Bonsai Boy asked him what kind of tree he would choose.
“The Redwood!” his son said.
“Why the Redwood?” Bonsai Boy asked.
“Because it is the tallest,” his son replied, “and I can climb to the top and see all the beautiful bonsai trees at once!”
“With a happy tear in his eye, Bonsai Boy said “Good choice!”
© 2015 William Suphan
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