Illustrations Tom Muth 1977 Baltimore Maryland
Textuality Terrell Neuage (Adsit) 8/1974 Wichita Kansas
Once, long ago, there was a Tree that lived on the side of a great mountain, which had no other trees for miles around to be friends with. it was a happy tree though, with birds that lived in nests upon her branches and snowflakes that spent most of the year falling into her arms. Tree lived for a very long time in her solitude and peace, Sure there were the times when she would have to dig her roots deep in the earth, to keep from falling by the tremendous wind storms that blew across the side of the mountain. And there were the deer, that would chew at her bark. But these were just part of growing up for Tree. Life was really enjoyable. For Tree could see a great distance away. She could see the top of the mountain, where the sun rose each morning. And she could see a forest of trees, that grew a great distance away.
Many times, the birds that nested in this great forest would fly up to Tree and tell her what was going on in the forest below. In the middle of the forest, there was a small town. It was a mill town and the people cut down trees; sawed them into logs and sent them floating down a river that bordered the outskirts of the town.
Tree would often spend the day watching the people cut down the trees in the forest far away; and she watched as they floated the newly cut logs down the river. Tree often wondered where they were going, if they lived forever, and what would become of them. And so Tree would ask the birds and they would go off and follow the logs on the river. Then they would come back to say that, "they traveled for quite a distance, days away even. Then the logs came to a very large settlement where they were herded into huge nests and never seen again." Of course Tree was disappointed. Why, she could not even speculate on what became of them. For they did just disappear. So, she went on for many years wondering what became of the trees that the loggers rode on down the river, all the time feeling very safe - because she was all alone on top of the mountain, far from the town and its clutter.
The weather was in its short warm cycle of the year. And in the town far away there was not a bit of snow on the ground. There was much activity going on now, as during the warmest days the town did most of its work cutting down many, many trees and sawing them up and floating them down a river that was free of ice.
Tree felt very content, for she knew that today was special. She didn't why; it was just sort of a feeling one gets when he knows something special is going to happen.
Far off in the distance Tree saw something move. It came from an area that was not near the town, an area where clouds of fluffy puffy smoke came from during the cold days, in the long cold cycle of the year. Tree had seen much smoke in her days, but never any like the smoke that came from this particular place. For there were coloured rings that grew into dancing people and horses, and even once a large shape that looked just like Tree . And these beautiful smoke images would go high into the sky, where they would join the clouds and wait until wind came along. Then the clouds with the images inside would be carried off into the distance far beyond Tree's imagination. As the moment's movement came closer, Tree recognized a young man that often came up the mountain, he would rest under Tree and eat some berries and mushrooms that grew along the way. And then climb, he would, to the top of the mountain and disappear over the top if it, over where the sun would rise.
This time the young man, dressed in his usual, very colourful manner, with his bow in his hand and arrows upon his back, stopped underneath the grand arms of Tree , looked to the top of the mountain, and then sat down. After a long period of time, Tree noticed another image. This time, it was at the top of the mountain, and Tree watched in amazement.
There was a woman who at first appeared as a cloud, a very white puffy cloud, set on top of the great mountains. And as she descended down the mountainside, the cloud turned into her, the most beautiful human Tree had ever seen. She was running down the side of the mountain and it appeared as if she were floating. She was barefoot, dressed in a snow white gown, that covered the mountain side like an avalanche, as she swept down its southern slopes.
In the middle of her forehead was a star that glowed in many dazzling colours. When she opened her mouth to laugh, a thousand birds came forth singing, and they all flew to Tree and landed in her branches singing. They then were together, the young man and lady, sitting beneath Tree with a thousand birds singing and a stilled mountain that remained covered in white (but it was not snow as this was in the warm cycle of the seasons).
Tree did not know what to do, so she just stood there, still, feeling very chosen. Then the young man took out a knife from his belt and proceeded to carve a young man with a bow in hand and next to him was carved a woman with a long flowing gown and a star in the middle of her forehead. Tree was surprised, for she did not feel any pain, instead she felt very warm and full of colour, like any chosen one would feel. She even grew taller and rose above the clouds and on every branch a cloud landed with a singing bird in each one. Then the young man took out an arrow and put it into his bow and looking toward the sky, he shot the arrow and it landed in the centre of a puffy white heart shaped cloud. The cloud changed from one colour to another until it became a very bright purple, then wind came along and carried the heart, cloud, and the arrow, until it came to the area where Tree had so often seen the strange shaped and brightly coloured rings of smoke. The end of the day came and the sun settled in the distant lands, far beyond the little towns and the rivers with its logs floating upon it.
The next morning Tree looked all over, but there was no sign of the young man with the bow and arrows or of the girl with the flowing gown and the star in the middle of her forehead. Even the mountainside was the same as it was before it became covered with white. The birds were gone, the clouds again were high above Tree. But the carved heart with the young man and his bow standing in front of a young woman was still there and neatly engraved in the middle of Tree.
It had been a very long time indeed, since Tree had seen the young man, and even longer since the day of Tree's great experience. Things had changed. The birds came, telling Tree of new goings-on in the town. They came telling what happened to the logs that once were trees. After they arrived at the great next (birds have a habit of calling all structures nests). It was told to Tree that the logs were cut into many small blocks of wood, which were then made into little boxes, and carved onto by the townspeople. Then the little boxes were filled with matches and sent away to a very large city many distances away, for people to use. Surrounding the town, far away, were fewer and fewer trees. There were many people now, cutting many trees apparently (so the birds believed) because many people needed many boxes with many matches now days. The townspeople started spreading out looking for many trees, till the day came, when they came to look at Tree. They came with their saws. It was a very long day for Tree, but then it was also very short, for it was her last day that she would ever be able to remember anything. They sawed and sawed until there was a great noise that shook all the land. For Tree had fallen, and she had made the only sound that she had ever made. Then away she was dragged, without celebration, without song, without wine. Then on into the town where she was cut into logs, on into the river where she floated for many days and into the great nest were many little boxes were made.
There was one special box, it was different from all the rest. In the middle of it was a heart and in the middle of the heart there was a young man with a bow standing in front of a woman with a flowing gown and a star in the middle of her forehead. But the box disappeared from the factory never to be seen by the people who make the boxes with the matches inside.
Inside a small house that was made of hand carved stone, lay a young man. He was wrapped in several blankets that had different figures and symbols embroidered on them. The blanket that was closest to his body was light blue with a yellow sun on it. Outside the cabin the wind howled. Snow fell down the chimney and began to pile up on the floor. It was very cold and the young man lay shivering near the fireplace that could give no heat. On the stove was a pot of frozen water, and next to the stove there was a table with fruit on it, all frozen, and there was some leaves from the forest that the young man often used to make tea with whenever he felt despondent.
Now he just lay there. There were no thoughts, no dreams, no one to call to - for the winter had come suddenly and very severely and there was no time to prepare. He took a deep breath, rolled over and feel sleep. He awoke sometime later, had some thoughts of trying to get up to go to town. He sat up, only to fall unconscious upon his bed in the biting air of winter. It was a long time before he woke up and when he did, he say the young woman with the star in her forehead standing over him with a smile that covered the whole cabin. As the man sat up the maiden took out a small box that had a heart in its middle.
Inside the box lay one match. The woman took it out, struck it, and the fireplace caught fire and smoke rings of many different colours began to climb up the chimney. Then the stove began to burn and the woman made a tea. They drank together in the midst of a smoke ring that went up the chimney, and they disappeared with the smoke into a cloud, never to be seen again. And the ashes from the matchbox were carried away by wind and set on the very spot where Tree once grew.
When spring cam, there was a small seedling growing there. When fall came it had become a small tree. And year after year it grew. In the middle of the tree was a heart with a young man in tis centre, holding a bow and standing in front of a woman with a flowing white gown and a star in the middle of her forehead.
© Terrell Adsit (Neuage) 1974 Wichita Kansas.