This is a true story about the exceptionally short life of a tree. As all good stories go, there are other characters involved. Which would make it a story of a tree, a caring person who loved this tree, a pig, some really mean people and me; well, I’m the narrator, so you can count me out.
Earlier this year at the onset of spring, perhaps after having his morning tea, an older, much gentler person than I, who lives in the seaport of Halifax, noticed a small plant growing outside his humble cottage. Curious, he inquired from his lovely wife about the appearance of a much delightful green object, after the snow had gone to rest following a tiresome winter. Not finding a suitable explanation, nor needing one, his sense of fatherhood took over, and he began to tend to this tiny young plant. With love, devotion and perhaps some Jewish prayers, this plant started to root in love and the Earth embraced its being. As his curiosity gave way to caring, and caring paved the way to love, the whispers of neighbors followed. They noticed an eccentric old man gardening at the break of dawn through the setting of the sun. What they could not see, nor hear were the words of love exchanged between two hearts in harmony. As summer came to blossom, this love rooted deeply, with dreams of one resting his back against the trunk of his beloved tree, enjoying the gentle breeze under its shade on a warm Atlantic afternoon. The tree, as if in response to this dream and in love with its caretaker, grew a few inches taller, stronger, firmer, confident of tomorrow. Then one fateful morning, the tree was gone.
Bewildered, heartbroken, sad, amazed, call it what you will, he was in pain. Summer love can be such a painful thing, but need it be? He wondered. Frantically, he began to look for clues, for any explanation. The whispering neighbors didn’t see it, neither did the inquisitive ones. Perhaps the children, well, there are none in the neighborhood. In desperation, he looked around, hoping to grab a straw, then tiring himself, sat near a window facing what was now the grave of the tree. Trying to recall the events of yesterday. ‘Aha,’ came the revelation. He remembered a new family that had moved into his neighborhood yesterday. Nothing eventful, except there was something different, something odd, he thought. As the excitement of a possible clue began to suppress the pain of loss, he finally remembered that one of the last items that had moved into their house was a pig. Not a small pet pig, but a rather large pig that required the use of specialized machinery to carry it. His mind settled; the pieces fell into place. He recalled a neighbor conversing about the new family moving from the Prairies. Someone remembered that the pig got out momentarily, before being captured again. It is quite possible that in that one moment the pig, who might have been weary from a long journey, found an unsuspecting plant and nourished itself without much thought of consequences. Greed had overcome this animal and resulted in the death of a promising love.
Saddened by learning his story, I drove home that afternoon from work. I did not enter my house to regain my strength, but walked towards the woods behind our house, my hands caressing leaves of lively plants that I know nothing about. My mind drifted towards the completeness of this Universe, with everything neatly in place, organized to address every genuine need of humans. I wondered about the countless trees removed from their roots to fulfill these needs; then I thought about the countless more, killed mercilessly to feed the greed of humans. How many stories have died with these trees, some of them older than the first locomotive engine!! How many branches have heard the laughter of children playing in their shades, these trees only to be cut down to no purpose except the greed of men!
As I told this story to my family, my trees of strength and faith, I was pleasantly surprised by their request, “Let us each plant a tree.” Planting a tree, as Islam teaches us, is an act of charity that goes far beyond the life of a mere mortal. A tree sustains many lives and sees many decades, centuries even. It dies in the brilliance of colors each year and is born again by the command of Allah with the first kiss of dew on the grass, in spirited shades of green. It is a symbol of hope, faith, strength and spirituality.
Next spring, we intend to plant many trees. Perhaps some will be in memory of the one so ruthlessly killed by a greedy pig