Friday, December 16, 2011

Tales for the journey: Ivy tree (Strength from adversity)Wisdom)

The tree stood by a river that flowed slowly through the scattered woodland.   Round the trunk ivy grew, dark green leaves unfurling and tendrils spreading as the seasons progressed.  The ivy grew quickly, but the tree grew faster.  The ivy spread slowly up the trunk and along the branches, but the twigs of the tree unfurled their tiny green leaves each spring, and in summer the dense, leafy branches left the ivy in shade.

The ivy said to the tree, “I need you to hold me up and enable me to grow tall.  I need to find the rough places in your bark for my suckers to grip you tightly to keep me from falling.  I will drink the rain as it pours and dribbles along your branches and down your trunk.  My roots are intertwined with yours- we share the same earth, you and I.”

The tree said to the ivy, ”I need you to wrap yourself around me, to protect me from the strong winds in winter, to make me strong and enlarge the girth of my trunk with your woody stems.  With you around me I will look stronger, and I will seem to be fresh and green, even in the winter snows.  I know that we are friends, that we share the same space, see the same sky and know the soft kisses of the rain as it falls upon us.”

Years passed.  When winter came, the leaves fell off the tree, and only the ivy leaves remained.

They were dark and shining, and the tendrils waved and twisted around the bare branches as the ivy grew higher still, reaching for the sun.  When summer came and the tree woke up again, and the tiny leaves unfurled, there was less and less of the little tree visible to passers by.  Soon the tree seemed to consist only of ivy, in the vague shape of a tree, dark against grey skies and rustling in the winter wind.

The ivy said to the tree, “See! I am greater than you are!  I am greener and stronger and I can reach all the hidden parts of you.  You are overcome.  You are my slave!  I have conquered you!”

The soft voice of the tree, hidden within the ivy whispered, “You are choking me!  The life is going out of me!  I cannot reach the light so that I can feed and grow.  I do not wish to be your slave!  I will not let you conquer me!”

So the little tree grew as wide as it could, trying to burst out of the ivy stems, but they were fixed past to the trunk and would not budge.  The little tree grew taller than ever, reaching higher and higher into the sky, searching for light and space.  The trunk grew thinner and thinner and was barely able to sustain this new growth, but the thick stems of the ivy stood fast.

The tree cried out in triumph, “See! I am taller than you are and the strength you have given me is helping me to stand tall!  I will spread my roots wider, and reach higher and higher until you cannot reach me!” but the ivy said nothing for a long time.

The tree spoke once more, “I never wanted you to be clutching me like this: if you had left me alone I would be a beautiful tree, able to grow into my own shape.  Now I have been shaped by you and I hate you for that!” but again the ivy said nothing and was still and quiet.

Then the tree grew angry and said, “I wish that the forester would come and slice your stems above the roots so I could breathe and grow to any shape I chose!”

What's left of the ivy vines clinging to a tree after workers cut the invasive species off the tree.The tree listened but there was no sound, only the soft whisper of falling ivy leaves. Slowly the leaves fell to the ground and the ivy was silent and still, and the tree came to realise that the ivy had died.  All through the winter both tree and ivy stood entwined, mute and still, as if both ivy and tree were dead.  But spring came and the tree put out the tiny buds and little twigs grew from among the woody dead stems of the ivy, and blossom formed, white and pure in a celebration of new life.

When the wind blew a little the tree wept for the ivy, which still wound itself in death around the tree.  The ivy was silent and still, but the dead stems were strong and woody, giving strength to the trunk of the tree, which was barely visible within.

As the seasons passed, the tree stood tall and alone in the forest, by the stream that flowed silently by.

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