The Late-Blooming Sapling

Once upon a time there was a sapling. Sunning itself in the meadow, it was so glad to be alive. The shadow of his mother’s branches tickled over him as she said, “Look at those great big trees across the meadow. One day, if you grow straight and tall, you will be as big as them.”

The sapling gulped, the trees were so high. How would he ever grow to that height? Later, the sapling overheard his mother talking with some other trees. They compared their saplings with one another. The sapling burned with shame. He was the smallest of the saplings. When he heard them comparing one sapling to another, he felt like a little branch swaying in the breeze. And so, at night, he pulled out his roots and went around collecting discarded bark from the forest. Then, he cleverly started using the bark to assemble a larger tree around himself. Soon, the mother was getting compliments. “My how straight and proud your little sapling is becoming.” “My your sapling is well on his way to becoming one of the big trees.” This made the sapling feel so good.

One windy day, a girl sapling came up. “Let’s sway together,” she invited. The sapling was so happy to be swaying with her, but it was difficult, due to his bulky bark exterior. “What’s wrong with you? You don’t sway naturally,” said the girl, surprised by his stiffness. “You’re not my type. You’re going to be a tall, proud tree. A nice, stiff girl tree will make you happy one day.”

“Rotten luck,” thought the sapling. And, so, resigned to his fate, he kept busy building himself up. He built himself so high and his girth became so wide that his bark became a bit of a spacious home for him and he was quite protected from the wind and the cold.

One day in the fall, a wise oak tree passed by. He spoke ominous words: “It is a truth that a tree must burn down and then grow again.”

These words shook the sapling to his roots. He had worked so hard to build himself up, surely it would be tragic to have all that he crafted burn down and expose how small he really was.

Winter passed without anything bad happening. Perhaps the oak tree was just getting nutty in his old age. In any case, there wasn’t time to think too much about that because it was taking a lot of work to keep building himself up, not only up, but around on every side.

“Strange,” thought the sapling to himself, “the life of a tree is a lot of work, and not so fun. What kind of life is it to grow so tall only spend so much time constantly building up this shell.”

Spring days came. Trees sprouted leaves and began to grow. The sapling made busy trying to keep building up his exterior.

“My boy,” said the mother, “I’m worried about you. You don’t have any leaves.”

And the sapling didn’t know what to say. All this time he was accumulating the forest bark, he didn’t realize that he couldn’t fake growing leaves.

“I guess it’s because you’re just a very serious tree and don’t need leaves,” his mother said quietly.

Now it was Summer. While the other trees relaxed as their leaves soaked up the sun, the sapling felt suffocated inside his contraption. There was no proper ventilation and it was getting hotter and hotter. The sapling was wilting away inside.

One day, as it was getting dark, clouds gathered and the sky rumbled. Suddenly, a bolt of lightening struck the sapling’s tree and it burst into flames. Scared out of his wits and cowering at the bottom of the trunk, the sapling burned in anguish as the edifice he labored on his whole life was burning down around him. As the sapling cried, the flames licked his tears, turning them to steam.

The next morning, for the first time in a long time, the sapling felt the sun strike his very own bark. For the first time in a long time, he saw the blue sky above him. For the first time in a long time, the sapling relaxed, let his roots sink in to the moist earth, and swayed with the breeze. And it wasn’t too long before his very own leaves sprouted to soak up the sun. Then, the sapling began to grow for real.