01 October 2004

The tree of stars

A monkey once told me a story. I had little reason to trust a primate at that stage in my life, but for reasons I may divulge later, I came to believe him.

The monkey told me that once there had been a tree so large that it caught stars as they fell from the sky. The tree grew upon a mountain top, and over time its branches spread as wide as the sky was high. As the branches grew so did they catch more stars, and before long the tree was a gleaming bright beacon that could be seen for miles around.

Travellers used the sparkling light of the tree to guide them through the darkness, but before long, they became greedy. In the dead of night, travellers would chop branches down and use them as a glowing staff to guide their way. In no time at all the glistening tree was fully robbed out. It had been shorn of its tendrils, and all that remained was a lifeless stump.

Without the tree to guide them, travellers took to using the stars of the sky as their map, and knowledge of the radiant tree vanished as fast as it had been cut down.

After he had finished the tale, the monkey had one last thing to say.

Before the light of the tree had been lost forever, he picked up a seed and took it as far away from humans as he could. He found a lush green forest, dug a small hole and buried the seed. One day, he said, another tree would grow tall and strong and catch the stars. But no human would ever be allowed to see it.