Once upon a time, when the Earth was still young, there lived a Forest of Trees. They were beautiful, these Trees. They were fed the crystal-clear waters of the River who in turn feeds her daughter-rivers. In the morning, they raised their heads, their branches to the life-giving sun. In the night, they swayed their branches under the mother moon and the tracery of the Stars, dancing and singing with the wind.
The Trees stood, grew and died around a Main Tree, the Mother Tree. They grew around her in concentric circles and she stood proud on the Mountain. Her branches stretched right into the sky, magnificent and so strong.
In the midst of the sister Trees grew a young Tree. She was relatively younger than her sisters, though she had witnessed the changes in the sky, the falling Stars, and felt the Earth tremble as the Cosmic Battle boomed around the Forest. She was fortunate, this young Tree. She luxuriated in the warmth of the Forest, well protected within the confines of her sisters’ circle.
Then, one day, one of the sister Trees grew ill. Her bark grew pale. Her leaves, once succulent with Life, became brittle and she began to shed. Sap refused to flow through her veins anymore. As the sister Trees watched in their timeless serenity and abstract horror, the ailing Tree gave a last leaf-rustle and gave her Life back to the Earth, to the Mother Tree.
There was mourning. The Forest was alive in that everything, every plant and every animal, was connected, like the intricate patterns of the spider-web. But there was also rejoicing in that the sister Tree who had just passed away would now share with the rest of Earth.
The colored ones came. Red, brown, black, yellow and white ones, standing tall like their cousin Trees, came and paid respect to the once-Living Tree. Reverently, quietly and whispering soft words of thanks, they removed the bark and the branches.
The young Tree watched as the colored ones took away her dead sister. When they were gone and the Forest had gone quiet once more, she plucked up courage and asked the Tree closest to her. This Tree was older and wiser, a gentle spirit with laughter in her branches.
“What will they do with her body?” The young Tree asked, her leaves rustling softly with curiosity.
The older sister Tree chuckled, her branches creaking once in the wind. “They will make things out of her body. Things to sit on. Things to play with. Even, things to be consumed.”
The young Tree grew intrigued then. “But where does her soul go to?”
For a moment, the older Tree didn’t answer and the young sister was embarrassed for asking such a forward question. She drew her leaves around herself and felt an urge to sink into the Earth. Then, the older Tree stirred and replied. “Her soul, my young sister, will go wherever it will. Remember, little sister, that her soul is in her body, in her branches, in her leaves. Whoever uses the things made of her will carry a bit of her. Whoever consumes the things made of her will also carry a bit of her.”
The young Tree listened to the answer. “So when I die, I will branch out in the four winds?”
A soft laughter of the leaves. “Yes, my young sister, you will branch out. Even after sap-death, you continue to grow.”
The young Tree brushed her leaves against her older sister in gratitude and took in the words, consuming them and letting the juices flow within her sap.
As Time went, the Forest grew bigger or smaller, according to the changes. The Mother Tree simply gave forth more sister Trees. The young Tree matured, flowered, gave forth fruit and matured even more. Around her and her sisters, the forest folk lived and hunted and danced. At times, the sister Trees would watch the Fires being lit in honor of the Sun finishing His Round. There would be singing and dancing; the Trees loved it and sheltered the forest folk as they circled the Fires.
Then, in Time, the young Tree grew old and was struck with a sickness. She felt her sap becoming sluggish, slow and painful in her veins. She felt her branches stiffen. She couldn’t dance anymore. She couldn’t sing anymore. For a moment, she was afraid and she didn’t want to give her Life back to Earth.
As her Life dwindled, she looked up into the night sky and saw the Trails of the Stars. She wept for a while and the owls sang with her. She watched and watched.
The next day, the forest folk wailed with sadness. The Tree had passed on. The sister Trees around her wept and mourned.
As usual, the colored ones came, the forest folk came. They partook of the Tree’s body and her soul lived on.
The forest folk consumed her fruits and a part of her nestled in a young girl’s body. The colored ones made use of the things created from her bark and she rested in the bosom of a man, in the life-blood of a woman and in the homes of various others. The animals partook of her body too. A wolf ate a bit of the fruit and a bit of her soul ran together with the hunting pack. A dragon carried a part of her as it flew above the Forest.
Her soul lived on and the Forest lived on too…in our lives.