The North Pointing Tree
The North Pointing Tree, a totally made up story
Jena and Marissa bounded from Beth Bean’s car. Jena was the driver’s claim to immortality. Marissa acquitted her grand self in positive reflection of her parents, Mike and Melanie Coster. Far too many em’s for one family blithely thought the host. That would, of course, be me. The posse had come over for a pizza gathering, and to watch the latest cool movie to fly free from Pixar. But before getting to door, one of the children in play reached up to pluck a leaf from the sapling.
“Hey, please don’t do that,” exclaimed the host. “Don’t you know what that tree is?”
“No…” sheepishly responded the offender. She shall go unnamed; no need to bother about guilt or innocence in this tale. There’s enough of that in the news every day.
“Goodness, you never saw a North-pointing Tree before?”
“Mom, Kitt’s talking weird again!” This child liked using the word “weird” a lot.
“Well, maybe you won’t find me so weird when you hear the story of how the tree got named,” suggested the host hopefully.
Once upon a time, Grandfather was from the country, the deep country in the forested wilderness of Oregon. He had been out hunting turkey buzzards. One particularly fine specimen had caught his attention and drew Grandfather further and further into the woods. For hours and days, Grandfather pursued the winged beast until it finally saw Grandfather. The grand bird swooped up high into the Cold Oregon sky and was gone. Grandfather was awed at the heights the turkey buzzard climbed. Grandfather then discovered he was utterly lost. Over the time of this hunt, he had neglected to check his bearings as he was totally intent and prepared to raise his fowling piece and shoot. He did not know where he was.
In this part of the old growth woods, the trees grew to prodigious heights. It was always dimly lit on the forest floor with the Sun being blocked out except at the Noon of day. It was not Noon now, and Grandfather couldn’t tell where North was directed. You can’t track yourself out of the woods without a compass and without a compass. Poor, Grandfather!
Grandfather walked for hours and days, but he could tell he was quite mightily lost. The Sun, wherever it might be, set. A chill set in with the darkness. Being the good frontiersman that he was, Grandfather had a frontiersman axe, a hatchet, which he carried on his back for just this kind of emergency of being lost in the forest with night and cold coming on. He saw a likely candidate in the sapling off to his right that he might chop down to make his campsite fire. Grandfather walked up to the tree. He was a spiritual man, so he walked around the tree to inspect and give thanks he could have a fire to warm him during what was sure to be one of those cold Oregon nights. Then, in the morning he’d climb one of the grand trees to see where the Sun was headed.
Grandfather raised his axe when a powerful moan roared from a neighboring tree. Grandfather stepped back. No, can’t be. He must just be done in by his predicament. Grandfather lifted his hatchet again.
“NO!” roared the tree. “That is my only child. Please do not cut down junior!”
The tree had spoken! Grandfather dropped his hatchet. He had heard of such things, of plants and animals talking deep deep in the woods and jungles and other such isolated places where to do so would not arouse undue attention and alarm. But, Grandfather was alarmed now.
“Mighty tree, that gives us wood and fire, I am lost. I need wood to make my campfire so I won’t freeze this night. What am I to do?” Grandfather offered, not really expecting much in the way of reply. But, after minutes that seemed like days, the tree answered Grandfather.
“Junior will drop a few lesser branches. From those you may make your campfire.”
Grandfather rejoined, “Why thank you great tree, thank you very much. I am very cold and quite lost in your forest and…”
Before Grandfather could finish, exploding cracks came from the sapling as several branches dropped to the ground. There were a few stubbly branches left except for one longish branch that pointed off to the left and behind the tree.
Grandfather, blessing his luck and the graciousness of the great tree, gathered up the branches and lit his campfire. After his supper, Grandfather sought out the great tree.
“Great tree, I am warm and well fed through your bounty. Thank you!”
The great tree’s branches ruffled and swayed. “You have spared my son. We are old and have need of each other. In thanks for your kind deed, my son has left one long branch for you. It points North.”
Grandfather was overjoyed and overawed. Never again would he raise his axe to fell a tree. Grandfather kept one cutting of the sapling from one unburnt branch. When long hours and days later when he got back to the village, he planted that cutting. And when it grew to sapling, that tree too had one longer branch. He measured and surveyed and found that this too pointed North. Grandfather had a North-Pointing Tree, and it was passed down through the generations in cuttings.
“That’s weird.” opined Jena and Marissa together. They were close friends which is not at all weird.
“Well, you may think so, but that’s the story. The leaf you pulled off comes from my North-pointing tree. We need to respect our animals and plants that give so much to us so that we might live better on our little planet. Perhaps, when you two a little older, I just might give you cuttings and you can grow your own North-pointing tree.”
“Yuck!” cried the girls. “We want pizza!”
So, inside my house they all went to wait for the pizza man to arrive as a quick brisk breeze had just blown through to remind us all it was definitely late November. I paid for the cheese and chicken pizza, passed it to the starving girls, and then headed out the door. But, that was after I patted my North-pointing tree for remaining quiet when his leaf had been so ignominiously plucked by an unknowing dainty hand. The branches ruffled in the freshening breeze. I shivered and headed inside. The movie was good too.