For thousands of years, a village nestled deep in the rugged mountains, unaware of the passing time and the advancements encroaching on civilization. No one knew of its existence and the villagers preferred it that way for they had a secret the world would destroy if they knew of its existence.
In the center of the village grew a tree, a tree that never slept. It blossomed throughout the seasons. Blossoms so perfectly beautiful each unique in their own way they would bring a stranger to tears if they ever looked upon them.
At the end of the life of each blossom, the budding of a fruit would appear. Contained in each fruit was a special gift from the tree.
Each morning the villagers came nurturing the tree, feeding it and telling it of the events of the previous day, some softly reaching out and caressing the tree wherever they could touch. They called the tree ‘The Loneliness Tree’ but the village never knew why.
For thousands of years the tree grew, flowered and bore fruit feeding the villagers who lived long healthy lives. Only the old died when it was their time.
One day a young man, watched from the edge of the gathered villagers, his mind wrapped solidly around something else he kept thinking he would rather be doing. Thinking this was all a waste of time, talking to a tree and touching it as if it were aware. “Tomorrow,” he thought, “I won’t be wasting my time here.”
The next day, one of the other villagers noticed the other man missing, and he thought if he didn’t need to be there then neither did he.
As the days passed more and more villagers stopped coming to visit the tree before breaking fast.
Within a few months, the tree was left completely alone, no more did the villagers visit. Its limbs swayed within the breeze humming his loneliness but no one listened. The only visit the tree received was in the bright day a young girl would gather the ripened fruit which had fallen to the ground.
Months passed then years, then decades and no one paid the tree any mind, no thought, no words, not even a glance, other than a young girl gathering his discarded fruit.
Upon the breeze the last of the blossom petals fell slowly to the ground, leaving behind neither bud nor swollen fruit.
Without the nurturing of the villagers the tree’s roots dug deep into the rich soil gathering whatever nutrients it could find. The tree neither died, nor grew, nor bore any fruit. It had only strength enough for its leaves.
Alone and lonely, it sought sustenance. But after decades of feeding from the soil and no nourishment from the villagers, it soon discovers there is no nourishment in the naked soil.
It doesn’t die.
It doesn’t grow.
The blossoms no longer turn to fruit.
And it no longer blooms.
In the village, the villagers began getting sick, pain and suffering grew rampant in the village. Leaving no villager untouched. Young and old began to die before their time.
The village became dry and brittle, children no longer ran within the paths between homes, and songs were no longer sung as the villagers toiled and worked throughout the day.
One day one of the elderly villagers stood next to the tree, cursing it, for having abandoned them, no longer nourishing the village.
A young girl witnesses the old man’s ranting.
She comes before him tugging at his robe. He becomes appalled when he almost swats her away with the back of his hand in his anger at the tree, wondering how he could have come to be such a hateful old man.
The young girl, takes his hand and tells him, ‘Do not blame the tree. It has become lonely for we abandoned it long before it abandoned us.’
The old man harrumphed and walked away, not believing a single word she said.
She didn’t care.
The next morning she rose and before breaking her fast, she slipped out of her home to visit the tree. The sun had yet to rise but she didn’t care, and sat talking to the tree, telling it she would come every morning and sit beneath its strong firm branches.
She came each morning before the sun peaked above the horizon, sometimes she sat quietly not saying a single word. Other times she would hum a tune or sing softly, but always she came. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, she waited and kept the old tree company.
The villagers saw and scoffed, calling her a silly chit wasting so much time on an old tree. She paid them no mind.
The tree still bore leaves but had stopped flowering or giving fruit, which it had done so freely while the villagers came to visit every morning. It had been tens of years since it had born fruit and the villagers made a point to tell the little girl she was wasting her effort, the tree was old and would no longer bear fruit.
She paid them no mind.
Every morning she appeared without fail, telling the tree of all she had done each day after she left him to begin her day.
One morning in the solitude of her visit after she had spent the story of her day, she felt her voice well up in her throat with an urge to sing to the tree. She let her voice free, so softly sweet, barely discernible, it carried across the breeze. In the morning mist it grew stronger, prodding the sleeping consciousness of each villager, waking them well before the dawn.
Each heard the sweetness they had not heard before, wondering its source, one by one they began to emerge from their homes. Meeting up in groups, continuing to search until eventually the whole village was gathered around the lonely tree.
As dawn began to break, first one gasp, then two, then four, then eight, exponentially growing at a rate until the whole village sounded in a collective gasp as they looked upon the tree which stood protectively around the little girl singing so sweetly beneath its branches.
For each villager who had searched out the sweetness which had awakened them a blossom appeared on the lonely old tree. As the girl sang and the village watched, each blossom bloomed in each of its own uniqueness, as the sun unfurled its beautiful light upon the tree. Each blossom shed and in it stead a bud appeared and swelled into plump ripened fruit, then dropped upon the ground, at the feet of each villager.
One by one, they picked up the fruit at their feet. The young girl’s sweet song reverberated through them as it slowly softened and ended. Her smile was a reflection of the beauty of the blossoms as she slipped through the crowd with one fruit cupped lovingly in the palm of her hands.
Her whisper carried through to each villager in the crowd. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning beneath The Loneliness Tree.”
© Kate Spyder