The Giving Tree
By Heather Preston
Leaning on the deck rail of my little Sausalito house one spring day, straining to see through the upper leaves of a large tree obscuring the hill beyond, I wished idly that if only the top two feet of the tree were gone, my view could be restored. Within the next few days, leaves began dropping from the top of the tree, but only from the top two feet. A few days later the last leaf dropped from that area of the tree. I could once again see the hill across the valley.
It became apparent, a couple of weeks later that no more leaves were going to follow, that the remaining lower leaves were intact, healthy, and secured. Then it dawned on me that something utterly remarkable had happened. I caught my breath in confusion and amazement. Was this possible? There, indeed, was the view I had wished for. It was as if the tree had “understood” and granted my wish. A thrilling idea.
I was grateful. But as time passed, I became uneasy, for even though I couldn’t have expected what happened, the tree had granted my wish at its own expense. I read once that a tree’s topmost leaves are unique in that they protect it in some way, processing the sun’s energy differently from its other leaves.
After telling a few friends this story and showing them the empty top branches, some were silent and some squinty-eyed. Cold observation proved the tree to be bare on top. “Right, it’s bare on top,” they would say and point out possible reasons, “Not enough water?”
Pretty soon the novelty turned into concern for the tree’s well-being.
I wanted those leaves back more than I wanted the view. I went out and pleaded with the tree to grow the leaves back and said that I was really sorry to have caused it any harm.
Slowly, to my great relief, buds started reappearing on the empty branches, tiny ones at first, only a scattering of green here and there. Then more and more popped open and stretched into leaves. Within a short time, the treetop was filled with beautiful new green leaves. I was weak with gratitude. Friends now marveled to see the perfectly normal tree. The rationalizers still rationalized. But I knew what I knew.
One of my friends, Francis Rath, who prior to becoming a bookstore owner had been a rather imposing law enforcement officer, found that in the course of his work, he could put his hands on people in trauma, and they would instantly stop convulsing and breathe normally. He was a true healer and a sensitive. About a year after the leaf-dropping incident, Francis was at my house for a party. He stepped outside for a breather and leaned against this tree. He later told me that he felt it to be remarkable; its emanations were compassionate and giving. He asked me if I knew that this was “one special tree.” So I told him the story that I have just told you.
“Compassion is no attribute.
It is the Law of Laws…a shoreless universal essence,
the light of everlasting right and fitness of all things,
the love of love eternal.”
From Buddhism: The Seven Portals
Heather Preston is an award-winning artist and author. After graduating with honors and distinction from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she studied in Europe, taught fine art, was represented by leading galleries, and exhibited widely. Her book "Tree Spirits: Tales and Encounters" won the silver finalist medal for the 2010 INDIE Book Awards; it is available at ARECatalog.com. She is a regular contributor to Venture Inward magazine, a benefit for members at EdgarCayce.org/members. For an extensive biography visit HeatherPrestonArt.com.