By Maggie Susa
“How much farther?” the pine asks. “We’re tired and our branches feel heavier with each step. We’ve already been through all types of extreme weather and only you are still green. From what I can see, the road ahead only looks rougher. It’s getting harder to find places to stick our roots in these rocks. Please tell me that there isn’t much farther to go.”
The pine, the cherry blossom, the sequoia, and the baobab were all on a journey to the Great Forest. To get there, they must travel through the seven valleys. The sequoia is the leader, they are tall and evergreen. This is easier for them than the rest of the trees who are shorter and don’t adapt well.
“Pine, you are too impatient,” the sequoia replied. “No one knows how far it is to the Great Forest. No tree has ever returned from this journey.”
“Can’t we take a break?” the baobab asks. “I don’t think I can go much further.”
“I agree!” the cherry blossom chimed in.
“We will rest for the night,” the sequoia said reluctantly but the three other trees had already burrowed themselves into the gravel and bent their branches in.
They are about to enter the Valley of the Quest, the first obstacle of many on their journey to the Great Forest. There is no way they could possibly be prepared for how much it will change them. Some of the tallest, most beautiful trees have wilted to bushes there. It seems like the air whispers; it makes you feel like you belong there. Only those who are pure in their desires and thoughts, pass through easily.
The group of four stirs at dawn and is on their way again. They see the valley before midday and hope to make progress crossing it before night falls. About a fourth of the way in it starts to take effect.
“What is all this fog?” cherry blossom remarked.
“Aww, are you a scared little tree?” the pine taunted back.
“No, I just can’t see any of you that well and don’t want to get lost,” she said. “Although, I don’t think I’d mind if you got lost, pine.”
“Is that how you feel? Because I think yo-”
“Enough!” the sequoia said. “We’ll never make it if you keep squabbling like that.”
And for a few seconds that ended their argument.
“Maybe we should hang on to each other’s branches, so we don’t lose anyone,” the baobab said. “It is hard to see.”
“Eww no!” the cherry blossom exclaimed.
“Oh please, it’s not like any of us would want to touch you like that,” the pine spit back. “It’s funny that you instantly jumped to that conclusion though. Maybe if you stopped admiring yourself for a few minutes, you’d actually understand why we’re on this quest.”
The usually quiet baobab, who was hoping to hold the cherry blossom’s branch in hope of making her feel safe, jumped into her defense.
“What’s your problem Pine? You think you’re better than the rest of us?”
“Yes, yes I do think I’m better than all of you because you’re so pathetic. This should’ve been a one-tree mission and I’m the best one for the job.”
“Stop it!” sequoia said, drawing out the ‘O’ so it rose in pitch.
“Just because you’re the tallest, doesn’t mean you get to boss us around,” cherry blossom said. “We haven’t done anything wrong, it’s all pine’s fault.”
“Is that so?” sequoia said. “Because I caught you seeking extra water rations last night. Am I wrong?”
“My flowers wilt and I look gross without it! Besides I struggle more than the rest of you, so I deserve it!”
“I guess if you feel that way, you can struggle by yourself!”
And they all stomped off in opposite directions.
The baobab walked in disappointment until they came upon another tree, maybe an oak? It was hard to tell since it had no leaves.
“Hello,” the baobab said but did not receive a response.
Upon closer inspection, the baobab realized that there was no reply because the tree was dead. The lack of water in the branches made them snap with a crack. It seemed like this tree had only been dead for a couple of months, but it was hard to tell.
All of a sudden, the baobab realized how important their role as the tree of life was and they turned around to find their companions.
The cherry blossom came upon a beautiful white dogwood tree, in full bloom. They were separated by a small pond and the cherry blossom called out a greeting, but the dogwood was too absorbed in their reflection. Watching the dogwood made the cherry blossom realize their vanity and that there were much more important things, they went to find their friends.
The sequoia found a small group of trees: an oak, an apple, a palm, and a blue spruce. Rather than call out to them, the sequoia listened to their argument and realized they wouldn’t want to be treated the way the palm was treating their followers. So, they walked back to find their traveling companions.
The pine came across another pine who was throwing their pinecones at a rock.
“Why can’t they see how much better I am than them?” they yelled. “I should be leading this quest, not that stupid walnut!”
The pine saw all they needed to see of what pride can do to a tree and scurried back to their friends.
They all crashed into each other at once, choruses of “I’m sorry! Please forgive me!” came from all four trees. They picked each other up, guided by better leadership and empty of pride, vanity, and feelings of worthlessness. They left the Valley of the Quest stronger than they were when they entered. However, they still were unprepared for the Valley of Love.