I was a small, round, smooth, brown seed with a rough, sturdy cap at the top and a hardy stem. The tree to which I belonged was a great tree, with leaves that spread their lush, verdant emerald veil between me and the bright blue of the sky, and reached out with gnarled, spreading arms as if to touch the stars. I always went in awe of this tree, for to my small perception and narrow minded adoration it seemed the greatest embodiment of power and majesty in all the confines of our forest, and our lands. My tree— or rather our tree, for I was the smallest of the many seeds that drew nourishment from its branches— was set upon the outskirts of a vast forest.
I was frightened of that forest. It was dark and close and full of half shadows and whispered rumors of evil, and the deeper one looked into its closely woven branches the blacker it became. But upon the other side, my tree overlooked a broad, lush meadow. Through this meadow was cut a great highroad. Broad was this path, and long, and smooth with the traffic of passing feet and wagons and horses. It was my hourly delight when I was but a young seed to peep down through the rustling green curtains of my tree and watch those that went to and fro upon this highroad. The strange beings who walked there fascinated me, and indeed I used to wonder, in an idle moment, what their life was, but I loved my tree, and wished never to leave it. Then I was young and naive, and knew not truly what was the life and lot of a seed. But I would learn, and learn it to my sorrow.
The night of the storm is black yet vivid to my memory still. I believe it always will be. For it was that night that I truly became a seed, and tasted first the bitterness of our lot.
I had weathered storms before, and remained cozily tucked away within the encircling arms of my tree, but this storm was different. Black and threatening and evil, great thunder heads rolled up onto the horizon, blotting out the rosy light of the setting sun. The leaves of my tree curled up tight against the howling wind, and their silver outsides glimmered faintly in the last red glare of the sun through the boiling clouds. Then came the rain. Such driving, stinging, needle-like torrents I had never experienced, and it was they that first struck terror into my young, tender heart.
As night fell, dark and thick as pitch, I sensed a presence drawing near and nearer out of the black heart of the forest to which my tree belonged. It was a presence such as I had never felt before; blacker than the lightless nightfall, yet colder than ice, and sharper. It chilled me to the pith and core, and my fresh, green heart quailed within me. I felt great grasping hands reach up out of the darkness and clutch at me, the trembling, silver leaves of my tree bowing and melting before it where they had always shielded me before. The hands were white and beautiful when I saw them, but they were hard and cruelly strong. I was plucked from my branch, and flung down into the highroad.
When the light of morning came, I lay bruised and dented where I had fallen, the hard earth of the road trampled about me as if some fury had stopped by me awhile, and gone on when his rage was spent. I could see the fresh, happy green of the leaves of my tree fluttering against the blue sky above me, but they seemed so far and distant now, and I was powerless to ascend amongst them ever again. Never again would I take haven in their emerald shade and half light. Turning my face away, I pressed it into the earth and wept inside for my tree. I had never meant to leave it.
Months and years passed, and I lay there in the middle of the road. My strong brown cap was gone, and my shell was cracked from the trampling of those for whom the road was meant. Through the cracks in my protective shell a rottenness began to creep, withering my green heart and turning it to grey, then black. My youth seemed far away, and the memories of it were only bitter now. So crushed was I that I had lost my comely shape, and looked no more a seed, but merely a decimated husk whose heart had rotted away.
Then the Man came.
He stooped over me in the road and took me up carefully, letting the dirt and dry earth of the highroad fall from the cracks in my shell. His hands were not beautiful. They were roughened as with great toil, and when He cupped me in his palms, I saw that they were scarred. But so gentle and tender was His touch that my withered heart, still faintly green within the dry husk of my shell, yearned after Him, and loved Him. Taking me to the side of the great highroad, the Man smiled at me and pressed me carefully into the moist, warm earth beside a stream. I wept. “Do not go!” I cried after Him silently as He turned away. But He smiled again, and shook His head. “This is not the place I have for you,” He told me. “Yet bide here awhile, and when you are full ready, I will bring you to that place.” And He left me.
“This is not the place I have for you,” He told me. “Yet bide here awhile, and when you are full ready, I will bring you to that place.”
I know not how long I lay there in that delicious earth, soaking in moisture from the stream that bounced and sang close beside me. I began to grow, and felt small roots thrusting down into the soil. One day I looked down, and saw in the stream the reflection of a small sapling, with pale leaves of purest green, and a slender, graceful trunk. I was a seed no longer.
As the years passed I grew strong and tall; taller and mightier than even my tree, which I could see across the highroad. Many came and sat in my shade, and blessed me for it. Many came and went, but never did the Man come, though I yearned after Him still, and waited and watched eagerly for His promised coming. Him I blessed for my strength, and gave thanks to Him for His wisdom in placing me here, to be a resting place for so many of the weary of the road. This must have been His purpose, I thought, and was glad, for life was fair, and my core was green and fresh again. But soon I lost it all, and life became dark.
Men came who were not like the Man, and stripped me of my branches and burned them in the shelter of my great trunk. My green leaves, which so many travelers had blessed, were gone; withered in the fire, and with their withering my heart quailed within me, and grew dark with hatred for the men. I wept that night, and my silent, formless tears were bitter agony. And the Man came to me through the twilight, and stood by me, and it seemed by the pale light of the silver stars that He was robed in white. “How could You permit this?” I cried in my heart. “What of Your promise to bring me to the place that was mine?”
But He smiled at me again, and rested His scarred hand against my scorched, barren trunk. “You have yet to come to full readiness for the place I have made for you,” He said. “I have singled you out for My work, and you are yet unfit for it.”
At His words I took comfort, though the pain of my barrenness was not lessened.
The men awoke in the morning, and set a saw against my great trunk. The teeth of that saw bit deep, and my very life’s blood flowed at its touch. The bark which was my protection they sawed all about, cutting off all life-giving water. My heart withered and died, and grew brown. Still I stood by my stream, dying and aching inside for my stolen beauty and purity, mourning for the blessing they had been to others. Men cursed me now, and said that I was worthless, and marred the landscape. In all the length and breadth of the land, I knew there was not one who loved me and thought me beautiful still. Not one but the Man.
The time came when all my greenness was gone, and I stood still, proud and defiant, but solid only in appearance. I was only a worthless husk of strength. Then men came and cut me down, and split me into boards, and bound me in cords to be sent away on a wagon. Some of me went to the royal shipyards of the king, and some of me, what was deemed base, was chopped into rough cords and burned for fuel. The parts of me which were not used thus were bound up in a rough crate, and sent by wagon into a small town. I was taken and dropped upon the floor of a small shop covered in wood shavings, and laid out with many sharp tools for the cutting and fashioning of wood.
I lay there for years, gathering dust, longing for the satisfaction of sheltering weary travelers, yet knowing that such a lot would never more be mine. At last, when it seemed that knot and grain could endure no longer in idleness, I was lifted up from my musty corner and set gently in the dusty sunbeams upon a broad table. I knew that touch; I should have known it even had eons of time and agony lain between us. It was the Man. He smiled at me as He had before, and in His smile I read the fulfilment of His plan for me. “Your wait has been long and hard,” He said, caressing my smooth wood gently. “But now you have come into the fulness of your time. You shall be My instrument, and shall bear My words and be My servant to the ends of the world. It is time.”
He took up the woodworking tools which lay about upon the shelves, and fashioned me with great care and skill. It was pain, but it was good, for I had come now into my full form, though I was broken, and the Man had use for me. Carefully choosing my strongest wood, the Man planed me into two smooth, even boards of paper thinness, and they were strong, almost as iron, for my hardships and anguish had made my wood hardy, to endure. These two boards He placed out upon a rectangular sheet of rich brown leather, and fastened them there, with some little space between them. Upon the leather He burned words, but I could not read them. Then He fastened between the boards innumerable sheets of coarse parchment written over with countless words. And thus I came into the fulness of my purpose, and was fashioned in the likeness the Man had meant for me since first I came into conception. I knew not the words that I held, but in some way I sensed that they were beautiful words. And I had been chosen to carry them to other nations, that other nations should know the love of the Man as I had, and come to love Him as I had come to love Him.
The words were words of great power. Words of hope. The words of the Man. The words of my King.