Wednesday, December 1

The story of a tree

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Our rainforest has flourished for millennia, long before drones were invented or even thought of. — Bernama file photo

ONCE upon a time, trees grew and blossomed in the forest, all by themselves. Fruits and nuts developed in due time; animals ate these and dispersed the seeds. Some seeds sprouted, and new trees grew.

That, at any rate, was the ‘old normal’.

The ‘new normal’ is what you could call an accelerated method of tree propagation: our Forest Department has come up with an ingenious technique of embedding tree seeds in ‘balls’, presumably of soil and nutrients, and disseminating them in areas that need to be reforested. It’s not the birds and squirrels any longer, it’s the foresters who roam the jungle dispersing tree seeds. And if the terrain is too wild for even the toughest forester (that would have to be VERY wild terrain!), seed balls can be air-dropped from drones.

Way to go!

But our rainforest has flourished for millennia, long before drones were invented or even thought of!

Here’s the story of one tree, representing thousands and thousands of its noble fellows.

Once upon a time there was a tree.

It was tall and strong and shady, surrounded by many others. It stood higher than its fellows, proud and alone near the clouds.

It belonged to nobody.

But the little birds who nested in its branches thought it was their tree. The worms burrowing under its bark here and there thought it was their tree. The squirrels who gnawed its nuts after the rains thought it was their tree. The rattan vine that swayed from its limbs thought it was its tree.

They were wrong.

A man who lived nearby and stood in need of timber posts for his house knew very well it was his tree.

The Water Board near whose catchment the tree stood knew very well it was their tree.

The Forester who had inventoried the timber stand and entered it under ‘hardwood-indigenous species’ knew very well that it was his tree.

A woman who lived in a longhouse nearby and came to strip rattan for basket-making once in a while had known it for years as her tree.

A poacher who knew of a quiet place where you could sell timber and no questions asked had just found out that it was his tree.

A farmer who lived nearby and had marked out this area for next year’s fields also knew it was his tree.
But they were wrong too.

A large man who didn’t live nearby at all came in a large car with a large piece of paper, which had a large seal on it to prove that it was his tree.

That ought to have settled the tree’s fate. Of those who wanted its substance and those who wanted its services, surely the one with a signed and sealed paper will get it?

He did not. Lightning got it.

A crashing thunderbolt split the tree into slivers right down to the roots needed by the Water Board to preserve soil moisture.

The woman could get the last of the rattan without the help of a limber nephew now.

The house builder and the poacher got a few wedge-shaped planks out of the wreck.

The farmer took all the firewood.

The large man did Good To The Poor by generously declining his share, as he modestly told the press a few days later.

And those of the tree’s nuts which the squirrels had missed fell to the ground and sprouted in the clearing.

Slowly they grew heavenwards, keeping our land green forever.

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