There was once a lovely valley filled with pine trees, deep in the forest. Magnificent trunks reached from the valley floor and spread their glorious boughs in elegant grace such as eye rarely saw. In fact the valley was so beautiful that people from around the world made the difficult trip to be able to photograph this amazing sight.
But there was a problem with the valley. While all the trees in the valley, whether large or small, were of the most perfect shape and richest colour, creating mottled shades of green as they swept from one side to the other, there was one ugly tree which spoiled every vantage point.
Where the valley reached its height, just below the mountain ridge that circled it, there was a rocky outcrop. Suspended at the edge of those rocks, and hanging on precariously, was a runty and withered little tree which hardly ever had leaves. Its distorted trunk, if that is what you could call its short and twisted stump, was dried and poorly nourished. There was little water among those rocks and this ugly little excuse for a tree had never been more than an insult to all the others below it. Word had it that this tree had only ever produced one pine cone in its entire life.
The other trees often spoke in ugly tones about the runty bit of wood suspended above their glorious valley. They knew that the stunted tree insulted their kind and had to be the ugliest pine tree that had ever grown.
One day when the master Forester came by, the beautiful pine trees complained to him about the ugly tree.
“Why did you let such an ugly tree grow above our beautiful valley? We do not want that ugly tree there at all. We wish he had never even existed.”
“Is that your wish? The Forester asked. “Yes. Yes!” The trees answered.
“Well then”, said the Forester, “I can make it just as if that tree had never taken root. Would you like that?”
“Oh yes!” They rejoiced.
“Fine. I shall start cutting you down today.”
The trees were shocked. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, if that tree did not exist, then none of you would be here either. So I will have to cut you down.”
All the trees began to quake in horror and pulled their branches back from the Forester.
“Let me tell you what happened” the Forester continued.
“Many, many years ago there was a terrible fire that scorched this entire land. It killed all the trees as far as the eye could see. Every tree was burned to ash and this valley looked black and terrible. Only one tree could survive the inferno. It was just a tender shoot at the time, born with one small root pushing into a crack between huge boulders, high above the fire.
“I watched over that tiny plant and encouraged it to survive, but it was desperately lonely and afraid. There was little water and so it could not grow. Instead it twisted this way and that as it stretched to see the sun and to feel a few drops of rain on its face.
“After many years and many struggles that stunted little pine tree came to full growth. But its full height was less than your young plants here in the valley. With just one branch that lonely tree produced just one pine cone, on just one season, in all its many years above the valley.
“When the pine cone was ripe, the tree tossed it down into the valley below and pleaded with me to make sure that the seeds would grow. He so longed to have other pine trees to talk to and he knew it was his destiny to start that new generation.
“The one pine cone, thrown into the valley so many years ago, produced a few new trees, which produced many seeds to produce more and then more beautiful pines. So that first single pine cone led to every one of you trees that now stand so tall and grand. And it’s all thanks to that one lonely old pine tree who did the little bit he could.
All the trees turned and looked up to that stunted trunk at the top of their valley. They were silent. They had despised that old gnarled survivor, when they owed him their very life. One of the tallest and most beautiful trees leaned over as close as he could to that ancient old pine, and whispered, “Thanks.”
With that a whisper went through all the branches in the valley. “Thanks! Thankyou! Forgive me. Good job!” and “Praise God that you were there for us all!”
The old tree smiled a wrinkled smile of embarrassment. He didn’t want attention, but he did appreciate being given the honour that he was due. He shrank back toward the rocks and went on enjoying the view of all he had achieved in his limited and struggling life.
From that time on, when ever photographers came to the valley, the trees would pull their lovely branches out of the way to make sure every photo caught a glimpse of the twisted old tree at the top of the valley. And as people stood in the cool shade of the pine they often thought they could hear a whisper in the breeze that flowed up the valley to the rocky crags above. The whisper sounded like, “Thanks”.