Monday, December 17, 2012


Ludwig Bemelsmans ~ Harper & Row, 1955

To my surprise, I sat down tonight to write this post only to discover that one of my favorite blogs was having a like-minded moment. I'm not going to say this book has an anti-gun message, but... for sure it has an anti-gun message. Take that with whatever grain of salt you want and know that it has been one of the crappiest weekends of all time for parents and anyone else with a heartbeat. If the idea that a magical sort of tree can save us all from harm brings you any solace... well then, you are a dear dear soul.

Originally published in Woman's Day in '53 as a sort of poem called "The Old Stag and the Tree", it is the story shared between two unlikely friends.

    At the edge of a deep, a deep green forest
    stands an old, lone pine tree looking out
    over the valley below.
    It had started life there, emerald green and hopeful,
    and for a while stretched its little arms
    unworried to the sky,
    but then it discovered that it stood
    at the edge of an abyss,
    and that the wind blew at it
    day and night,
    and that the snow tried to smother it.
    It knew that if it wanted to stay
    it had to fight,
    and so it held onto the rocks
    with a will, and thoroughly rooted.
    It got old, so old
    that several generations of trees
    that stood in the protected forest
    and grew up, easily and straight,
    fell to the ax, and became
    parts of houses, furniture, and ships
    in the world below.
    Nobody wanted the crooked pine.
    It was useless to men. It had grown so big
    that its twisted boughs
    spread like a green tarpaulin, low over the ground,
    and in this safe shelter,
    secure from hunters' eyes,
    in a home of molded leaves and mosses,
    a stag raised his young,
    and the tree and the stag were grateful
    to each other. And both got very, very old.
    The stag was a grandfather many times,
    and his antlers were the biggest in the forest.
    He wore whiskers,
    and he came daily to the tree,
    not to sleep there any more,
    for his old friend had become barren
    and no longer could offer him cover.
    He came there out of friendship,
    and to look out over the valley below
    so that he could warn his grandchildren,
    who played in the deep forest, of danger approaching.
    And when the old tree and the old stag
    were together, weather-beaten the one, and gray the other,
    it was difficult to tell which were the antlers and
    which the barren boughs.
    One day, a hunter below, looking through his
    powerful binoculars,
    saw the stag, in the first morning blush,
    but the stag did not see him, for his eyesight was failing.
    The young deer played while danger approached,
    and the old deer wandered off to feed at the edge
    of the forest,
    while the hunter carefully climbed
    and came up over the edge of the abyss.
    The stag stood just right
    three hundred yards away. 

    The hunter leaned against the tree to steady himself, 
    but suddenly, just as he was about
    to squeeze the trigger,
    the tree whispered his warning.
    From betwixt two clouds that were as puffed cheeks
    there came a burst of wind,
    and the tree twisted and knocked against the hunter,
    and one of the roots tripped him,
    and he fell and fell, followed by stones,
    until he lay, far below, to hunt no more.
    The gun was lost in a ravine,
    but swinging back and forth quietly
    on one of the crooked arms of the pine
    hung the sharp binoculars,
    which the tree
    had lifted off the hunter's shoulders
    as he fell.
    And now all the old stag has to do
    is to stand there and look down into the valley
    through the binoculars
    for other hunters,
    and if he doesn't die of old age,
    he and his family
    will live happily forever after.

One last thought. A dear friend of mine posted this on Facebook over the weekend and it seemed apropos. 

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

Fred McFeely Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003)

Also by:
Madeleine and the Gypsies


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