The Weeping Tree

I pretty much consider myself an ADD artist. One minute I'll be taking photos, the next I'll be painting, then I'll want to learn printmaking, only to interrupt that and study Native American textile patterns. 

I'm ALL over the place! 

Recently, two of my past passions have been trying to claw their way back into my weekly rotation of artistic obsessions. Not too long ago I was working on an artistic self portrait series that kind of fell flat when I moved out to California (read: when I put weight on). and I would love to get back into taking self portraits again. I also really enjoy writing and have had this urge to write something fantastical or fairytale-like lately. 

So, imagine my own surprise when I ran out into the rain the other day, camera in tow, and snapped off a quick 50 self portrait shots with one of the trees in the yard. And how fortuitous that, as I'm editing the photo below, an idea for a quick little vignette of a story played its way through my imagination.   

I love when separate creative ideas meld in ways that you don't expect! Like when a poem spawns a painting or when a photo inspires a piece of prose - much like the following photostory I'm calling "The Weeping Tree". A little piece about love that has been kicking around in my head for a bit. I hope you enjoy it! 


The Weeping Tree

Copyright - Robert Coury 2016  

There once was a lone tree on top of a hill, where it lived in an ocean of rolling hills. This was a sad, small tree - having never known love - and would spend its days and nights weeping for something it knew not. On one particular day the tree's weeping was so loud that it carried along the wind and over the hills to the ears of a young shepherd boy tending his flock. 

The boy heard the sad lament and made his way, with sheep in tow, to the foot of the tree on top of the hill. He stood there, looking up at it curiously and asked, "You poor tree, why are you weeping so?" 

The tree, for all of its sadness, had not noticed the shepherd boy and his flock. Startled by the sound of something other than its own sobs, the tree replied "Why, I'm lonely up here on this hill. I have never known true love. That is why I weep day and night." 

The boy cocked his head and looked thoughtful for a moment. He thought about his family. About the love he had for his mother and father, and the other children he played with in the village. Even to his flock of sheep who kept him company. "Well," he began, "I have known love all my life. I'm certain I could share some with you." With that, the shepherd boy went up to the lone tree, threw his arms around its skinny trunk, and gave the tree a big hug. Love began pouring from the boy's heart right into the tree. Such an amazing force it was, and such a new experience for the tree that it shuddered, sending tiny leaves raining down on the boy and his sheep. The boy looked up at the tree and smiled widely. Then they both laughed and laughed, while the sheep looked curiously about.  

The shepherd boy came back and visited the tree as often as he could - sometimes bringing his flock of sheep, sometimes coming alone. Occasionally he would bring a book and read to the tree. Fantastic stories of things called ships that sailed on vast oceans, like the ocean of hills the tree looked out upon. Sometimes the tree would imagine sailing on a ship with the shepherd boy to far and distant lands. It wondered of spaces beyond the hills and what it must be like to move about the world of men. 

Each time he came to visit, the tree could feel the love radiating off the boy as he lay nestled in its roots, regaling stories of his family and of the other people in his village. The boy described how the baker made the most delicious herbed bread he'd ever tasted, and how he loved to watch his mother make cheese from the milk he brought in from the goats. He told the tree all of his secret longings, all of his secret fears, and each time before their visit came to an end, the boy would always hug the tree, pouring more and more love into its heart. 

The boy grew up to be a young man, and while his visits to the tree became less frequent, he still made it a point to bring his flock to rest under the tree as often as his life would allow. 

One day the young man visited with a shy young woman by his side. He introduced her to the tree as his fiancé and explained how they were to wed. The tree was overjoyed. It could feel the love they had for each other radiating over the hills. When both man and woman hugged the tree, it was so overwhelmed by the the strength and power of their love that flowers burst forth from the earth all around them and leaves rained down from the sky. Both the young man and young woman looked up at the tree, smiled widely, and they all laughed and laughed until they could laugh no more. 

As time went by, the young man visited less and less. Most times he came with his flock, once he even returned with his wife, now large with child. The tree could see the young man was happy and brimming with love, and that too made the tree happy and full. So much so, that the tree had more than tripled in size since knowing the young man. It could now see far and wide over the hills. Far enough that it could make out a vast expanse of shimmering blue, even more vast than the ocean of hills surrounding it.

The tree was so caught up in love, that it barely noticed the young man's absence until the day the young woman, still with child, visited the tree all alone. She knelt down amidst the tree's large, comforting roots, and began to cry. Through her tears she told the tree her story. 

She told of how her husband, the young shepherd man, took his flock to the foothills to feed, and how the season had been hard and the sheep needed new grazing lands. She told of how the foothills were littered with predators - wild cats that could kill a man - and how she begged her husband not to go, not to risk his life for that of the flock. But the man loved his flock and refused to let them suffer, she told the tree. He went and that had been the last time she had seen her husband alive.

The young woman then removed from her garments a small jar of ash. She told the tree about how they had found his body, broken, sheep scattered to the four winds, and the somber funeral held at the pyre in the middle of the village. She told of how all were present and how all present cared for the young man. Then she told of how much she knew the tree meant to the young shepherd man and that while it pained her to visit the tree, she knew she must bring a part of the young man, and his love, back to the place his heart resided. 

With that, the young woman dug a hole at the foot of the tree, poured the ashes from the jar in, and covered it back over. She stood shakily, tears streaming down her face and onto the ground below. Kissing the tree, she walked away, leaving pieces of her broken heart trailing behind. 

The tree was speechless. It could scarcely comprehend what it had just been told. It remained that way for three days and three nights. On the morning of the fourth day, as the sun crept over the horizon, the full reality of the young man's death completely settled over the tree and only then did it begin to weep.

Softly at first. Then gradually, as the days got longer, the tree's weeping grew. It's weeping grew so loud and so sorrowful that the birds who lived within its branches flew away and the flowers refused to grow. So loud that even the earthworms and moles searched for new earth to tunnel through and the grasses surrounding the hill turned brown and brittle. For many years the tree wept. Shrinking smaller and smaller until it was but the size of a bush and its sobs carried over the windswept hills. 

One day, the weeping fell upon the ears of a young girl, collecting wildflowers to sell at the village market. She cocked her head and followed the sound until she found a tiny tree on top of a lone, barren hill. 

"There, there now little tree," the young girl said as she sat down amidst its branches. "Why are you weeping so?" 

The little tree could barely speak to the young girl as it said, "I have lost a love very close and dear to me. The pain to have loved and lost is far greater than I could ever have imagined; I fear as if I can not go on. I fear I will weep myself to nothingness." With that the little tree broke into more sobs. 

The young girl looked thoughtfully at the tree. "That sounds like a very powerful love to have experienced. They say my mother died the same way not long after she gave birth to me; that she died of a broken heart. They say that she loved my father, a young shepherd from the village, so much she couldn't help but follow him to heaven." The girl paused then added, "Do you regret loving as fiercely and strongly as you did little tree? I have never known a love like that, nor that of my parents, and I fear that love will some day break my heart." 

The little tree looked at the young girl - as if seeing her for the first time - and stopped weeping. "Not one moment do I regret loving as fiercely and strongly as I did" the tree replied. "In fact, I think I still have some love that I can share with you..." and with that, the little tree spread its branches and embraced the young girl. Love poured into her heart and radiated out over the hills. 

Giving freely of love was such an amazing force for the little tree that it shuddered, sending tiny leaves raining down, covering the young girl and her wildflowers. She looked up at the little tree and smiled widely. Then they both laughed and laughed until they could laugh no more.