The Solitary Pine
In the middle of the far-spreading field stands a single great pine tree. Its trunk is so immense that then people with out-stretched arms could not circle it. When a 90-year-old man, who lived in the nearest village, was asked about the tree's age, he replied: "From my earliest youth, this pine tree has been as large as it is now. No one knows how many hundreds of years old it is. But there are records of it in the most ancient chronicles of our village."
The tree's branches extend for a distance of 60 feet from one side to the other. During ordinary rainstorms the ground under the branches remains quite dry, and very little of the winter's snow gets under them. In summer, travelers eat their lunch under these branches, and so, about 20 or 30 years ago, a rest house was built here. From among the roots of the tree, a spring of crystal water gushes forth. The well-traveled road goes right under the shade of the branches. Most giant trees are hollow from decay, but this one is perfectly sound.
There are many legends about the pine tree. One of them, recorded on a scroll in the village temple, gives the pine's life history.
An eminent and virtuous Buddhist priest once lived in this temple. One night, in a dream, he was visited by the spirit of the pine tree. It told him the story of it's life, which he recorded on the scroll that is preserved to this day. It became a hidden treasure, but I was able to see it, so I copied it in secret and now open it for all to read. ***
My dear Pastor: I am the spirit of the solitary pine which you see in the field when you look out your window. Ordinary people revere me as something of a marvel. It is they who have given me the name of the Solitary Pine. Travelers who trudge along the highroad through this field stop under my branches, summer or winter, to catch their breath, and go their way glad and refreshed. I'm even a landmark for the fishermen of the distant seashore villages when they take their boats out to sea. It's pleasant to be a landmark and to give shade to people. However, this is nothing in particular to me. I don't care one way or the other about such matters. For me, there is only the effort to live my own life. Many, many years had to pass for me to become the giant pine that I am today. Yet it isn't necessary for every person to know what I am. You, out of all the world, are the one I really want to know my story. That is why I visited you tonight.
My original birthplace is not in this spot but on the top of that tall mountain which you see faintly in the distance. Growing up in that place was not easy; the wind blew strong and snow lay heavy on my branches. When, after several dozen years, I had grown to a height of about five or six feet, I was dug up, with many of my friends and brothers and transplanted to this field. Today the area is nothing but rice fields and kitchen gardens, but many years ago it was all planted in pine trees.
My friends and brothers shot up quickly in the approved manner. Of course, among them were weak ones that withered away and died. These became fuel for farmers.
A hundred years passed. Over half of the pine trees had been but down.
Every year the woodcutters came. They surveyed the pine trees and selected the straight ones to cut. These trees were used to make houses or temple chapels. The ridgepole and beams of this very temple are the bodies of my brothers and friends.
Such trees were ever so quiet, straight, humble, and well-behaved; they had no unsightly branches sprouting out all over their trunks, and their trunks were not crooked. So the woodcutters chose them, saying " You'll make good boards of lumber," and chopped them down.
My brothers didn't consider that it was their lives being taken away from. No, they said, " I am going to be lumber for the house belonging to the village chief," or, " I will become the ridge poles for the temple chapel." "But I'm going to become lumber for the temple headquarters!" "Ha! I am going to Tokyo to become lumber for the buildings of the whole government." They were glad to throw their lives away to become lumber for there uses. It's true that some of them are still useful as lumber. But many of them have been burned up in fires or eaten up by white ants or decayed in the dampness: not even their bodies remain.
Go on to Part Two