22 January 2019

A tree has clues to a treasure

Several years ago, I wrote a regular column for the JEANS section of 'The Nation'.  The editor of JEANS, Kusumanjalee Thilakarathna now handles the 'Littlestars' tabloid distributed with 'The Sunday Morning'. This is the thirteenth article for Littlestars.  Scroll down to find the full series of articles written for JEANS and the those of this new series.

Trees teach us a lot of things and they give us so much too. They give us shade, timber, oxygen, fruit and firewood.  They make landscapes nice. They bring birds into our gardens.  We don’t notice and we hardly ever appreciate. However, if we imagined our gardens not having a single tree or plant or even a blade of grass we would begin to appreciate.  

That’s a basic lesson. Here’s another one.

I’m sure you’ve seen trees of all sizes and shapes. Think of a really impressive tree. It could be very tall or very strong. It could have branches that spread over a large area. You could even forget about it being impressive. You could instead think of and look it the biggest tree in your garden.

This is what you have to do. Go really close to it. You’ll notice a lot of things, but maybe you’ll also notice how big it is and how small you are. It might even appear to be the biggest thing in the area. 

Now begins the fun part. Take a step back. Take another step back. Go back as far as you can.  Maybe you’ll have to stop because there’s another tree, a gate, a wall, a vehicle or something else.    It doesn’t matter, for by then you’ll see other things apart from your ‘big tree’. You might see the roof of your house or someone else’s house. The tree might look shorter than other trees or other houses. 

Not is the time to imagine. Imagine that there was no tree, gate, wall, car or something else to block you as you step back. Imagine you can step back as far as you want.  

You’ll understand that the tree is actually not as big as you first thought it was. If you have any doubts, just stop and look into the distance in any direction. Things would look tiny.  And yet, you do know that they are bigger than they seem. You could make a square window using a few fingers and you’d be able to capture a house or even a town (if you are on top of a hill) inside that frame. Ad yet you know the house or town is too big for you to hold in the palm of your hand, right?

Let’s get back to the tree. walk towards it.  Does it look big again? It would look big, naturally.  The difference is that you now know that it is not as big as it first appeared. There are bigger things. It’s just one tree among many. It’s occupies just a tiny part of a garden and an even tinier part of your country. It’s like a speck of dust if you compared it with the size of our planet. 

And yet, the tree is big. It’s bigger than you. 

Can you now imagine how small you are in this universe?  

But don’t let that make you feel bad.  It’s good to know how big or small we are. This is one way of learning how to be humble. There’s nothing wrong in growing up or in becoming important, but it’s good to know there are other things that are larger than us, other things that are more important.


Venus-Serena tied at love-all
Some jokes are not funny
There's an ant story waiting for you
And you can be a rainbow-maker
Trees are noble teachers
On cloudless nights the moon is a hole
Gulp down those hurtful words
A question is a boat, a jet, a space-ship or a heart
Quotes can take you far but they can also stop you
No one is weak
The fisherman in a black shirt
Let's celebrate Nelli and Nelliness
Ready for time travel?
Puddles look back at you, did you know?
What's the view like from your door?
The world is rearranged by silhouettes
How would you paint the sky?
It is cool to slosh around
You can compose your own music
Pebbles are amazing things
You can fly if you want to
The happiest days of our lives
So what do you want to do with the rain?
Still looking for that secret passage?
Maybe we should respect the dust we walk on
Numbers are beautiful 
There are libraries everywhere 
Collect something crazy
Fragments speak of a thousand stories 
The games you can and cannot play with rice
The magic of the road less-traveled
Have you ever thought of forgiving?
Wallflowers are pretty, aren't they?
What kind of friend do you want to be? 
Noticed the countless butterflies around you?
It's great to chase rainbows
In praise of 'lesser' creatures 
A mango is a book did you know?
Expressions are interesting things
How many pairs of eyes do you need?
So no one likes you?
There is magic in faraway lights
The thambilil-seller of Giriulla
When people won't listen, things will
Lessons of the seven-times table