In view of all that’s been happening these last few weeks, this is perfect!
We are exactly one month away from Christmas Day! Not sure if that’s scary or satisfying. For years, I have always embraced mid-Winter’s Day on December 21st as the bottom of the slope; so to speak. Thus on that basis Christmas Day is satisfying.
Anyway, tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in this fine, new country of ours and I was wondering what to write to recognise both the importance, current and historical, for Americans and, at a more parochial level, for yours truly. Because, for sure, at the start of this year I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that by Thanksgiving Day I would have a book available on Amazon!
Then along comes the perfect answer to my pondering as to what to write. A gorgeous post written by Kate Johnston of 4am Writer‘s fame. Even better, Kate giving me permission to republish it in this place. So to all my readers and followers: Happy Thanksgiving.
The Writers’ Tree
There once was a tree where writers could go and put down stories in the thin bark. Over time, the stories began to bleed into each other until the day came when the tree could take no more stories.
The writers didn’t have any other place to go.
They tried to write in the sand dunes, but the wind just blew the words around into gibberish.
They tried to write in the sky, but the rains came and washed everything away.
They tried to write on the animals and birds but got bitten and clawed for their trouble.
One little girl missed writing too much. Her stories were piling up inside her like rotten apples on the ground, and she needed a place to write them. She went searching. Over the hills and behind some mist that beckoned with gauzy fingers.
She found a secret place where trees grew by the dozens, trees with papery bark that wanted to give stories. She told no one of her discovery, wanting to keep all the trees to herself. She spent day after day writing story after story upon tree after tree.
When she had scribed all her stories, she abandoned the secret place and never returned. She didn’t tell a single soul about the trees that gave stories, for fear that someone wouldn’t like what she wrote, would laugh at her, wouldn’t understand.
But while she was gone, attending to other things like school, friends, growing up and starting a family, her stories began to fade away. With no one to savor them, the tales began to disappear from the trees.
Stories cannot exist without readers. And writers cannot exist without stories.
The girl, now an old woman, returned to the secret place with her grandson, thinking he would appreciate the magic of the stories on the trees. Imagine her devastation when she saw that her words were destroyed, scabbed over by new bark and punctured by holes from insects and birds.
It was plain to the girl, now an old woman, the trees could no longer give to a writer who had stopped writing. She fell to her knees and wept. She couldn’t even start over. It’d been too long since she’d come to the secret place and had forgotten how to write at all.
Her grandson scraped away the new growth, traced his finger over the faintest of marks, trying to find the long-lost stories. It was no use, not by himself. He was young and couldn’t yet read.
They went back to the world where they found a baker, a postman, a teacher, an electrician, and a dancer, all of whom could read and longed to write stories. The old woman and her grandson brought their new friends to the secret place to find the lost stories, but still, it was no use.
The stories were gone forever.
It had been too long since the girl, now an old woman, had written them that she couldn’t even remember how they went, or what they were about, or why she wrote them at all.
All she knew was that when she wrote, she’d felt indescribable joy. She’d fooled herself into thinking that was enough. The girl not knowing then as the old woman knows now that you must tend to joy if you want joy to stay.
Together, the friends wrote anew, wrote stories into the bark like paper. They shared their ideas and questions and hopes. They took the time to feel and find meaning in all of the stories. They laughed and cried and debated over worlds they created. They left comments with hearts to show how much each story moved them. They talked about how they couldn’t wait to bring a husband or a mother or a friend to the writers’ trees to show them the stories that grew there.
The girl, now an old woman, watched her friends’ stories blossom and grow with each reader that visited the writers’ trees. She saw the joy on her friends’ faces, saw how the joy stayed because they kept doing the one thing they loved: writing.
She wondered if she dared try again, to bring a story to life here, even though she’d failed so miserably in the past.
Her friends walked the old woman to a new tree. If you love it so, they said, if writing brings you joy, they said, then write you must and never give up, they said.
The old woman took to the tree and wrote.
Her stories live on.
Dear readers: I am going to take a break for one day, so my next post will be on Friday. You all have a wonderful time wherever you are in the world.