The Heart of the Woods

Once upon an autumn, there lived a forest. Though the trees were lovely to look at, their dislike for one another made their hearts ugly and filled the sky with a dreadful noise. (Of course, you couldn’t hear their bickering; when people walked through the forest, those trees held their breath and were the quietest trees in the world.)

A young sapling listened day after day as the forest spewed grumblings and gossip, wishing he could unite the trees. What would the sky sound like if the only noise he’d ever known were gone? Was anger the only voice they had?

The sapling held his barky tongue and continued to wait. The forest grew and grew—the trees in their discontentment and the sapling in his longing for a new sound.

One evening, the oldest, grumpiest tree in the woods rumbled down to the sapling: “Harrrrumph! I’ve waited and waited for you, little tree, to make a complaint worth hearing! You’ve certainly had long enough to learn from us how to behave properly. Now out with it. What do you dislike most about this forest?”

The sapling looked at the old tree in the fading light. It would have been easy for him to say, “You are what I dislike most! Your mean heart and your grumpy ways and the hurtful sound you fill the sky with. Please stop poisoning the forest!”

But he didn’t.

That would just make the voice of bitterness stronger in the woods, fill the sky with one more voice of complaint.

Do you know what the little sapling did instead? He sang.

Now, I don’t know if you have ever heard a tree sing before, but it was not a beautiful noise. It was wild and lonely and sweet, but it was not beautiful.

The forest stood still, captivated by such an odd voice. What was this new sound? A whisper came from the wind, rubbing life into the branches of the old tree.

“Hope,” he said. “This little sapling is singing hope. But of course he’s doing it wrong. Let us teach him, shall we?”

The forest stood a bit taller, took a deep breath, and made a sound the sapling had never heard before. Their tune, like his, was wild and lonely and sweet, but it grew in beauty the longer they sang. (The trees, you see, were out of practice with the noise of hope, but it is a song you can never quite entirely forget, and it becomes stronger the longer you sing.)

Eyes wide and heart full, the little sapling joined his voice to the chorus of the woods. He lifted hope to the sky and sang about the grass and the clouds and the rain and the morning. As the tune swelled, his father bent down and murmured, “Well done. I’m so proud of you.”

The sky twinkled brightly, awakened by the hope that had seemed so far gone. The woods swayed along, branches crossed in goodwill.

And the trees sang together all through the night.

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