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By Christopher G. Wilkey
Once upon a time, in all the world there was only one tree. Soon this tree grew itself new trunks, up from its roots. And even though this one tree had many roots, and up from these many roots grew many trunks, and out from these trunks grew many branches, and on these branches grew many long thin leaves, it was all one tree. For these many parts were all connected, and they shared with each other part as one.
Then one eon, a river of water began to find its way in the midst of the one tree’s many roots, and between its many trunks. Eventually the river got wider and wider. This separated the roots, and the trunks, and the branches, and the long thin leaves on one side of the river from the roots, and the trunks, and the branches, and the long thin leaves on the other side of the river. What had been one, was now two.
Then one eon, a volcano erupted. It was far up in the mountains from which the river of water came. The lava from the volcano cut a new river, of molten rock, that burned and separated the roots, and the trunks, and the branches, and the long thin leaves in a place that was near the river of water from the roots, and the trunks, and the branches, and the long thin leaves in a place that was farther from the river of water. What had been two, were now three.
Then one eon, an earthquake broke the ground in a place on the other side of the river of water. This caused the roots, and the trunks, and the branches, and the long thin leaves on this other side of the river of water to become separated from the roots, and the trunks, and the branches, and the long thin leaves that were farther from this other side of the river of water. What had been three, were now four.
Eons came and went. Over this long, long time, rivers found their way, volcanoes erupted, earthquakes broke the ground, meteors and comets hit the earth. Lakes, seas, and oceans would fill the low places only to dry up again just as quickly. Old mountains were beaten down into sands by the winds, while new mountains inched their way up into the heights. Over this long, long time the roots, and the trunks, and the branches, and the long thin leaves would get separated from each other again and again. What had been four, were now many, many things.
As the trees grew in places that were now farther and farther away from each other, they began to grow in different ways to help themselves get along better in places that had become so different. Some grew taller, while some grew shorter. Some, shocked by the cold of the winter, and the hot of the summer, grew broad leaves that they shed in the fall. Others, kept their leaves all year long, even if we wouldn’t call them leaves, any more. Some grew straight, while some grew gnarled. To make more of themselves, some grew cones, nuts, or fruits that fall to the ground with seeds inside of them, while others still make new trunks grow up from their roots, and one even makes new trunks that grow down from its branches. They were no longer connected and did not know any longer how to share with each other as one.
Then one eon, a person learned she could keep herself cooler while going from one shady tree on the hot grassy plains to another shady tree on the hot grassy plains, by walking upright. She taught her children to do the same and they shared with each other as one family. Later that eon, her children’s, children’s, children’s children got so good at walking upright that many of them walked very far away from each other. What had been one family, became many, many families.
Then one eon, many eons later, when the many, many families had gotten to be so many and so different from each other that they had forgotten that they had ever had one mother, in a time when they had forgotten how to share with each other as one family, some grown up children from a few of these many, many families found a small group of trees that had long thin leaves, on long branches growing from tall trunks growing from their many roots in a remote corner of the world that had been separated from all the other places for a very long, long time. When these grown up children, from a few of these many, many families, looked at these trees with their many roots, and their tall trunks, and their long branches, with their long thin leaves, they began to become confused. As they studied this little group of trees, they began to realize that the roots of one tree were connected to the roots of the next tree, and the roots of that tree were connected to the roots of the tree next to it, and so it went, on and on. It became hard for these grown up children to tell where one tree ended and the next began. It was almost as if, they were all one tree.