How to Grow a Tree From Its Mother
By Sydney Johnson
I’ve always been interested in world-building, so for my project, I’ve mapped out and explored the stories of four key places in a world I will use to explore nuanced identity.
Days before the world ran out of cedar seeds, a merchant traveled from town to town giving demonstrations on how to grow a tree from its mother. He introduced himself as an arborist. He attracted many curious minds, and soon after he completed a demonstration, they would come up to him to ask to see the cedars in person. He always said yes. So they followed him home.
When he left his first town, one townsperson asked to come. At his second, three people asked. By the end of the day, a group of thirty people were following the merchant North.
The merchant was an honest man. He did not have much to his name, and his home was not so big to house and feed thirty people. Each time someone asked to accompany him home, he told that person so, but the townspeople were wholly curious in botany and horticulture. Each person told the merchant that food and sleeping quarters would not present themselves as problems. The merchant was doubtful, but nonetheless, continued to extend his invitation.
The journey was long and joyful. Proximity makes fast friends. Just two days into the trip North, the caravan of people had begun to get very close. Before bed each night, sitting on land that had never touched their feet, they would each take turns fantasizing about the arborist’s grove. Each tree is thirty feet tall, and the mother leaves wrap around the child trunk, one older woman said. At night the mother wakes her children, and they move under the protection of the grandmother, the stars, using their innumerous branches as feet to walk, said another. And on they talked, until the stars woke up and the wind quieted.
The merchant listened to their stories as he pretended to sleep atop the grass next to them. He never said a word about the stories, never confirmed nor denied anything. He loved the trees for the wood they brought him, and never thought past that.
When they finally reached the merchant’s house, tired, hungry, and sore, the merchant, assuming his followers would follow him, went inside to make tea and dinner for everyone. Without looking back, he entered the house, and began cooking. It wasn’t until thirty minutes later that he realized no one was in the house with him. He walked outside and saw his followers kneeling on the floor, facing the cedar trees. The grove was situated a little east of the merchant’s house, but it was still visible from the entrance. The merchant called the names he knew, but none answered. He went back into the house, and wondered if they had eaten something bad.
That night, quietly and slowly, the townspeople began to file into the house. Each townsperson, without having talked with one another, asked the arborist to stay and help with the grove. He said yes easily to the first person to come in for dinner, and found it increasingly more difficult with each person coming to eat. There was not much space and little food. He was a kind man, though, and needed help taking care of the trees. After all, the grove was inherited and he was in no way an expert in taking care of cedars. He had only said he was an arborist to attract seed and method buyers, to appeal to them by feigning expertise. The previous provider was far more honest, gentle, and in awe of the trees than he, and if nothing else, every townsperson carried a bit of her within themselves. That distinct feeling of divinity and knowledge when in the presence of the trees.
After many months, because the merchant was not used to lots of company or organization, the townspeople turned into grovekeepers, and the land behind the merchant’s house turned into their home. They had watering schedules and planting schedules and seed collecting schedules. They loved the trees and knew the trees loved them back, for they started growing straighter and more towards the sky above them. Before the sun set, they would sing the trees to wake and left them to their vices under the stars. The merchant went into town every week and sold seeds to the townspeople. All was well.
Years passed, and the grovekeepers tended to the trees. They had kids, and just as the mother cares for their child with balance and nourishment and support and song, so did the grovekeepers. When the twenty-year harvesting period returned, the grovekeepers set the child cedars free, and mirrored this freedom in their children. And just as the mother cedar tree always learns, so did the grovekeepers.
Sydney Johnson is a long time reader, inquisitive writer and student. She loves listening to and making music, her houseplants and the visual and written arts. Her goal as a writer is to have the ability to guide her readers into understanding even her most complex thoughts.