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Composite by Keith Hickey.

Once upon a time in a land we now call northern Arizona, The Creator of all things manifested the largest ponderosa forest on Earth. It was a mighty thing stretching for thousands among thousands of acres in all directions. It was a happy forest because it lived in harmony with all the other trees that surrounded it and all that inhabited it. Birds and squirrels made their homes and raised their families among its branches; some bore into it and made their homes in its trunk. Mushrooms and fungus attached themselves to the tree and the tree supplied them with the nutrients and fresh air they needed to flourish. When the tree grew old and died, it laid itself down on the forest floor and provided its nutrients to everything around it so they could survive. Even in death it continued to provide for all that inhabited the great forest.

One day, The Creator, in its endless diversity, decided it would choose one tree among the millions that inhabited the forest and endow that tree with an ego. It would allow the tree to be sentient, to be self-aware. With a wave of its hand the tree was no longer unified with the rest of the forest, it was singular. It was alone. As it became aware of itself it became confused and afraid, it was no longer connected to its purpose in life. The Tree stood quietly for a very, very long time, observing its surroundings. It saw that it was among many other trees that looked similar, but none were exactly like it.

One morning, it dawned on The Tree that the ponderosa next to it was slowly coming closer. It was listing in its direction. The Tree began keeping a close eye on it. On another day, The Tree noticed a ponderosa a ways off that had been listing, crashed into another tree and damaged it badly. It now understood that other trees posed a great threat to it. The Tree wished the other ponderosas would move further away from it. From where The Tree stood it had a small view from the hillside and noticed that the ponderosas on the top of the mountain had more space between them and a much better view. The Tree became jealous of them. It also noticed that the ponderosas down in the valley were larger and greener and it became jealous of them as well.

One day, The Tree noticed that off in the distance something strange was occurring. The air had become hazy amongst the far-off trees and a bright light was emanating from them. The wind picked up and began blowing in its direction. The sky darkened and as the smoke and bright light grew closer it saw that it was devouring the forest and was heading straight for it. The Tree was terrified, but just then it began to rain. The smoke and fire died away and disappeared. The Tree then became aware that although the fire had abated, it was still under attack. Woodpecker was boring into its trunk as well as squirrels and other small creatures. It could feel mushrooms and fungus stealing its nutrients and that listing tree was getting much closer. The Tree began weeping uncontrollably and sap poured out of it everywhere. It was helpless and unable to save itself and became even more terrified. The Creator looked down upon the tree and saw its great suffering. With a wave of its mighty hand it swept away the ego that had caused all of its pain. Immediately, The Tree was reconnected to, and back in harmony with all that surrounded it.

In a way we humans live in a forest of seven billion others just like us, but slightly different. We are not meant to stand alone in the middle of this forest of people, but rather, we are meant to stand tall together.

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John Stebila is married to fellow artist Suzanne Stebila and they share two beautiful children together. He is a retired businessman, a landscape sculptor, wood carver, professional musician, artist and writer. John writes for the sole purpose of bringing peace and insight to those that read his work.


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