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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Trees (12/05/05)

TITLE: Trek Through Dark Woods
By Patrick Verbeten


They kicked up dust as they walked along the path, talking about nothing in particular. Before too long they approached Dark Woods and paused. The wise sage rested beside his pupil drinking in the majesty of each towering timber. Meanwhile his protégée stood terrified at the darkness that loomed deep in the forest. It permeated his being. As far as he could see there was nothing and nothing meant panic - or did it?

The elder traveler wisely understood the younger man’s dilemma, but did not speak. Rather, he allowed his son the dignity of working through the situation.

“Screech!“ A far-off owl broke the silence.

“D-do you think we should go in there,” asked the youth tentatively?

The old man smiled. “Yes, he did have so much to learn,” he thought, though he knew better than to say anything yet.

After another moment of uncomfortable silence, the lad added, “Well, I guess we do need to go in if we’re to reach our destination.”

Another smile, this one just a bit broader, came over the wizened face of the sage. “What do you see in there, Chance?”

“I see only darkness.”

“But do you see that pine? What about this oak? Look, both are in this same forest.”

“I did not, but now I do. And there is an ash and aren’t those three also pines? And, if I look deeper I can see that each tree has a type, even the ones I can’t identify. That makes them less threatening.”

“Now you are beginning to see. Look carefully and you will see flowers and shrubs. If your eyes are keen enough, you may even see creatures and birds. Do not forget to listen and smell.”

With each step into the woods, his son gained confidence. He peered intently to see the wonders his father spoke of. There was delight with each new discovery. He did not even notice as they reached the halfway point in the woods, and thus began leaving.

After another stretch of silence, Father again spoke, ”Chance, each tree is like situations in your life. When you saw them as a whole, they were foreboding and ominous, but as you came to see individual trees you could appreciate them for what they were. You also discovered other things of beauty. Take that oak for example. It is dry, almost dead. Lightning or a careless man with fire could start it ablaze, and it in turn could start the whole forest burning. But, if we cut it down, it can become heat or a table or some other useful thing. When we cut it down, we let light into the woods which makes it possible for new vegetation to grow tall and strong.”

“So this tamarack is my work problems. That pine is school. And that gigantic sycamore over there is Juanita who sits behind me in Spanish class…. Just as the different trees can grow in harmony in a forest, so can the different aspects of my life.”

“You‘re right. What else do you see?”

“Some of them are strong and tall, others weak and spindly. Is that like my life situations also?” He asked the question even though he knew only he could answer it. “I guess it is. I need only to see which situations truly are big and which ones I make humongous in my own mind. Like when we entered the forest, I panicked because all I saw was darkness. With your help I began to see individual trees and all the other treasures Dark Woods has to offer. I forgot my fears. Now I see that I can also use this to see my life circumstances more realistically. And now, for the first time since we entered the darkness, I can see light at the end of the path!”

Another smile and another question formed on the lips of the sage, “Is it really the end of the path that you see, or is it just the beginning?”

“I see what you are saying. It is a beginning, and as such I do not need to panic. Likewise, when problems in life face me, I can face them also. They can be the beginning like that oak we talked about cutting down.”

They exited the forest not as they went in. The sage entered with a boy as his companion, but left with a man. And though they walked the same dusty path, it led to a bright new future.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 12/14/05
You set the mood and the scene beautifully with words like "sage" and "protege"--I was imagining a fantasy setting. Then you use the trees as symbols of everyday things like the girl in Spanish class. So I'm confused as to where, and when, and who these people are.

The wise man has very wise lessons to teach the younger man. Once that other matter is cleared up, this story is top-notch.