They said it was a myth. I wasn’t quite so sure. My curiosity got the better of me and I decided if it was possible, I would try to see if I could prove (or disprove) the myth.
What myth? There is a myth that a single solitary sprout from the very last reading tree is still in existence. A reading tree, or so the story goes, is a tree wraps its roots around books and grows to bear books as “fruit”. As the books mature they fall to the ground ready to be read and enjoyed.
Supposedly, the only sprout of the last reading tree known to exist is being safely kept and tended by a very, very small bear in an old discarded Mason jar.
I started my quest by delicately asking a few old timers the question “if a reading tree sprout exists, how would a person go about looking for it?”
I spoke to a gentleman who swore he would deny every word if I told anyone what he told me. But as we are friends, I think I can trust you. He instructed me to wait patiently until darkness came. Not dusk, not a moonlit night. Darkness. After my eyes adjusted, I was to carefully make my way into the woods. I was to look for the tiniest glow and he said with emphasis, “if it exists, you’ll see it”.
Every moonless night, I slipped out of bed and into the woods and cautiously waited for my eyes to get used to the dark. Every night I took a different path feeling that I might be just a tad crazy for pursuing such a wild objective.
Then one night not long ago a summer breeze rustled the leaves and made the branches of the trees sway. That was when I thought I saw something.
A glow – just a tiny little glow that was there and gone. But every time the wind blew, it would briefly appear. My heart started to race and I began to believe that my quest might actually prove successful.
I waited for the next breeze and sure enough the glow flickered. I took a step towards it and then waited for the next small gust. I repeated this over and over until I got close enough to figure out what it was that I was seeing.
I discovered that I was seeing the actual incarnation of what was believed to be a myth. I slowly went to my knees to get a closer look at this magical tree growing in a Mason jar. Well, I say tree but it was really a sprout – a very small sprout. Is that redundant?
And there beneath its diminutive branches was a petite bear reading a book. He was kept company by a bird in the tree’s branches and a turtle resting nearby. A watering can sat at the base of the tree.
I gently picked up the jar and the bear looked up at me and smiled. “Do take care” he said. “Too much jostling and we really will become a myth.” “Take a look,” he instructed “at its roots. See the letters? That’s what makes this tree different from any other on the planet. It seems to know that the roots and the fruit above are connected not only to each other but to the rest of us making the most of the books it grows. Now that you have seen, go and find your favorite book and read yourself to sleep. You won’t be able to find us in the daytime and you will think it was a dream. But you and I will know it is real. I will continue to tend the tree and you, well, you should go and read and sleep and dream.”
So, I did. Then the next morning I set about trying to recreate what I saw in the woods the night before. Here’s my version of The Reading Tree.