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Pine

In a time before time, long ago, where we live now had hardly any trees. Flowery meadows spread across the valley. Dusky reds, cornflower blues and sunshine yellows permeated the landscape, enhancing the vista of hay fields on fertile hillsides bursting with grain. Luxuriant pastures on the hilltops fed contented goats, sheep and cows. Beauty and harmony abounded – beyond doubt a wonderful place to be. Bouncing and laughing over smooth rotund pebbles, a bubbling stream flowed through the valley, between the rolling hills. The easterly sea lay in calm fulfilment, just the other side of the last rounded knoll on the horizon.

It was from here that the original rumbling sound came. It was like the churning of an empty stomach – a creaking, echoing, unfilled reverberation. The sheep on the hilltops raised their heads from the sweet grass, and twitched their ears. The Ram, Goat and Bull, the flock leaders, strolled up to a flat stone on one of the summits and narrowed their eyes to see into the distant east. And what they saw gave them cause for joy.

A green dragon was slowly clambering along the brow of a stony mound, dripping water as if just raised from the sea. Its body shimmered in the sun. Moving with great concentration, it carefully chose a route along the high rocky ridge.

Disaster! To the horror of the Ram, Goat and Bull, suddenly one foot flew sideways, the dragon lost its balance, and tumbled down the grassy green slippery slope. The sheep watched open jawed with amazement and concern, the clattering of the descending dragon and the crying of the disturbed ground booming through the hills. The fall ended when a tall pine tree stood firm in the pathway of the tumbling dragon. It crashed into the strong upright trunk with a howl.

Coughing, spluttering and making much commotion, the dragon shook itself, like a dog, from head to tail. Shards of stone and water flew through the air off its coat. And then the dragon noticed the audience, the sheep, and especially the imposing figures of the noble Ram, Goat and Bull. Immediately straightening up, it collected itself into the dignified posture of a cool, calm and collected dragon. It nodded politely to them.

Unfortunately, for the dragon, although it was now upright, that creaking, echoing, empty sound again rumbled from its stomach. The effect on the sheep was instantaneous. They all laughed. That was really rather rude of them.

Welcome, gestured the Ram, Goat and Bull, trying to recover the situation. Indicating the flower filled valley, the hay fields and the lush hillside pastures; they beckoned him to join them. The green dragon nodded back, and then strolled down to the streamside, as nonchalantly as if he had arrived in a normal manner. Lowering his not unhandsome head, he drank deeply from the fresh water. The appetising cress, growing in the slack water, was next to catch his attention and, mouthfuls later, the dragon had recovered his vigour and started grazing in the flowery field.

All day he fed in the dale, taking in the goodness that abounded there. The sheep, goats and cows watched contentedly, at a distance. Such good luck, they knew, that the green dragon had chosen their valley to tumble into. Slowly, as the dragon filled his belly, the sky started to darken and stars twinkled. The dragon settled down under the pine tree. He curled around its trunk and lapsed into a timeless dream world sleep. For that one night, the first night, the sheep, goats and cows gathered close to the pine tree. Their bodies glowed in the blackening night, the brightest being the Ram, Goat and Bull. And all was soundless and still.

The dawn light, the first sunrise, came from the east. Roused by the beams of warmth the Ram, Goat and Bull stirred and looked to greet their visitor again. Yet, he was gone. Disappointed, they stood stretching and easing their sleepy stiffness. How refreshed their bodies felt under the pine’s protective branches.

Then they looked at the pine and the ground more closely. An alteration had come about. The tree now stood in the middle of them on a bare raised hillock. Some of its roots twined and twisted on the earth’s surface, raised above the soil. Majestic, upright, vigorous, the pine was taller and statelier. And the Ram, Goat and Bull were filled with understanding and wonder. Their green dragon must have crawled under the pine in the darkness, into the warmth of the earth, creating the hillock.

And nowadays, in a time when there is time, you will often find the pine tree with raised roots and bare earth at its base. And if you visit carefully you may become aware of the green dragon sleeping there still.

Page last updated: 13th Jan 2011