Gateway to the Classics: The Way of the Gate by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
 
The Way of the Gate by  Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

The Tree That Was Lonesome

There was once an old oak tree that had stood for a long time in the forest. Many years before, a great storm had swept through the forest. This storm had left the oak only a crooked, ugly tree. It was no longer straight and beautiful like the others. Each spring it covered its ugliness with new green leaves. In the fall the leaves turned to a pretty crimson cloak. But the winds of the forest always swept by. They carried the leaf cloak of the old oak tree away with them. Then it was left with nothing to cover its ugliness.

After years and years, the old oak tree began to feel hollow. It felt as if its heart as well as its body were hurt. The wind sighed through its bare branches one fall when it was very, very old indeed. It made the old oak speak, "No one wants me. I am of no more use in the world," the oak said.

Tap, tap, rap-a-tap-tap! That was Mr. Red-headed Woodpecker. He was hammering at the trunk of the old oak tree. Tap, tap! He hammered and drilled. He worked until he had made a little round front door. It led into his winter house in the trunk of the tree. He had found a ready-made pantry there. It was full of grubs for himself and his family to eat when the cold days came. The walls of his house were warm. It was snug and cozy.

"How grateful I am for this hollow tree," sang Mr. Red-headed Woodpecker.

Whisk, whirr! That was Bobby Squirrel. He ran up the trunk of the old oak tree until he came to the round hole that was his little front window. Bobby Squirrel peeped inside. Oh, how comfortable and snug was the little house that he saw. He lined it with moss. Where the bark stuck out and made shelves, Bobby Squirrel laid piles and piles of nuts. They were ready to feast upon when the cold days came. He would be able to live there, warm in his fur overcoat and well fed. He would be safely sheltered until spring came.

"How grateful I am for this hollow tree," chattered Bobby Squirrel.

Then a strange thing happened to the tree. The beating of the wings of the bird and the happy heart of the little squirrel inside it warmed it. They made the heart of the old oak tree full of joy.

Instead of sighing in the wind, the old oak tree's boughs sang with happiness. The fall rains had left tears on the ends of its twig fingers. Now they turned to diamonds until its twig hands sparkled with them. The snow covered its ugly body with a cloak of ermine. The starlight at night and the sun in the day time set a crown upon its head.

In all the forest there was no tree more glad, or more beautiful than the old oak tree.

The waters nourished it.

All the birds of the heavens made their nests in its boughs.

The cedars in the garden of God could not hide it.

Ezekiel xxxi. 4, 6, 8.


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