Once upon a time a man planted a tree. A delicate Japanese maple, that he had wanted to plant for a very long time. He planted it in a sunny yard, in questionable soil, during a very hot summer.
It was in fact early on in the second summer of a drought.
His wife watched this. She was skeptical, because of the heat, and the tenderness of the tree, and their track record for keeping plants, especially delicate ones, alive. She liked the tree, but she did not want to watch it die. And so she was rather sorry to see it planted in their yard.
The drought continued. Flowers died. Their grass turned brittle and yellow. All the leaves on the delicate Japanese maple dried out.
They waited, not with much hope.
Spring came again, and flowers, and green grass. Not, however, a single new leaf on the Japanese maple. They did not talk much about the tree.
One day, a small red leaf appeared near the base of the tree. It struck the woman as odd. Hopeful-but-not-too-hopeful. The tree still looked dead. Chopping it down seemed wise. But they did not chop it down.
The summer continued. The tree continued to look dead. But the small red leaf grew a little, and another leaf appeared, and another.
That summer was another summer of drought. But the tree produced leaves where it shouldn't. And the woman watched.
She wasn't sure when it happened, exactly, the thing she was waiting for. But at some point she realized the tree was talking to her. Not out loud, but in a tree-ish sort of way, and she was a woman who liked to listen for that sort of thing.
As she listened, she realized it was not speaking of foolish things, the way she expected it to. It spoke of hope. She did not know if she could take the tree-ish words to heart. But she kept listening.
And one day, not because of the tree but because of the circumstances of life itself, she realized that the tree was not only speaking but singing. She realized, too, that she could sing along with it.
So she sang. And she was glad, at last, to have this crazy dead-but-not-dead tree in her yard.
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