Once upon a time in a far off land there lived a man in a beautiful forest. He lived there with the animals and birds, and flowers, and trees, and rivers and the moon overhead. These were his friends, as no other humans lived there with him.
But he wasn’t lonely or afraid, this man. He wandered the forest during the day in search of fresh fruits and nuts to eat and in the early evenings he stopped to light a camp fire to warm his tea; and also for light to prepare a bed for himself amongst the trees. This man was a man of the earth, a man who knew how to talk to the animals and to whisper with the wind. Each flower he knew by heart and each passing fish in the stream he called out to by name. He loved his world and Nature looked out for him there.
During raging storms he would crawl under an over-hanging rock and watch with amazement at the sky and feel with great glee Nature’s wet fingers as they danced across his face. Around his campfire on such nights there were any number of eager eyes sharing the raging darkness with him. Such was life in this man’s forest. This forest was his life. And Life was good.
And then it happened
Quite unexpectedly, there rained down on him a horde of foreigners who were eager to tell the world about this pristine forest of his. They had struggled for days and weeks, fighting against impossible odds, to find their way to him.
They came from out of nowhere, bearing gifts and large trunks full of things, strange things; things he had never before seen. Dozens upon dozens of people were suddenly in his midst, climbing tall ladders and lashing wooden platforms high up in the trees so that they could see forever, like him. Little black boxes in their hands clicked away from dawn to dusk. Lights flashed when the moon would have been enough. They brought with them noise, too, like he had never heard before. And debris that suddenly filled the waterways and fluttered in front of him like a dying butterfly in its final hour. Instead of hooting owls the stillness of the night was broken by raucous laughter.
These were fellow human beings, all right, but they didn’t seem at all like him, thought the man.
Indeed, the men left as quickly as they came. They didn’t really harm him. But they left behind many reminders of their stay; ropes to nowhere dangled from the trees; discarded lofts swayed as the wind changed; and the once pristine forest floor where he lived was ravaged and denuded of its fruits now from the many trunks that these men carried with them. It saddened him. Where beautiful flowers once stood waving in the wind there were flattened grasses now and careless holes in the protective cover of the forest where birds once sang.
The thing that devastated him, though, was the fact that none of his old friends remained behind with him. They were all gone now. Fearful of this sudden intrusion into their once-quiet space they fled as if chased by a searing forest fire. The tall trees were stilled, and there were no eager eyes any more sharing his campfires at night. The days grew long without his friends, and the nights heavy.
Now when he walked he could only think of what might lie ahead of him. His eyes anxiously scanned the horizon when they used to only drink it in.
He fell quiet as he contemplated his forest and his lost friends. Where had they gone? What will become of them? And him? Before the intruders left he had overheard some of the men talking excitedly about ‘bringing the world to this man’s doorstep.” What did that mean?
He cupped his arms in his hands as he pulled his shirt tighter around him. The wind was picking up and suddenly it didn’t feel the same, or so friendly, this wind. Today it sent chills through him.
Tired and lonely, he picked up his walking stick one morning and headed towards the distant hills. The man was determined to find his friends again. Surely they were there, somewhere, he mused. If they were, he would find them.
Little did he know that that very night others would be tending the coals in his abandoned campsite. And there were more behind them; hordes, in fact, waiting impatiently in long lines to fly, drive, boat or hike into this once pristine forest of his.
The word had spread. From the United Kingdom and the great European cities to the golden coast of California, beautiful pictures and reports of untold natural treasures beckoned the adventurous.
CNN, of course, pitched camp at the entrance to this beautiful forest. And newspapers from around the world sent representatives to document the unfolding story of ‘a paradise lost and found’. Everyone the world over was intrigued by this special place on earth that heretofore had escaped their attention.
What they didn’t know was that the soul was already gone from this place; that it was nothing without the animals and birds, and flowers, and trees, and rivers and the moon overhead – and the man who befriended them. Without that circle of life it was just another place on earth, but no longer so special a one.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. © 2010 Dr. Ellen K. Rudolph. All rights reserved.