The tree loomed – with outreaching branches like a mother’s arms reaching out to a distraught child. She ran to it, hugging the trunk, the bark rough against her cheek. She easily scrambled up to her favorite branch. Hidden in the foliage of the tree, she allowed the tears to flow, her sobs muffled by the rustling of leaves. As she grieved, the dance of the leaves against the brilliant blue sky hypnotized her and her imagination took flight.
A whirling leaf took on the image of her little sister – singing and dancing gracefully with a magic wand. The wand shimmered as she raised it above her head and the treetop turned into a ballroom, with floors of polished mahogany and the walls adorned in brilliant shades of gold. Their parents followed, mother’s hand clutching her heart, her eyes wide with delight and father nodding his head with approval, eyes twinkling with pride. Another image appeared – an elephant bounced in on the scene complete with a pink tutu draping from her oversize hips. Elephant mimicked the dance of Leaf Princess; the room shook under its weight. A path of destruction followed Elephant and the room looked like a war zone. Princess commanded Elephant to stop, but Elephant was oblivious as she danced freely. The eyes of Princess burned with rage, and she leaped towards Elephant and pointed her wand, “Stop” she yelled, and the clumsy beast froze. Elephant finally saw the looks of disgust on her family’s faces. Coldness filled her and made her blood turn to ice, and turning her heart to stone and she lost all desire to dance and sing.
The sound of her mother’s far away voice erased the image from her mind. The sky behind the treetop had deepened, and the air had a chill. She swung down and hung from her branch, her feet inches from the ground. She willed herself to let go, and she landed at the base of the trunk. She reached out to touch the rough bark and spoke to the giant tree in a small voice. “I do not want to be an elephant.” Tears filled her eyes again, and she looked up into the branches of the tree. She allowed her imagination take flight once again and the tree came to life.
It took on the appearance of a wise old man, wrinkled with time. The eyes were dark but gentle and the voice cracked with age. “Listen to me, my favorite tree climber,” it said as a branch reached down and pulled her closer. “I too long to be graceful, but can you imagine me dancing?” She giggled at the image as the old tree continued. “Yes the world admires graceful people. Do you love me less because I am big and clumsy?” She shook her head and wrapped her arms around its trunk. “Do you believe others love you less because you are not graceful?” She shrugged her shoulders and rested her cheek against its trunk; she could feel the vibration of its voice as it spoke. “Some are born to be graceful, others are not, but we are all given a choice to accept the grace of God. And it does not matter if you are a princess, an elephant or an old oak tree; you can always be kind and forgiving. But if you focus on what you are not, you will become bitter and angry.”
Her mother’s voice rang once more, and the tree became a tree again. With one last look, she ran home, towards the worried sound of her mother’s voice, with the tree’s words echoing in her heart “be full of grace.”