The Fir Tree’s Lesson on the Busyness and Brevity of Life

Dear Reader:

Burr! The cold front (that the weathermen have excitedly been predicting for several days) arrived! I drove Ann Graves to her radiation appointment yesterday morning and it was still warm…reaching  the sixties by lunchtime. The raindrops had just started to fall when we finished lunch at Eva’s and started home… making it back in time… safe, sound, and dry.

An hour later the wind and rain was blowing hard and coming down….followed by quickly dropping temperatures. Timing is everything…and it seemed to work in our favor yesterday. Before we left for N. Charleston Ann showed me the quilt she won a couple of weeks ago from a raffle drawing…she is still so excited and should be…a gorgeous quilt…for the memories.

Don’t you remember as a child wanting, so badly, to quickly grow up to be an adult? Little girls want to wear make-up, jewelry, change hair-do’s and outfits. Little boys want to be strong, hang with their dad’s, and help them with whatever tasks they are doing. Then one day…we are all grown up and we realize, too late, how much  we want to return to the idyllic, carefree days of childhood/with less responsibility…precious time spent in daydreams, wonder and curiosity.

This thought hit me yesterday when I drove into my driveway. I grabbed the box with the remains of my lunch in it (to have for supper)…and hurried across the lawn while the raindrops picked up. But suddenly a bright color stopped me in my tracks.


(Michael had recently cut off some low branches that made it nearly impossible to cut the grass around the Bradford. Now life was returning and one beautiful red leaf was shining brilliantly. All I wanted in that exact moment was to take a photo of that arresting scarlet leaf. So I plopped the lunchbox, purse, and keys on the steps of the porch while grabbing my iPhone. No matter if I got wet… I was taking that picture!

For a few seconds I was a child again…wanting to play in the rain and soak in the beauty of nature before a hard freeze could destroy that delicate red leaf from the rain, wind, and cold.

While cleaning out some shelves later in the day I found this Christmas book that my Danish friends…Kewin and his Three Mermaids (Rikke, Kala, and Frida) gave me!

I read the different fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen, some I recognized and some I didn’t beforeI got to the old classic “The Fir Tree.” I had forgotten what an important lesson it contained about missing out on life’s best moments. In case you, too, have forgotten, here is a quick synopsis.

...Just like an impatient child, the little fir tree in the woods is anxious to quickly grow up to become an impressive, tall tree like the others. Seasons come and go as the fir tree grows, but the pleasures of sun, clouds, and singing birds do not impress him or make him want to stop and play. All he wants is to grow as large and beautiful as quickly as possible.

The birds tell him when the other trees are cut down, they become the masts of mighty seafaring ships. This sounds like a great adventure to the fir tree until he learns some of them get taken into houses at Christmastime and decorated.

He keeps hoping he is handsome enough to be chosen as a Christmas tree. Sure enough, one winter he is cut down and taken inside a grand house where he is decorated with every beautiful bit of glitter and tinsel that can fit among his branches.

Delighted to be present for all the fun and delight of the children—especially the stories told by the storyteller—the fir tree awaits the fun he expects will go on night after night, but in the morning the decorations are all removed and the bare tree is taken up into the attic.

Left alone there with only mice to trade stories with, the fir tree is unaware his green branches are turning brown, brittle, and falling off. The following spring he is spied, pulled out of the attic and placed in the yard, where the youngest child takes down one forgotten tinsel star from his treetop and then calls him “ugly” disgustedly. No one pays the fir tree any attention as they cut him into firewood and set him alight.

Yesterday I mentally  made a list of things I wanted to get done when I returned home…but then, when I saw the scarlet leaf…I stopped and reacted as if  a child… to the unique beauty and brevity of a sight I wanted to keep in my memory with a photo.

I am so glad I stopped…it is nice to know that the little curious child I used to be… can still peek through adulthood and come out to play once in awhile.

Mark Nepo, in his Book of Awakening, chastises himself when he finds himself becoming a slave to some daily rigid schedule he has created himself. It isn’t a leaf that pulls him back to the wonder and curiosity of childhood… but the sound of a small bird.

“I lifted my head to follow the sound… just as a cloud opens and the light floods my mind. Nothing on my schedule is absolutely necessary. I drop everything and follow the sound of the bird.”

So until tomorrow….Don’t fall into the Alice in Wonderland trap:

“I’m late, I’m late…for a very important date. No time to say hello…Good-bye! I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”

Next time you feel yourself being late/stressed beyond control by self-inflicted scheduling objectives…stop a moment and consider just how important the “late” really is in the big scheme of things..then perhaps take a photo of a dramatic scarlet leaf or follow the song of an enticing, small bird.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

This might be the last photo of the morning glories for this year.. It is supposed to go down in the 20’s…time will tell. *But if it was their last day…they sure went out gloriously!

*Apologies if anyone didn’t receive the blog post yesterday…I heard from a couple of you that yours didn’t pop up as normal..  while others reassured me the post did appear on time. Again…technology…it is a mystery to me but hopefully everyone is seeing the post this morning.!

*Today is World Kindness Day….Pause and do something kind for someone else!






About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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