Once upon a time, there grew a tiny tree in a dark forest. It was like any other beech tree, with one exception: It was blessed to have a little patch of sunshine it could call its own.
Every day the sun passed by the little tree, and smiled. Every night the little tree stretched its limbs, and grew a bit more.
As time passed, the beech tree grew tall. Its branches spread wide, and birds often nested far above the ground in the tree’s protection.
The once-small tree knew, however, that it could not grow forever. It would steal glances at tree bones littering the forest floor, and the tree wondered if it, too, would one day topple over and be forgotten.
Then one day a woodsman came knocking on the trees. He passed by one that sounded hollow. He passed by two others that were too small. The woodsman finally stood in front of the beech tree, greeted it with his strange words, gave it a blessing, and then set to work on the noble tree.
Time passed ever so slowly. Years went by, and the tree, now sawn and portioned, lay under a thatched roof in a lumberman’s shed. The beech wondered if it would have been better to lay forgotten on the forest floor.
One sunny day, a man wearing a cape visited the shed and looked at the beech. He passed by and looked at other lumber. Then he talked with the lumberman, then looked a second time at the beech. The man wearing the cape smiled. After talking with the lumberman again, the caped visitor watched as the beech was loaded onto a heavy wagon.
The wagon followed the man down rocky roads in the woods. Then it followed the man on muddy roads past cow pastures. Then it followed the man on brick roads of a town. Street after street held stout buildings framed in lumber. The beech thought it saw a familiar face in the posts and beams of one such building.
At last the wagon stopped in front of a large building. The lumber was unloaded and each piece of beech was carefully brought inside. The beech was no longer living under a thatched roof. It was inside an artist’s shop. The beech smiled in the warmth of its new home, and fell asleep.
One morning the beech was pulled out of bed, even though it wasn’t quite finished sleeping. All day long, the beech was sanded and painted and sanded again. At the end of the day, the beech looked at its new smooth, white covering with wonder.
|“Princess Sibylle of Cleve”|
Lucas Cranach the Elder. 1526.
Mixed media on red beech wood.
(Weimarer Stadtschloss, Germany)
Not long after that day, a beautiful young lady came to visit. She had red hair and wore a delicate wreath for a crown. Many assistants helped with her coat and brought her things when she asked. The artist was very polite to her, but then he had the lady sit just so. He took the white-covered beech wood, put it on a special stand, and sat in front of it. All day long, the artist painted on the white surface.
It was very dark when the lady left. The artist would have to work much more on the painting of the lady. Days passed. The artist would sometimes spend many hours on the painting. At other times, he would put only a few strokes of paint on as he walked by.
There was much fanfare when the painting was finished and finally unveiled. The artist smiled and bowed to the lady. All her friends were pleased, and so was the beech wood. It had forgotten the dark forest, the forest floor, and the thatched roof of the lumberman’s shed.
Since those days of long ago, the painting has been shown to many people who come to visit. It hangs on a wall near other grand paintings and a fancy, ticking clock. And every day, the sun passes by, and smiles.