Once, when Spring was young and the ground was sparse, there sprung a tiny plum tree. Hidden in a lush green valley where very few went, it grew alone; no family tree nearby. Heaven knows how it came to be at the foot of the hill, yet there it was, proudly blooming its first blossom. The thing that makes all things said it belonged here and so it was.
A man first noticed the little plum tree whilst walking his dog one day. The surprise of it lifted his heart, and he rushed home to tell his wife who shared his glee.
“A plum tree?! Are you sure? Why would a plum tree be there?”
Whether it came from a stone discarded by a fruit-munching hiker or ended up there by any other means, no-one knew.
The woman made plans to look out for it the following day.
Excitedly, she descended the slope, rounded the bend, and sure enough, there it was, proudly shining in the morning sundew. It jolted and enchanted her soul alive to see such an unexpected wonder.
Each day, she passed the tree and marvelled as it shivered and grew. It seemed to tingle with pride. Or perhaps it was the woman who tingled. It doesn’t matter. The only one in the valley! Remarkable. A special secret. This was good whatever tingled.
As the days grew long and the sun shone and the summer rain drenched the earth, the valley burst into life. The lush green ferns and grasses quickly flourished and danced; their arms stretched upwards to glorify the sky. Brambles crawled into being; rolled and sprawled to carpet the ground, seeking support in reaching upwards towards the thing they longed for, but knew not.
They, too, found the little plum tree. Eager to satisfy their yearning for life, the ferns spread, creating canopies that blocked the roots below. The brambles began to slowly twist and writhe up the sapling’s trunk, piercing the supple new bark with thorns as they held on and strained desperately for the light. Neither the ferns, nor the grasses, nor the brambles meant any harm. They were just doing what they knew to do.
But the little plum tree began to suffer.
This happened so slowly that no-one realised. And the little tree endured the pain.
No-one seemed to notice.
One afternoon, deep in the buzz of the summer bees, the woman met the pathclearer as she was coming down the hill. He was using his scythe to strain up the slope, gasping for breath with the effort, even though he was strong and sinewy with skin browned and wrinkled by the seasons. For reasons unknown, and although she knew him not, the woman felt compelled to tell the pathclearer of the little plum tree she had once seen, somewhere amongst the gamut, the jungle. Perhaps she felt a nudge, a prod, a something. Maybe she just wanted to share her delight with someone she instinctively felt would understand.
He thought for a while, seemed pleased and promised to look out for it.
Later, a while after the path was made straight, the couple saw the little plum tree again, from a distance, standing proudly once more. Taller than before, no longer strangled by the clamber for life. It’s curled, glossy leaves twirled in the breeze, and the whole tree breathed with being. Again, the man and the woman marvelled at the miracle; the only plum tree in the valley!
As they drew closer, they noticed where the trunk, once weak, willow-like and throttled by thorns, had now grown thick and robust; strong enough to push its roots deep into the dark, fertile earth. Deep enough to reach the living water that is unseen, yet eternally there.
And they delighted: the woman, the man and the plum tree. And the thing that knew the little plum tree before it was stone, delighted.
If you are ever lucky enough to find yourself in Seaton Valley, Cornwall. Cross the first bridge over the river, then the road and find the permissive path to Bucklawren. Once you have climbed the stile at the bottom of the hill, about 10 metres along the path, on your left, you will see the little plum tree. I’ll let you decide whether to clear any brambles or leave them to play their part. There is no right answer that I can give.
Today, the woman met the pathclearer once again. What were the chances? He smiled and declared the plum tree a pear.
‘Oh dear,’ fretted the woman. I’ve told everyone about the miracle of the little plum tree.”
But it matters not. Miracles happen everywhere all the time, and pear by another name tastes just as sweet.