You’ve probably heard the one about the tree who went to the doctor. “It’s bad, doc,” said the tree.
“I see. What seems to be the trouble?” the doctor asked.
“I should have come in weeks ago, doc, when it wasn’t – well – like this. When it had just started. I was getting out of the shower, when I noticed that one or two of my leaves were off colour. No big deal, I thought. I’m not gonna go running to the internet at the first little symptom of nothing in particular. It’ll pass, I told myself.
But then the next day it was five leaves. Then ten. Red, orange, breaking out all over my leaves. I knew it was bad when my neighbours noticed it, asked if I was OK. It’s nothing, I said. I’m just a bit under the weather, that’s all.
But then – I hate to even say this, it’s so bad – THEY got it too. It spread all around my friends and family. And, of course, everyone blamed me, obviously I was the origin. Oh, I felt so awful, doc! All the looks I got, they could have frozen fire. I was consumed with guilt.
I should have come to you then, doc. Of course I should have, I was bright red, for goodness sakes! I meant to, I did – but I just kept going to work in the morning, ignored all the signs as best I could. But then, you wouldn’t believe, if it weren’t right in front of you: my leaves started to fall off. I mean, first one or two, I said, well that happens, wind or whatever, you’ve got a lot of leaves, brush yourself off and keep going. But then it’s more and more leaves, until – well, just look at me. I’m a complete mess!
You gotta help me, doc. You must have a cure for all this!”
The doctor took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do.”
“Nothing?” asked the tree. “You’ve never seen this before.”
“Oh, I have,” the doctor said sadly. “My dissertation was on this very topic. It’s fairly common, you understand, what you’re going through. And I thought I could do something about it. I really did, I tried. After many, many years of research, after many long days and late nights, I developed a medicine to treat your…condition.”
The tree noticed the sadness in the doctor’s timbre. “It didn’t work, did it?”
“At first, nothing happened, and I thought it was a total failure. But then, a few months later – the leaves came back, just as green as before.”
“That’s fantastic!” said the tree. “Count me in!”
“It’s no use,” the doctor responded. “A few months after that – after we all had broken out the champagne – well, all the leaves changed back. Just like before. And they all fell off.”
“Oh. But then – that’s not terrible, is it? Couldn’t you just give it to me again every year? I get it, these things wear out after a while –”
“If only that were all it was,” said the doctor. “But after 20, 150 years – and sometimes only five years,” at this the doctor suppressed a sob, “not just the leaves, but the branches fell off! Inside, the wood would rot. Many of my patients became…I can’t say it…nothing more than stumps. Oh, I’m so sorry!”
The doctor dissolved into such a flood of tears that, right in front of the tree, she folded over in grief. The tree, who had been so focussed on her own problems up until that point, felt such a rush of sympathy that she reached out a branch and, ever so gently, patted the doctor on the back.
“There, there, doc. There, there. Don’t worry about the medicine – tell you what I’ll do. While these leaves are changing colour, I’ll sing to the birds, I’ll shout, I’ll wave at everyone who comes by. If the leaves are gonna come down anyway, I’ll throw the leaves as far as I can, scatter them like confetti. And why all this is happening, I’ll dance, dance, DANCE in the breeze.”
The doctor looked up at the mighty tree. “Will that solve it, do you think?”
“It will solve nothing. And it will solve everything.”