Deep in the woods, the old oak tree leisurely opens his eyes. Ever so slowly he begins to change his color—never quickly, though, never that. The other trees have long since passed their peak and have begun to slump their barren arms. The maple was most resplendent in hues of brilliant red and orange and yellow, flamboyantly dancing around the forest, knowing all eyes were on him. He reveled in his vigor and the attention it brought, and this was as it should be for the exuberance of youth.
But the old oak is long past any remote semblance of youth. In the spring while all the other trees are preening about in dazzling shades of bright green, he silently stands seemingly barren, quietly watching. In his own time and not before, he slowly stretches his great arms to the Sun and silently builds his fortress of leaves, unnoticed.
|There is no rush.|
Throughout the summer, the old oak stealthily gathers tremendous strength from the Sun and stores it in his broad shoulders, which never bow to any wind, however fierce. His wood is coarse and hard and slow-growing, and it lasts for many centuries. When the other trees have rotted and returned to the Earth, the old oak still stands as tall and strong as a granite boulder.
And now that it is autumn yet again, he delivers food to a great many forest creatures who shelter under his protective hands. Because of him, they eat and live. He stands immobile against the coming storms, which will greatly worsen and intensify as fall turns into winter, but he never gives an inch. Now he slowly changes colors, when he chooses and not before, and whereas the frivolous and thin trees around him quake in fear with the fall winds and the cold rain, he stands tall, still with leaves as thick as leather.
Some will ask, “Who is the King of the forest? Is it the maple of unsurpassed beauty? Is it the birch of gentle leaves and quiet disposition? Is it the pine of prickly arrogance?” But the maple will bow his beautiful head in silence, the birch will bow his graceful head in acquiescence, and the pine will angrily look away, bristled and chilled. While the creatures of the forest prepare for the next onslaught from the Lord of Winter, they gather en masse under the old oak tree.
Then at last, he will shed his leaves, when all else is dead and grey and he has secured his forest and the other trees have gone into the dreadful sleep, pale and ghost-like. One by one the leaves will fall, tarnished brown and burgundy, leathery yet still retaining hidden strength. Throughout the deathly cold winter and the tremendous ice storms, he will stand tall, massive arms reaching outward in regal protection.
And he who asks, “Who is the King of the Forest?” will bow his head and bend his knee as all the other creatures have already done so long before him. Braced against the strength of the old oak, he will cling tightly for his life. And gratefully he will say, “The King is dead. Long live the King.”