25 years ago, I wrote a children’s story, in rhyme, about a singing tree. It was supposed to be an environment-awakening tale with reference to how living things depend on each other.
The story went nowhere and I recently found it again. I am now wondering if it might be more acceptable in a more awakened society. (Or, should I say ‘woke’ society?)
See if you can make it to the end…it’s quite long.
THE SINGING TREE
In a garden belonging to Mr McFee
Stood a fantastic, marvellous, grand singing tree.
Now this tree was a wonder to all who came near
And the sounds it produced were amazing to hear.
It could sing with a breeze, it could sing in the rain;
Its leaves and its branches joined in the refrain
As it sang in the sun and it sang in the cold,
And this tree, in this garden, was a joy to behold.
The birds came to rest and to sing on its limbs
And the air would be filled with chorus and hymns,
While the whole garden shone with the wonder of song,
As small children joined in, and all sang along.
The music was sweet and a pleasure to hear,
As the tree and the seasons progressed through the year,
And Mr McFee spread joy all around
As he planted more seeds and plants in the ground.
His garden was quite an incredible sight;
And he worked in it daily, from morning till night;
While children and birds came and helped where they could,
And the sights and the sounds were exceedingly good.
The birds ate some seeds and found other feeds
From insects and grubs and the unwanted weeds.
They tidied the garden for Mr McFee
And perched in the branches of the big singing tree.
Well, that’s how they prospered, the whole happy crew,
With music and helping - and friendliness too.
The children and birds and the singing tree sang,
And the whole countryside with their joyfulness rang.
BUT, one day, McFee found some grubs on a leaf,
And he stopped and he stared in great disbelief
As they chomped and they ruined a whole precious flower.
He raged, and his anger turned his manner all sour.
He marched off to town for some poisonous spray;
Stirred it up in a bucket and sprayed straight away.
He aimed at the plant where the grubs had been seen,
Then decided to spray where they just might have been.
He sprayed far and wide, from the south to the north;
Then west, and then east and again back and forth.
He sprayed high and low - just to be sure,
He wanted to know that the grubs were no more.
Well, the smell - that was bad, but the grubs disappeared,
Although other results of the spray were just weird:
Some birds accidentally snapped up the remains
Of the grubs, and then fell to the ground with bad pains.
Those birds soon decided to keep right away
From the trees and the plants that were covered in spray.
So they and the children found places to be
Quite far away from the old singing tree.
So far away that the tree couldn’t hear
Any bird songs, or children he once held so dear.
And he sighed as he waved gentle arms in the breeze
And stood quietly there, like the rest of the trees.
Yes, the singing had gone. The singing had finished.
The joy in the garden had clearly diminished.
The flowers they sagged and the vegies stopped growing
And even the grass no more needed mowing.
The time, it passed slowly - the days they were long
And no sound was heard - for the tree stopped its song.
No bird sang in the branches, or pecked at its feet.
And the tree thought back to those days that were sweet,
When the children all played in the garden and sang,
And the whole wide world with their small voices rang,
And happiness reigned, and friendliness too.
The old singing tree didn’t know what to do.
Now, Mr McFee, poor old miserable chappy,
He no longer had the will to be happy.
His garden was messy - with weeds overgrown,
And he knew it was nobody’s fault but his own.
He had sprayed with the poison and ruined the chance
Of providing for creatures like birds, bees and ants.
These creatures all helped with the life-giving powers
Of bushes and vegies and fruit trees and flowers.
Now even the worms had all wriggled away -
There were no helpful creatures willing to stay.
The singing tree looked at that unhappy man
And thought, “I will try to fix things if I can.”
So it tried once again to start up a song,
But the sounds that it uttered all came out quite wrong.
So, here, in what used to be paradise found,
Was a miserable man and a tree with no sound;
And the man had spent everything - now he was poor
And their blissful and fortunate life was no more.
And now he no longer could buy any spray,
Mr McFee simply pottered away
And worked on a little, but fresh garden plot
And, after a while he quite simply forgot
How he hated the sight of a grub on his plants,
And welcomed a small swarm of bees and some ants.
Then, after a few more of ‘no poison’ weeks,
Some birds flew by with some grubs in their beaks;
And Mr McFee knew he now understood
That birds needed grubs as part of their food;
That grubs and beetles and butterflies too
Were all as important as me and as you
For making things work and making things healthy,
For helping the whole world to grow wise and wealthy.
Now, those birds who flew by with the grubs just before,
Had eaten them now and came looking for more,
And when they had found some and had them for tea,
They flew up and perched in the big singing tree.
Well, those birds, they were happy, and music they made,
As they sat in the branches, enjoying the shade.
And the tree, on hearing the lovely birds’ song,
Raised his limbs to the sky and soon sang along.
Then more birds came and the song became loud,
And very soon they were joined by a crowd
Of children, who happily ran to the tree
And danced ‘round its trunk excitedly.
Well, little by little, McFee’s new garden grew
And the birds all returned and the small children too.
All the creatures were welcomed, yes, even the pests,
And when it was springtime, the birds built their nests.
And, so in and around that nice old singing tree
Were creatures and children - just like it used to be.
While Mr McFee, he just sat and he listened,
In the corner of each eye a small tear glistened
As he thought of the awful damage he’d done
With his battle with grubs and how nobody won.
Nobody can fight against nature and win -
It’s part of the great plan of life that we’re in.
And the old singing tree, he’d forget and forgive
And continue to sing for as long as he’d live.
He would sing from his soul and sing from his heart
And welcome the creatures who came to take part
In the glory of all that this great world could bring;
And they’d all join together and together they’d sing.
Twice previously I have written about MEASLES. I have yet again felt compelled to mention the dreaded disease as it is in the news again. Children are once more becoming infected with it and some have died.
Here are some facts:
Measles cases in Europe have hit a two-decade high, with the number of cases contracted in the first six months of 2018 nearly double that for the whole of 2017. More than 41,000 people in Europe have contracted measles since January 2018, leading to 37 fatalities.
No other vaccine-preventable disease causes as many deaths. In 1980, 2.6 million people died of it, and in 1990, 545,000 died; by 2014, global vaccination programs had reduced the number of deaths from measles to 73,000.
(With measles) some people may suffer from severe complications, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). They may need to be hospitalized and could die. As many as one out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.
Something we all know:
Vaccination can prevent measles.
There are lots more facts and figures available in a quick search on the Internet.
But, be warned: some sites contain thinly disguised propaganda from the ‘anti-vaxxers’ which is, IMO, a crime; a crime against vulnerable babies and children.
I will not dwell on my own experience with measles, except to say that it was not a happy time for me as a nine-year-old, to be screaming in pain with ear abscesses that nightly left smudges of blood stained pus on the cloth covering my pillow.
(The resulting partial deafness almost derailed my future teaching career).
As a reminder to all to keep up to date with vaccinations for themselves and their children, I include this account, written by the author Roald Dahl.
1986, Roald Dahl:
"Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything.
'Are you feeling all right?' I asked her.
'I feel all sleepy,' she said.
In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.
The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her. That was...in 1962, but even now, if a child with measles happens to develop the same deadly reaction from measles as Olivia did, there would still be nothing the doctors could do to help her. On the other hand, there is today something that parents can do to make sure that this sort of tragedy does not happen to a child of theirs. They can insist that their child is immunised against measles.
...I dedicated two of my books to Olivia, the first was ‘James and the Giant Peach’. That was when she was still alive. The second was ‘The BFG’, dedicated to her memory after she had died from measles. You will see her name at the beginning of each of these books. And I know how happy she would be if only she could know that her death had helped to save a good deal of illness and death among other children."
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.