Hello, my name is Arbuna. That may sound like a strange name for a tree, but Arbuna means “one tree” and since I live all by myself on top of this mountain, it does seem to suit me. You might think living alone up here wouldn’t be exciting, but something happened to me that could only happen to a tree growing on a mountain top. So, find your favorite, most comfortable place and I’ll tell you my story.

From my first days as a sapling, I enjoyed feeling the warm rays of the sun shining on my leaves and branches. The sun’s rays felt nice and helped me grow. Each drop of rain was like a cool drink of water. The wind became beautiful music as it passed through my swaying branches and the night brought the company of a million twinkling stars. I could feel all my new branches reaching higher and higher. They shared the sun’s light, the raindrops and danced together in the wind. As days followed, more branches joined, each adding a unique and individual note to the music. I found that it was easy being a tree.

I grew so tall, I could feel the coolness of the clouds as they drifted closer and closer to the tops of my branches. I was amazed at how far I could see. One day, while enjoying the view, something strange happened. A little cloud drifted so close it got stuck in my branches.

At first, it didn’t bother me. I knew when the wind blew hard enough, the fluffy cloud would slip free to the music of my swaying branches. However, when the wind blew, my branches did not sway and the cloud did not move. There was no music because the wind could not reach my branches inside the fluffy cloud. I would have to wait for my branches to grow through the top of the cloud. This wouldn’t happen overnight, but trees are good at waiting.

Finally one morning, I awoke relieved to feel the sunlight on my branches again. I grew excited as a storm appeared on the horizon. But my excitement turned to pain, for as the wind grew stronger, the music I had waited for became the racket of branches knocking into each other.

When the wind finally stopped, I felt the warmth of the sun on some branches while others felt chilled by shadows. Later, when it rained, some branches drank too much water, while other branches stayed thirsty. I wished the cloud wasn’t there so I could see what was wrong. It felt like the branches above the cloud were no longer a part of me.

“What a silly idea, I thought. “Of course they're part of me. What else can they be? When the wind blows, branches sway and when branches sway, there’s music. It’s as simple as that. How can a branch forget to be a branch?” I realized it wasn’t so easy being a tree after all.

I decided to send a fresh branch just to find out what was happening above that cloud. Several days later, when the new branch poked through the top of the cloud, it seemed to dry up and stop growing. For some strange reason, my new branch and all the ones I sent after it, could not get any rain or sunlight. I couldn’t imagine what a harmless cloud could do to make my branches behave this way, but I had to find out.

“Now what can I do?” I puzzled. “If the cloud is causing these weird things to happen to my branches, I’ll have to grow a branch around the cloud!” Suddenly, the solution seemed obvious. It would take longer to grow a branch that would avoid the influence of the fluffy cloud, but it was truly my last hope.

I felt excitement coming from my new branch as it grew around the edge of the cloud. Soon, I would know what that fluffy cloud had done to cause so much pain.

Just before dawn, my new branch grew high enough to see my branches poking through the top of the cloud. In the early morning light, my new branch could see that all the branches were sound asleep. Some looked healthy, others looked very ill. The helper branches I grew were in the worst shape, barely poking through the top of the cloud. The branch closest to the edge of the could woke up first.

My new branch asked, "What happened up here?"

“What do you mean what happened? Who are you?” asked the waking branch.

“I’m a branch of Arbuna, just like you.”

“Abranchofarbuna may be your name, tree, but it isn’t mine! My name is Gimmiet!” snapped the waking branch.

“Tree!? Why did you call me a tree?”

With a puzzled look, Gimmiet said, “Because you are a tree, just like all the other trees here. Are you nuts or something, Abranchofarbuna?”

Suddenly, I knew what the cloud had done. The way my branches poked out of the cloud made them look just like trees and that’s what they thought they really were!

“Seeing you’re new here, I’d better fill you in on a few things,” whispered Gimmiet, “See those big trees over there? Watch out for them! When the wind blows, they knock branches off the other trees, so they’ll have more room to grow even bigger. They haven’t gotten to me yet, but they’ll try because they want all the rain and sunlight for themselves.”

“They all want to be the biggest tree ever,” Gimmiet continued quietly, “The trees my size are so afraid of them, we fight with each other, too. We need to grow big to protect ourselves.”

“And stay away from those little trees,” Gimmiet warned. “They’re all nuts! They grew here one right after the other, saying they were branches of the same tree and that all the rest of us were too.”

“Isn’t that the craziest thing you’ve ever heard? It’s bad enough worrying about big trees without some crazy ones getting in our way, so we blocked the sun and rain from helping them grow. They stay so small we hardly notice them anymore. Who did you say you are, again?" asked Gimmiet, glancing about nervously.

“I’m a branch of Arbuna, just like you,” said my new branch.

“Like I said before ‘Abranchofarbuna’ may be your name tree, but it isn’t mine!” Gimmiet replied.

“But I’m not a tree and neither are you,” pleaded my new branch, “we are all branches of the great tree Arbuna. I know that from above this cloud we look like trees, but below this cloud we join together.”

“What cloud?” Gimmiet asked suspiciously, “clouds drift in the air and this is the ground. I’ve never heard anything like that from a full-grown tree. You’d better wise-up Abranchofarbuna. If the big trees hear you say we’re branches and not trees, the next time the wind blows, you’ll be in trouble. Remember what happened to the little trees. Being a tree is the most important thing each of us has to protect. What would we have left if we found out we were just branches?”

“We would have music left,” sighed Abranchofarbuna. “Because we are not just branches! Each and everyone of you is a branch of Arbuna, just like me. This is the way it is right this minute and always has been.”

Abranchofarbuna then told Gimmiet the story of life before the cloud.

“The only way I can believe what you say is if the ground we’re standing on goes away,” challenged Gimmiet. “Nothing like that could ever happen.”

“But, this isn’t the ground, it’s the cloud I told you about,” Abranchofarbuna said firmly.

“Just how do you plan on making this so-called ‘cloud’ go away?” chuckled Gimmiet.

“If just once, you would all relax and sway together when the wind blows, the cloud will slip free,” explained Abranchofarbuna. “Then there will be music instead of the noise of fighting.”

“Music? What is this ‘music’ you keep talking about?”

“Music is the sound we make when we know we are one tree. That’s what ‘Arbuna’ means, ‘one tree’.”

Gimmiet thought for a moment, then said, “You're saying the reason we fight for the rain and sunlight is that we don’t know we’re branches of the same tree?”

“Yes! Yes!” cheered Abranchofarbuna, “And if all of you would sway with me just once...”

“If you want us to sway together,” interrupted Gimmiet, “Don’t say it's to discover we’re branches and not trees. The big trees will be afraid, and will get mad at you instead.”

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” assured Abranchofarbuna.

“That may be true,” replied Gimmiet, “but we’ve never thought of ourselves as anything but trees. The big trees will be afraid of losing their power. All any tree wants is to be the biggest tree ever.”

“That gives me an idea!” said Abranchofarbuna.

“You’d better hurry,” warned Gimmiet, “The wind is beginning to blow.”

Rising up in view of all branches, Abranchofarbuna shouted, “Attention all trees! Attention all trees! I know the secret for becoming the biggest tree ever!”

Wanting to know the secret, they began to shout, “What is it!? What is it!?”

“I can’t tell you the secret,” Abranchofarbuna said, raising his voice above the growing roar of the wind, “But I can show you how to find it.”

“How!? How!?” Their screams, mixed with the wind and knocking branches, made a fearsome racket.

“It’s very easy. If you close your eyes, relax and sway with me in the wind, you will find the secret for becoming the biggest tree ever.”

The wind blew harder and since they all wanted to know the secret, they closed their eyes tightly and let themselves sway in the wind.

“What’s that nice sound?” Gimmiet asked softly.

“That’s the music I told you about.”

The wind blew even harder and they swayed even more. As the music grew louder, the cloud began to move.

Closing their eyes tighter, they shouted, “What’s happening? What’s happening?”

“I’m afraid,” whimpered one of the biggest ones.

“Me, too,” admitted another.

“Just relax, keep your eyes closed, listen to the music, and you will learn the secret for becoming the biggest tree ever!” repeated Abranchofarbuna.

At that very moment, the cloud slipped up and over the tops of my branches. At last it was free to drift in the air.

“When can we open our eyes?” they shouted as the wind slowed.

“There is something I must tell you before you open your eyes,” cautioned Abranchofarbuna.

“Okay, but make it quick,” ordered one of the big ones, “I want to know the secret NOW!”

“You were all told the secret a long time ago by the little ‘trees’ you kept the rain and sun from,” continued Abranchofarbuna.

“They never told us any secret,” complained a deep voice, “Those trees are nuts! All they ever told us was that we were all branches of the same tree.”

“That’s the secret,” said Abranchofarbuna, “Open your eyes.”

“The ground! The ground! Where’s the ground!?” screamed one.

“We’re gonna fall!” yelled another.

“No we won’t,” laughed Gimmiet, “Look again! Abranchofarbuna was right! Now that the cloud is gone, it’s clear we are the biggest tree ever!”

For a time they fell silent remembering all the horrible things they did when they thought they were trees.

“When we hurt each other, we were just hurting ourself!” said a tearful branch, “If only we’d known we were branches when that cloud was here, we would have shared the rain and sunlight and...”

“Here comes the wind,” interrupted Abranchofarbuna, “Let’s make music.”

At last the cloud is gone and I have all feeling back in my branches. It really feels nice.

And so, once again, I find it is easy being a tree.

Arbuna was written by Joe Cant and Ruby Montana and illustrated by Doug Vaught and Lise Sayer.

© 1978 Joseph Cant. All rights reserved. For more information contact us here.