Thought Mother Earth,

This is what they must see.

It is at the center of

The cyclical nature of time

And an appreciation for suffering

That transforms into enlightenment.

How can I spin in a circle around humanity

So they can see from all angles?


"Has that tree on the hill always been there?"

Asked the eldest of four children,

Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring.

"Yes, always,"

Replied Summer's father, the King.

But the sons did not hear him.

They had moved on

Past stillness and into movement.

They decided to leave their father

Before the seasons changed

And roam the forests and deserts

Of the earth.

Summer raged through nature,

A woman of heat and fire.

She went spent her years

In hot sand

Swallowing up the sun.

Fall drifted,

Forever stuck in endings.

He settled in the depths of thick forests

And reveled in the way life

Can shrivel up and dry out.

Winter scaled the highest mountains

To feel the ice through his veins

And breathe in the stale air

Of chilled caves.

Spring fell like soft rain

In the tropics.

She settled in droplets

On slick leaves.

And bloomed into velvety petals.

But none of their homes compared

To the bright joy of the Kimsuka Tree,

So when the heat settled on

Their father's kingdom

Summer returned home.

There, she saw giant green leaves

Waving at her from above.

Their sheen glared into her heat,

And cooled the hot anger in her chest.

Then, the king watched her leave.

Fall returned home.

There, the Kimsuka Tree was aglow

With a hundred yellow suns.

He watched them flutter to the ground

One by one

And relished in their crunch

Under his foot.

Then, the king watched him leave.

Winter returned home.

Under the clouds,

He saw the shadow of the Kimsuka Tree's

Bare branches cutting through the icy ground,

Heavy with snow

That settled in small tufts

On his eyelids and chilled him to the bone.

Then, the king watched him leave.

Spring returned home.

She was welcomed by bright

Pink petals whose

Aroma filled her nose.

Their wet due seeped into her open hands

And washed away the past.

Then, the king watched his fourth child leave.

When she had disappeared over

The hill, the king decided to visit the Kimsuka Tree.

There, the king stayed.

His land was run by others while

He sat through the breezes of spring and the heat of summer.

For some time now, he had known death was upon him.

So he whispered to the tree,

"Mother, I feel you in this tree. Call my children home."

They came.

When they finally touched their king,

He was cold with death.

"Where are we?"

Asked Winter, Spring, and Summer.

"The Kimsuka Tree,"

Replied Fall,

The only one who could recognize

The tree in the season of death.

In wonder, all four children gathered

Under the tree for the full cycle

Of the seasons.

Winter tempered his warmer siblings

And forced them to confront the necessity and consequences

Of death and suffering.

Spring stunned her siblings with the miracle of new life.

Summer sent hot passion through her siblings,

And awakened their motivation.

Fall brought back their father's death,

And the dull ache of change.

"But the trunk never changes."

"It does. Each year, another ring forms.

Each year, the trunk grows wiser,

And the roots grow deeper."

"You see my facade,

My reactions to change,

But my true nature rests in my seed;

Invincible to to the seasons.

I am sorry, my children.

When Father Sun and I

Created you,

We awoke knowing only a piece of your nature.

My dears, you are not one season;

You are everything."

Mother Earth chose not to

Spin herself into exhaustion because

She cannot give an answer to

A question never posed.

They must ask.

I will be still and show them unconditional generosity

So that when they do

They will have an answer.

Summer by Jessica Shepard

Fall by Jessica Shepard

Winter by Jessica Shepard

Spring by Jessica Shepard

Author's Note: This story is based on The Red-Bud Tree, a Jataka tale from the book by Ellen C. Babbitt. In this story, four princes are each shown a Kimsuka tree by their charioteer. Except, the charioteer showed the tree to each brother during a different season, so each prince knew a different version of the tree. Their father heard their conversation and corrected the brothers, reminding them that they had each only seen the tree at a certain time of year. This, I think, highlights the Buddhist idea of contemplation and looking at an entitie's true nature. To find this nature, one must have a mindset of inquiry and question their perception of reality. I thought this story was a good opportunity to explore the idea of transformation, which is kind of the resolution of the ideas previously set forth in this storybook. The Kimsuka tree transforms with the seasons and is unrecognizable to the sons; this is similar to the way that transformation is sometimes difficult to discern; often times, things are seen as separate creations instead of transformations that are connected to everything else. However, throughout this whole storybook, Mother Earth has been trying to give humanity all of the answers. The original story illustrated that this does not work; learning to ask the right questions to find truth is the real skill that Mother Earth's children need. She finally realizes that this cannot be taught.


The Red-Bud Tree by Ellen C. Babbitt