The Life of Zerah
It was a windy day. Leaves shared space in the sky with birds. Blades of grass rippled like a sea. The sun’s light shone, then disappeared, then shone again, perpetually affected by the journey of the clouds.
Meanwhile, I sat upon a park bench, weeping. My life was not what I had dreamed it would be. I had not become who I wanted to be. And the world was full of pain, injustice, and broken hearts. I didn’t know how to change any of these things.
I spoke one word to the Wind, “How?”
In the next instant, a seed landed in my lap and said to me, “I also used to ask that question. Do you want to know how I found the answer?”
I nodded. It was then that a seed named Zerah told me his story.
There was once a seed named Zerah.
Zerah was a little seed growing on a Great Tree.
But even though he was a little seed, Zerah had a big dream for his life. He would become a Great Tree. He knew exactly how it would happen, for he had planned it all with the help of his Great Tree.
When the first snowflake fell, along would come the Wind to carry Zerah to a field. Once in a field—preferably an empty one that would afford him all the space he needed to grow in greatness—Zerah would find the perfect spot to root himself: a soft, moist, reddish-brown patch of earth that would immediately feel like home.
Then the snow would start to fall harder.
By the time the snow covered the ground, Zerah would be buried deep beneath it, already growing roots.
By the time the snow melted, Zerah would have a firm grip on the soil and a clear view of the sky.
ext he was going to have strong, secure branches, and plenty of them at that. They were going to twist and curl like serpents in the sky. He was also going to have leaves even more numerous than the branches. – Tender and green in the spring, red and wise in the fall, and all of them enormous! He was going to have delicious fruit: sweet and succulent. He was going to have exquisite flowers: soft, fragrant, and in colors like the sunrise. Last, but most certainly not least, Zerah was going to have seeds of his own, even more abundant than the branches.
And by the time the rainy season had come and gone, and the sunny season had left and returned—once, twice, perhaps three times—Zerah would become a Great Tree, just like the one that had given him life. And once Zerah was a Great Tree, oh, how he would change! How his life would change!
First of all, he would have a trunk: a big, thick one in shades of red and brown with streaks of black, amber, and gold. Next, he would have strong, secure branches and plenty of them at that; all tall enough to know the sky as intimately as the clouds. Hundreds of leaves would grow on his branches: green and tender in the spring; red and wise in the fall. Delicious fruit—round, orange, sweet, and succulent—would grow between the leaves, and exquisite flowers—soft, fragrant, and in the colors of the sunrise—would bloom beside the fruit. Last, but most certainly not least, Zerah would have seeds of his own.
But, oh, this was only the beginning! Once Zerah had these wondrous things, he would do wondrous things! Zerah was going to change the world! His trunk would provide ants with a stable place to crawl during the day, and his branches would give birds a comfortable place to sleep at night. His leaves would shelter spiders weaving their webs, and caterpillars spinning their cocoons. Mice, dogs, and humans would find a place to cool off and rest in the shade his leaves and branches provided. With his fruit he would feed hungry bellies and quench thirsty mouths, and with his flowers—indeed, with his entire self—he would nourish parched souls, adding as much beauty to the earth as the stars did to the sky; a beauty so all-encompassing that, even on rainy days and cloudy nights, no one would ever be without light. Through his seeds he would create trees as numerous as the blades of grass in a field. These trees would live on long, long after he was gone. And when they died, Zerah’s name and the memory of his great accomplishments would endure, passed on from tree to seed to tree forever.
Yes, Zerah could see many things in his future, but the most crucial one was this: by the time he had housed the homeless, given rest to the tired, satiated the hungry, added beauty to the world, and ensured himself of eternal life, Zerah would be important, useful, special, happy, and, most of all, loved. Yes, Zerah would be all these things once he became a Great Tree instead of what he believed he was now: an insignificant, useless, ordinary, and empty little seed.
A single snowflake fell to the ground beneath Zerah, disappearing into the soil almost as though it had never been. But it had been. Even if no one else had seen it, Zerah had. He knew what the first snowflake meant.
“The Wind is coming for me!” he shouted with glee. “I’m going to become a Great Tree!”
He felt his heart fill with a love that was not yet, but would be.
Zerah held back his tears as he said goodbye to his Great Tree, and his trunk, branches, leaves, fruit, flowers, and other seeds. But when Zerah turned toward the seed growing next to him, his best friend, a single tear from each eye led two thin, silent processions of drops to the ground. They disappeared into the earth like the snowflake before them, almost as though they had never been.
But they had been, and even if no one else had seen them, Semeeya had.
“I’ll miss you,” she said as her own tears followed his into the soil.
Soon a tiny puddle had formed, from which two parched ants quenched their thirst.
“I’ll miss you too,” Zerah said.
“I hope to see you again one day,” sniffed Semeeya.
“Of course you’ll see me again!” exclaimed Zerah.
Zerah looked far beyond Semeeya into the future, and he couldn’t help but smile. He had once overheard two birds speaking of the world. They had said that it was a giant sphere made of green and blue. He didn’t know what the blue was, but he knew that he would grow so great that no matter where anyone or anything was on that sphere, they would see him!
As Zerah’s gaze shifted from the future back to the present, he said to Semeeya, “Come with me.”
“What?” she asked.
“Come with me! You’re ready to become a Great Tree, aren’t you? It’ll be fun! We’ll keep each other company underground. And if either of us gets bored waiting for the snow to melt, we’ll have each other to talk to.”
Zerah looked at Semeeya, waiting hopefully for her reply.
He didn’t have to wait long. A smile brightened her face and the promise of constant, tender companionship dried her tears. “And if either of us gets discouraged waiting for the sun to dry the rain, we’ll have each other to cheer ourselves up!”
Zerah’s smile shined as brightly as Semeeya’s.
Then they kissed their Great Tree goodbye, and he sent them off into the world just as the Wind gently caught hold of them.
The Wind carried them to a field that was empty of other trees.
It dropped Semeeya upon a moist patch of earth surrounded by several blades of grass. She immediately settled into the soft ground.
Zerah was deposited onto a brownish-red lump of soil, far enough away from Semeeya that her roots wouldn’t interfere with his, yet close enough so that her voice would reach him through the patter of raindrops, the chatter of spiders, and the footfall of ants.
The Wind shifted Zerah tenderly from side to side. Just as he was getting comfortable, the Wind grew a little stronger. It picked him up and carried him further away from Semeeya, dropping him on a yellowish-green tuft of moss.
Well, thought Zerah, we’ll have to shout to make ourselves heard. But at least here I’ll have even more space to gr—
The Wind grew stronger again. Before he knew what was happening, Zerah was no longer on the ground, or anywhere even close to it, but high up in the sky.
“Zerah!” he heard Semeeya’s voice cry out from behind him.
“Semeeya!” Zerah yelled, hoping the Wind would carry the sound of his voice to her, even as it carried his body away.
Specks of dust whirled beside him and clouds could not keep pace with him. The quiet hum he had often heard when the Wind was close by abandoned its melody and was now a tuneless moan.
Zerah screamed, “Wind! Put me down!”
The Wind blew harder. The moan grew louder.
Zerah squeezed his eyes shut. The view of the distant fields below, along with the rapid pace at which he was passing over them, was beginning to make him feel dizzy, and more than a little queasy.
Zerah cried out again, “Wind! Didn’t you hear me? Put. Me. Down!”
But the Wind did not put Zerah down. Perhaps the Wind didn’t hear or understand him. Or maybe it heard and understood everything Zerah said but had plans of its own for him. Or perhaps, unlike Zerah, the Wind had no plans at all. Whatever the reason, the Wind carried Zerah a very great distance before it eventually put him down.
When Zerah felt the ground beneath him, he slowly opened his eyes, focused his vision, and looked around. There was no soil or blades of grass; no trees, animals, humans, or insects. Instead, there was something grainy and tan-colored to his left. And something grainy and tan-colored to his right. Before him, behind him, and beneath him was something grainy and tan.
Then Zerah looked above him and saw the vast blue sky, and his heart began to ache. Was this the same sky his future trunk, branches, leaves, fruit, flowers, and seeds were supposed to reach towards and eventually touch? Now the sky would be forever out of his reach; a home eternally shared with the sun, moon, and stars, but not with him. Zerah didn’t know where he was, but he knew this much: without soil, he couldn’t root himself.
I guess I will never be important or useful or special or happy or loved, because I will never become a Great Tree, thought Zerah. I will never become anything. I will remain what I already am: nothing.
Tears fell silently from his eyes, and pain pushed all remaining hope to the bottom of his heart, hushing it to sleep. Zerah closed his eyes and fell asleep in turn.
And so Zerah's journey begins. His efforts to become a Great Tree take him all over the world. His path crosses with teachers both kind and cruel. His experiences cause him to ask some of life’s most difficult and profound questions: Why do bad things happen to good seeds? Is the Wind kind, cruel, indifferent, or non-existent? How can one maintain hope amidst darkness and pain?
When fear and doubt overwhelm Zerah, and his struggle to become a Great Tree feels impossible, does he abandon his dream? Or will the answers that he has found convince him that life is worth living and that all dreams, including those as great as his own, can indeed come true?
Read the rest of Zerah's story to find out...
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