The theory of young pine tree
In the middle of a nearby wood, I found a little pine tree growing by the path.
It was almost too tiny to be called a tree, no taller than a toddler. I couldn't pass it by without feeling concerned. Not only was it small but it was rooted in an unsafe place. Looking at the small tree shaking in the wind made me uncomfortable. What if somebody, stepping backward, treads on it?
After thinking it over, I gathered up some sticks from around the lane and made a fence for it. It was a mere boundary of just two layers of twigs. After a few steps, I looked back. It seemed neither pitiful nor lonely any longer. Although it was unstable, it was a token of somebody's protection and love. It was a great change. Until not too long ago, it looked like a naked baby lying on the roadside. When leaving I gazed at the tree, gratified as if it were a baby sleeping in a cozy cradle.
After two days, I was a bit concerned as I approached it, thinking that the fence might have fallen down in the wind. I was also afraid that someone might have touched it and destroyed it. It turned out to be a groundless apprehension. Never mind crumbling, it had become even higher and steadier. Some kind passers-by must have put more sticks around it one by one. I was glad that people began to pay attention to the baby tree which had been neglected for a long time.
Another week passed. By that time, I almost forgot the existence of the tree due to my hectic life. When I stood in front of the tree, I was amazed by the scene. The enclosure was again higher. Additionally, the crooked body had become straight. There was a splint against the trunk. I felt grateful for the person who did such a thoughtful deed. The baby pine tree looked so happy. Finally, I felt relieved as I was convinced that it would grow strong.
It was several days after that when I visited the tree again. As I got closer tree my heart began to pound and my steps got faster and faster. When I saw it from a distance, I was at my wit's end. There were some tiny little limbs around the fence. At first I thought that somebody did harm to it. I rushed toward it as if a mom discovering her wounded baby. Contrary to my worries it turned out to be a trace of trimming. A considerate person kindly cut a few unnecessary limbs from the lower part of the body. There were some fist-sized stones around the fence, too, protecting the tree like a fortress.
I had heard about ``the broken window theory." It seems that if a broken window is neglected, that area tends to become prone to vandalism, crime and anti-social behavior as time goes by. There was a time when on freezing winter days someone would throw away the ash from a briquette under the wall of his or her neighbor’s house, and a pile of ash would be seen the next morning.
Now I'm looking at the opposite effect in the middle of a forest. I would call this ``the theory of a young pine tree."
Good tendencies, or bad, we all live in a society in which we are vulnerable to being copycats. There might be no answer to the question of whether human nature is good or bad.
The one who throws a stone at the next window could also place a twig around a young tree. I remember that the woman who threw away the ashes under her neighbor's fence used to knock on her shuddering neighbor’s door holding a burning briquette.
There was a pump at the front yard of my house in my childhood. During winter it was drained at night to prevent it freezing. The next morning, a gourd dipper of water was needed to thaw the ice before pumping out spring water from the ground.
There might be an endless stream of humanity in our mind but we need a bowl of priming water to pump it out.
I didn't expect that some small wooden sticks I put around the young pine tree would play the wonderful role of the priming water.
In the wood, the tiny little boughs of the pine tree were gently swaying in the breeze. It seemed to be a bow of gratitude toward me. I felt like standing by it and bowing to the kind people who responded to my insignificant initiative.
The writer is a professor at Incheon Jae Neung College. Contact her at email@example.com.