The Secret of the Green Man

A Fable

by James Clair Lewis

No one knew how old the Green Man was. It seems that he had always been around. I remember my Grandfather had told me stories of the Green Man, when I was just a boy, and his Grandfather before him, and his before him, back through the generations. No one knew how far back.

He lived in a valley at the foot of the mountain, and people didn't see much of him. They didn't often seek him out either. He was strange. Strange, but kindly. Mostly people saw him in the Winter. That was when he would show up in the village hauling his long wagon full of fresh vegetables and fruit, which he gave away to everybody. He must have been very strong to haul that long wagon by himself through the snow, but for him it seemed a natural thing. When asked why he didn't have a horse or oxen to haul his wagon, he replied, "Now why would I make one of God's creatures do for me, what I can do so easily for myself?"

We were certain that he didn't eat meat, and as I think of it, I can't recall ever seeing him eat anything. Sometimes he would drink from a well or a stream.

He never seemed to move fast, but creaked along steadily. He was strange to look upon, too. His brown hair was thick and tangled like roots. His beard was the same, hanging down to his waist. His ears seemed to be shaped like leaves, and his skin was tough, like the bark of a tree. He had green eyes, and his skin had a tinge of green to it.

Birds liked the Green Man, flying to him when he called in their languages. Often, one would perch on his shoulder or his head, and sing. They were always around, and he rightly called them his friends

People stayed away from the Green Man, because he was strange, but whenever he asked for anything, people gave it to him without question. It was those loads of fresh fruit and vegetables in the Winter, bushels of oranges, and grapefruit, avocados, bananas, and berries. That made him hard to refuse. How he came to have these things in Winter with a foot or more of snow on the ground, no one knew, and he wouldn't say.

He liked music, so when he brought the fresh Summer produce to town in the snowbound Winter, and gave some away to everybody, the town's musicians would gather, making his appearances quite a festive occasion.

It was in the Spring that he came to our farm which was nearest to his valley, and spoke to me.

"Little sprout, come here. I want you to see something."

I was 14 and really didn't like to be called a little sprout, but he didn't make it sound bad, so I followed him, after telling my mother where I would be. We hiked up the trail to the mountain, and stopped in the valley where he lived.

"This will take awhile," he said, "So tonight you will sleep in my house." I looked around, and saw nothing but woods, and the side of the hill.

"Where?", I asked.

"Look more closely, little sprout", he replied, and pointed to some rocks in the side of the hill.

I walked over, and found that it wasn't a mere pile of rocks. They had been fitted together carefully with an opening that led to a room. I stepped inside and found a rather cosy place : a bed, a table with chairs, an oil lamp, books on a shelf, a chest of drawers, and some musical instruments, flutes, panpipes, a guitar, and a fiddle. These things had been given to the Green Man by the people in the village. Far in the back of the room was an opening to a cave, and from there I could hear a stream flowing from inside the mountain.

"You'll be comfortable in here tonight. Now come with me. I want to show you something."

The Green Man led me from his house to a clearing, "Now tell me. What do you see?"

I looked around, but saw nothing unusual. Then the Green Man whistled a bird trill, and a Meadowlark responded, perching in a tree. Now this is the part that is strange. I could see the bird perched just a few feet above me, but I couldn't see what it was perched upon. It seemed that the bird had perched in midair.

"Do you see the Tree?", he asked?

"No. but I see the bird", I replied.

"Look on the ground then, and tell me what you see."

I looked on the ground, and saw it, a faint outline of the shadow of a tree, "How is this possible? I see a shadow, but I don't see a tree!"

The Green Man laughed, "Then you've seen plenty, haven't you, little sprout?"

It was getting towards evening, and the Green Man took me back to his house inside the hill. Along the way, he borrowed my hat, and every so often he would pick a vegetable or a piece of fruit, and place it inside my hat. And this was strange, too, because before he picked the veggies and fruits, they hadn't seemed to be there.

"Raw food, little sprout. The best there is in all of the wonderful Green Earth. Make you strong, and with the right herbs, you'll never get sick"

The Green Man left me in his house, "You have food, water, books, and musical instruments. Stay up as long as you like. I have things to attend to outside."

I ate my supper of fresh veggies, and fruits. Then I picked up one of the flutes, and began playing some tunes I knew. It soon got dark, and I began to wonder what the Green Man was doing. There was a Moon that night, so I could see well enough. I went out, and made my way to the clearing where grew the Tree I couldn't see.

There I saw the Green Man standing, his feet buried up to his ankles in the ground, and his arms raised up, gazing raptly at the Moon. I decided not to disturb him, or to ask any questions. He wasn't big on answering questions anyway.

In the morning the Green Man brought me a breakfast of cress and other leafy greens, "Take these two sachets home to your parents to make tea. This one is for your father, and that one is for your mother. Don't get them switched." That was another thing about the Green Man. He knew the herbs and roots. Whenever someone in the village took sick, the Green Man would show up with something which would cure the malady. When a woman was having a difficult birth, he would appear, and play his fiddle outside. For some reason that always helped. Babies were never born dead or crippled in our village, and women never died in childbirth. Often they said it didn't hurt at all.

When asked how he knew when to come, his only reply was that a little bird told him.

It was seven years later that the Green Man came for me again, "It's time, young sprout. I need you to see something."

We walked the trail back up into the hills where he lived, and entered the clearing, where that invisible tree grew. I looked at the ground and this time the shadow of the tree was clearly visible, so I told him so.

"This is good. Do you see the shadow of the tree's fruit there?", he asked.

"I do," I replied, "Do you want me to reach up and pick it?"

"That would be about right, young sprout"

So I reached up to where the fruit ought to be, and picked it. Now just as I picked this fruit, it became visible to me, a lovely Golden Apple.

"Eat it, and then I will tell you something." The Green Man smiled.

As I ate the Golden Apple, the tree became visible to me. Its leaves were silver, and its blossoms were a rainbow of colors. The tree held many Golden Apples in its boughs.

"I am going to die tonight, as it should be, under a bright Full Moon. In the morning, you will know what to do."

"Are you sure?, "I asked. "I will miss you. Everyone in town will miss you. You have always been our friend." "Don't you worry about that, young sprout. I am old. Very old. It is my time to ascend, is all, and you will understand everything soon enough."

I slept fitfully in the Green Man's stone house that night. In the morning, I went to the clearing, and found the Green Man standing with his feet buried to his ankles in the ground. He had grown tall during the night, nearly 16 feet, and silver leaves were sprouting from his body and several new limbs. A rainbow hued flower blossomed from the top of his head, just as the Sun rose.

A herd of deer gathered, as did a bear, a mountain lion, raccoons, squirrels, and rabbits. Birds were everywhere, and bees were collecting pollen from his blossom.

"Does it hurt?" I asked."

"Not at all," he replied, "Although the bees do tickle."

"And what will happen now?" I asked.

"I will ascend to a higher realm of life, and the Tree will grow, though it will be a long time before anyone but you, can see it. It is a wonderful life, a very long one, and you won't be lacking for friends. Just look around."

Those were his last words. The sun shone brightly in the valley that morning, and off into the forest I could see other silver leafed trees here and there, going back deeper and deeper into the woods. Each of the forest creatures came to me then, and made a bow before departing.

As I ate another Golden Apple, I began to understand many things. I could look at a plant, and it would grow fruit within a few seconds. The songs of birds were now easy to understand, as were all the voices of the forest.

Now that all happened a long time ago. I forget how long. At least 1000 years, probably more. It's not important. What is important, is that I feel my time coming. I will leave my body, and Ascend to a higher Realm. There is a boy in the village who seems to know things. I think I will pay him a visit.

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