by Cathy Vartuli
Once upon a time, a long long time ago, there lived a very brave young man. Because he also had a deeply compassionate heart, great intellect, a quiet strength, and a quick wit, he was much loved.
For many years he worked in his family’s business, where he produced much wealth. But he wanted to learn about the world and understand more of what made it work. And the suffering he saw all around confused him. So he thanked his father and his mother, his brothers and sisters, and set off into the world to learn.
He traveled for many years… studying different ways people heal. He learned wonderful ways to relax the body and mind. But they all took decades to learn deeply, and he knew the average person needed some way to comfort themselves more easily and quickly, so he traveled on. He met with muses and gurus and mystics. Climbed tall mountains and journeyed to distant islands.
Once he was caught in a stampede when the group he was traveling with crossed a great plane. His body was healed by healers of great renown, and he was grateful, but he found that his mind and heart still hurt from the injury and the healers could not help.
Throughout his travels, he saw people struggling. Hurting. Wishing and despairing. He knew there had to be a better way. Foot weary, and heart sore, he continued his journey.
Eventually, ragged and worn, he chanced upon a small valley. The air was fresh, the grass green, and the people content. He decided he needed to rest, so even though he had heard of no great healer or mystic in this area, he turned his feet toward the village.
He spent several weeks just eating, sleeping, and talking with the people of the town. He got his clothes mended, his shoes repaired, his hair cut. He noticed that many of his cares slipped away, and he felt younger the longer he stayed.
Everywhere he turned, he noticed that these people were quite happy. Yes, they still did lose their mittens sometimes, and disagreed with one another. But there was a calm, gentle way about them that felt very natural.
He found himself feeling better just being there. In fact, the food and rest seemed to be changing things deep inside him, for his heart felt lighter and happier here, too.
Many of the foods here were cooked differently than he had ever had them. Most dishes contained apples, prepared in delicious ways with chicken and fish. He had never tasted dishes like this before in all of his travels.
Finally he asked the woman who provided his lodging what the secret was. “Why is everyone here so content? I have traveled the world looking for ways to help people, and yet most of you seem to need none.”
The woman smiled and urged him to talk to a small farmer just up the valley… if he truly wanted to know.
The next morning, the young man woke early and with a bit of breakfast, set off up the valley. It was still quite early on that beautiful morning when he came to the turn in the road his landlord described.
The small farm was very lovely, with green grass so vital and fresh he quite envied the sleek horses and cows he saw breaking their fast on it. And all around, he smelled apples. Strong, healthy apple trees grew everywhere.
A man, as vital and alive as any he had seen, was sorting a basket of apples. The young man greeted him and was dazzled by the happiness and contentment in the smile he received in return.
He was invited to sit, and he given an apple to eat. Hungry from his walk, he bit into it and had flavor and wonder explode in his mouth. The farmer laughed at the expression on his face, and said, “Yes, it is the apples, and it is the love and intention that they are grown with that is the secret in this valley. The apples do not remove all challenges in life, but they make it easy for people to move past old hurts and see each other clearly, and that helps, for that is the basis of much conflict.”
The young man was delighted. How easy to eat an apple a day and be more content and happy! Who wouldn’t do that?! He asked the farmer how he might share this with more people so fewer would suffer.
The farmer smiled, and said “If you wish, I will sell you that basket of apples I was just sorting. You may do what you wish with it, but from experience, I can make recommendations if you like.”
When the young man eagerly nodded, for he was quite willing to hear, the farmer continued. “If you give these apples away, you will help 24 people for a few days. If, however, you eat them first yourself, to heal the pain you carry, and save all the seeds, you can nurture the trees you grow with love and offer apples to people for generations. I bid you watch how different people accept your apples, and trust your heart on what to charge, and when to offer a gift.”
The young man saw the sense in that, and thanked the man, asking him what he should pay for the apples. The farmer said, “I am quite willing to accept value for my apples, since they are valuable. The love they carry is offered freely, but value for value is just and feels good to the heart.”
The young man worried a bit, since he had spent most of what he owned seeking knowledge. And he wanted to share apples and happiness with as many as he could.
The farmer nodded to the pin in the shape of a bluebird on the young man’s cloak. “Your mother gave you that pin for safe travels, didn’t she?” The young man nodded. The farmer smiled, “There is much love in it. Trade me that pin for the apples, for I know your mother would approve, and you shall see her soon. I will include an apple for her, as well.”
The young man was reluctant, but since he had little else to offer, he traded his pin for a basket of apples and one red juicy one besides.
Eager to start helping people, he set off the next morning to travel home. As the man had bid him, each day he ate one apple, and he carefully saved the seeds. He found he had much energy and could travel smoothly and far. Though it should have taken him months to get home, on the afternoon of the 24th day, he approached his family’s home.
His mother was the first to see him, and she rushed over and hugged him tightly.
Over dinner that night, his brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles joined his parents for a celebratory dinner. Some of his family found his efforts a bit scornful, traveling all those years, returning in worn clothes with nothing more than a small bag of seeds and one perfect apple for his mother. They had all been building their fortunes and growing families.
His mother smiled though, and his father offered him the fallow land near the old spring for his trees. His mother insisted on sharing the apple with her husband, and since love shared is doubled, they were both healed and felt younger and happier.
The young man started his orchard the next morning. He carefully cleared the ground, and lovingly planted each seed. Everyday he tended and watered and weeded them, while he built a small cottage close by. Some days a sibling would come by, and help a bit, and soon he had a snug place to live while his trees grew.
And of course, since these were magical seeds, by fall, the saplings were almost as tall as the young man. He cared for them through their first winter, and in spring, they rewarded him with a flurry of blossoms, the smell of which made even the grumpiest man smile.
By fall, the branches were bowed under the weight of fruit, and the young man carefully picked the apples, polished them, and took them to market.
He carefully cut up one apple, so that anyone who wished might have a taste and know their worth, and so even those who choose not to buy could savor a bit or enjoy the smell.
As the farmer had bid him, he sold his apples for a good price, but once in awhile, if his heart directed, he would give one to someone with love.
With over a hundred trees in his orch
ard (and new seeds saved for future expansion), there were plenty to sell as well as store for the winter. And while not everyone in his home village ate the apples, it was a much happier place with fewer illnesses and much love.
Now this might be the end of the story, but the young man was a curious man. And he noticed that not everyone was as happy as others, and that some wouldn’t eat the apples at all. So for one month, he followed a person home each night to see what they would do with the apples they bought or were given.
He noticed that some people lovingly ate them, enjoying the process, sharing them with their loved ones. They did very well.
He noticed that some people who were given a gift of an apple did the same. But some, perhaps feeling that they would never be given more, hoarded it until it rotted and didn’t even think to plant the seeds. Others scarfed it down so rapidly that much of the goodness escaped.
He found it strange that some very injured people were able to heal quickly, while others did not. This distressed him because he wanted to help everyone. Watching them, it seemed like some could let the love offering in easily. Others were fearful so it took more time… and more apples!
He even watched when a very competitive man bought a basket full of apples, crushed them for their seeds and let the fruit drop to the ground. The deer and rabbits and mice in the area were very grateful, for nothing was wasted, but the trees the competitive man planted grew like regular apple trees, and while the fruit was tasty, it did not heal.
This was strange, because many people had planted the seeds of their apples. And most of the trees grew quickly and bore wonderful fruit. And it seemed like some trees were good for heart aches, and others for injury, and yet others only when shared.
At first the young man was distressed. Why could he not help everyone? Why did the trees respond differently to each person? It put a cloud over his happiness. He stopped noticing all the help the apples did give, and paid attention to those who they only helped a little, or not at all.
Noticing his worry, his mother encouraged him to eat an apple from her tree, planted with her apple seeds from that first day, and then to watch the unhappy people eat their apples. With his mind cleared, he saw that the ones that weren’t helped were tight and resistant to the love in the apples. He could see that a little bit of love was slipping in, and slowly opening up a doorway for more. And he saw that love is never wasted, for it is a gift to the giver, even if the receiver can only take a tiny sip… or allow a few drops on their hand.
When he shared this with his mother, she smiled and said, “Yes, that is true, for every person is different. And that is good and wise as well. For when difficulties come, some always survive, some always offer contrast. It is not your job to change them, only to offer them tools that they might use, and love and compassion to help them along. The granite mountain will need more time than will the bubbling brook. But the granite mountain may remember things of use to us far after the brook has moved onto new things.”
The young man saw the wisdom in this, for in his travels, he has seen towns caught up in fads, and only brought back to balance by the old “stuck” villagers. He had seen the quick moving save other towns from disaster that the more slow moving hadn’t recognized. He could share his love and his apples with all who asked, and let God and the Asking of those people unfold what will. The young man’s only job was to love more deeply… and grow wonderful apples to share. He could not make someone eat them, or allow in what they asked for. Just rejoice when they did allow. And perhaps he could learn to grow apples that helped the allowing more easily?
Over time, the valley became full of small orchards, and renown for its apples. The smell in the spring was enough to make a bird giddy. There was no glut on the market, because people from far and wide came to buy apples, and not everyone had space or desire to grow trees. Many started making products from the apples, jams and cakes and spreads, even carvings from branches that fell during storms. The people who had scorned the young man at first celebrated his courage and offered him thanks.
The young man decided that while he wasn’t sure why some apples did different things, and some people responded it differently, he knew that the love and the fruit did do good, and his efforts were valuable to his heart. He carefully planted the seeds from the best and most wonderful apples and tended them with love and gladness in his heart. He knew the seeds of the apples and his love were traveling far and wide, opening new doors even for people he would never meet.