The Forest and the Garden
The Elf opened the pages of the old notebook, patched and frayed at the edges of long use. Many pages had been stitched into it, adding to it whenever more room was needed to hold the notes.
She smiled as she leafed through it. Straightening out some pages, lingering at others, she added a note here and there, or a small drawing in her own flowing letters and designs. The original writing was of a rougher hand, smudged in places and written with many different inks over the years.
Around her, the gardens of Rivendell shone in spring's sunset. The herbs and flowers of the healers' gardens were already wakening to the summer season, spreading their fragrances through the vale. She read calmly, letting the surroundings and the task soothe her mind.
When she had gone through the whole book, browsing and retracing, she took up a bundle of fresh sheafs and a sewing needle. Slowly and carefully she took to the task of gathering up and repairing the fragile old stitching, finally sewing in the new pages at the end.
When it was done, she started to write.
"What is the difference between planting a forest and planting a garden?"
She paused, pensively. Her quill shivered in the evening breeze as she set it to paper again and wrote on, smoothly:
"A garden may speak the gardener's praise; as with a forest, it may be useful or no, public or private. A forest never tells praise, as if the gardener never existed."
"But what happens to the garden when the gardener is gone?
Soon, the wild will start to creep in on it; the blossoms wilt and the flowers, unfamiliar to their habitat, die in the hot summers or cold winters. When the gardener has left, one may point at the ruins and say 'Here once a beautiful garden grew;' but the beauty - as the things growing within it - will be lost."
The elf spent a while drawing a flowerbed on the side of the page, lost deep in thought as she did so.
On the opposite page, she drew a forest; dark and wild the pine trees grew to the skies, deep the shadows between them.
"When a forest is planted, it must be so that it will survive when the forester is gone. It must protect and care for the living things dwelling in it, for by that it protects its own survival.
As a healer, or as a teacher, I must take care to plant forests, not gardens.We tend our charges while we are alive, but in the knowledge that when we have gone, they must be able to stand on their own - not for our praise but so that they may continue their usefulness long after we have gone."
Again, she paused.
A small spot was left on the page, enough for a postscriptum.
"But as for you, only you can decide: Will you, in your life, choose to plant gardens or forests?"