Article Overview:   The Tree of Vigilance isn't very tall.   But, its roots are deep and strong.   They wrap around the Rock of Vigilance and hold tight to the belief that the Seedling's Seedling's Seedlings are the most important asset of the Forest of Vigilance.   Find out how deep the Roots of Vigilance are for yourself and the Little Tree of Vigilance.


Friday--December 12, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 821
The Vigilance Tree
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Dec. 12, 2003--  Once upon a time, in a deep forest often covered with great blankets of winter snow, lived the Little Tree of Vigilance.

The Little Tree of Vigilance

         It wasn't as big as its brothers and sisters.  In fact, it was quite small in comparison.  When you stood next to the tiny Vigilance Tree, you could almost touch its green pointy top.   Its brothers and sisters were huge, giant firs that stood like rocket ships pointing their verdant, perfectly manicured arrow-shaped snouts toward the far reaches of the universe.
        Size, however, didn't bother the Little Tree of Vigilance.
        There was something special about the boughs and needles that gave the little tree a stature equal to the towering timbers dwarfing its presence on the forest floor.  Magpie was the first to question the Little Tree.

Magpie was the first to question the Little Tree

    "Don't you the other trees," Magpie chirped as he searched for bugs, beetles and ants that often stuck out their heads out of exposed patches of trees' bark not covered by snow.
         "Not really," said the Little Tree of Vigilance.   "I reach for the sky just like all my brothers and sisters.  I am happy when the sun touches me, or the wind whistles through my branches."
          Magpie hopped into the "V" of big branch, raised up long tail and cocked his head to one side, his eye burrowing into the tiny holes where the bugs and wormlike creatures often stuck out their heads to see how warm it was.
         " aren't like the other trees," Magpie said.  "You're so small and they are so big.   Aren't you afraid they'll fall on you?"

The Little Vigilance Tree spoke of his great, great, great grandfather drying  up with bare branches and becoming a deadfall

          "Once, my great, great, great grandfather fell very close," said the Little Vigilance Tree.   It was two summer's ago.   He had dried up long ago.  All his green was gone.   His branches were bare.   They said he was a deadfall, and everyone was worried that he would fall on them.    Everyone, but me."
          "I heard him fall, Little One," said the Magpie, spearing his beak at the sight of a white worm inching its way out of a gnarled burl.   "Mmmmm, yummy," Magpie said, lifting back his head as he swallowed the morsel.   "It was so scary."
          "My great, great, great Grand Daddy told me not to be afraid before he dried up," said the Little Vigilance Tree.   "He said I must have more Courage than Fear, more Conviction than Intimidation, and take more Right Actions than be Complacent about life."
          "What!"  Magpie hopped out to the end of the snow-laden branch and stared down at the peak of the Little Vigilance Tree's top.   "Why, you're way too small and way too young to use such big words."
          "No, no.   Great G-Pa--that's what I called him--said because I was so small I must fight to be big inside.   He said:  'You can't tell how big a tree is by just looking at his bark.  You have to see his roots.'"

Snow powder parachuted through the Little Vigilance Tree's boughs

          The wind shot a cold blast through the forest, causing the snow donuts heaped on the boughs surrounding the Little Vigilance Tree to fall.  They plopped around him, some bruising the piles of snow on his boughs.   Silvery strands of snow powder parachuted through the Little Vigilance Tree's stout boughs.   He looked not unlike a tree inside a glass bulb that children shook in the nearby village to make the white flakes inside swarm around the liquid and drift down as though they held the magical forest in their tiny fingers.
            "Ouch, doesn't that hurt when those snowballs fall on you!" Magpie screeched out the question, fluttering to another tree where he spied a patch of bark on the south side of the fir.  He perched at the ready, hoping for another morning snack to appear, perhaps a bark beetle this time, a delicacy this time of year.
             "Not really.  I have deep, big roots.  I can handle anything."
             "Maybe I'll call you Small-Big...Small in size...Big in heart."  Magpie let out a screech and flapped his wings.
             The Little Vigilance Tree laughed.  Snow jiggled off his boughs and made a big "plop" on white blanket beneath him.
            "No, Magpie, I'm just me.  I'm not Big and not Small.   I am who I am.   Great G-Pa Tree told me my size had nothing to do with fighting off the Beast of Tree Terror.  He said I must be Vigilant in the forest.  Or, I would live my life always afraid of the bigger trees, always feeling I was less-than them, and, if I grew too sad and alone because I was so small, my fir needles might dry up and my branches would go bare.  My Fear, Intimidation and Complacency would weaken me, and the beetles and worms would get me.   Then I would only be firewood or just a deadfall before my time."
             Magpie fluttered over toward the Little Vigilance Tree and clutched its top.  Magpie flapped his wings until he got his balance.  He looked like the top ornament of the Christmas Trees the humans took from the forest and decorated for their children.
             "You are strong," Magpie boasted.   "I wasn't sure I could land here."
             "My roots are strong."
             "But your Great G-Pa...well..."  Magpie cocked his head and eyed the little tree..."well, he fell down.   And almost crushed you.   What about his roots?   I mean...if he was so strong and big, how come he fell...?"   Magpie lifted his left wing and picked at his feathers.
              The Little Vigilance Tree sighed.   Snowflakes see-sawed down as he spoke in a soft, quiet Voice.
             "He told me the Beast of Beetle Terror got him.   It happened suddenly, Great G-Pa said.  He awoke one morning and felt the Terror Beetles trying to burrow into his bark.   He said he became a victim to the Beast of Beetle Terror because he stopped being Vigilant."  
             Magpie cocked his head and looked down through the Little Tree of Vigilance's boughs.   The little tree continued. 

None of the trees helped G-Pa fight off The Terror Beetles

             "The summer before he was attacked, Great G-Pa Tree said he saw the Terror Beetles attack an old friend five trees away.   At first, he said he wasn't afraid.  He told the other tree to have Courage and fight off the Fear of the attack.  But his friend ignored his warnings.   'I'm so big and strong none of these beetles can hurt me,' his friend boasted.   G-Pa was worried for his friend.   He knew that it was only when the other trees helped their friends fight off the Beetle Terrorists that they had a chance.  
             "So, what happened," asked Magpie.
             "Great G-Pa saw the other tree start to get sick.   It was a giant tree, the biggest in the forest and his best friend.   G-Pa kept telling him to make more sap, to not try and grow and grow, but instead sink his roots deeper and get the rich nourishment that would drive the Terror Beetles away.   He told his friend to wrap his tap roots around the giant rocks, and grab Mother Earth like a child hangs on to a mother's back.
            "His friend didn't listen.   Instead, he just focused on getting bigger, taller, growing more limbs.    The Terror Beetles called on their friends.   They came by the hundreds, swarming over Great G-Pa's friend.   None of the other trees were concerned, because they were trying to get bigger too.  His friend's needles turned brown, fungus began to grow on its bark.   My Great G-Pa felt sad for the other tree.   Great G-Pa got tired of shouting at his friend and waving his boughs to signal the danger.   One day, Great G-Pa said, he turned his boughs away from his friend.  He said he got frustrated with his friend and started to hope someone else would tell him to fight off the Terror Beetles.   But none of the other trees did."
         "Why not?"  Magpie darted from the top of the Little Vigilance Tree to a branch of a giant nearby tree.  A winter worm was wriggling its head out of split where the branch attaches to the trunk.   Magpie was too slow.  His beak missed the morsel so he began to preen his feathers as he listened to the little tree's story.

Fires sometimes attack our family members

          "The other trees were far too busy reaching up for the sunlight and making seeds and sucking up water from the ground.    Everyone in the forest, you know, tries to survive.   Growing new branches is a full-time job.  Then there are storms and rain that try and push the trees over.  And, thunder and lightening sometimes set fires or attacks one of our family members.    Of course, there are the loggers who come and cut down whole families of trees."
           The little tree took a deep breath.    "Worrying about another tree...well, Great G-Pa told me...well, that's the sad part...the other trees didn't worry...they didn't try to stop the Terror Beetles.  They were...selfish...they didn't want to help out G-Pa's friend...and G-Pa, well, he grew sad they didn't help...and...he told me...well...he just gave up.  He said he let Fear, Intimidation and Complacency worm into his bark and suck out his life.   He got selfish...he said...and...just before he totally dried up, he begged me to take the Pledge of Tree Vigilance."
        "What's that?"  Magpie flew off the limb of the big tree and swayed again atop the peak of the Little Tree of Vigilance.
        "It's a vow you make to yourself that you'll do your best every day to help the seedlings learn to fight the Terror Beetles."
          Magpie's wings fluttered.  "Why the seedlings?  Why not help the big, giant trees?   Why, they keep you sheltered from the wind.   They prove you can grow big and strong too.  Why not make the big guys your buddies?  Why not help them first and the Seedlings last?"    

By helping the Seedling's Seedling's Seedlings, the Littlest Tree taught them to fight the Terror Beetles

      "Great G-Pa told me that when I thought about helping the Children's Children's Children...the Seedling's Seedling's Seedlings...that would help more than anything I could ever do for the big trees.    If every time a little baby tree sprouts up from the forest floor, I start reminding the Seedlings about how to fight the Terror Beetles by conjuring up more Courage than Fear, and mustering more Conviction than Intimidation, and to think more about the Seedling's Seedling's Seedlings instead of worrying about how big and strong they will be...and to stop worrying about shoving all the other trees out of the way to get the most sunlight... and not be concerned with just trying to be the tallest tree in the forest... that the Beast of Beetle Terror would not find a home in the baby trees.    If I was a Sentinel of Beetle Vigilance, why, then I would help the little trees be more concerned with how deep their roots were than how tall their tops were."
           "But how come you're so small.  Shouldn't you be big if you help the little trees?"
           "I can talk to the baby trees.  The big guys can't," said the Little Tree of Vigilance.   "My roots are very deep.    And, because I'm closer to the ground, I can whisper to the boughs of the baby trees:  "Have Courage...Little One...Have One Percent More Courage Than Fear When The Worms and Beetles March Toward You....Don't Be Intimidated By Them...Think About The Seedling's Seedling's Seedlings..."      

Great G-Pa taught that our strength begins with our roots

             "Then you don't care about the big, big trees?"  Magpie flew in a circle around the little tree.
             "Yes, of course.  But the big trees were once little trees.   Great G-Pa told me that I should be an example of a Parent of Tree Vigilance.   Even though I'm small, I can be big.  My bark can be a Shield of Vigilance, protecting the Seedlings.   See, Magpie, he told me that one day I might forget to be Vigilant if I stopped talking to the Seedlings.   He said all trees want to grow so big and strong that they forget it all begins with their roots.   If a tree's roots are deep and strong, then all the winds and all the Terror Beetles will have a tough time knocking them down.   Every day I spend talking to the Seedlings my roots grow deeper.   How tall I am isn't as important as how strong I am.    If I believe in the future of the Seedling's, Seedling's Seedlings, then I will last forever."

Magpie screeched "Nobody lives forever, not even trees!"

            "Forever!"  Magpie swooped up and clamped his feet around a tall tree's branch just above the little tree.  "Nobody lives forever, not even trees!"
           "Yes they can," said the Little Vigilance Tree.   "If all the trees in the forest teach all the Seedlings to be Vigilant, then Vigilance lives forever.   It lives when the fires come, when the lightening strikes, when the Terror Beetles attack, even when the loggers come with saws and axes.    Vigilance is forever, Magpie.  And Great G-Pa passed his on to me.   He reminded me why I should not give up as he did, and, so far I haven't.   Each day I talk to the Seedlings about Courage, Conviction and doing what's right for the Seedling's Seedling's Seedlings.    The Seedlings will keep me alive in their boughs and their bark, in their limbs and in their roots."
            "Wow," said Magpie.    "That means that living forever is more important than being the tallest, the strongest tree in the forest."
           "It means caring about others is the most important thing in the world, Magpie.  And even if I never get as big as, or as tall as, I will be as good as all other trees have ever been because I care about the Seedlings.     

The Little Tree and the Magpie were Vigilant year after year in caring for others

             "Maybe I should have been a tree," Magpie wondered.
             "No.  You're perfect, Magpie.  But you can be even more perfect if you want?"
             "How's that?" Magpie flew around the Little Vigilance Tree's top.
             "Become a Magpie of Vigilance.  Take the Magpie's Pledge of Vigilance."
               And so it was, year after year, the Little Tree of Vigilance taught the Seedlings how to grow tall and strong by keeping their roots deep.  And, Magpie became a Sentinel of Magpie Vigilance, teaching all the little Magpies how eat the most delicious of all treats in the forest--the Terror Beetles.

Dec.10--Gift Of The Magi--The Pledge Of Vigilance

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