Tree of Life Becomes River of Life
By April Thanhauser
While on a wild and heart-opening journey with Rocio Alarcon into the Amazon region of Ecuador, I heard a legend of the origins of the Napo river—one of the tributaries of the Amazon. This story was shared with me in Spanish on a visit to Coca, and the translation whispered to me, sentence by sentence. I offer this story of transformation and trust in Nature's gifts with apologies for anything lost or changed in translation.
A huge cedar tree stood deep in the forest. A wise elder would travel, alone, to the tree and return to the people bearing all kinds of food—vegetables, fruits, fish.
He gave the food away freely to all, even to the lazy ones. But there were some lazy, greedy people who wanted more. They wanted to know the secret of where the food came from, but this the elder would not reveal. So they secretly followed him into the forest.
They witnessed him reaching into the tree and bringing out food. Finding that they themselves could not do this, they captured and tortured the elder by wrapping a rope around his waist and pulling hard, trying to get him to reveal his secret. He did not speak, and he did not die, but was transformed into a wasp.
The lazy-ones repeatedly tried to reach into the tree, but could not; so in anger they cut it down. Miraculously, the tree grew back the next day. Again the lazy ones tried to reach into the tree, and again they failed.
Now even more angry, they cut down the new tree. The sky became dark ; thunder struck and the earth shook.
When the sky cleared, the fallen tree had become a great river, with many branches, and still full of food—the many, many fish of the Amazon.
And so the tree that had become a river still fed her people, but now all the people needed to work to get the food.
Today, the great and generous river and the rainforest which is her home continue to give sustenance to her plants, animals and people... and Life to us all.