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The Tree



* Van Gogh, Road with Cypress and Star(1890)

Cypresses have featured in numerous paintings of Van Gogh. The leaves and branches stretch and pitch to the zenith, yet such vision of the cypress bears more unnervedness than hopefulness. With the painter’s characteristic speckled treatment of brushstrokes, series of overlaying swirls are dimly created, with the cypress seemingly to mingle gradually into them. The tree cut the painting roughly into two parts, with a sun and a moon occupy each firmament. It is doubtlessly grotesque to have a sun and a moon in concurrence, but if this painting could be interpreted as one’s blurred and gradually faded memory, then the swirls and the anomaly should be duly explained. While the shape of one’s retrospection is at risk of distorting itself and dissipating into the ever-increasing swirls, the colour of it swells and fight tenaciously on the verge of being vanished for good.


People have dreaded and warmed their young not to approach that tree. The tree, which stands straightly without a twist on the ground, trunk wrinkled but bare of any lumps. The leaves unidentifiable of their colours, whether the tree stretches too high that the sunbeam blinds the vision of the apex, or night-tide lures the object into mingling with the murkiness, nobody can give a definite or accurate answer of what the leaves are like. Some superstitious ones hold the firm belief that every subtle trait of the tree bears the morbid implication of its most sinister self- that the colourless of the leaves denotes the tree’s indifference to anything that happens, even if it concerns with people that wither, and dissipate.

A succession of people wither and dissipate by no means in a slow progression. They will have their feverish put on bed earlier, assuming the dismal cold weather has brought a blast of temporary sickness. They will hear their sick ones toss and turn fitfully on their burning beds, artlessly suggesting the cold has exerted its full force, but worrying little since such symptom cannot be more normal. And in the morning they find ruffled blankets and torn mats but not the person. Some sublimes the incidents as angels who shed their clemency and take away the sufferers pain, but suddenly so entranced by their hot, crimson faces that the angels decide to abduct them, as furtively as gypsies who smuggle fair children away at the witch hour.

Nevertheless most people deny the sugarcoated hearsay and determine the tree for the blame, for the ever-immobile tree does give a slight waver whenever a person vanishes, several people contend so with their naked eyes. Therefore on the eve of this Christmas, when the missings have become so numerous that people start to hear yelpings, in their heads, of those who since never went home, from the faraway besieged by forests. Those unaccountable sounds prompt the people to hold a small night ceremony around the tree. With not a tinge of vengeance but sheer reverence the people kneel themselves and circle the trees. In undertones they wish wholeheartedly the evergreen of the tree, promise never to tamper it in any fashion, or cast it with any blasphemies. The people will respect the tree and worship it as their venerable God. What the people earnestly wish is merely the mercy of saving and securing those who survive, and hope to continue surviving a long while later. A boy points out afterward that those prayers and worshippings seem effectual because he simply sees the tree finally smiles. How? Well, the wrinkles of the trunk just suddenly crack into a smile, that’s all.

But the tree does not budge and stays silent. People go home merrily in preparation for the imminent holiday. The tree takes it! The tree is finally happy! With such illusional thought dwelling in their heads, people busily yet contentedly prepare for the feast. Reeling with inexplicable laughter they look at each other’s face, red spots slowly creep upon the face, while others’ cheeks are brimmed with crimson, just like those in an outrageous fever.

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