The Loss of Tall Poppies

The wizened oak tree looked down. Where he’d lost a bough the previous winter, the light shimmered through, reaching a hitherto poorly-nourished patch of earth.

“Oh, well, I suppose it’s good that I’ve lost a bough”, he said, in a slightly less morose tone than of late. “Those pretty little flowers beyond the gate will be able to spread right up to my trunk. I’ve given them an opportunity. Now there’s light, they’ll grow well here.”

The solitary oak tree pined for company. All his former compatriots had long been felled, or struck down by some disease. And he was so vast that nothing grew under his shroud – nothing that is but insidious fungus, miserable moss, and the ubiquitous, sinuous vine.

Over the next six years, the pretty little flowers did indeed graze towards him. With every year, his spirits rose. Soon he would have a wealth of friends to talk to. He loved their scarlet blooms and graceful stems, their gentle waving in the afternoon breeze.

And so it was that the humble poppies finally touched the foot of the grand old oak. For the whole of the season, the wise old man of the meadow and the dynamic, fresh poppies chatted and waved. Life was good, and the meadow was content.

Until the day of rebellion.

It started with the mosses; they voiced their concerns, and then their protests, that the poppies were too tall. The poppies could see much more than they, the mosses.

The funghi followed, so happy till now. The poppies, they said, knew how to grow everywhere; they were far too bright.

They called on the vine. Feared by the oak, and brazenly rude, the vine spread gossip like tentacles of honey. So easy to believe that these poppies were evil. They needed to be stopped, their presence muddied. No one would befriend a moth-eaten poppy, decrepit and bruised.

The old man gazed down, his fine friends of vermilion and emerald crying for help. The vine and his conspirators crept up, eager to stymy the youth. One by one, the audacious poppies succumbed to the constrictions of the envious vine. Trying to survive, the ostracised heroes showered the ground with black seeds of hope. Yet, no one listened; the fungus and moss would have nothing of that. Wasn’t it easier to follow the crowd? Everyone said the poppies were bad, after all.

The struggle was over; sameness prevailed. The tall poppies were dead and moss had grown back. No immigrants here. No innovation. Just existence. Until the floods came, and washed away the moss, and the fungus, and the vine.

The wizened oak tree looked down. Where he’d lost a bough the previous winter, the light shimmered through, reaching a hitherto poorly-nourished patch of earth.

 

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