The Olive Tree in the Sky.

Joined Oct 5, 2001
Dear Friends,

I was inspired by a story recounted to me by Athenaeus who was sharing my internet site, The Olive Tree World, with some children who live in the streets of Athens and who have become an important part of her life. After visiting the website on her laptop computer and having seen the olive tree logo, one of the children asked her how it came to pass that there was an olive tree in the sky. She relayed this question to me and asked if I would like to answer her young friend’s question.

This is a children’s story that explains that all things are possible with life and love.


Nestled in one of the hills overlooking the sparkling blue Aegean, there is an olive grove filled with the most beautiful trees in the world. Their shimmering leaves of silvery green flutter in the wind by day and flirt with the stars by night. Their gnarled and twisted trunks have been painstakingly sculpted by the fingers of the winds that work their magic from all directions. Their seasonal, maturing olives bear the taste of the initial bitterness and then the emerging sweetness of the life that has surrounded them for centuries. Their graceful and tender new shoots rising from the sturdy boughs upon which the birds have nested for years give proof that life begets life and that new growth depends upon love and care bestowed in seasons past.

These are descendants of the olive trees planted by a young man named Alexander over two thousand years ago. Alexander had searched everywhere in his great travels around the world to find the perfect place in which to plant his olive seeds that he had collected as a boy while exploring the pristine islands of the Aegean. After his travels, Alexander was understandably tired, but he soon regained his strength and determination after he decided upon a nurturing place for his olive seeds. He returned to this hillside in the land that he loved more than any other, and it was in this spot that he knew he would leave a lasting legacy.

Alexander endeared himself to all those who knew him because he was intelligent, energetic, full of life and, most important of all, he was gentle and compassionate with all living things. Alexander understood at a very young age that it is life that gives beauty to the earth and nourishes us with its gifts to feed our bodies, our minds and our souls.

With this knowledge, Alexander planted his precious olive seeds in the earth overlooking the many faces of the sea. As time passed, Alexander watched these young seedlings sprout as they were fed by the rich earth that enveloped their roots and gave them a strong foundation to stand tall and proud. The trees continued to grow with each one taking its own individual shape and character, like people, and the branches spread out as if they were reaching upwards to receive the embrace of the sun’s golden rays that gave them warmth and light. At night, Alexander took great comfort upon hearing the droplets of rain that fell on his young trees because he knew that this water would satisfy their thirst, wash their trunks and, before disappearing, caress their leaves very softly as if to reassure the trees that there was a loving spirit that would care for them and remain with them always, even during the great storms of life.

With each passing year, the olive trees grew magnificently and bestowed a greater bounty upon the animals and the people who lived nearby. The people would always have enough food, olive oil and fuel to make warm fires in their homes during winter. The birds, deer and all of the animals had enough olives to feed themselves as well as their young. And the olive seeds that fell to the ground discovered the warm autumn soil felt good, so they nestled themselves in the dirt to protect against the increasingly cold winds that heralded the coming of winter’s frost.

One crisp November morning began like any other day at this time of year. The days were getting much shorter, the animals were busily preparing for their winter’s sleep by collecting and storing the last remnants of summer’s food, and the fishermen were gathering what they could in their nets as many of the fish were then seeking refuge in the deeper and more protected waters out of the fishermen’s reach.

But then without any warning, this quiet November day began to dramatically change. The birds began chirping nervously and their sweet singing voices became shrill as if to warn of impending danger. They gathered up their young in the sheltering recesses of the boulders and large rocks scattered on the hillside. The small animals dropped their treasured seeds and morsels, darted nervously about and then ran alarmingly into their dens for cover. The sky quickly darkened to reveal a menacing mask of gray, the wind began whipping in strong bursts from all directions lifting and tossing everything in its path. The tree limbs were whipped about and small branches that had been eagerly growing throughout the warm summer days just couldn’t hold on any longer, no matter how much they desperately tried to cling to the trees.

The rich topsoil that had blanketed and nourished the olive trees’ roots was thrown off in the fierce rage of the winds and spiraled up into the sky. The sea became angry at the storm and sent its waves crashing against the coast in the hope that the spray from its waters would spread out like a giant fan and bring down the storm. But, alas, the storm’s winds were much too powerful and no force on the ground could prevent picturesque portions of the landscape from being ripped up and torn away from the comfortable and familiar places in which they had formerly rested.

One of the victims of this violent storm was a little olive seed, named Olivier, who had been born in this beautiful olive grove one month before the storm arrived. After his birth, Olivier had dropped to the ground and rolled quite a distance downhill to a partial clearing between some trees. Although the soil was very rich, there were some rocks and stones in the area and Olivier knew that he would have to work hard to push his roots around these obstacles in order to get the secure footing that he needed to have a healthy and long life. But that didn’t matter to Olivier. It was here that he dreamed of becoming the biggest tree in the grove with the tallest branches that would wave to all of his friends, including the birds who fly over the sea. He fantasized about what his life would be like with the other trees. He longed to be just like the one that gave him his life.

These dreams were shattered and forever changed when the storm ravaged the olive grove subjecting everything in its path to its wild fury. Olivier was swept up and tossed about in the violent winds. Although Olivier was strong for a young seedling, he began to question whether he could survive this brutal storm as he was pummeled relentlessly with pieces of flying wood and debris. He was so frightened that he called out for help, but his little voice was drowned out by the noise of the winds and the waves crashing below. Nobody heard Olivier’s cries and he was overcome with a deepening feeling of being all alone in the world and wondering what would become of him.

As Olivier was being whirled in the outer spheres of this tunnel of wind, he thought he saw the faint outline of a moving form with wings. It was so dusty that he was sure that his eyes were deceiving him, and yet the image came closer and became clearer. As Olivier was sent tumbling, first up and then down with frightening speed and then thrust back up again, this image changed altitude right along with Olivier and remained steadfastly by his side.

Poor Olivier was weakening further and he was filled with despair. Although he was straining to see if this image with wings hovering near him were real, he told himself that this must be an illusion. He felt alone without any of his family or friends to comfort him, and he knew in his heart that he would never see his home again.

All of a sudden, there was a bolt of lightening accompanied by a deafening thunder clap that pierced this tortuous funnel of wind which seemed to be controlling Olivier’s fate. Electricity gripped the air and lighted the dark sky that surrounded him. Olivier’s face suddenly brightened when he saw this winged image illuminated by the lightning and his desperate heart filled with hope. Olivier realized at that moment that his constant companion who had never left his side during the storm was a beautiful white seagull with soft shades of gray brushed ever so lightly on the nape of his neck. The seagull gave Olivier a warm smile and then slowly nodded his head as if to reassure Olivier that everything would be all right.

By now, Olivier’s heart was racing and he knew that he had to reach out to the seagull for help, except he had no idea how to do it. Fortunately, the seagull was a gifted and experienced flyer and knew exactly what had to be done in order to save Olivier. The seagull was also painfully aware of the life threatening consequences that might result if he made any mistakes in his rescue efforts.

The seagull first maneuvered himself so that his flight paralleled the storm’s wind direction and velocity. This enabled the seagull to enter into the dangerous corridor of wind alongside Olivier, risking his own life in the process. Once inside this wind tunnel, the seagull came within reach of Olivier. Just as the wind was about to abruptly change its direction and send everything it carried crashing into the ground, the seagull wrapped its beak around Olivier and quickly escaped from the wind corridor into the open air.

Although the surrounding air was still dangerously unstable with dirt and debris still flying, making it difficult to see, the seagull masterfully navigated his way through the turmoil and flew Olivier to safety.

Everything happened so fast and poor Olivier was so weakened by the trauma of what had occurred that he hardly remembered anything about his rescue. His first memory after he was saved from that brutal storm was the recollection of his trembling and frail body being gently laid down to rest in a warm, soft place. He then remembers hearing the sweet voice of the seagull singing him to sleep with an ancient Tuscan ballad called Cade l’Oliva. The seagull hoped that the comforting images in the song would begin to fill the emptiness that he knew Olivier must have felt by his loss. The lullaby goes like this …

The olive falls down, the leaves never fallCade l’oliva, non cade la foglia
your beauty will keep unchanged at all.Le tue bellezze non cadranno mai

You are like the water that rises on the wavesE tu sei come l’acqua che cresce a onda
grows up by the wind, not by the water.Cresce per vento ma per acqua mai

You are like the tender fresh grassE tu sei come l’erbo tenerino
as you grow, quanto piu cresci,
the more beautiful you becomepiu diventi bello

You are like the tender fresh grassE tu sei come l’erbo tenerello
as you grow,quanto piu cresci,
the more beautiful you becomepiu diventi bello

Upon hearing this tender and ancient lullaby, Olivier fell fast asleep in the warm, soft bed prepared by Sotiris. The seagull knew that this would be a safe and peaceful place for Olivier to recover.

When Olivier awakened, his eyes immediately fell upon the smiling face of the seagull who quietly introduced himself to Olivier and said that his name was Sotiris which, in Greek, means Saviour. Olivier, still feeling disoriented and weak, then quickly glanced around this unfamiliar environment and asked where he was. Sotiris explained to Olivier that he was resting in the same soft, warm earth that had been blanketing the olive grove before the stormy winds blew it into the sky. The rich, fresh topsoil brought up in the funnel of wind had been collected in a deep pocket nestled inside a beautiful, pink and gray cumulus cloud high above the terrible storm that was still spreading its destruction in an ever-widening circle on the ground below.

Olivier then wanted to know what was to become of him. Sotiris had a wonderful idea that he shared with Olivier about how the two of them could continue the legacy of Alexander by spreading life and love farther than they had ever been carried before.

Sotiris began by explaining to Olivier that here in the cloud he would be able to begin anew with his roots growing fast and freely through the airy soil with no rocks to stand in his way. The warmth of the sun that would shine every day would encourage his trunk to grow big and strong to support the weight of the multitude of branches that would spread all over the world. The stars in the sky would sprinkle their stardust on the slender, green leaves of the tree to give them a silvery sheen so as to reflect a comforting beacon of light to all those in need below, no matter who they were or where they lived.

The cloud would freely offer its rainwater to nourish Olivier’s roots and all of the birds in the sky would become his loyal friends. The blossoms that developed each year on all of Olivier’s branches would ripen into moist, flavorful olives that would fall to the ground all over the world to help feed hungry children no matter where they lived.

Suddenly Olivier’s brow furrowed, the smile disappeared from his face and he began to speak haltingly, but he stopped. Tears began welling up in his eyes. He uttered a deep sigh, and then with a sad little voice that cracked, he looked up at Sotiris and asked “If I will never again live in the hillside by the beautiful Aegean with my family of olive trees, then in what country will I now live and to whom do I now belong?” The question shot like a painful arrow into the heart of Sotiris, because he too had lost his family when he was a young one and had to struggle for a long time on his own. But Sotiris had the vision of one who has lived a long life, and he knew well how love can grow among those with open hearts.

Sotiris understood only too well that Olivier’s question was not to be taken lightly and that he must speak to Olivier’s heart as well as his mind. So, Sotiris began by first asking Olivier to lean out of his bed, peek over the edge of the cloud, look down at the world and tell him what he saw. Olivier, being a bit fearful of heights in his weakened condition, stretched his neck out as far as he could without losing his footing and, for the first time since he had arrived, peered over the puffy edge of the cloud not knowing what to expect. As his eyes began to focus on the vision that appeared below him, he gazed in wonder at what he saw. There were beautiful blue oceans, green rain forests echoing the sounds of myriad forms of life, snow-capped mountains rising majestically from the land below, raging torrents of water falling over the sides of mountains with mist spreading like a veil, golden deserts with undulating waves of sand, and so much more that Olivier never knew existed when he lived on the hillside overlooking the Aegean.

Olivier was fascinated by what he saw and with great excitement in his voice told Sotiris that he wanted to see more of the world. Sotiris explained to his young friend that he must think very carefully and then make a decision about where he will choose to live. Sotiris said that he would support Olivier in whatever decision Olivier made. Olivier could choose to return to his hillside and live comfortably among the other olive trees as they have done for centuries. Or, Olivier could grow in the sky and, in so doing, he would see and understand more of the world as well as have the opportunity to give all of his love and bountiful gifts to those in need.

Sotiris then answered the second part of Olivier’s question concerning to whom he would belong by explaining that Olivier could choose to return to the country in which he was born or he could be something more special than a citizen of a country … he could belong to the world.

Olivier said that what he really wanted more than anything else in his life was to be loved, and he didn’t know how to find that now that he was away from the place he used to call home. Sotiris understood and told Olivier that if he returned to his hillside, he would surely be loved by as many trees and living things as there were in the olive grove. But, Sotiris went on to explain, if Olivier stayed in the sky, he would find love and give love back to all of the lives he touched around the world. Sotiris said “Olivier, the more you love, the bigger your heart grows. With a bigger heart, you then have more love to give to others. And, as Alexander knew centuries ago, life is a circle of love, so the more love you give to others, the more love you are given in return.” Although Sotiris didn’t say a word while Olivier was thinking, he was hoping that Olivier would choose the life that he had chosen for himself which was to live a life of freedom in a world without borders.

Olivier didn’t need any more time to decide where he wanted to live. He put his arms around Sotiris and hugged him tightly. Then he smiled at Sotiris and told him that he wanted to become the tree of life to the whole world, to become the olive tree in the sky.

Love, from seed to seed, from planet to planet, …
Wherever we went, islands or bridges or flags,
There were the violins of the fleeting autumn, …
Through all those republics the wind whipped-
Its arrogant pavilions, its glacial hair;
It would return the flowers, later, to their work.

But no withering autumn ever touched us.
In our stable place a love sprouted, grew:
As rightfully empowered as the dew.

Love Sonnet XXVIII by Pablo Neruda

And so, my friends, this is the story of how an olive tree grew in the sky. If you ever see a beautiful cloud in the shape of an olive tree, you will know that you have seen Olivier in his travels. Olivier continues to grow, and as he does, he is able to touch the lives of more and more people around the world with his gifts of shelter, food, understanding and love.

Your friend forever,

(He who plants trees)
Joined Mar 4, 2000
What an adventure!! Such vivid imagery. And the closing message of the story is so apropos in this day and age. Thanks once again, Papa, for your wonderful and inspiring stories. :)
Joined Apr 30, 2001
Thank you for posting this Papa. What a healing story. The moon group very much enjoyed it also.

Joined Jul 24, 2001
I want to thank you again in public for this story.
This story was very inspiring not only for the children but also for the people who work with them.

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