Why the Trees Lose Their Leaves
A Tale from the Cherokee Nation as told by Cat
In the beginning, and just as it is today, all creatures including the trees spoke to one another. They shared many things amongst themselves and with their neighbors, just as we two-leggeds do. But during the winter all the birds would fly south. It was warm there, and where the birds would stay until spring when they would return home with their families.
That year as winter approached, Sparrow was hurt. He wasn’t well and he knew that he was not strong enough to make the yearly journey with his family to the south. So Sparrow told them to go to the warm place without him. At first, they refused to leave him but Sparrow insisted and finally they left.
Because of his injuries, Sparrow knew that he would not survive the winter without shelter. So he decided that he would ask the trees to help him. He went first to Oak and said ” Friend Oak, as you can see I am hurt and cannot fly well. Winter is almost here and without shelter, I will die. Will you help me by sheltering me within your beautiful leaves so that I can heal and greet my family when they return in the spring?”
But Oak was an old tree who had little patience for guests particularly during the winter when he liked to sleep.
“Go away Sparrow, I will not spend the winter listening to your chattering. Find somewhere else to make your shelter!”
Sparrow was greatly saddened by Oak’s words, they hurt deep in his tiny spirit.
He then went to see Maple. ” Friend Maple, as you can see I am hurt and cannot fly well. Winter is almost here and without shelter, I will die. Will you help me by sheltering me within your thick, beautiful leaves so that I can heal and greet my family when they return in the spring?” asked Sparrow. But Maple didn’t want a guest for the winter either and said: ” No Sparrow you cannot spend the winter with me…go now and ask another!”
Again, Sparrow’s tiny spirit deeply hurt and turned away to look elsewhere for shelter.
And so it went, each of the trees from whom Sparrow asked for help turned him away. Until Pine was the only tree left. With a heavy heart and little hope, Sparrow went to Pine.
“Friend Pine, as you can see I am hurt and cannot fly well. winter is almost here and without shelter, I will die. Will you help me by sheltering me within your leaves during the winter……?”
Pine was silent for a moment. He was thinking to himself “What is there that I can do? I am the least of all the trees”. But Pines =pirit heard the tiny birds plea and he said: “Friend Sparrow, my leaves are not much, in fact, they are like needles and my branches are different than the other trees…..but you are welcome to share what I have.”
Thank you Pine cried Sparrow and his heart was filled with renewed hope. They spent the long winter together and when spring returned it brought with it Sparrows family. Sparrow flew out to greet them and there was much rejoicing. “Thank you Pine!” cried the happy sparrow family.
Now the Creator had been silently watching all this time. He had heard everything that had transpired between the Trees and Sparrow and he was angry. He called a council meeting of the trees and said ” You trees have been given so much. Yet you would not share even the smallest bit of what you had with Sparrow in his time of need. This hurt my spirit just as it hurt Sparrows! Because of this and from this day forward when winter comes to the land your leaves, your crowning glory will wither, die and blow away.”
Then the Creator spoke to Pine. “Pine you have touched my spirit and given me a great gift through your gift to Sparrow! You had the least to offer yet you gave freely to one in need. When winter comes you alone will keep your leaves and they shall stay green in all seasons. This is my gift to you!”
That is why, to this day, when winter comes Pine stays green while the other trees are bare.
Photo: Hidden Sparrow-Serkan GUL/ freeimages.com
The Desert Path: The dusty ramblings of a desert pagan. https://thedesertpath.com/