What once was green

What once was green

A Story by TLK

Redleaf likes to sit his daughter on his shoulders and run from camp: across the shore of the lake, into the forest. She giggles until she feels sick. Still she says "more, more".
Yesterday she asked: "Daddy? Why is your hair turning white?"

"I am so tall that my head is close to the clouds, and they stick to my hairs," he replied. "If you sit up here for longer, it will happen to you too." Then he took her back home, a little slower than usual.

Today she stirs in her nest of animal skins and murmurs a question. Her mother has only just awoken, fingers pushing a sharp bone needle through leather to make shoes. "Yes, daughter?"

"Is your hair turning white?"

Dawn thinks for a while. "No, Hare, but I think it might start soon. My mother started in her twenty-fifth summer, and this is my twenty-fourth."

Hare sits up suddenly and looks as if she is about to cry. "Is white hair what's wrong with old people?" For all she remembers of the parents of her parents is that they were old, they looked different, and they are now gone.

Dawn takes Hare's hand and speaks to her calmly. "We go when it is our time, whether our hair is white or black, whether we are bald or as furry as the bear." And she pulls Hare to her and holds her tightly. "My name means the start of a new day, but all days must end."

Redleaf returns to his daughter wiping her red-eyes with the end of her shirt. He talks to his wife. She explains to her husband.

"Come with me," he says, taking Hare by the hand.
They go for a walk. In silence, they leave the village. In silence, they crest the hill. In silence, the reach the forest.

"People are like trees," he says, stopping to let his daughter look.

She looks at the trees. She looks at her father.

"People are like trees because the Gods made the first trees to live forever. And it did not work. So the Gods then remade the trees. And when they made people, they did not make the same mistake."

He takes his daughter to a trunk and sits against it. He takes her into his lap.

"The first trees lived forever. They were the first things made, because the Gods needed strong straight pillars to hold up the sky. At each of the corners of the sky is a forest of the tallest trees, just for this purpose. The Gods waited until these forests were full grown and then placed the sky on them. Then they turned their backs to discuss what could come next. There were so many plans that this took many years. Some Gods had ideas for plants, some for land animals, and some for birds. And then some decided to have animals swimming in the seas. And others realised that they could even put animals on the ice to the north. Truly, they spent a long time indeed inventing so much. What did the trees do in that time?”

Hare screws up her face in thought. “They grew taller.”

Redleaf laughs. “It is best that they did not! Otherwise the sky would have toppled, or grown so out of reach that we could not see the sun. No -- the trees had dropped seed on the ground to sprout their own children. Different trees have different ways of dropping their seeds. So, when the Gods came back with other plants, and uncountable animals, the whole of the world was covered in tall trees. There was not anywhere to place the new animals. And even the seas were dry, because the trees had drunk so much of their water. So the Gods chopped down many trees, and built themselves fine wooden huts. Still, there were so many felled trees that many had to be buried, and the Earth grew hills and mountains over them to remember them by.”

Hare looks up at the tree above her, wondering how anything could be taller.

“The Gods talked to the trees that held up the sky. They said: ‘your children cannot live forever. They cannot grow as tall as you. Otherwise there will be no space for anything else.’ The trees bent their branches in acknowledgement. Then a younger tree speaks -- a tree that the Gods had missed as it grew so close to the original forests that it was mistaken for one of the first trees. ‘How will we know that we are not the same as the first trees?’ it asked. ‘How will we know that our time is limited?’”

Redleaf stands, puts his daughter on his shoulders. “What do you think, Hare?”

Hare does not say anything. She reaches for a branch and pulls a leaf from it. It is changing -- what once was green is becoming yellow, and eventually brown.

“That’s right,” says Redleaf. “And our hair is just the same. It reminds us that -- for a very good reason -- we cannot be here forever.”

He runs back to camp, Hare giggling at the way the air rushes past her, and the ground seems so far away.

 


Later on, Hare’s parents discuss whether she has understood the lesson or not. She has not cried again, but maybe she has just forgotten the whole thing. They do not want to ask her, in case it reminds her to cry again.

 


Let me tell you the answer. One day Hare will be older. She will talk to a young child. It might be her child. They will ask “why is your hair turning white?”, or “what happened to your parents?” And she will start by saying, “people are like trees. Our hair is like their leaves.”


© 2013 TLK



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Featured Review

There's a strong sense of wisdom within folk lore in this story and I think that's double delightful and heart.warming! You write with tenderness and care about the subject and towards words - that matters. Because the thoughts and story about Hare (who, perhaps listens with long ears and takes notice) is told via great dialogue, you've removed any could be sermonising. Clever you.

'Otherwise the sky would have toppled, or grown so out of reach that we could not see the sun. No -- the trees had dropped seed on the ground to sprout their own children. Different trees have different ways of dropping their seeds. So, when the Gods came back with other plants, and uncountable animals, the whole of the world was covered in tall trees. There was not anywhere to place the new animals. And even the seas were dry, because the trees had drunk so much of their water. So the Gods chopped down many trees, and built themselves fine wooden huts. Still, there were so many felled trees that many had to be buried, and the Earth grew hills and mountains over them to remember them by.” And, perhaps, that's the truth .. ?!

Posted 4 Years Ago


4 of 4 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Yes, this definitely reminds me of a folktale type of writing and if I am to be honest, I have not read one done -successfully- in quite some time. This one however, was extremely deep and thought provoking and I really appreciate that. It is extremely well done and I have struggled to find any ways in which the story can be improved and I almost despise the fact that I cannot come up with some form of constructive criticism to give (I almost always have some)! I believe that this story is perfect as it is and detailed very nicely.

Posted 3 Months Ago


Your folktale of aging and mortality is wonderful. Both children and adults can take a message away from your story. My favorite line was "I am so tall that my head is close to the clouds, and they stick to my hairs". You chose such a creative way to explain growing older.

Posted 6 Months Ago


Well written. Great analogy. I love it. Thank you for sharing.

Posted 7 Months Ago


I love how you used these lyrics so well, nice one!
Keep writing.

Posted 7 Months Ago


I truly loved this tale. Hare is a lucky child to have mortality so beautifully explained to her by Redleaf. Lyrical, with great metaphor use and imagery. Kudos!

Posted 7 Months Ago


Children are so innocent that even a simple thing like white hair can turn them upside down and make them cry. But this is what they are. Thanks bro I learnt how to answer when the question is raised.

Posted 10 Months Ago


This is a beautiful story. It held me from the beginning. The tenderness of the parents was felt through your words

Posted 11 Months Ago


I wish this was a book. I really want to read more and more :)

Posted 1 Year Ago


a rare and heartfelt piece you wrote. I like the easy style of it. Easy words, easy grammars. Almost close to a bedtime reading.

But it feels as if it could be improved further. I would love to see it being revised one day.

Posted 1 Year Ago


Hello TLK,

This is such an amazing story. It is very reminiscent of tribal cultures. I particularly associate this type of story with the Native American culture. Mythology has been used throughout the ages for parents to teach their children about every topic possible through metaphor to help them understand and remember their beliefs and culture for when it was time to teach their own children. I think you have captured the true soul and essence of why we write. Keep up the great work and thank you for sharing!

Kind regards,

Schatzi

Posted 1 Year Ago



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Added on May 29, 2013
Last Updated on May 29, 2013
Tags: child, parents, metaphor, myth, tribal community, understanding, growth

Author

TLK
TLK

Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom



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