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

This is a genuine example of touching story that I'd probably share with my children one day. It reminds me of 'The Little Prince'. I can appreciate both lyrical and philosophical relevance that I found striking while reading the book. I reckon this masterpiece could be the very beginning or the first part of a series of brilliant stories. It captures the fleeting nature of life in a suitable way for young readers. I'm completely struck by your talent and although I'm new here, I've tried to express my thoughts about it.

Posted 1 Year Ago


I think I shed a tear from reading this ;-; The feelings

Posted 1 Year Ago


Very heartwarming. I enjoyed the read, and how original it was. I'm not very good at giving reviews but I think I noticed a typo. "In silence, they crest the hill. In silence, the reach the forest." The first "the" should be "they", right? Other than that, I see nothing wrong with this piece. I thought everything was explained very well, and nothing was left out. Very thorough considering the length of the writing.

Posted 1 Year Ago


I enjoyed reading this, but I find it hard to give a review as I am more accustomed to giving notes geared towards improving a traditional story, which this is not. It puts me in mind of a book of Native American myths that I have on my shelf at home but can't remember the name of--but that doesn't matter. There is a little tense shifting in the writing as was mentioned in another review, but the writing in general is without issue. If it were a more traditional story, I would say that Hare was very quick to grasp the lesson and discard her sadness and there is not really any tension built up or relieved...but it isn't that sort of story.
Mainly, I am reaching at straws to try and give you a helpful review in the hopes that you would read some of the stories and give me a review beyond whether or not you 'liked' the story. I agree with you that that sort of feedback, while helpful if you are feeling low, isn't much help in the pursuit of developing as a writer.

Posted 1 Year Ago


I really enjoyed your story and the lesson that was woven in your words. It made me think about my own family and our time here.

Posted 1 Year Ago


I found myself able to get absorbed in the story almost right away, although I would have preferred it if you had started from half-way down the page, then written in the top. I wish my granddaughter only noticed my white hair, she told me the other day I have a moustache!
I liked what you said about reviewing on your profile page. I am here to improve my writing, not to be flattered.

Posted 1 Year Ago


Hi there! I'm new to WC and trying to orientate myself by searching for writing, doing reviews, etc. [BTW I'm seeing lots of false results to search queries - sometimes it's 2 or 3 screens before I reach a 'real' story]. Anyway, I came upon your profile page and saw what you'd said about reviews - totally agree - and then thought I'd pick one of yours to see if I could add anything.

I have to say that the comments made thus far seem very well thought out, and I concur with nearly all they've said. Overall, I found myself becoming 'at peace' as I read your story, and I tried to work out why. I concluded it was the simple language / vocabulary but probably mostly the shortness of the sentences. And the single intent of each sentence. You have told it in the way I would imagine a native tribe to pass it down over the generations, and you 'remind' the reader not to adopt modern speech - you deliberately say 'not anywhere' rather than 'nowhere'.

I think I DID in fact find a sort of grammatical type error in that you mix up the tenses in the para when the young tree asks a question. All the verbs in that para are in past tense except 'speaks'. I thought this jarred a little.

Standing back to view the folk analogy overall I'm left with a question that will certainly linger for a while. I wonder if Hare would have the same question. "One day in a hundred years a tree will die" she might say. "But every year its leaves will wrinkle and fall. And every Spring its leaves will flourish again." So, she might think hair will darken again, then go silver again, the darken again, for many years until the tree / human dies. And every year its seeds will start new life, etc. So I'm wondering about the spirit, and memories that survive beyond a person's lifetimes, and the apparent simplicity and dare I say falsity in your final statement. Trees, leaves, seeds offer up rich ammunition for thinking of life, rebirth, generations on several parallel levels. And here's the thing - as you can tell I've been round and round this a bit, and I think you probably had similar considerations, but decided to leave it simple so that the reader had some work to do ... I think?

Anyway, back to my overall feeling of peace while reading it, for which thanks.

Regards
Nigel

Posted 2 Years Ago


0 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Beautiful story with terrific imagery!!

Posted 2 Years Ago


Great use of in-story mythology. Very well written.

Posted 2 Years Ago


This piece is a fun little story, but with an unmistakable underlying lesson. This short piece focuses less on the characters and more on the lesson within, and this is a good thing in the sense that the reader can focus on the concept rather than material characters. You also covered the flipside of this argument -- the idea that underdeveloped characters are the mark of an inexperienced writer -- by giving your characters a little development at the beginning of your story. Very good!

I saw that all of these characters had nature-based names like Redleaf, Dawn, and Hare. This brings attention, if only subconsciously, that this is a folktale or something like it. Thus, the reader will unintentionally search for a teaching within the storyline. This was also something you did very well.

I also liked how you expanded the story to fit over a long period of time, stretching the timeline where needed to fit. At the end, for example, you make a short mention of how Hare dealt with her own children's questions when she grew old. This made for a great clincher.

This is the point in my review where I would lecture you on all of the grammatical mistakes you made. I didn't catch a single one, so you're off the hook... for now.

Now for the things that I thought were not so good. The editing of the end paragraphs was strange to me, what with the huge gap between them and the others.

Also, in the last paragraph, the way you set up the 'answer' to the question was a little strange. The way you phrase it, mixing 'will' and 'might', makes it seem as if some things are certain and some are left to chance. And I quote:

"She WILL talk to a young child. It MIGHT be her child."

This makes the wills and mights less definitive, as they are mixed in with their opposites in the same paragraph. This change is, of course, optional, but I believe it would make your piece better in the end.

Overall, a very interesting read. I look forward to reading more of your works in the future!

P.S. I have a book I'm working on. It's still in its first-draft, but if you have some spare time, could you check it out? Thanks!

Posted 2 Years Ago



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Shelved in 6 Libraries
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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