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

Death is not an easy subject to write about. Many writers, (sadly, me included..) try their best to bend their stories around those painful yet Fascinating concepts, avoiding diving into those depths out of fear. We don't want to give up the strength of a well-written death in a story or the intense impression cast on the reader by loss, but we hide our own shallowness in 'fig leaves' of exaggerated drama. You, on the other hand, handled that topic beautifully. Reading your work is heart warming.
I wish I would someday be able to write like you do.

Posted 2 Years Ago


Great sense of depth and very good dialogue


Posted 2 Years Ago


Your imagery is amazing! I agree with everything that you had to say 100%, and I definitely encourage you to keep writing. I really like the line "people are like trees. Our hair is like their leaves." the imagery is beautiful and it really shows how temporary childhood and love can be. Great write!

Posted 2 Years Ago


A very sensible folk story. I was pleased that you kept to the traditional style and focused on a single, poignant motif concerning fundamental properties of life and nature.

I can't rightly say that I understand your choice to use the present indicative, as it came across as more than awkward at times and generally blocks the rhythm of the narrative. Doing the story in preterit would probably sound more natural.

Overall, a pleasant, succinct folk tale that poses a question and gets right down to answering it. Generally satisfying, it fully deserves a 80 out of 100, or a "Great" rating. Good job, TLK.

Posted 2 Years Ago


I really enjoyed this! The descriptions were clear and I was able to picture the story in my head. Thank you for sharing!

Posted 2 Years Ago


A nice take on "to everything a season." I enjoyed the story immensely, however, you could have omitted the last two paragraphs as your readers will know what comes next: all great lessons get passed on and we know Hare will one day tell the same story.

Posted 2 Years Ago


Hi,
The first reading of this was very smooth, the visuals were created and grounded immediately, the human characters blended into the scenery; capturing what the reader would expect from earth parables. (If that was your intent it was lovely).The layering of meaning was subtle.
The tone change in the last two paragraphs and they were clunky. Example: "Later on,. . ." doesn't fit with the tone and flow of this story. Try reading the next line with "if" vs "whether" and remove the "or not." There are several ways to convey the intent of this paragraph without slowing the flow. In the last paragraph, Don't tell us the answer, everything up until that paragraph was showing. If you feel the desire to say more show it. Stay in keeping with the preceding tone and style. Overall a lovely, deep and well told story.

Posted 2 Years Ago


This is a nice story. It is well written and very relatable.

Posted 2 Years Ago


I like your version of the story, it's very sweet, and in a good voicing for the storytelling aspect. I'm not sure whether the present-tense for the action between the characters is the best choice, but it's not terrible (I did notice a few lapses in verb tensing - check those!). Like I said, I think the message and explanation are very sweet, but the naturalist in me cringed at the equation of leaves changing color to death. I don't think the error is serious enough that you should let it stop you from sharing this lovely story, but it's worth remembering that leaves changing color heralds a deep sleep with an eventual reawakening, rather than death. Tiny note: it's probably fine, but sounded a little trite when Dawn said, "My name means the start of a new day, but all days must end."

Posted 2 Years Ago


I love this story- I really liked the simple writing style to convey the message. Couldn't really find anything to nitpick, so perfect score! :)

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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