by Florence W. Deems

Gram got me an old wooden box so I could put it under her big white oak tree. That makes me tall enough to reach its lowest branches. I swing myself up and make it up to several higher branches. I look way up in it and see a couple of squirrel nests. It's the middle of the day and the squirrels aren't home, or they'd be chittering to beat the band up there. Bet no one's tried climbing this tree since Dad was a boy.

I find a comfortable branch to sit on and get settled. "Hi, tree! My name's Charlie. My dad usta live here and he says he usta climb up in you all the time when he was a kid. Do you remember that?"

Silence! Golly, why won't the tree talk to me? Maybe this isn't my little tree's parent. I try again, "Hi, tree. I sure wish you'd talk to me. I planted one of your acorns, at least I think it's one of yours. I planted it near my own home and it grew. Now it's five years old. It asked me to talk to you, 'cuz I talk to it all the time., ever since it was a tiny little seedling."

I feel the tree stirring. No, it's not the wind. It's something else. Now I actually hear a voice! A tree voice! Just like the voice of my own little tree.

You're a human and you talk to trees, you say? I've lived here many many years. But no human has talked to me in a long time. Why are you talking to me?"

"'Cuz like I said, I talk to your acorn that's now a five-year-old tree. It talked to me first, so I talk to it. We been talking for five years now. It's a story tree, but when I first planted it, it didn't know any stories. So I had to tell it stories. Me and Mom read stories to it. It likes the stories."

"Your parent talks to this young tree, you say? She never talked to me!"

"Well, she doesn't really talk to it. She reads me stories out next to the tree and that's how it hears the stories. Then later, when Mom's gone back in the house, me and the little tree talk about them. Mom and Dad and all the others don't think trees can talk. But now I've met two trees that talk! You and your young 'un."

I'm glad you can hear us," says the big tree.

"Are you a story tree?"

"Oh, yes," it says. "There are lots of story trees in this area. We talk to each other all the time. We hear stories and share them all across the woods. There used to be more of us, but humans cut down many of us. They like to use our wood for building houses."

"Gee, that's too bad." I feel the tree's sadness. "So you've lost all those stories those cut-down trees usta tell." "No, we remember all the stories. I said we tell each other all the stories we know. That's why we don't lose them."

"My little--I mean your young 'un asked me to ask you to tell me a story. Then when I get back home, I can tell it the story, so it'll know it, too."

"First, tell me the story of how you found my acorn and how it came to be able to grow."

"Sure, why not? You wanta hear about your young 'un." And so I tell this big old tree all about planting the acorn in a pot and how it sprouted and then how we planted it in the ground. And so forth.

"I remember when I was an acorn," says the tree. It told me about falling off its parent tree and how a squirrel picked it up and carried it away a piece and then buried it. "Since no other squirrel ever found me, I could sprout and grow. So I grew and grew until I got this big."

"Gee, that musta took a long time!" I say.

"There weren't any white humans in these parts then," the tree continues. "Just the ones that are called Native Americans. We trees liked them. But they're all gone now. The white humans came and fought them and made them all go away. The ones they didn't kill, that is."

The big old tree told me about how different the Native Americans were from the white ones. How the Native Americans respected all other living things, including trees and plants. How they used only what they needed and gave thanks to the plants and animals they used. How they used the bark of certain trees to make canoes, and how they cut certain sizes of certain trees to make their homes.

I asked, "But why did you like the Native Americans? They cut down trees just like the white ones."

The old tree sighed and quivered its leaves. "When the Native Americans wanted to use a plant, they told the plant what they wanted to use it for. Then they asked permission to take the plant. If the plant said no, then they asked another plant. When the white humans want a plant, they just go ahead and take it. The whites don't respect it as being a part of the whole, which makes it one of their relations. All of us, plants, animals, birds, insects, trees, rocks, soil, water--we're all related, you know."

"Gee, really? I didn't know that. How can we be related? We don't look like each other!"

"True. We don't sound like each other, either. We don't smell like each other and we don't taste like each other. Animals have red blood in them, insects have other colors of liquid in them and plants have sap. We don't grow like each other, either. We're not like each other in all these ways. But we ARE all related," the tree insists.

"HOW? How can we be related when we're so different--we don't even have the same parents!" I'm getting upset.

"No, we don't have the same PHYSICAL parents, that's true. But we do have the same SPIRITUAL parents. The red humans call them Father Sky and Mother Earth."

"Oh, yeah, I've heard of Mother Earth before. But not Father Sky. How 'bout the man in the moon?"

Now the tree's leaves are really swishing against each other. "From Mother Earth we get the substances we need to make our bodies. From Father Sky we get other things we need and use. You can't see them, though."

"If ya can't SEE 'em, then how'd ja know they're there?"

"They cause changes in us. Without them, we'd all die. Without sunlight and heat and air and starlight, we couldn't live."

"Oh," I still feel confused. I'm not sure I understand all this last stuff. So I change the subject. "Can you tell me a story about the Native Americans who used to live around here? A story about before the whites came?"

So the big old tree obliges and tells me about a day in the life of a Native American boy of about my age and all the things he'd be doing and learning. It's such a good story. Just as I'm thanking the tree, I hear Mom calling. Seems it's almost suppertime. I've been up here talking to the tree all afternoon!

For the rest of the weekend, I have to stay in sight of my folks and Gram and all the rest of the relatives. Since I have a few cousins my age, we all have fun playing together. So I didn't get another chance to talk to the big tree again. Just before we left, though, I ran over to it and told it thanks and goodbye and the next time I come here, I'll be sure to talk to it again.


The Story Trees
1 ~ 2 ~ 3 ~ 4 ~ 5 ~ 6 ~ 7
8 ~ 9 ~ 10 ~ 11 ~ 12 ~ 13

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