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Why the Trees lose their leaves

A Cherokee Legend

In the early times, the trees and animals were always able to talk to one another. They lived close to each other and shared many things; but every year, the cold time came and the birds would fly south to where it remained warm and would return with their families in the spring, when the warm season returned.

One year, as the cold season approached Sparrow was injured. He would not be strong enough to fly to the warm lands with his family by himself, so he made his family fly south to the warm lands without him.

Injured, he knew he would not survive the cold season. So he sought the help the trees. He approached Oak. "Oh, Oak, I am injured, and cannot fly, the cold season approaches, and if I do not find shelter before then, surely I shall die. Please, Oak, let me shelter among your leaves and branches during the cold times, that I may heal and greet my family on their return in the spring."

But Oak was a crusty old tree, and did not relish the idea of having a guest in the cold time, so he told sparrow: "Sparrow, go find somewhere else to spend the cold time. I do not wish you to spend the cold time with me."

And poor Sparrow was hurt in his spirit to be turned away.

So Sparrow went to Maple and asked her. "Maple, I am hurt and not able to fly to the warm lands with my family for the cold season. Please let me shelter among your leaves and branches during the cold time, or surely I will perish. And Maple, though a very sweet tree, did not enjoy the thought of a guest for the cold time and she too, turned Sparrow away. "you,....., you go ask someone else to shelter you, Sparrow. I do not wish you to spend the cold time with me."

And again, hurt in spirit, Sparrow was turned away.

Sparrow went in turn to each of the trees and asked each for shelter in the cold time; and each, and every time, Sparrow was turned away...... until there was no tree left to ask, except Pine.

With no hope left..., but not willing to accept death...., Sparrow approached Pine.

"Pine, I am injured, and not able to fly south to the warm lands with my family. If I do not find shelter before the cold time, I will surely perish. Please...., let me shelter among your leaves and branches during the cold time..."

Pine thought to himself, ("I am the least of the trees, what can I do?") ....but his heart heard Sparrow's plight. "Sparrow... My leaves are tiny... more like needles... my branches are not as many as other trees... but what I have you are welcome to share."

And so, Sparrow spent the cold time with Pine. And when the warm times returned in the spring, Sparrow's family returned also. And Sparrow had healed over the cold time and flew to greet their return..

Creator had seen and heard all that had happened between Sparrow and the Trees. And Creator called a great council of the Trees and spoke to them..., "You, who were given so much......, who had so much, would not share the least of what you had with Sparrow in his need. Because of this.., from this day forward, when the cold time is upon the land, your leaves shall wither and die and blow away."

Creator then spoke to Pine. "Pine, you, who had the least of all the trees, gave so much, have touched my Spirit. When the cold times come, You of all the trees shall keep your leaves they shall remain green through all the seasons for the gift you have given me, through Sparrow."

And that is why, to this day, that when the cold time comes to the land, all the leaves wither, and die, and blow away.... Except for Pine.

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