The Great Oak and the Gray Squirrel

A strong, tall, shady Great Oak tree with deep roots stood in a meadow of butterflies and buttercups. The winter snows had long melted and the summer sun had warmed her leaves. Every day, calling on the help of Father Sun, she lovingly worked to slowly create acorns. All of the Light she received from Father Sun, and all of the minerals the earth generously gave to her roots she carefully saved and stored up inside of each and every acorn. And deep in each and every acorn heart  she wrote down all of the lessons she had learned from Life. How to bend in the stormy winds, how to seek water deep below the earth during dry seasons, how to reach towards the sun and how to spread a leafy dress to flutter gracefully in the wind.  She dreamed of her acorns growing into strong, tall oak trees like herself and it gave her great joy.

As Autumn’s cool nights settled and frost crystals glittered in the morning sunrise, she knew it was time to release the acorns to start their own journey into the dark earth and towards the Sun. She had worked hard and was satisfied that all her hopes and dreams had been perfectly transmitted to each and every acorn to keep them safe, and she had prepared plenty of food to sustain them until their own leaves would catch sunbeams and their own roots would drink from the hidden waters underground.  The acorns fell to the ground around her and she closed her eyes for a long winter sleep, dreaming of the spring and her tiny offspring growing  to the Light.

Springtime gently awoke her with the soft kisses of Father Sun and the gentle birdsong returning to her branches.  The first thing she did was to look eagerly below to the earth where her acorns would be growing. Indeed many had sprouted and were growing. But days passed, and they remained spindly and pale and weak.  Whenever it rained, she carefully shook her leaves to offer them water, but still they would not grow…She asked Father Sun for help, and he sent his golden sunbeams – but they filtered through the thick branches of the Great Oak and could not reach the tiny saplings below. The Great Oak, who had stayed strong and rooted through so many storms, began to worry – and cried out for help, not knowing what to do. Autumn had arrived once again, and  another acorn family was waiting for the earth. How could she help them to grow strong and tall and join her in reaching for the sky?

Sister Wind heard her voice and offered to help. In the evening she whispered through the Great Oak’s leaves a secret. The next morning, she arrived and tried to gather up the acorns in her breezy arms, but they were too heavy and fell at the base of the tree, amongst the other spindly and weak saplings. A few dewdrops fell from the Oak Tree’s leaves and dropped to the ground like tears.

Just then the Great Oak felt the tickle of tiny paws scurrying up her tree trunk.  It was Brother Squirrel looking for acorns to store for winter.  Every winter, Gray Squirrel took as many acorns as he could carry from the Oak and hid them in secret spots in the ground, that he carefully memorized. The Oak tree was so silent and peaceful, and so rich in acorns that he had never even thought to ask permission or  say thank you for all of the free food he took from her. As the Great Oak was a a kind and generous tree, she had always been glad to share the food she had so carefully gathered in the acorns for her own children with Gray Squirrel and  the other forest animals. But today, Brother Squirrel saw the dewdrop tears falling from her leaves and sensed the Great Oak’s sadness…Sister Wind whispered to him a secret and he became concerned. He leaned his head against Great Oak’s trunk and listened. The Great Oak sighed, and told how her acorns produced only small, sickly trees beneath her branches and the forest animals ate up all of the other acorns….How she wished to have a family with many children all around… She closed her eyes in winter sleep listening to Sister Wind’s voice which sang to her a comforting song, about Red Oaks that would spring up on the hilltops and unite in a proud, tall forest.  The Wind was wise and smiled, thinking of the secret she had given to Gray squirrel.

The squirrel was embarrassed. Last winter, he had carefully dug up and eaten every single acorn that he had hid in the ground, never thinking about  helping the generous Oak tree in return. So that day, when he gathered acorns, he offered his thanks to the Great Oak, and made a secret promise to help her. He carried the acorns to the hilltops, and open meadows – digging holes in the ground to safely hide two or three acorns.  This year, he hid more than he needed, purposefully leaving some of the acorns safely hidden under ground,  where  spring rains would awaken them and Father Sun would call them to start growing. But it was a long cold winter, and by March, he had eaten almost all of his stores and there was still snow on the ground. But even though he began to get hungry he remembered his promise to help  the Great Oak and reminded himself that summer was on its way. He carefully  searched through the forest and found pinecones to munch on while waiting for the leaves to bud and grow sweet and green.

That springtime, when the Great Oak opened her eyes, a delightful surprise awaited her. A few tiny oak leaves were  rising up through the grasses in the open meadows. They did not stay small and spindly in the shadows of her leaves, but began quickly growing tall and strong, just as she had always hoped.  Gray Squirrel was so proud to see twelve new young strong Oak trees growing happily in the Sunshine. When the Wind whispered to the Great Oak about the promise that Gray Squirrel had made when she was sleeping, she was so grateful for his help that she promised to make even more acorns that summer so he would not ever be hungry again in the winter. The squirrel called his brothers and taught them the secret he had learned from the Wind, and  from that day, they all  helped the Great Oak, keeping enough acorns for their winter meals, but leaving some hidden in the earth  in the best places for baby trees to grow.  Many summer days and winter nights passed, and in time the Great Oak was no longer alone. A great family of tall, strong Red Oak trees grew up on the hilltops and sunny meadows where the squirrels had planted her acorns.