Friday, June 4, 2010

Why the Trees Lose Their Leaves

The walk back from Pete’s grocery was short and I walked it with happy feet.
It wasn’t often that I had money to spend on candy and I was more than happy to part with my nickel. It seems that a nickel just doesn’t go far when it comes to candy.
I had to hurry home and hide my five pieces of candy before my brother found out.

Grandfather was at the pump washing some dandelion greens. It would be disrespectful to go in the house without speaking. My mind started working over-time trying to figure out what I would tell him. You see, Ududu (grandfather) had a notorious sweet tooth, almost as big as mine. If he knew I had candy, he would expect to be offered some.

Ududu spoke first, “Osiyo, Usdi Duya (It is good to see you, Little Bean)”, not even looking up from his task.
“Osiyo, Ududu. Dohitsu (how are you)?”
Grandfather rose to his full stature and looked at me with those eyes that always seemed to look through you. There was never hiding anything from grandfather.
“Osda, osdadv, (good, very good)” he said. As he spoke those words his eyes began to twinkle. I knew I had already been found out. With one hand working the pump handle and the other holding a dipper gourd, grandfather filled it with fresh cool water and offered it to me.
“Wado, Ududu,” I said between sips of water.

“Uwola, (sit)” grandfather said as he pointed to a spot next to the pump.
As I sat there and watched grandfather reach for his personal pipe and his leather bag
of tobacco mixture I knew a story was coming. Now it was me whose eyes began to twinkle. Grandfather sat down on an upturned log next to me and lit his pipe.
Through the blue haze of pipe smoke, grandfather began to speak.

“In the long ago times, the trees and animals were able to talk to one another. They lived close to each other and shared many things; but every year, the cold time (Uyvtlv Iyuwakodi) came and the birds would fly south to where it remained warm (Uganawa) and would return with their families in the spring, when the warm season returned.
One year, as the cold season approached a little bird (usdi tsisqua) was injured. He would not be strong enough to fly to the uganawa lands with his family, so he made his family fly south to the uganawa lands without him.

Injured, he knew he would not survive the uyvtlv season. So he sought out the help of the trees. He approached Oak (Tsusga). ‘Tsusga, I am injured, and cannot fly, the uyvtlv season approaches, and if I do not find shelter before then, I will surely shall die. Howatsu (please), Tsusga, let me shelter among your many leaves and branches during the uyvtlv times, that I may heal and greet my family on their return in the spring.’
But Tsusga was a stubborn old tree, and did not relish the idea of having a guest in the cold time, so he told the usdi tsisqua: ‘Little bird, go find somewhere else to spend the cold time. I do not wish you to spend the cold time with me.’

And the poor little bird was hurt in his spirit and turned away.

So usdi tsisqua went to the Tlvwaga (maple) and asked her. ‘Tlvwaga, I am hurt and not able to fly to the uganawa lands with my family for the uyvtlv season. Howatsu (please) let me stay among your many leaves and many branches during the uyvtlv (cold) time, or I will surely perish.’ And Tlvwaga, though a very sweet tree, did not enjoy the thought of a guest for the cold time and she too, turned the little bird away. ‘ Usdi tsisqua go ask someone else to shelter you. I do not wish for you to spend the uyvtlv time with me.’

And again, hurt in spirit, the little bird was turned away.

Usdi tsisqua went in turn to each of the trees and asked each for shelter in the cold time; and each, and every time, the little bird was turned away...... until there was no tree left to ask, except Notsi (pine). With no hope left..., but not willing to accept death...., the little bird approached Pine.

‘Notsi, I am injured and hurting, and not able to fly south to the uganawa (warm) lands with my family. If I do not find shelter and safety before the uyvtlv (cold) time, I will surely perish. Howatsu (Please)...., let me stay among your leaves and branches during the uyvtlv time...’
Notsi thought to himself, ("I am the least of the trees, what can I do?") ....but his heart heard the little bird's plight. ‘Usdi tsisqua ... My leaves are tiny... more like needles... my branches are not as many as the other trees ... but what I have you are welcome to share.’
And so, usdi tsisqua spent the uyvtlv time with Notsi. And when the warm times returned in the spring, the little bird's family returned. And usdi tsisqua had healed over the uyvtlv time and flew to greet their return.

Unelanvhi (Creator) had seen and heard all that had happened between the little bird and the trees. And Unelanvhi (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 this little bird in his need. Because of this.., from this day forward, when the uyvtlv time is upon the land, your leaves shall wither and die and blow away.’
Unelanvhi then spoke to Notsi. ‘Notsi, you, who had the least of all the trees, gave so much, have touched my adanvdo (Spirit). When the uyvtlv 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 the little bird.’

And that is why, to this day, that when the uyvtlv iyuwakodi (cold time) comes to the land, all the leaves wither, and die, and blow away.... except for Notsi.”
Grandfather became silent and removed the bowl from his pipe and placed it in his pipe bag. I knew the story was over and I knew the point had hit me hard. As grandfather rose to continue his work I spoke;
“Ududu, I have some candy, would you like some?” I held out the small bag of candy to him. Grandfather looked at me and smiled as he emptied the contents of the bag on to his weathered hand. My mouth dropped open as he took four pieces and placed the remaining piece back into the bag.

“Wado, Usdi Duya”, he said as he walked away placing a piece of peppermint candy in his mouth. I turned and walked toward the house carrying my little bag with one piece of candy. As I was about to enter the back door I smelled the scent of pine in the air.
In the kitchen my brother was helping grandmother (ulisi) peel potatoes.
With out hesitating, I offered the last piece of candy to my brother.

Later that night as I lay in my bed going over the happenings of the day, I felt the crunch of paper under my pillow. Lifting the pillow I saw a small paper bag. In the darkness I poured the contents of the bag into my hand and found it held five pieces of candy and a shiny nickel.
Again I could smell the scent of Nosti.


  1. You are a master storyteller, KB. I enjoy reading your blogs. Howatsu keep writing. You take me to a calmer place. Wado.

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  3. Clay -
    wado, It also takes me to a calmer place, perhaps that is why I enjoy writing.

  4. KB, your stories are such a joy to read and feel. I am so appreciative to have this opportunity and glad that you are 'recording' , keeping your traditions alive and sharing them.
    Uwodhi Adanvdo

  5. "a generous man waters himself"


  6. Just lovely...
    I have tears in my eyes.

  7. KB your stories reach deep inside my heart.Thank you for sharing.

  8. Your stories are wonderful, and the messages are always important: giving, sharing, helping others. These things are important no matter what decade it is!

    S & T Creations

  9. Words cannot express the feelings I experience when I read your stories. This one is a gem. I wish you would post more often. ~karen

  10. You have made my heart swell, thankyou!

  11. Thank you for sharing that. I look forward to reading more of your stories.