There have always been stories about the origin of the land and the life that calls it home. Before there was science, those stories came from imagination and spirituality. In this series, I have created contemporary nature photography to illustrate them. Read more about my Legends of the Land series.
Fall color used to be green. And, for the most part, so was winter color. Even during the coldest months, all trees kept their lush green leaves, allowing them to stay warm. But that all changed one autumn when those who were given so much couldn’t share a little.
While the trees remained comfortable throughout winter, birds and other forest creatures had to travel south to find warmth. It was a long, tough trip, but they had to do it. There was no way they could survive the bitter cold.
One autumn, however, there was a bird that wasn’t up for the journey. He was a young sparrow who was normally an acrobat of the sky. He was able to perform stunning twists and turns that captivated all. One day when he was practicing his elaborate routine he injured his wing. It was healing, but it wasn’t healing fast enough to be able to travel south with his family for the winter. To survive, he was going to have to find shelter in the forest.
Sparrow first approached an oak tree, one of the largest in the forest.
“Can I spend the winter with you?” Sparrow asked.
But the old and cranky oak told the bird he wanted to spend the winter alone.
Next, Sparrow approached the maple tree, regarded as the sweetest tree in the forest.
“Can I stay with you this winter?” Sparrow asked.
“Sorry, Sparrow,” she replied. “It was a long summer. I’m really tired and am just not up for any company.”
Running out of options, the desperate bird approached a pine tree. His leaves weren’t much — more like needles, really — but at least they would provide some protection from the cold.
“Sure, you can stay with me,” the pine tree replied. “I can’t provide you much warmth, but I will make you as comfortable as I can.”
In the spring, the warmth returned, as did Sparrow’s family. The young bird not only survived the winter, but recovered completely from his injury.
With the family reunited, the Great Creator, who had watched Sparrow’s struggle as cold weather set in, called the trees together for a meeting.
“I could not be more disappointed in you,” the Great Creator said, gesturing toward the oak and the maple. “I have given you so much, but you were selfish. From this day forward, when the cold weather arrives, your leaves shall fall off and blow away.”
“As for you,” he told the pine, “you gave what little you had and it touched my heart. For that, I will ensure that you remain vibrant green for all of your days.”
— Based on a Cherokee legend
(Learn more about Kevin Ebi's newest book, Living Wilderness, the first comprehensive portfolio of his fine-art images and download a free preview. Follow his photography on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram .)
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