How the Forest Came to Be

Photo by Amy Peterson Derrick

Once there was a mouse who loved his home in the forest.

On warm, summer days, he would go for long walks through the woods; the canopy of the great, tall, trees providing shade from the hot sun above. In the fall, mouse would scurry through the fallen leaves along his path, listening as the leaves rustled and crunched. In the winter, mouse would occasionally venture out to listen as the trees creaked and groaned in the winter wind.

But mouse’s favorite season was springtime.

The ground that was once frozen was now soft and squishy, and tracks of friend and foe were easy to spot in the mud.

The forest floor, while still scattered with gray, soggy leaves, became spotted with little specks of green pushing through the soil.

The towering trees, whose branches were covered in buds, seemed ready to burst open at any moment. Mouse loved the trees best of all. And so every spring, mouse would wander through the woods, and stop at each great, enormous tree waking up from its long, winters nap and wonder, “how did you get here? Where did you come from? How could something so giant and magnificent just…be?”

Mouse had heard stories that these great trees were providers of life—they gave shelter, and food, and clean air to all who lived in the woods. This was a great mystery to mouse, who, himself was so small next to these great keepers of life.  

One day, while mouse was out on his morning stroll, he came upon his good friend squirrel who was so busy digging up an acorn she had stored for winter that she hardly noticed mouse at all. Mouse stopped and admired the tree that towered above them. “How did the trees get here?” Asked mouse.

Squirrel looked up at mouse, thought for a moment and said, “I don’t know. I’m much too busy to think about that. You should ask bird.”

And so mouse went in search of bird. After a long while of searching high and low, mouse came upon bird, who was enjoying a morning snack of seeds and worms. “Bird,” mouse began, “how did the trees get here?”

Bird looked up from his morning snack, ruffled his feathers, and shook his head, “I don’t know. I have to get back to my nest. You should ask Turtle.”

Mouse headed for the stream, for he knew that he would find Turtle there. “Turtle, how did the trees get here?”

Turtle thought for a moment. And another. And another. Mouse wasn’t so good at being patient. But finally, Turtle said,  “These great trees each have their own story. Some are old, much, much older than you and me, and many of them will be here long after we are gone. Some were carried here as seeds by wind and water and some by creatures of the earth and sky.”

“Creatures like you and me?” Asked Mouse.

“Creatures exactly like you and me, and squirrel and bird and human and deer; creatures that you know, and creatures that you have never met. Creatures that lived long before you and I and creatures that are not yet born will continue to build this great forest.”

Mouse was amazed to think that a creature so small as he could help build a forest full of these magnificent trees. Mouse was amazed…and also so proud.

Turtle continued as she looked up at the branches above, “yes, many of these trees carry the ancient stories of our world; if you listen hard enough, you can hear these stories. Looking at these trees is like looking back in time; looking at our ancestors, who helped to bring these tree to life, each as beautiful as the next.”

Mouse had never thought about how old his beloved forest might have been. He took a breath, and looked all around at the trees as they gently swayed in the breeze. And as the wind blew through the branches, it suddenly seemed like the trees were speaking to him. 

He breathed deep as he listened carefully to the whispers of the forest. The more he listened, the more amazed he became and the more he wondered:  I wonder, thought mouse, which of my ancestors helped to build this forest. I wonder, thought mouse, if I have helped to build this forest. I wonder if the forest mice who come after me will enjoy this forest as much as I do.

And so Mouse, once again took a great big breath and laid down in the soft leaves of the forest floor. He stared up at the trees above and drifted off to sleep, comforted by dreams of his ancestors, and all their wisdom, waking up, once more, in the gentle spring breeze.

By Amy Peterson Derrick

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