Stories

The Old Forest – Parts 1-10

Part One – The Tree

 The old one groaned in weariness. His tall, hollow trunk creaked under the weight of his enormous head of sprawling branches. The Gum tree knew he was ready to rest and lay down his weathered body on Mother Earth’s green dress.

With a thunderous crack the old tree let out a huge sigh of relief and fell down to rest on the floor of the thick, lush forest.

The old one’s trunk was a welcome sight to a family of Bandicoots ambling by. The big hollow body of the tree would provide a snug home for the winter, and the days were already growing shorter and colder as Mother Earth prepared for her winter sleep.

As the day lengthened Father Sun stretched his long fingers down through the stand of trees surrounding the open patch of forest where the old one had once stood. Sun’s rays warmed the bare patch of earth, shining on places that hadn’t felt his golden glow in hundreds of years. Over the years the fallen leaves of the old one had provided a nourishing bed of soil around him, and now, as the sun shone on the moist earth a tiny seed began to stir.

The young seed had been sleeping, waiting for the moment when warmth and light would fill his heart, and now that he could feel Father Sun tickling his seed coat he swelled up with love and burst forth! His first root felt down into the soil, seeking it’s first drink, and his first green shoot excitedly stretched up, breaking through mother Earth’s coverlet, reaching towards the light.

As the days and weeks past the tiny seedling grew and grew and grew. He became taller and stronger as his roots spread and grew though the soil, finding paths of sweet water to drink, and his stem widened, becoming more like a trunk, and sent out new growth and leaves so he could feed on Father Sun’s life giving light.

He gradually grew into a small Gum tree, and what a proud, happy tree he had become. In the space that the old one had left behind he spread his branches high and wide, making the most of every ray of sunshine that streamed down between the big trees around him. He felt stronger now too, his roots were spreading as wide in the soil as his branches were in the air, joyfully seeking out new patches of soft soil to hold onto.

All the older trees around him looked down at him with love and stood around him like a warm hug, protecting him from the coldest winds and most driving rain. The tree ferns and smaller plants also gathered around him, tickling him with their fronds and leaves, and covering his roots with a thick blanket of green.

The little tree knew that he wanted to grow even bigger and each day did his best to stand tall, strong, and beautiful, stretching and reaching towards Father Sun and the big blue roof covering the forest. He knew he had very important work to do as he grew into a great big Gum tree, and he felt so happy and special with his forest family around him. Perhaps, one day, he would be able to see more of the forest but for now he was happy and content.

He looked around and thought of the old one who had given him the chance to grow. He thanked the old tree as he basked in the new day’s warmth, and as the first drops of a rain shower pitter-pattered onto his glossy leaves he recited a poem to himself,

“I stand tall and straight,

and reach for the sky.

I’ll strive to be strong,

with my head held high.”

 Part two – Fairy Wings

As the months passed the little Gum tree continued to grow stronger and taller. And he not only had the help and support of the elder trees and smaller plants that surrounded him, he also had the help of the wee folk of the forest.

There were the folk that made the dark, moist earth their home, and guided his roots, making it easier for them to find pathways in the soil. There were the folk that made the green and brown carpet of plants, fallen leaves, and old wood their home and protected his trunk by attending to the many bugs, beetles, and small creatures bustling around him. And there were the folk that made his highest branches their home and tended his leaves and new shoots, and when the time came, would nurture his opening blossoms and growing fruit. These last folk were the fairies of the air that flitted gaily about the forest on wings as fine and dazzling as spiders’ webs.

The little Gum tree loved all of Mother Earth’s tiny helpers but the fairies of the air he thought the most beautiful and could spend hours watching them glide and soar on the flowing air currents of the forest, their exquisite wings glistening in the sunlight. He especially loved to see them in the early morning as they first took flight to gather their breakfast, and Father Sun’s first rays of light would touch the dewdrops that had collected on their wings during the night, and they would sparkle like a sea of tiny jewels.

Spring was now approaching the old forest, and the days were starting to lengthen as Father Sun stayed a bit longer each day. There was excitement buzzing in the air and the little Gum tree could feel the hum of fairy wings about him as many of the folk of the air danced on a slight breeze drifting by.

Today, he learned, was a very special day as a baby fairy was to be born. The little Gum tree had not seen a baby fairy before and he felt his sap bubble up his trunk in anticipation. In his sing-song tree voice he asked the fairies when the baby was going to arrive. One fairy answered, sounding like the tinkling of miniature bells, and promised him he would be able to see the baby very soon.

The little gum tree rustled his leaves and swayed his branches with joy, did this mean the baby was already born? Oh, how time then seemed to slow down and pass by ploddingly. The little Gum tree turned his bough this way and that looking for any sign of the approaching baby fairy.

Then, at last, he noticed a magical sight as a procession of jubilant fairies came flying along. They were adorned in glossy green Gum leaves, Gum blossoms and nuts, and at the rear of the procession a woven Gum leaf cradle was carried along, swaying with the newborn baby inside.

The fairies gently alighted on one of the little Gum tree’s branches and parted, bringing forward the cradled baby. The little Gum tree gasped with a shiver of his leaves as he saw the tiny fairy baby. The wee baby girl was the sweetest thing he’d ever seen, snuggled up in the rocking Gum leaf with a coverlet of moss. She seemed to glow in the green light of the forest, and then, as the baby fairy stirred and rolled to one side he saw her wings. They were the most beautiful pair of wings he’d ever seen. They seemed to shimmer with all the colours of the rainbow, and sparkled as though made completely of star dust. As the baby breathed, her wings rose and fell delicately, covering her like a blanket of soft feathers.

The little Gum smiled right down to his heartwood, he somehow knew this was a very special fairy indeed, and that her wings, the two most exquisite wings he’d ever seen, would someday carry her on a wonderful adventure.

As if in answer to his thoughts a fairy chorus sprang up and the forest rang with their song,

“In the shining morning light,

sparkling fairy wings delight.

A pair of glistening silver jewels,

two fallen stars that take to flight.”

Part three – The Coming of Three

As the following weeks past the little Gum tree got to see much of the growing baby fairy and her beautiful wings. She grew very quickly and came to feel very safe and happy in the great big arms of the little tree’s bough.

Springtime had now set in and with it arrived all the colour and bursting life of the blooming forest and growing animal families. For the first time the little Gum had the strength and courage to sprout sweet, tiny Gum blossoms, which the folk of the air tended with the greatest care.

Neighbouring Bumble Bees and Butterflies came to visit the little tree, politely and courteously drinking the delicious nectar that the Gum tree proudly offered from his blossoms. The air was warmer with each passing day and Father Sun smiled down on the old forest, staying a little later each evening. All around Mother Earth seemed to awaken as she stretched from her winters sleep. She was starting her busiest time of year and had a lot to do before summer came along. The little Gum tree too was very busy as were all the folk of the forest, and spring seemed to rush by like a bustling breeze. Then before he knew it a whole year had passed by. He was not so little any more and had grown taller and wider but the elder Gum trees still seemed so giant and towering.

The baby fairy, Aquilla, whom the fairies had named after the Wedge-tailed Eagle, Aquilla Ordax, had now learnt to fly and flutter, and the Gum tree loved her dearly. He was also right about her, she was very adventurous and loved nothing more than exploring new parts of the old forest.

One bright, sunny morning, while frost still lay on the forest floor after a visit from Jack Frost the night before, Aquilla rose before her mother and father and stretched her chilled wings. She decided to go for a quick explore before the rest of the folk began their morning work and flew off in a direction she had not been before, through a particularly dense part of the forest. There between the Gums was a grove of tree ferns, and as she wove her way between their reaching fronds, the forest began to change and seemed drier. Here there were Tea Trees growing in crowded thickets and she had to be careful not to tear her thin wings on the spiky leaves.

Suddenly, Aquilla stopped in mid-flight and hovered, surprised, in the air. After she had recovered from her initial shock she gently lowered herself onto a branch of the nearest Tea Tree. Before her were the same trees, bushes and plants as the forest behind her but she knew there was something wrong.

The leaves of the trees and bushes looked weak and limp, as though they had lost all will to stand upright, they bowed their heads in sadness, and their trunks almost seemed hollow, as though they had lost all heart and could break at any moment. All around life was withering and the vibrant colour of the old forest seemed to have been washed away.

Aquilla, feeling frightened, quickly turned and flew back to the Gum tree. When she returned the morning hustle and bustle had begun but she knew she must tell her friend about what she had seen straight away.

When Aquilla told Gum tree what she had seen, he shuddered all over, sending a shower of leaves to the forest floor. At first he couldn’t think of what to do. He was worried and didn’t understand what was happening, was Mother Earth sick? He then realised that he needed to ask the elder trees, if anyone knew what to do, they would.

Gum tree took a deep breath from the tip of every leaf and rumbled a deep groan down to the ends of his roots. He was asking the elder trees for help and if they would listen to his news. The circle of ancient trees all turned their massive boughs in his direction and replied as one in a long slow rumble that gently shook the forest floor. Gum tree carefully told them what Aquilla had seen, hoping they would know what to do.

After a long silence there came a reply from the circle of old ones. They too had known of the growing sickness of part of the old forest and had been waiting for this day to come. Then with a last resounding breath they sang to him in there tree voices,

“Three to bring us hope,

three to heal us all.

Leaves from brown to green anew,

forest filled with love so true.”

Gum tree stood quietly, pondering the old one’s words. What was the three they sang of? But Gum tree didn’t have to wonder too much longer, for there, curiously stepping through the circle of old ones, were three human children.

Part 4 – The Four Winds

“Wow,” the children gasped as they stepped into the circle of old ones. They stood and stared, looking all around at the giant trees that seemed to reach up and up, extending their branches into the sky. It seemed to be magical and the three children felt so happy to be standing in such a special place.

“I never knew this was here,” said Hope, the eldest of the three children, as she stepped forward, noticing for the first time a Gum tree standing in the centre of the circle. It was smaller than the other Gum trees but to her it seemed to be almost leaning towards her as is saying hello.

The two younger children, Fergus, Hope’s younger brother, and Oscar, his best friend, stepped up to where Hope stood, smiles stretching across their faces.

“This can be our own special hideout,” said Fergus, “that no-one else knows about.”

“Yeh!” Said Oscar, “it can be our secret, we could make it our special base where we meet to have club meetings.”

“How about the Forest Protectors Club,” suggested Hope. “We can look after it and make sure no-one ever damages it.”

“Cool,” said Fergus, “the Forest Protectors Club!” Each of the children went quiet as they thought about their special duties as forest protectors. All around seemed to sparkle with a green glow and the leaves of the trees and plants seemed to dance in approval. The children ventured further into the secret grove, exploring all the natural treasures around them.

Gum tree and Aquilla watched the children from above. So they are the three, thought Gum tree. He was so excited he felt like bursting up into the air and touching the clouds with top of his hairy bough. All around there was the tinkling chatter of the forest folk and Gum tree could see some of the forest animals cautiously watching the children from the safety of their protected homes. Aquilla flitted about asking Gum tree question after question in her sweet, glittering little voice,

“who are they? How did the ancient ones know they were coming? How are they going the help the forest?” Gum tree didn’t know the answers to Aquilla’s questions but felt in his heartwood that the forest was going to be okay.

As the children wandered about inspecting ever corner of the grove, and the forest folk and trees watched in amazement, suddenly Brother Wind seemed to blow in from every direction. All around the four winds from north, south, east, and west blew their whooshing breath over and around the grove. The trees and plants bent to the bellowing winds and all the folk sheltered under branch, moss, and earth. The three children huddled together surprised by the sudden wind that seemed to blow in from nowhere. And as they stood holding onto each other whispering voices came to them on the wind,

“The four winds we are,

blowing near and very far.

When you are in need call us forth,

the four winds of east, west, south, and north.”

Then all seemed to become still and silent as Brother Wind blew away in the four directions he had come from. The children all looked at each other not knowing if the other had heard the whispering message on the wind.

Part Five – The Star

After the four winds blew from the forest the three children sat and talked about what they had heard. They could hardly believe what had happened, surely they couldn’t all have imagined the voices on the wind?

“I wonder what it could mean,” Hope pondered out loud, “and how could the wind help us?” The two younger children thought about it but it was all a bit too much to take in.

As the children sat on the soft carpet of moss on the forest floor and talked more about this strange occurrence, the rest of the forest creatures began to come out of their hiding places and quietly go back to their daily work. Aquilla had nestled in one of Gum tree’s forked branches and she too carefully tiptoed out, cautiously looking all around. All the plants and trees stood up straight again searching for Father Sun’s reassuring warmth.

Gum tree could scarcely believe what an exciting day it was turning out to be in the old forest, and after he had recovered from the buffeting wind he looked all around to make sure everyone was okay. But somehow there seemed to be no damage at all from Brother Wind and gum tree suddenly understood that his visit was something to do with saving the dying forest.

As the afternoon wore on Father Sun dipped his head towards the horizon and the light in the forest very quickly diminished. The evening was creeping in, touching all that was golden and turning it to grey. The children suddenly realised that they had stayed out too long and were about to make their way home when Oscar looked up and called to Hope and Fergus.

“Look at that star!” Hope and Fergus looked up to see the brightest start they had ever seen. It was the first star in the night sky and shone with a laughing, winking light. As Hope looked closer she noticed that the star had five points from which streamed down silver beams of light. The beams stretched down to Mother Earth and seemed to touch the forest not too far from where the children stood.

“We must follow the starlight,” said Hope wistfully, and the two boys knew instantly that she was right. None of them mentioned how they really should be going home but any worries they had were swept away by the silver brightness of the star. It lit up the whole sky almost as brightly as Father Sun.

As if pulled by magic the children began to walk in the direction of the star beams, and as they walked a song floated down to them from the sky,

“A five-pointed star to guide the way,

follow my beams of light,

streaming down from sky to earth,

there you will find your strength and worth.”

The children steadily walked along through the grove of tree ferns and into the drier part of the forest. The beams of light from the star’s five points constantly guiding them. Then, there before them the light from the star touched the earth with it’s silver glow, lighting up the withered, dying forest.

“Huhhhh,” all three children gasped at the sight before them.

“This is what the five-pointed star wanted us to find,” said Hope knowingly. “This is why we are here.”

Part Six – The Rising Hills

The children stood in silence, staring at the parched and dreamy forest. The silver light shining on the dying trees and plants gave them an eerie look, their drooping leaves and branches, casting ghostly shadows on the dry forest floor.

Hope, Fergus, and Oscar all suddenly felt very tired and weary from their afternoon adventure, and now faced with the withering plants and chilly evening air wanted to get back home and climb into their cosy and warm beds.

Let’s go home,” spoke up Hope, “we can come back tomorrow and spend all day here if we want.” The two boys agreed with nods of their heads and they all turned, walking in the direction they had come. One thing Hope couldn’t understand was why this part of the forest was so dry and lifeless when the rest seemed so vibrant and full of life, and certainly not in need of water. But she was too tired to think any more now. The children plodded back through the cool forest as dew fairies dressed Mother Earth with sparkling jewel drops. All the creatures of the forest were settling down for their night’s rest as more twinkling stars joined the five pointed star in night’s dark pool.

And as the children walked through the circle of old ones towards their home only Gum tree and the night animals saw them quietly whisper goodnight to the Old forest.

Gum tree woke from his light sleep and stretched his branches towards the glowing, golden morning light. He realised it was the voices of the three children that had woken him as he looked down and saw them standing huddled together deep in conversation. It was a crisp, cool morning, with only a scattering of cloud frolicking in Sky’s blue meadow.

The Old forest was wakening too, singing it’s morning song with the many voices of fairy folk, plants, animals, birds, insects, and trickling water. Gum tree curiously bent his bough towards the children, eager to hear what they were saying. He was so pleased they had returned so soon and started to wonder if there was any way he could help them. As he listened Hope was telling the two boys how last night she thought the sickly part of the forest looked so thirsty and she wished she knew why it wasn’t drinking it’s fill like the rest of the forest.

Maybe that’s the problem,” said Fergus thoughtfully. “What if there isn’t enough water for the trees and plants to drink.”

But all the trees in the rest of the forest seem to have plenty to drink,” added Oscar.

If only we could see the forest from above,” sighed Hope, “then we might be able to get some clues as to what’s going on.”

As the children thought about Hope’s last comment Father Sun shone with all his strength and lit up the sky between the tree tops with a smiling golden glow. The children looked up and for the first time saw a range of rolling hills beyond the leafy boughs of the forest.

I’ve never noticed those hills before,” said Fergus with surprise. He looked at Hope and then at Oscar and they grinned at each other, each knowing the other’s plan. And then, without another word, they all ran in the direction of the hilly range, weaving their way through the forest until, at last, they were looking up at the rising bulk of the first hill.

How many do you think we need to climb to get to the very top?” Asked Oscar.

Well, let’s see,” said Hope as she began counting the hills, thinking they looked like a company of sleeping giants, “1,2,3,4,5,6…..6, there’s six hills!” Exclaimed Hope.

Well,” said Oscar, we’d better get started if we are going to get to the top any time soon.” And with that the three children merrily began their climb up the six hills, and as they trotted up the first hill, their supplies in their backpacks, they made up a hopeful song to help them on their way,

Up we go to the top,

we won’t rest, we won’t stop.

Six giant hills rising to the skies,

to help us see as the bird flies!”

Part Seven – Help From Above

Hope, Fergus, and Oscar quickly reached the top of the first hill and looked up at the looming hills yet to climb. So far, their trek up the six hills had been fairly easy but looking ahead they could see that things were going to get much harder.

They decided to keep going straight away and set off on the worn dirt path that had led them this far. As they reached the bottom of the second hill the climb up became steeper and steeper, their path slowly began to dwindle to little more than a thin line weaving through the trees, and the surrounding tea trees, she oaks, and prickly beauty’s, grabbed at their clothes and hands.

In the lead was Hope. She looked around her and began to worry and doubt their journey. Reaching up through the smaller trees and bushes, gum trees stood like all knowing sentries of the forest. Suddenly she stopped looking down at the shrinking path.

I don’t know about this,” she said to Fergus and Oscar. “The path is getting harder and harder to see, what if we get lost?” The two boys looked at her with worry and disappointment on their faces.

But we have to,” said Fergus, “for the forest.” Hope doubtfully looked further up the path and back at the boys.

Well, I suppose we can keep going, but if we lose the path altogether I’m not sure if we can.” The three children carefully returned to their task, picking their way over fallen branches, twigs, and leaves which had begun to take over the path, as if trying to cover Mother Earth with a fresh blanket. Up above Father Sun’s rays found their way between wispy clouds, and all around the forest chattered, welcoming the visiting children.

As Hope thought they couldn’t go any further she heard the call of a Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo overhead and looked up to see a flock perched in the branches of a Gum tree. The boys followed Hope’s gaze up to the calling Cockatoo’s and they all paused as they marvelled at the birds’ striking yellow tails.

Aren’t they beautiful!” Exclaimed Hope, “and they all seem to be looking straight at us, hello!” Hope called out to the friendly Cockatoos. The birds chirped in answer, happily squawking as they gently flapped their wings. Oscar began counting the flock, interested to see how many there were, but just as he finished counting the excited birds took to flight.

There’s seven of them,” Oscar announced to Hope and Fergus. “I wonder where they are going.” The flock began to fly off in the same direction as the children were heading and as they did they looked back and squawked towards the children.

They want us to follow,” Hope suddenly exclaimed, “quick, I think they are trying to show us the way!” The two boys didn’t have any time to think but had to quickly run after Hope as she bounded up the hill after their friendly guides.

All morning the children followed the Black Cockatoos through the forest and up the six hills, only pausing occasionally to catch their breath and have quick sips of water and nibbles on their snacks.

One by one they reached the tops of the hills and to their delight as they climbed higher the forest became less crowded and the trees seemed to spread out, giving each other more room to grow. As they walked on Father Sun beat down his warming light and the children became very hot, and gradually more and more tired.

It was nearly lunch time when the children reached the top of the fifth hill and could see the sixth hill, and it’s peak before them. They were getting close! The Black Cockatoos seemed to sense the children’s weariness and sang out to them. The children looked up in surprise, somehow they could understand the birds’ voices,

A flock of seven we fly and soar,

to guide your way up hills so high.

Your goal is very near in sight,

you must summon all your strength and might.”

The children listened to the voices of the cockatoos and with determination started their last climb up the sixth hill. With all their strength they finally reached the top and with sighs of relief collapsed on Mother Earth’s bed and gazed down at the forest below. Their seven companions squawked in delight and settled down in the branches of a gum tree above the weary three.

Part Eight – The Secret Gift

Down below the children the Old forest spread out before them, Mother Earth’s carpet of green hair. But on the edge of the great sprawling forest was a bleak and bare patch of dying woodland that grabbed the three’s attention immediately. They recognised it as the parched, sickly part of the forest they had visited the day before. Atop the six hills the children had a bird’s eye view and could see all around and beyond the forest. What the children had not realised before but could now clearly see, was that beyond the dying patch of forest, on the western side, was an even more sickly patch of earth. But Hope instantly knew what had happened to the poor trees that no longer grew there. Oscar was the first to speak after the children’s long climb to the top of the hills.

What has happened to the forest? Where have all the trees gone?”

They’ve been cut down,” Hope answered flatly. “I’ve never seen it before but I’ve heard about it. Big machines come in and cut all the trees, leaving not a single one behind, and then huge trucks come and take them away sometimes only to cut them up and make them into toilet paper.”

It looks like Mother Earth has been stripped bare, it’s so sad,” said Fergus quietly.

Hope studied what she saw before her. The earth where the trees had once stood sloped gently down below the dying forest, until it met a winding, gurgling river at the bottom of a valley. She could see that the earth on the sloping hill was slowly being washed down by Sister Rain, as the part of the river directly below was murkier than it was further upstream, and the bank was built up higher as well.

I’ve got it,” Hope suddenly exclaimed, “I know what’s going on! We’ve got to get moving, we need to start planning, quick, come on guys!” And with a burst of energy, she sprang to her feet not waiting even a second to see if the boys were following.

Wait, Hope, what do you mean? What’s going on?” Fergus called after her.

I’ll tell you when we get down the bottom,” she yelled back over her shoulder. Fergus and Oscar groaned and forced themselves to their weary feet, and then headed off as fast as their tired bodies would carry them. Up above them the seven Black Cockatoos sang their song as they took to flight and flew off to help the children back down the hills.

The trip down went a lot faster than the hike up the hills and after what seemed only a few minutes the three children were back down the bottom, walking towards the circle of Old ones after thanking their friendly winged guides. They didn’t notice a sparkle in one of the gum trees at the edge of the Old forest, that danced and flitted after them as they ventured in through the trees.

Now will you tell us what’s going on?” panted Fergus. The three children entered the cool, shaded circle and sat down on the cushioned, mossy floor of the forest, surrounded by the ancient trees. Gum tree had been waiting for their return, as had Aquilla, who fluttered up onto one of his branches after following the children from the edge of the forest.

Okay,” began Hope, “I know why the forest is dying and why it looks so thirsty. It’s because the rain that falls onto the forest is all washing down the hill on the other side.” The boys looked at Hope blankly not quite understanding, so she continued on explaining it further.

The earth on the other side, where all the trees have been taken away is slowly being washed down into the river. Mother Earth needs the trees to hold her together with their roots, they grab onto the soil so they can stand strong, keeping the soil around them. Now that the trees have been cut down there is nothing holding the soil there and it is being washed down the hillside into the valley below.” Fergus and Oscar were beginning to understand.

But why is this causing the forest at the top of the hill to die,” asked Fergus.

Because when Sister Rain falls she rests in the earth before the trees drink her up with their roots,” Hope said. “But now there is nothing holding the earth in it’s place. Sister rain has nowhere to rest and she has to keep moving on, down the hillside into the river.”

Ohhh,” both boys suddenly understood what Hope was saying.

And that’s why there’s not enough water for the trees and plants to drink!” Exclaimed Oscar. “What are we going to do?”

We have to plant more trees,” said Hope, “we need to give back Mother Earth the trees that were taken away from her, so the hillside and the whole forest and valley will be healthy again!” Hope concluded determinedly.

This whole time Aquilla had been listening intently to Hope, Fergus, and Oscar, and now she suddenly knew she had a way to help the children with their plan. Quickly she flew off, darting between Gum tree’s branches to where she slept, and in her blanket of moss put something that she had carefully hid in her secret hiding place, in a nook under a gnarl in Gum tree’s branch. Then with her secret parcel she fluttered down to where the children sat, floating gently onto a lichen covered rock.

The children sat entranced as a dazzling sparkle floated down before them, magically spread out a fairy sized blanket of moss on a rock, and then danced back up into the air, settling on a branch of the gum tree near them. They looked at each other in surprise and then down at what they could only guess to be a gift left by a magical fairy.

There on the rock lay eight gum nuts. Gum nuts Aquilla had found and collected from the Old one who had fallen and give Gum tree the chance to grow. She had kept them safe, caring for them with all her heart, protecting them with her fairy light until the special day when they were needed.

The eight gum nuts glowed with the last light of the day as Father Sun began to dip below Mother Earth’s round body. Hope gazed in wonder and excitement at the treasures laying before them.

Small and round,

with love they are bound.

Each a life waiting in sleep,

eight in all, soon to grow tall.”

Part Nine – Fairy Greetings

The next morning Hope, Fergus, and Oscar stood in the circle of Old ones ready to set forth with the eight sacred gum nuts. They stood in awe of the beautiful ancient forest surrounding them as if they were seeing it for the first time, feeling like a part of the forest’s family. Even though they couldn’t see all the forest folk an animals they knew they were there and could feel the love and warmth of all the creatures, plants, trees, and Earth around them.

Hope could almost swear she could hear the buzz of tiny chattering voices on the air, and with a big smile on her face she led the two boys on towards the dying patch of forest.

The morning air was crisp and cool in the shade of the ancient trees but as the children walked on occasionally they would feel the welcoming warmth of Father Sun shine down on them between the canopy of leaves above. Mother Earth’s damp carpet of green was soft under the children’s shoes and as they began to weave through the forest beyond the circle of Old ones it seemed as if the trees and bushes were parting in their presence, creating a path for them to easily walk through.

It wasn’t long before they reached the patch of sad, withering trees and parched earth, and knew that now they needed to continue beyond to reach their destination. The earth started to gently slope downwards and ahead Hope could see a clearing through the drooping forest.

We are nearly there,” she said to the boys encouragingly, and together all three walked a bit faster. Then there they were, suddenly surrounded by emptiness. Hope thought how cold Mother Earth looked without her blanket of green, and how lonely she must feel without her forest family.

How will we know where to plant the gum nuts?” Asked Fergus, now wondering how eight seeds could possibly be enough.

I think we are going to need some help,” replied Hope. “Remember how the four winds said if we were in need to call them forth?”

Do you think they’ll really come,” asked Oscar.

Well, we can only try,” answered Hope as she took the boys hands in hers. Then in her loudest voice, Hope called to the sky, “the four winds of east, west, south, and North, we call you forth, please help us!” The children stood apprehensively, looking all around waiting for any sign of Brother Wind. Then, slowly, a slight breeze began to rustle in the forest around. The children could feel a gentle wind caressing their faces and Hope noticed some dry leaves drifting by fro the dying forest.

They’re coming,” she whispered to Fergus and Oscar, “they’re really coming, Brother Wind heard us.”

Then with a sudden whoosh from each direction, the four winds swept into the clearing, swooping and swirling before settling down to gentle breezes surrounding the children. Hope took a deep breath and with all her courage spoke to the four winds.

Please, we need your help.” She took the eight gum nuts from the safety of a small pouch in her pocket and held them out for the winds to see. “We are here to help the forest grow back but don’t know where to plant these special gum nuts, will you please find the perfect places for them?” The three faces of the children looked hopefully around them, not able to see the winds but able to feel them as they danced around in the air.

All at once the winds blew a gust and picked up the gum nuts that Hope held before her. Each wind took two gum nuts each, cradling them in invisible arms. Swirling and whirling around the clearing, the winds swooped and dove, planting each gum nut in a bed of earth, blowing a blanket of soil over them. And then they soared high into the sky and blew a puffy white rain cloud over the hillside. Suddenly water rained down upon the earth, soaking the soil, and giving the gum nuts their first deep drink. Then as quickly as it had begun, the rain stopped and the winds again joined the children.

The children stood in amazement and joyfully smiled at their friend Brother Wind.

Thank you so much,” called Hope in excitement, we couldn’t have done it without your help!” Then with four swirls and dips each wind swept around the children and then off to east, west, south, and north.

And we couldn’t have done it without your help.” The children turned around to see where the mysterious little voice had come from and there before them stood nine folk of the forest. Three from the folk of the earth, three form the folk of the plants, and three from the folk of the air.

The children stood in shocked silence, hardly believing what they were seeing. Among the folk of the air was Aquilla, with her mother and father, the representatives of the air tribe. She beamed up at them and fluttered her sparkling wings.

We wanted to thank you. We have never shown ourselves to anyone before, we wanted to show you how much we appreciate your help. Please join us for a party in your honour,” sang Aquilla in her tinkling voice.

The children could barely contain their excitement, and with smiles from ear to ear they followed the nine singing forest folk into the trees.

Follow the nine fairy folk,

to feast, dance, sing, and joke.

In honour of your deeds well done,

we’ll celebrate with forest fair and fun.”

Part Ten – The Old Forest is Saved

The celebration that greeted the children after the four winds had helped them to plant the sacred gum nuts, was full of merriment and joy. The forest folk and creatures no longer hid from the children and all around Hope, Fergus and Oscar were greeted with warmth and appreciation.

The party centred around Gum tree, folk bustling around him, setting tiny tables with forest fair and delicious treats. Gum tree was bursting with happiness and excitement, his leaves and branches making tree music as he swayed and rustled.

Folk danced about all around, playing instruments made from twigs, leaves, seeds, and bark, singing jolly tunes in their tinkling voices, and drinking nectar from tiny gum nut cups. The children laughed in wonder as other fairy folk played party games or flitted about on the air, chasing one another and performing daring tricks and feats.

Near the edges of the circle the older Wallabies, Paddymelons, Bettongs, Echidnas, Wombats, and Bandicoots hopped and waddled about munching on their food of choice, as the younger animals played at romping and wrestling.

Aquilla waved to the children, who until then had stood in wonder feeling like they were in a dream, and they went over to where a special place of soft moss had been prepared for them near Gum tree. Before Hope sat down she went over to Gum tree, remembering the first time they had come to the forest and how Gum tree had greeted her, leaning towards her as if saying hello. She knew now more than ever how important and special trees were, and felt that Gum tree was very special indeed. She wrapped her arms around him feeling his rough bark with her hands, and gave him a warm loving hug. She felt Gum tree’s love for her too as the warmth and happiness from his trunk soaked into her body. Hope looked up at Gum tree and smiled, somehow she knew that he had grown from a gum nut fallen from the same ancient gum tree as the gum nuts given to the children by Aquilla. It made her happy to know that those eight gum nuts would grow up to be as beautiful and special as Gum tree. Even though the Old one had fallen it had made way for it’s children to grow so the Old forest could live and thrive for hundreds of years to come.

Thank you,” Hope whispered to Gum tree, before joining Fergus and Oscar on the moss under Gum tree’s hugging branches. Aquilla danced around the children sparkling from wings to toes. “And thank you sweet fairy,” Hope said as she smiled and curtsied. Aquilla wheeled around in the air, squealing with joy, causing Hope, Fergus, and Oscar to giggle and laugh.

As the celebration continued the elder trees stood around in their circle, and with a deep, proud rumble they sang a song to the Old forest.

Over the following years the Old forest became Hope, Fergus, and Oscar’s second home. One Winter’s morning, ten years to the day since the eight gum nuts had been planted, they returned once more in celebration of that day. The eight gum trees that had sprouted from those gum nuts ten years ago now stood tall and strong, and magically had grown much bigger and faster than any ordinary tree, filling the once cleared land with sprawling, leafy branches, and delving, strong roots.

The patch of forest that had been withering and dying was now returned to it’s full health, the trees and plants as vibrant and green as the rest of the Old forest surrounding it. Mother Earth was happy once more and Father Sun seemed to glow in radiance even more than usual.

And Gum tree, well he now stood majestic, tall and even stronger, surrounded by the loving folk of the forest and the circle of elder trees. His many sprawling branches spread wide throughout the circle, his leaves soaking up the warm rays of light. His roots now lay deep within Mother Earth’s bed, drinking from her rich soil, and his straight, proud trunk reached high into the forest canopy so that he could almost touch the lower leaves and branches of his ancient elders.

Hope, Fergus, and Oscar were not children any more but they, and Aquilla, had become Gum tree’s dearest family. And as he saw the three walk into the circle of Old ones, the forest folk bustling excitedly around him, he happily rustled and rubbed his leaves together thinking of how ten years ago they had all helped to save the Old forest.

Within the Old forest a family grew,

what once was dying they restored to new.

Ten years to mark that wondrous day,

may it’s magic and wisdom forever stay!”

Written by Danielle Sheridan.

The Life Cycle of a Flowering Plant

Plant life is immersed in the forces of the Earth and the sun. The contracted, physical forces of the Earth and the expansive, comic forces of the Sun. As years pass the seasons flow in a cycle of expansion and contraction of earth and sun forces. Both forces are necessary for plant life.
Growth processes of plants reflect the balance of these opposite forces. Plants living in polar regions, where earth forces are more dominant are often smaller, more contracted, and grow closer to the ground. Plants living near the equator, where sun’s forces are more dominant, have large leaves and grow high above the ground.
In temperate regions the balance between earth and sun forces is reflected in how different parts of the plant grow through the fore seasons. The whole life cycle of the plant can be seen as a series of expansions and contractions. In winter earth’s contracting forces dominate, life forces are drawn into the underground parts of the plant. Deciduous plants shed their leaves, and seeds lie dormant, appearing to be a lifeless object not unlike a tiny stone. The seed contains the potential for the mature plant concentrated in a a tiny space.
Then in spring the influence of the sun on the earth becomes stronger. Within the moist earth the food stored within the shell of the seed becomes enlivened and begins to swell until the seed cover burst; contraction gives way to expansion!
When a seed germinates and begins to grow, the roots grow down into the earth; delicate white threads reach down into earth for nourishment, just as the newly born child turns to it’s mother for nourishment. The roots spread out into a 3-dimensional, solidly material, spherical form.
The stem grows, somewhat released from the earth influence, and reaches upwards towards the light and warmth of father sun. The stem grows with a 1-dimensional, linear form, inspired by and ethereal centre enclosed in the developing leaves.
Whilst the seedling is growing up through the earth it is unable to make it’s own food. It depends entirely on what food it has been able to store within itself. If it lies too deeply in the earth, the seedling can use up it’s food supply before breaking through the surface of the earth, this dying.
Once through the surface of the earth, the seedling develops and slowly unfolds it’s leaves from the maturing stem. They carry out the process of photosynthesis. Sunlight is absorbed and converted into food for the plant. Leaves are planar and 2-dimensional and express a balance between the 3-dimensional growth of the roots and 1-dimensional growth of the stem.
With the formation of the flower bud a contraction takes place. The ethereal centre that the stem has been growing towards is taken into the plant and cosmic forces are expressed in the scent and colour of the flower.
As the sun moves towards it’s full strength through late spring and summer, the plant experiences a second expansion when the flower blooms! The sepals part and the petals open often releasing a delicate scent.
Flowers contain the reproductive organs of the plant, these elaborate structures are unique and in may cases attract pollinators. Flowers are the most refined individual expression of the plant and characterise the species to which they belong. They are a soul expression for the plant and touch us on a soul level with beautiful colours and scents.
A second contraction occurs when the reproductive parts of the flower develop and pollen (containing sperm) and ovules (containing ova or eggs) are formed. Like the seed they contain potential for new life but in a different way.
In autumn when sun is beginning to wane and earth beginning to draw in again there is a third expansion. After pollination and fertilisation the fruit forms around d the seed! Fruit is a very physical growth, more earthly than the ephemeral growth of the flowers.
Within fruit are the seeds which are shed from the parent plant in a multitude of often ingenious ways. The cycle begins again with the spreading of the seed as the plant life circles again through winter, awaiting the spring!

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