By Jane Valencia
In a time when technology has fallen away, Islanders are rediscovering the ways of the forest. In a frenzy of excitement and discovery, two children, Rose Hip and Snowberry, have yanked quantities of moss and licorice fern from a tree. They turn to head home, only to stop short in surprise!
In front of them is a creature – a thin and knobby man, green into yellow and brown. His hair spreads out in rootlets, his clothing is like green fingers, and his arms, legs, and hands like roots – rhizomes, actually – with little hairs and shoots springing forth. Despite the rootlets, Snowberry realizes that the little man’s legs and arms are bare of clothing, and he is shivering harder and harder with each moment.
Snowberry has never seen a creature like this man before. Rose Hip though, fingering the handful of roots, holds them up. Gazing from the bundle to the little man, Rose Hip calls out in surprise, “You’re a Licorice Fern!”
The man meets Rose Hip’s eyes. “You can call me Sweet Root. And guess what? You’re not going to make it out of this forest until we sort a few things out.”
“What kinds of things?” Snowberry asks, in spite of a sense of knowing what Sweet Root means.
“Once upon a time your people knew how to be good neighbors with us,” Sweet Root says. “Even family. Now that you’re back in the forest, it’s time to renew our agreements.”
Snowberry whispers, “What are they?”
Sweet Root snaps his rooty fingers. A wind enters the woods, mixing with the rain spatters. Now, sometimes the winds that blow through this Island seem to be winds from the Before Time. Those winds whisper of things lost like “electricity,” “cars,” “video games.” But the wind summoned by Sweet Root seems to blow in from a different direction – from long ago – a way, way long ago. But also from a time and place that seem to have been here all along.
And those words brought in by the wind? They speak in some way of being kind, considerate, having respect. They speak of the generosity of plants – that plants enjoy giving, but they have their own lives and ways of being. That the plants have other relationships besides with humans. And so it’s always good to ask first before taking, to give a gift before receiving, to be with the plant first, and truly listen, and accept what they have to say.
When the wind dies back, Sweet Root is still shivering. Rose Hip is wide-eyed, and Snowberry is in a jumble of new thoughts.
To be continued.