In ancient times, of all the forest trees, the Oak was sacred and was allowed to keep her leaves throughout the long cold winter. This was so that the Oak could shelter the small forest animals and birds from the cruel winter storms.
One day in autumn the old Oak tree looked down, where, lying at it’s feet, it saw a fresh new fallen acorn. The Oak looked at the strange, round, little lump and wondered, ‘Could this possibly be a member of my family? It does look very different. It has no leaves at all, not even roots nor trunk. ‘I can’t believe this is a child of mine!’
In the silent forest these secret thoughts are heard and the acorn heard them clearly and was deeply hurt. Like hurt children everywhere the acorn felt rejected and decided to leave home, to go into the wider world where it would find recognition and appreciation.
Fortunately (or not) a busy squirrel passing by offered an immediate opportunity. Acorn barely had to ask and squirrel eagerly agreed to help him on his way, to take the acorn to a nice safe place, to meet others of his kind and to fulfil his life’s real purpose.
Acorn was soon accommodated in a cosy squirrel cache and feeling very pleased with his new independence.
A few days passed and Mother Oak, who had been busy sheltering birds and sending wind messages to other forest giants, realised that Acorn seemed to be hiding, probably under a leaf, or rolled into a little hole. After a time she looked more closely, and finally with some concern, realised that Acorn was missing altogether.
At first Oak didn’t worry, thinking that Acorn would turn up soon but as time passed she became increasingly concerned and then quite frantic for even though Acorn was strange, lumpy, leafless and bald Mother Oak did love him dearly and would do anything at all the keep him safe. Finally, in desperation, and feeling a bit foolish Mother Oak spoke to a nimble lizard hiding in her bark. ‘Lizard, you are slick and nimble and as you know I’m rooted to the spot. I need your help to find my acorn who has wondered off and is possibly in danger and is much too small to protect himself alone. Please lizard, go and see if you can find where he is hiding, make sure that he is safe and bring him back to grow up at my feet.’
The lizard was a busy body – fortunately. He slithered here, he slithered there. He went up and down one hundred trees. He spoke to birds and frogs and ants. He collected leads and hints and clues till finally he found Acorn inside the squirrel cache.
Late one moonlight night, while squirrel was out gathering, lizard slid inside the hole and whispered to the Acorn. ‘What are you doing here! Do you not see the danger? You’ll be eaten up before the spring. Your poor mother is quite frantic. I’ll have to get you out, away from this terrible environment.’
Acorn was not much impressed, he tried to explain that he enjoyed his friends, that none of them had leaves, and that they all were lumpy, they had a lot in common and their parents didn’t seem to understand.
Lizard pleaded, stamped his tiny feet, pushed with his tiny arms but could not budge the Acorn who was stuck tight in a groove.
Lizard decided to get help, but how, and where? He thought if he went higher up the tree he could attract attention. He slithered up the trunk stopping now and then to tell his story but none of the tree dwellers had time to waste on a silly little Acorn.
Lizard was getting desperate, he got to the highest branch and still had not attracted any help. He decided to go out along the branch, although it swayed precariously in the breeze, although it was not where he really liked to be. He lifted a tiny arm and waved, hoping that someone would see his plight and offer to join his mission to save Acorn from being squirrel fodder. There was no response at all.
Lizard went further out along the limb, this time stood up on his tail and waved with both his tiny arms. The breeze blew and shook the fragile branch, lizard was in the gravest danger of being blown away. He was a most determined lizard and in a last brave gesture lifted one of his tiny legs to add momentum to his waving. He knew if he could only attract attention to his plight someone wiser and stronger would be able to rescue little Acorn.
Finally Lizard stood up on his tail, released even his last tiny leg and waved and waved and waved with all his small appendages. The entire forest ignored him. A playful breeze puffed one more time and Lizard fell from twig, to leaf, bounced, fell, crashed, bumped, slid through leaves, swoooshed through the air and landed with a little thud at the very bottom of the tree he had been climbing.
As he slid and crashed and swooshed a watching crow was alerted by the disturbance and, before Lizard could regain his balance, the large black crow, with pick axe beak, alighted on the ground beside him.
Crow tipped his head to one side and considered the tasty morsel lying upside down and quite defenceless at his feet. This gave Lizard time to catch his breath and just as crow leaned forward to gobble him up, Lizard held up his tiny hand.
With great authority he roared,
‘Crow! You make a serious mistake. I may seem an easy mark just now but you put yourself in gravest danger if you eat me. Consider the coming winter when all trees lose their leaves. You will be exposed to every angry farmer seeking retribution for the chickens you have stolen. Are you not better off in the cosy camouflage of the Oak tree. Oak will be very angry if you eat me and never shelter you again in her huge branches. You will be ostracised and left exposed and will indeed be lucky if you survive yourself because so many forest creatures need the shelter of the Oak. Not even you sharp beak and keen eyes will keep you safe without the sanctuary of friendship.’
The crow was old and wise and knew that this was true. He used his beak to help tip Lizard over on his feet and listened to the long sad story of little Acorn stuck in the squirrel cache.
A squirrel cache is no challenge to a crow. Together the Lizard and the Crow hopped and slithered toward the acorn cache where Acorn was getting very anxious. Acorn was missing mum, getting tired of being stuck in a fetid hole, no gentle sounds or breezes, no passing forest people to stop for friendly chats. When crow arrived with his sharp beak it only took a moment to extract Acorn from his groove.
Crow returned Acorn to Oak with a flourish – with a gracious gesture of his wing he lay Acorn in the groove of an Oak branch. Mother Oak had one more request;
‘Dear Crow,’ she said, ‘Please take my Acorn down to the soft earth, use your sharp claws to scratch a little hole to stop him wondering away again. Please cover him with soil to keep him warm this coming winter and to keep him hidden from any prowling squirrels.’
The Crow did this, and when the winter came, when all the trees were bare Crow sheltered in the branches of the Oak. The falling snow covered the ground and covered the place where Acorn safely slept.
The warm spring sun melted the snow and moisture from the melting seeped into the soil around Acorn who felt a swelling in his head. A feeling of great importance transformed him. Without him even knowing slowly he developed leaves. At the same time came the realisation that he really loved this place, this familiar forest floor close by his mother among other old oak trees. He had a huge desire to put down roots, and in a little while nature obliged and tiny threads of root protruded from his lumpiness.
One fine day in spring Mother Oak looked down and saw the greenness sprouting from Acorn and said with greatest pride; ‘I’m sure you must be mine, I’ve never seen such lovely leaves, you’re growing into a magnificent young tree’.
The Lizard, who was busy carrying another message by, overheard the comment and heaved a great sigh of relief.