It was many, many moons ago when Earth, known as Gaia then, was still very young. Mother Nature, as we call her now, had had a long, busy spring. There were new stirrings and new arrivals almost every day all through January, February, March, April, May, to the end of June. Every living thing, the birds, the rocks, the water, the frogs, even the mushrooms, water, and the sea were making their way nicely into their grooves, rhythms, and cycles, for the summer sun had started to wane.
As Mother Nature sat in her rocker admiring the changing seasons, she thought, “it’s time to do my crocheting.” She pulled out the beautiful yarn she had been given by Ms. Sheep and Al Paca at the end of last June.
It was during the Mid-Summer Festival when they were celebrating the longest day of the year and the beginning of Autumn – even though the warmest days still lay ahead at that time.
“Mother Nature!”, bleated Ms. Sheep across the festival grounds. “Oh, Mother Nature
! Al Paca and I are so glad we found you! We’ve got a small present for you after all your help and encouragement this season.” Al Paca pulled the package out of his manta and handed it to Mother Nature.
“Oh, my goodness!” Mother Nature exclaimed as she unwrapped the yarn. It was the finest wool Mother Nature had ever seen… and felt. Soft and subtle as Lamb’s ears, it would surely make the toastiest winter garment. The most beautiful shades, tints, and hues of burgundy, bright scarlets, and alizarins; flame-to-umber oranges; buttery, golden, and amber yellows; dark hunter to fading greens, and just enough deep blues and purples to give contrast. It was truly amazing; the spectrum just made you want to stop, breathe it in, and be enveloped by it all.
“This yarn will make the warmest and most stunning mittens later this Autumn. Thank you. Thank you, both!”, cried Mother Nature to Ms. Sheep and Al Paca, for it was a fine Mid-Summer gift indeed.
Over the next few months, the Sun had been making its way toward rest and the days had been getting shorter and shorter at every turn, ever since that longest day in June. Now Chill was in the air, especially at night, but more and more during the daytime as well. So, Mother Nature gathered her wool and her hooks and started crocheting her mittens.
As she crocheted the first few rows, Mother Nature held up her work admiring the colors and softness, reminiscing about the precious Mid-summer gift, and envisioning the new mittens. She set back to work when Bird flew in hungry and frantic.
“Mother Nature, I need your help! I’m hungry and I can’t find any food. Please come help me look for some tasty bugs to eat”, fretted Bird.
Mother Nature put down her crocheting and went to help Bird. There were a few bugs left, but most had nestled down in the leaves that had fallen, others bore into stems and branches, some had laid their last eggs and went on to complete their life cycle, and a few had flown to the south where it would be much warmer during the winter months.
After they had gathered enough bugs, Bird was feeling much better. “Bird, you will have to fly south for the winter as well. Gather your friends and when the time is right, you will know when and where to go.” Just as Bird was about to protest, “you can return in the Spring when it is warm and the bugs have returned”, Mother Nature assured her with a gentle pat on the head.
Bird, feeling reassured, went off to find her friends and get ready for the trip ahead.
Mother Nature went back to her crocheting, only to find…
the mitten she had started was way too small!
“Oh, my! I’ll have to begin again”, she exclaimed. Tossing the little mitten behind her, she started again.
As the morning went on Mother Nature finished one mitten. It was just the right size and fit her left hand perfectly. Now she started on the next mitten. She crocheted about five rows when she heard a honking above her head. It was Bird and her friends migrating south for Winter was coming. Mother Nature waved and called after them, “Bye, Bye, Bird! See you next Spring!”
Once they had flown out of sight, she sat back down and resumed ten more rows of her crocheting, when Toad came up the path very slowly. “Toad? What’s the matter? Have you lost your hop today?”
“I-I-I’m too, too c-c-cold to j-jump, M-m-mother N-nature”, Toad explained as best as he could, shaking uncontrollably.
Just then Mother Nature noticed Turtle and Snake moving up the path, much slower than normal as well. “Are you both feeling chilled, too?”
“Y-y-yesss-ss,” slithered Snake, from behind. “We can’t find any food e-e-either and Winter ss-sseems-ss to be coming on fassst. Can you help us-sss, Mother Nature?”
“Why, yes-ss, I mean, of course!! None of you are fast enough to get away from Winter, and your food has gone for the winter, but I know how you can survive the freeze,” Mother Nature promised. “Come with me.” She put down her crocheting and gathered her trowel and basket. Toad, Turtle, and Snake gratefully climbed in, and off Mother Nature went.
First, they went to the Rock Pile. Snake slithered down into Rocks’ crevices. “Blissful Brumation, Snake. The rocks will protect you enough until Spring. We’ll see you then.”
Next, they went to Old Mable Maple and her tree family. Their leaves had fallen on the ground covering their roots to keep them from freezing. Perhaps they could do the same for Toad as well. Mother Nature gently lifted a layer of leaves and Toad drowsily crawled in and snuggled as Mother Nature pulled the blanket of leaves over and whispered, “Happy Hibernating, Toad. We’ll see you in Spring.”
Just a few cubits away was the edge of Mud Pond. Mother Nature put the basket on the ground. She took the trowel and dug a shallow bed in the soft mud just under the Maples’ wet, decaying leaves. “Here you go, Turtle. Rest easy. Blissful Brumation to you as well”, she whispered as she covered him with a blanket of mud and leaves. “We’ll see you in the Spring, too.” Mother Nature picked up her basket and trowel and strolled back to her crocheting. It was a beautiful, sunny day; however, there was certainly a chilly nip in the air.
Upon her return, Mother Nature made some hot sassafras tea and sat down to resume her mitten, when she realized … the mitten had two thumbs!
“Oh, no! That won’t do!”, she cried. “All that work!” And she tossed the mitten behind her, took a long sip of tea to calm her nerves, and started crocheting again.
She hadn’t gotten very far along on her mitten when Squirrel came chittering and chattering up the path. “Hold on, Squirrel! What are you going on about?”
“It took me almost all Summer to hide my acorns so I would have something to eat this Winter. And now I don’t remember where I put them all!!”, blubbered Squirrel and she began to cry.
“Ok, Ok. It’s alright. They’re here somewhere. Do you have a thicker coat?”
Squirrel sniffled and nodded.
“Get your coat. And I’ll help you look.” Mother Nature put down her crocheting again and the two of them went to find the nuts. They didn’t find them all, but Mother Nature helped Squirrel think of the most likely places where the acorns might be found. Squirrel would just have to keep her coat on and continue to look for more each day.
Mother Nature went back to her crocheting.
When she picked up her mitten, she was exasperated: the mitten had no thumbs at all! And there was not enough wool to start again. She threw up her hands, tossed both mittens, the one with the thumb and the one without. She was disappointed not to have the mittens from the beautiful wool of Ms. Sheep and Al Paca but helping her friends through Winter’s chill was much more important.
“Maybe I can try again next year,” she said and went to make herself more sassafras tea.
As Mid-Winter, the shortest day of the year came and went, Spring followed. In February the days were noticeably getting longer at every turn. By March the days were feeling warmer. Bit by bit all of Mother Nature’s friends were returning from their overwintering. Bird migrated back from the South. Snake, Toad, and Turtle emerged, stretched, and yawned, refreshed from their winter’s rest. And Squirrel had found most of her acorns, the rest had begun to sprout into trees.
They all gathered at Mother Nature’s space to thank her for helping them through Winter’s Chill. Upon their arrival they gasped with astonishment. Mother Nature came out to greet them, but then turned to see why they were all staring. She too was astonished to find… a beautiful Mitten Tree filled with leaves in the shape of mittens with one thumb, mittens with two thumbs, and mittens with no thumbs at all. And the entire tree had the delightful smell of … sassafras.
To this day sassafras trees have leaves that look like mittens with one thumb, mittens with two thumbs, and mittens with no thumbs at all. They are the most amazing, beautiful shades, tints, and hues of burgundy, bright scarlets, and alizarins; flame-to-umber oranges; buttery, golden, and amber yellows; dark hunter to fading greens, and just enough deep blues and purples to give contrast; the spectrum just makes you want to stop, breathe it in, and be enveloped by it all.