The Wisdom Of The Willow
What is the meaning of life? Why is it that people grow old and die?
Although he was young, those questions troubled the mind of Little One. He asked the elders about them, but their answers did not satisfy him. At last he knew there was only one thing to do. He would have to seek the answers in his dreams.
Little One rose early in the morning and prayed to Wah-Kon-Tah for help. Then he walked away from the village, across the prairie and toward the hills. He took nothing with him, no food or water. He was looking for a place where none of his people would see him, a place where a vision could come to him.
Little One walked a long way. Each night he camped in a different place, hoping that it would be the right one to give him a dream that could answer his questions. But no such dream came to him.
At last he came to a hill that rose above the land like the breast of a turkey. A spring burst from the rocks near the base of a great elm tree. It was such a beautiful place that it seemed to be filled with the power of Wah-Kon-Tah. Little One sat down by the base of that elm tree and waited as the sun set. But though he slept, again no sign was given to him.
When he woke the next morning, he was weak with hunger. I must go back home, he thought. He was filled with despair, but his thoughts were of his parents. He had been gone a long time. Even though it was expected that a young man would seek guidance alone in this fashion, Little One knew they would be worried. "If I do not return while I still have the strength to walk," he said, "I will die here and my family may never find my body."
So Little One began to follow the small stream that was fed by the spring. It flowed out of the hills in the direction of his village, and he trusted it to lead him home. He walked and walked until he was not far from his village. But as he walked along that stream, he stumbled and fell among the roots of an old willow tree. Little One clung to the roots of the willow tree. Although he tried to rise, his legs were too weak.
"Grandfather," he said to the willow tree, "It is not possible for me to go on."
Then the ancient willow spoke to him. "Little One," it said, "all the Little Ones always cling to me for support as they walk along the a great path of life. See the base of my trunk, which sends forth those roots that hold me firm in the earth. They are the sign of my old age. They are darkened and wrinkled with age, but they are still strong. Their strength comes from relying on the earth. When the Little Ones use me as a symbol, they will not fail to see old age as they travel along the path of life."
Those words gave strength to Little One's spirit. He stood again and began to walk.