Finding a Friend in the Forest

Another installment in Director of Religious Education Fred Mills’s series “A Voice from the Little Chair.”

The time in the service for the “Story for All Ages” had come, and Fred had settled into the little chair. Next to him was a lovely woven wooden basket, and inside you could see what looked like sticks. What follows is the story that Fred told.

Today we have a story from the Abenaki Nation about Flying Bird and Running Deer and their conversation about the wilderness.

Flying Bird said that he did not understand why Running Deer always seemed so at peace when he was in the woods. Flying Bird saw nothing special. When he looked at the woods, all he saw was a bunch of trees.

Running Deer took Flying Bird to the center of the village where other children were playing. “What do you see?” asked Running Deer. Flying Bird smiled and said that he saw his friends playing. “There is Small Bear and Quick Fox playing ball, and over there I can see White Dove making a basket out of reeds,” Flying Bird said.

Running Deer then asked Flying Bird to look across the field at the forest and tell him what he saw. “I see Green. All I see is trees,” was the answer.

“Well,” said Running Deer, “I see Elm and Birch. I see Hickory and Chestnut, Pine and Red Willow. I see old friends, and each one is different.” Running Deer reached into the wooden basket and brought out small samples of bark.

“Here is Birch. We use the bark of this tree to make our canoes. And here we have Elm. Elm is very hard and is the wood we use to make our lodges. This is Red Willow. Sometimes when I talk to you my head hurts. If I make tea out of this bark my headache goes away. When I look at the woods I see friend I know and friends that I have not met yet. Everything in the woods is there for a reason, just like every child in the village is here for a reason. I get great joy when I meet a new friend in the wilderness. Out of respect I learn their names, and because of my own needs I learn what each tree and plant can do.”

Flying Bird thought about how he knew all his friend’s names and that he enjoyed spending time with them. He now knew that he could make new friends and enjoy his time them as well. But first he would have to learn their names.