How Willow and Ash Found Their Place and Got Their Feet Wet — A Vecatran Folktale

Once upon a time, when the world was brand new, Trees walked the earth like creatures, looking for their favorite places to grow. None could settle into the ground, and eventually, the many faces of Vecatra grew tired of the chaos and indecision. They called a meeting of all the Tree people so that everyone could claim a territory for themselves. As the day of the meeting approached, the trees all talked excitedly about which areas they wanted— Oak and Holly arguing in booming voices over which time of year was best, Fir and Pine arguing over the high mountains—until their voices sounded loud as the ocean.
There were two trees, however, who didn’t participate in the shouting and bragging. They were quiet souls, given to contemplation, and didn’t like the noise and competition of the greater forest. These two, Ash and Willow, had been friends since they were saplings, and so they wandered away to find a quiet place together.
It was early Spring in this new world. The snows were melting, the rains had been falling, and without trees in the ground to anchor the soil and slow the waters, fields, and low areas were beginning to flood. Rivers crested their banks, carrying away good soil and carving new channels. Willow and Ash, out walking together, discovered a deep channel with a river raging away at the bottom and stood together to watch. The waters raced and churned, for the river was in a hurry to reach the ocean. Ash threw a stick into the water and they and Willow watched it sail away.
“Willow,” said Ash, “I don’t want to go to the meeting.”
Willow looked at her friend. “Why not?” she asked.
“Vecatra scares me. How can I ask for what I want if I’m too scared to speak?”
Willow looked back at the water. She bent her head as low as she could and dipped the ends of her hair into the river. Her feet were sinking into the mud around her. Ash threw another stick.
“I don’t want to go to the meeting, either,” said Willow. “I bet the faces of Vecatra wouldn’t even miss us if we stayed here.” She had sunk to her ankles in the mud, and the cool earth felt good around her toes. Just upstream, a part of the riverbank gave way, and mud collected against the little dam she was making with her feet. Soon, water pooled and a little eddy formed. Ash dropped a seed into the eddy, and they both watched it swirl around.
Ash hopped to the opposite bank. “You should let your feet sink into the ground,” said Willow. “It feels really good.” So Ash wiggled their toes until they were buried, and then laughed as the worms crawled around the hairs on their feet.
“Willow,” said Ash, “you’re growing.”
And she was. She was growing strong and supple, nourished by the water and rich mud of the riverbank. Her feet sank deeper still, and she stretched herself further over the water. “I love this place,” she said to Ash. They looked very handsome over there in the evening light, their broad leaves glowing.
That night they watched the stars come out and shine in the still water near Willow’s feet. If they wished for anything on the evening star, neither said anything about it to the other. They had always been comfortable with silence in each other’s company.
The next day, all the trees gathered together around standing stones in a great meadow. At the appointed hour the many faces of Vecatra arrived—they came as a great, branch-shaking wind and as a shower of rain. Some came on the notes of a tune, and others in a twinkle of starlight. In the mighty presence of such company, how could the Trees keep up their arguments?
One by one the trees discovered their places and left quietly—some abashed and others with a short laugh, as if they were just learning their purpose in life. Oak and Gorse together took the fields and meadows, with Aspen close behind. Fir and Pine took the high mountains, along with their cousin the Cypress. Apple went on a long walk to keep a meeting she had with an emerging species of monkey and wound up settling near a mountain range in the center of the continent. Soon the meadow was empty again, and Vecatra saw that it was good. They just had one more stop to make on this early Spring morning.
Meanwhile, back at the riverbank, Willow and Ash were having a great time gazing at the surface of the water and trying to count the fish swimming by. It wasn’t until the small birds took shelter under Ash’s branches that they noticed that the wind had picked up and that thunderheads were starting to gather overhead. Ash felt their heart race, and Willow was nervously flashing the white side of her leaves. Thunder boomed, distantly yet, as Willow tried to tug her feet from the sucking mud.
“Willow,” said the River, in a voice like an echo from a deep cave, “Where are you going?”
“I don’t know! We missed the meeting!” She replied.
“I think Vecatra is coming to us,” said Ash.
“Ash, Willow, listen,” said the River. “Have you not already chosen your places?” Willow stopped tugging at her feet to consider the question as a light rain began to fall. “Am I not a worthy place to grow?” asked the River. “Have courage. We will face Vecatra together. Let me help you.”
And so Willow and Ash buried their feet even deeper in the mud, toes becoming roots and reaching into the river bed. Water filled their trunks and branches, and swirled around their knees. Willow felt the River cool her anxious heart, and a sense of belonging suffused her spirit. Ash took a deep breath and looked at their friend, and together they faced the growing winds.
“Willow and Ash,” boomed the voice of thunder. “We missed you this morning!” “We…we already found our place,” said Willow.
“We didn’t want to trouble you,” said Ash.
“Are you sure?” asked the Thunder. “We could give you any place you want.” “We’re sure,” said Willow.
“Why would you not face us?” asked the Rain.
“Oh, hush,” said the River. “Am I not a face of Vecatra? I knew where they were and we have chosen their place together.”
There was a pause.
“So be it,” said the many faces of Vecatra together. “all is as it should be, and as it shall be. Willow and Ash, yours are the waterways. Guard them well.” And with that, they left in all their noisy splendor, and to this day Willow and Ash stand side by side near the rivers and streams of the world, cooling the water in summer and anchoring the banks in spring. The rivers strengthen the trees, feed them, and carry their seed. All is as it should be, and Vecatra sees that it is good.

Leave a Reply