Once upon a time, all the human beings the world over knew that every forest, every river, every hill and every valley had its own guardian. These were magical beings whose job it was to whisper encouragement to the seeds to help them sprout, who would sing to the creeks in a thousand voices to teach them songs. They would coax clouds into raining their soft tears, and comfort the bees when they grew weary in their work. Theirs was the power to create and love and encourage, and under their warm hands, the land was full of good feelings and delicious smells and lovely sounds and beautiful sights. We’ll call them the Forest Monarchs, though the children in this story knew them as the Magical Someones.
Children were everywhere in the valley, shouting and singing and climbing and splashing and fishing and playing and building and dancing and hiding and sometimes even sitting very still. They rarely saw the forest monarch, but every so often a child who happened to be on the periphery of a loud group, a child caught in a moment of solitude, would catch a glimpse of someone special, someone different, someone magical, someone unmistakably friendly. Just a glimpse, before that magical someone melted into a thicket or slid behind an big tree and disappeared.
So the children were very aware of the magical someone, and, for as long as anyone could remember, had the habit of leaving gifts for them. Some days it would be a handsome crayfish claw in a basket of red osier dogwood, perched atop a boulder in the creek. Some days it would be a bowl of burdock leaves full of ripe raspberries. Some days it would be a crown of lilacs. The magical someone — who of course was in fact the forest monarch — treasured these gifts.
It was a lovely time. But if this was all there was to the story, though, it wouldn’t be much of a story, because stories need difficult things and and challenges and complications and adventures. Can you guess what happened next?
As time passed, as is often the story, the children forgot about the magical someone. It happened remarkably quickly, too — one day the children were catching crayfish in the creek and roasting apples over fires in the cedar groves, gathering baskets full of fragrant wild spring herbs and following coyote trails through the glittering winter woods — and then, it seemed, the very next day — they weren’t.