I’ve told traditional stories here that reflect a current biodiversity issue. They show a set of values to live a life by, that there are consequences for our behaviour – good or bad-  and that we have had a connection to the natural world in the past that is as relevant today. 

I’ve been asked “But aren’t you telling lies?” There is an old quote attributed to Einstein. A woman asked him how her child could be intelligent. He replied “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Listening to stories stretches the imagination muscle, and the more you exercise and develop that muscle the more creative your imagination becomes, and in time your imagination connects two apparently unrelated things which could open doors to new developments. I’m helping every generation exercise and build their own  imagination muscles for the future. Telling the old tales of our connections with living beings, plants and the land keeps us open to the consequences of our actions and how we affect the biodiversity!

Days are getting longer. New life is growing under our feet. Our ancestors celebrated the apple tree- a late crop that, well looked after, could be kept throughout the winter feeding both families and a supplement to the food for the animals. The celebration is called Wassail, done on 17th January in communities where being in touch with the land, and how the plants grow, was crucial to survival.

The story is told of a farmer who had two sons. He left his land to the younger son but told him to look after his elder brother Jack. However, the younger son threw Jack out of the house to live in a broken-down old cottage on the estate- and made him pay rent. At the cottage were some withered apple trees, and a stable with a thin ox and an old donkey 

Jack tended the wounds of the ox and donkey and fed them up. The more he looked after the land, the better the trees grew. The better the trees grew, the more fruit it gave. The more fruit it gave, the more he was able to give to the ox and the donkey. And the more the ox and the donkey ate they thrived and converted it in to “dung” which Jack dug back into the land by the apple trees.  

The younger brother was jealous and put up the rent saying that if Jack could not pay, he had to be out by Christmas Eve.  On the last night Jack tended to the ox and the donkey. He stood amongst the apple trees with the final cup of cider from that year’s harvest saying “Thank you for the crop that has kept me and my animals well fed and my throat wet. And now I return to you the fruits of your labours to keep you going, because I must leave here.” He poured the last of the cider into the tree roots.

Out of the shadow of the olde apple tree stepped a man. “I am the spirit of the apple tree. You understand the links between trees, animals, man, and the land and why it is so important to keep that cycle going. In the roots of my tree, you will find treasure. This is my gift.” 

Jack dug out the treasure, then hid himself. The younger brother approached the cottage. He had had a dream that the animals talk on Christmas eve and wanted to hear if the ox and donkey would reveal to him a secret about treasure.

At the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve the donkey said, “An ass sits here to hear where treasure is hidden.”

The ox replied- “Truly an ass, because there is none to be found!” 

The younger son was so furious he stamped his foot so hard that he died on the spot. Then all the farm came to Jack.

What goes around, comes around.

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