15 December 2005

The Holly and the Oak

The Holly and the Oak: Retelling Ancient Lore
by Kyle Stich

Holly and Oak lived in a castle on the highest peak of Mother Earth, Her bosom feeding each equally. But, Father Sun treated them as different children, which they were. Mother always tended to their needs, as they latched to her skirt of soil everywhere she went, even if only in a circle. They need not attract her attention.

Oak needed more from Father Sun, more radiance upon his height. He reached every higher, and Holly tried to mimic this hopeless stretch. Only Oak could reach high enough and greedily snatched all of Father’s joy. Every snagged ray puffed Oak higher, taller, stronger. And each inch grown seemed to lift Father higher in the sky, until He almost promised to kill the night completely.

Holly grew desperate for attention. How could Father Sun see Holly through the canopy Oak spread over the land? Holly cried and berries popped out green among the thorny leaves. Holly feared this disgusted Father Sun, for His visits shortened, nights regained their length. Then Holly came to the conclusion that Father Sun considered green berries unfit for consumption, for merriment, unlike the joyous umbrella of the Oak, and slowly painted each berry red.

Oak wept for Father’s return, for Father’s radiance, leaves falling until limbs scraped the air bare. Then Father Sun looked through Oak’s twigs and saw dots of brilliant red and smiled during the darkest hour. He wanted to see those berries more often, and made more of an appearance, each day spending a little longer in the sky. But Holly couldn’t keep up the brilliant berry production and dropped several each day. Oak, thinking Father Sun’s resurgence meant a renewed interest in Oak, began to reach to Father again, busting buds that would turn to leaf hiding the mistletoe among its limbs.

So the story repeats, year in and year out, Holly and Oak showing each other up for their Father’s attention.

(This is a retelling of an ancient story explaining the Winter and Summer Solstices. Oak is also represented by Ivy, both of which do most of their growing during the first half of the year.)

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