Winterborn listened to the breeze rustle through his leaves and felt the sharp chill of the spring water in his roots and the warm sun at his back. The forest hummed with all the living that seems to burst into a crescendo in the summertime.
Louder still were the footsteps that approached the spring. Winterborn opened his eyes, just enough to see the visitor. The light that filtered through his leaves made dappled patterns on the surface of the spring. A little elf with hair the color of new leaves sat on the bank of the spring, legs crossed. He nodded at Winterborn. “Father of this glen, may I share this spring?”
“The spring is here for all who are in need, child.” Winterborn watched as the elf took a small white cup by the handle and dipped it in the spring, leaving rings of ripples.
The elf sipped the water and smiled. “The water is sweet.”
A butterfly landed on one of the blossoms of a nearby bush. The elf put down his cup and leaned forward to look more closely. “Two delicate and beautiful creatures. Sisters in spirit, both at the height of their beauty.”
Winterborn shook his branches in laughter. Elves loved poetry and appearances. “I don’t think that’s quite right. One would have to be the younger sister, yet to reach her metamorphosis.”
The elf turned the cup in his hands. “I don’t understand.”
“That’s a berry bush. The blossom is like a caterpillar, waiting for its change into the bright berry.”
“But a berry isn’t as lovely as a blossom,” the elf protested. “The blossom is so delicate and fleeting, more like the lovely butterfly.”
“Many think that children are more charming than adults. They are certainly more delicate. But I think that the squirrel and the rabbit who visit this bush in late summer would be happy to debate with you over the loveliness of the berries.”
“So flowers are like caterpillars?” The elf looked at the blossoms suspiciously. “That just doesn’t seem right.”
“It depends on the flower. All fruit comes from flowers, but that does not mean that all flowers become fruits.”
The elf watched the butterfly float on the breeze and choose another blossom to land on. “Do some butterflies become something else?”
“No, butterflies are like flowers that never grow into anything else.” Winterborn stretched out his branches just a tiny bit further into the sunlight.
“Like children who won’t grow up?” The elf was still watching the butterfly.
“No, like elves or trees that grow to the right size and then don’t change at all.”
“Ah.” The elf sipped his spring water and was quiet for a while.
A stronger breeze swept through the glade around the spring, scattering a few loose leaves and whisking the butterfly away.
The elf looked up from his cup. “But should we change and become something better?”
Winterborn’s branches shook again in laughter. “Can’t we become better without becoming something else?”
“But the butterfly and the berry blossom…” The elf began, and then paused as if uncertain what he wanted to say next.
“The butterfly and the berry blossom are not trees or elves or rabbits or squirrels. They have their growth to attend to just as we have ours. If there is life and growth and improvement, does it matter that it looks different for each one?”
The elf smiled and put his cup away. “Truly you are wise, father tree.”
“Perhaps. I have had more years to stand and think. Your wisdom will come if you continue to think and ask questions.”
The elf stood. “May I come again?”
“The spring is here for all who are in need, child.”
The elf walked away, back the way he came. Winterborn closed his eyes and listened to the breeze rustle through his leaves and felt the sharp chill of the spring water in his roots.