In a deep forest not too far from here, there stood a little oak tree. His name was Oakley. Oakley’s branches had begun to sprout the most beautiful little green leaves you have ever seen. He was so proud that he was finally starting to look like a real tree. There were many other trees growing around Oakley, but his best friend by far was Old Grand Oak.
“Oh! Look at me Old Grand Oak,” Oakley shouted, “look at my pretty leaves. Does this mean that I am growing up? Does this mean that I won’t be the sapling of the forest any longer? I am a big tree now, aren’t I?” And he shook his tender young branches proudly.
Old Grand Oak laughed and said, “Yes, congratulations, little Oakley. Mother Earth is taking very good care of you. You certainly are growing up.”
As the days went by, little Oakley showed off his new leaves to everyone in the forest. Soon, everyone in the forest was beginning to tire of hearing all about Oakley’s shiny new leaves. And eventually, even Oakley started to tire of boasting about his magnificent new leaves too.
Many months passed and Oakley grew taller and stronger. Even his leaves became thicker and greener. Soon he was able to provide shade to some of the smaller animals on hot days. He was very proud of his little branches and green leaves.
As time went by, Oakley began to notice that Umoya had become cooler. He also noticed how Ilanga was coming out later every morning and that he left them earlier every evening.
He asked Old Grand Oak about this and Old Grand Oak replied, “You don’t need to worry, little Oakley. Ilanga has given us many beautiful, hot days, but now it is time for him to shine his light and his heat on the Northern forests of our Earth. He needs to help the Spring Fairies prepare for the coming of the Summer Fairies. Umoya is cooler, because she needs Ilanga to warm her too. It won’t be long until the Spring and Summer Fairies visit us again.”
One morning, Oakley awoke to Umoya blowing coldly through his branches. He looked up at his branches and he noticed something for the first time.
“Old Grand Oak! Old Grand Oak! Wake up! Wake up!” he shouted.
Old Grand Oak awoke with a start. “What is the matter, Oakley?” he asked worriedly.
“Did something happen? Are you hurt?”
“Nooo, I’m not hurt. I’m dying!” shouted little Oakley. Then he started crying at the top of his little sapling voice.
All of the trees turned to look at little Oakley. Mr and Mrs Squirrel and all their little squirrel babies came running out of their squirrel home inside of Old Grand Oak. Marcina dormouse popped her head out of her little mouse hole at the foot of Old Grand Oak. The bees buzzed out of their hive at the top of Old Grand Oak. Even little Willie worm crawled out his little wormhole in the ground next to Old Grand Oak. Everyone rushed out of their homes to see what all the fuss was about.
“Look at my leaves! They have turned yellow at the edges. What is happening to my beautiful leaves?” cried Oakley.
“You needn’t worry, little Oakley.” Said Old Grand Oak. “Just look at my leaves, they are the same as yours. If you look around closely, you will find that the other trees are also starting to turn yellow.”
“Oh, no!” exclaimed Oakley. “I’ve made all the other trees sick too, haven’t I? I’m sorry, Old Grand Oak.”
Old Grand Oak, with the help of all their little animal friends, explained to Oakley that the Spring and Summer Fairies had taken all their beautiful shades of green paint with them to the North, so that they could paint the leaves of the plants and the trees of the Northern forests too.
Oakley noticed that the forest had become very busy. Some animals were starting to build their new homes, while others were fixing up their old homes. Most of the animals were running to and fro trying to collect and hide as much food as they could.
As the weeks went by, Oakley noticed that his leaves were changing from yellow to orange, then red. This didn’t upset him anymore, in fact, he was rather proud of his bright colourful leaves. He showed them off to everyone in the forest, until one day when Umoya blew through his branches and he heard a dry, rustling sound. He looked at his leaves and saw that they were a dry, pale brown.
“Oh, no! Old Grand Oak!” he shouted. “I think I’m sick again.”
“Oh little Oakley,” laughed Old Grand Oak. “You’re not sick. Mother Earth is busy preparing your leaves, so that when the time comes, it will be easier for Umoya to blow them from your branches. She has already planted the seeds for your new leaves to grow. If you look at the places where some of your old worn out leaves used to be, you will see that their little hearts still remain. They will grow into bright, shiny leaves as soon as the Spring Fairies arrive again.”
“But why do I have to lose my old leaves? I like my bright new colours.” Said Oakley.
Mother Earth and the Autumn Fairies are very busy preparing our forest for the arrival of the Winter Fairies. They have to make sure that all the little seeds are safe throughout winter. When the Winter Fairies arrive, they will bring Imvula with them. Imvula will make the ground very wet and muddy. Without all our dead leaves to protect them, all the little seeds will be washed away. During winter, Umoya will become cold and fierce. If our leaves don’t fall off during autumn, then surely Umoya will damage our branches.”
“Do you mean that Autumn Fairies are our friends?”
“Oh, yes, little Oakley. They are Mother Earth’s helpers. When they arrive, they will wait until all the little animals are safely tucked away in their warm homes. Then they’ll blow their magic fairy dust inside their doorways to help them fall fast asleep throughout the cold winter. They even whisper to the birds, letting them know when they have to get ready to fly to warmer skies. So you see, little one, autumn has come to prepare us for the harshness of winter.”
Many weeks passed and the forest grew darker, colder and quieter. Oakley gradually lost all his leaves. It didn’t upset him anymore, because most of the other trees were by then, bare too. He also understood that these changes were necessary in order that Mother Earth and the four seasons could do their jobs equally and fairly all over our Earth.
Oakley missed seeing all his little bird and animal friends, but he still had Old Grand Oak to keep him company through the cold quiet winter.