May 26
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Community

By Penny deRosset

Once upon a time, there was a vast forest with many huge trees. In the center of the forest there was a tree bigger than all the rest. A gigantic elm, one that must have been hundreds of years old, stood up straight and proud. Its huge branches brushed the heavens, covered with buds in the spring, emerald leaves in the summer, and gorgeous golden brown hues in the fall, until its sleep all winter long.
 
But perhaps the most remarkable thing about this great tree was not its size, or its foliage, but the creatures that made their home there. Songbirds and squirrels nested in its branches, insects crawled up its bark, a family of red foxes made their den in its roots. There was even a wise old owl living in a small hollow in the trunk. An entire community of creatures, all in one tree.
 
The animals would talk to each other. Molly Fox and Aaron Badger would regularly share prey and talk about their children. Everyone knew that the little chickadee and the little opossum were the best of friends. They would race each other up and down the strong trunk. Neither wanted to actually win the races, for fear of upsetting their friend, so these would always end in a tie, the two of them panting, exhausted, in a heap on one of the wider limbs. The squirrels were the gossips of the tree. They scampered around every branch and hollow, letting the whole tree know that Jenny Opossum was just about to have another litter, that Barnaby the squirrel had collected a full dozen nuts and then promptly misplaced them, that Sophia the magpie had added to her (already large) nest again in order to store more of her collection of shiny objects.
 
This happy little community continued, year after year,  all through spring, summer, and fall. Every winter, the creatures that hibernate hibernated, the creatures that migrate migrated, and those left behind waited, in anticipation of that first fine spring day when they and their friends could be together again. The children grew up and had children of their own, and those children continued to play in the branches of that ever stoic elm.
 
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