Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Worry Tree

The Worry Tree
Catherine Cook-Cottone

And so…… Miss Amanda (the afterschool yoga teacher) told Zuri a Story….

“Once upon a time there was a little girl named Catori. She was filled with worries. When the sun rose, Catori worried. When the sun set, Catori worried. In between, Catori worried. She worried every minute of every day.

Catori had a little sister, a mom, and a dad. Her mom, dad, and sister traveled often and Catori would worry about that. She was afraid they might crash on a plane, get in a car accident on the way to the airport, or maybe even crash on the way home. Sometimes she would lie in bed worried that a tornado would swirl all around her house, take her right out of her bed, and whip her up to the sky. She worried that once she was up there the wind would stop and she would crash to the ground. She worried that someone might break into her house and steal away her little sister. 

Catori worried all day at school. Her teachers would say, 'Catori, pay attention.' Then, Catori would. She’d pay attention, for a bit.

Much of what Catori worried about wasn’t even possible.

There was some stuff she worried about that was. Her sister was sick. That is why her parents and sister traveled so much. They had to go to the big city to get Catori's sister her treatments. When Catori wasn’t worried about the stuff that could never really happen, she worried about her little sister and the stuff that was really happening. The real, hard stuff.

Catori lived in a little town called Two Rivers. The big city was more than two days’ drive away. Two Rivers was very old. No one really knows how old. The indigenous people of the Americas (i.e., Native Americans) have lived there as long as time is remembered. It is told that many years ago the city was called, Two Rivers Big Tree. Catori was told that when new people moved to the town, Two Rivers Big Tree was too long to say. So, they shortened it to suit them.

Catori stayed at her Grandmother’s house when her parents and sister traveled for treatments. Her grandmother was wise. Her Grandmother’s Mother’s, Mother told Grandmother the stories of their tribe. Grandmother told Catori these same stories. It was Catori’s Grandmother who named her, “She will be named Catori the word for spirit.” She told Catori that the reason she worried so much was that Catori felt the spirit world more than most. Grandmother explained that these feelings are many and complicated often overwhelming for a little girl. They had long talks like this often. Catori’s grandmother would stroke her hair while she spoke, a fire lit in the fire place.

Grandmother told Catori of the Great Tree of Two Rivers. It still stands where it has stood for as long as grandmothers of grandmothers tell tale. The Great Tree is called The Great Tree of Worries. Grandmother called it The Worry Tree.

Grandmother explained that The Worry Tree grew strength from the honor of holding the worries of the people. She told Catori that the tree was given to the people by Earth Mother to help the people. Grandmother explained that for many years, spirit girls like Catori, would go to The Worry Tree and leave their worries for safekeeping. She asked Catori if she wanted to go.

'Yes!' Catori told Grandmother.

The next day, after the sun rose, Catori and Grandmother hiked to The Worry Tree. Catori was sure to bring all of her worries, the real ones and the ones that were never really going to happen- she brought them all.

They traveled through the fields by the farm across the way. They walked past the fields of sunflowers and corn. They hiked into the forest over rocks and down lightly travelled paths. As they walked, they saw densely grown trees waste high with ferns and foliage. As they walked, they saw little meadows that opened up to sunshine and wildflowers. Just over a hill, where the two rivers joined, Catori saw it—The Worry Tree.

'Oh, Grandmother,' she said, 'It is beautiful.' Its bark looked old and strong a deep dark, brown. The bark seemed as if it was the holder and protector of wisdom.  It's branches were bigger than anything Catori had ever seen. Moss grew over the tree and its roots descended deep into the earth obviously strongly connected with the Earth Mother. 

Grandmother told Catori what to do. Grandmother sat at the edge of the meadow watching Catori approach the tree. The Worry Tree was alive. Alive in a way that was more than the alive that is in the trees we see. Its branches moved like arms. As Catori got closer she felt as if she could feel the tree’s heart beat. Scared, she looked back at Grandmother who smiled and nodded her head. Catori walked closer.

There she stood, looking up into the great branches of the tree. She set down her bag. Like Grandmother told her, she brought her hands together pressing the heals of her hands toward each other and touching each finger of one hand to the same finger on the other hand. She left a space in the middle between the palms of her hands. She closed her eyes and she brought her first worry to mind. She placed her thumbs on her forehead and let the worry float to the place between her palms.

Catori reached her hands up to the tree offering her first worry to The Worry Tree. The tree’s branches extended toward Catori’s outreached hands.  Catori stood on her toes and stretched her worry toward the tree’s branches. The tree’s leaves opened Catori’s hands and wrapped around her worry and pulled it in tight. The Worry Tree drew the worry into her grand branches with tiny branches and thick, strong leaves wrapping around the worry tightly sealing the it in safe and sound. Catori felt a little less weight on her shoulders and her heart.

Worry after worry was offered up as Catori handed them to the tree. She did this until all of her worries were gone.

Catori looked up to the tree. Somehow, she still isn’t sure how, it seemed as if the tree was smiling at her. More. The Worry Tree seemed stronger after Catori had handed the tree all of her worries. Pleased, Catori smiled back. She turned on her feet and flew into Grandmother’s arms, light from the giving.

Grandmother told Catori that her worries would be safe and sound for as long as Catori needed them to be. Grandmother told Catori that if she wanted her worries back she could get them now. She told her if she wanted them back in the time it takes the moon to be a half-moon, she could get them then. Grandmother told Catori that if she wanted her worries back when the moon was full, she could get them then too. It was for Catori to choose.

The two walked back to Grandmother’s house as the sun moved toward its nightly decent. Once home, the two ate Grandmother’s bread, soup, and cookies. After the meal, the two cuddled in by the fire, Catori light hearted and Grandmother stroking her hair. Far away, The Worry Tree held Catori’s worries so that she could rest."

Miss Amanda finished telling her story to Zuri. 

Like all things in the spirit world, The Worry Tree is there for all children, not just Catori. It is there for little girls like Zuri. The Worry Tree is there for all of us-- young and old.

You need only close your eyes. Your mind will take you to the path, the sunflowers, the meadows, and the forest. Your mind will take you to the place where the two rivers meet and the great tree lives. There, you need simply hand The Worry Tree your worries. She will hold them for you, safe and sound, for as long as you need. When you’d like, when it serves you, you need simply reach up and take them back.

And so goes the tale of The Worry Tree.


Catherine Cook-Cottone
copyright 2014



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