My gracious host confides that he too is searching
for Mother Earth's last angel. Father Time had given
his daughter rattles and spinning tops to play with.
Mother Earth painted stars and planets in her nursery,
but Little Earth could not speak. When she was very young,
birds would alight on the small shrubs of her nursery.
She chirped herself to sleep while the other children
were learning their first words. Little Earth sang sweet
to herself in the language of peaceful, daytime doves.
It was like she cast a spell over the nursery. The more she sang,
her singing encouraged her playmates to put words together
into sentences of all kinds.
When she got a little older, she would see herself in flocks
of blackbirds and in squirrels chasing each other.
When she got a little older still, birds would land on her
bare shoulders. Her knees would tremble with slight
changes in the breeze. Then she stood straight with young
pines. Next, she drooped lazily with windswept willows.
Finally, she sat with old oaks and learned their gnarled
intuition of an acorn. She swayed with river reeds, singing
as softly as they. She hummed with dragonflies, learning
their skittish ways.
The Earth Mother knew her child was both playful and serious.
Father Time knew his darling was both sad and sweet.
All the while, Clouds and Toys was as numerous as insects,
giving a presence to a still hushed world.
Butterfly Chaser grew jealous. She saw that Little Earth
had power over birds, trees, and insects. All she could do
was cause butterflies to land. So she stole her rattle
and her spinning top. She traded the spinning top to her friend
Clouds and Toys for a beautiful pair of butterfly wings
with which she could float through the air, but she kept the rattle,
carrying it with her through her breeze bound days.
The witch liked to sleep for a long time. It was the sound
of the rattle that woke her up. The witch knew that without
the rattle Little Earth would never learn to speak.
She would always be able to sleep in the silent meadows
and forests which was what she liked to do best. So she tricked
Butterfly Chaser. "You will catch more butterflies without
the rattle. Let me have it so I can take it where the butterflies
won't be able to hear it anymore."
Clouds and Toys decided she would teach Little Earth to talk.
She said to her friend, "Come with me. I want you to see something."
They skipped over to the apple orchard. Little Earth had never seen
a basket before. She had never seen a basket or a wheelbarrow
that humans use for their labor. Little Earth knew the language
of nature. She didn't need names for the birds and the trees
and insects that were her friends. But this object with the apples in it,
she wanted to call it something.
"It's a basket," said Clouds and Toys, and that was her first word.
She skipped all over the orchard saying, "Basket, Basket" each time
she passed the places where the apples were stored. Clouds and Toys
knew her friend needed to speak, but first she had to eat to get
the strength with which to speak. She didn't want to be obvious
So she said, "Let's see what the inside of an apple looks like."
"How do we do that?" asked Little Earth.
"Take a bite," and Little Earth took a bite.
Suddenly Clouds and Toys said, "I know, let's see what the apple
"How do we do that?" asked Little Earth, but as her teeth were
moving up and down she was already chewing the apple.
"It's juicy," she said. Little Earth went on learning words in the apple
orchard. One day, she saw a man climb down from a ladder and put
some apples in one of the baskets.
"Are these your trees?" she asked the man.
"No, the first people planted these trees."
"Are you one of the first people?"
"No, I am Father Time," the man said. "The first people were
my children, but I outlived them."
Father Time didn't recognize his daughter because she didn't have
her rattle and her spinning top. "What is your name, child?" he asked.
"I am the sister of Clouds and Toys," she said.
"Her name is Little Earth," said Clouds and Toys who suddenly came
"Here, I found these for you." She handed Little Earth her rattle
and her spinning top.
Then Father Time recognized his daughter. "Ah, I have finally found
Mother Earth's last angel."
He looked relieved. He went on to explain, "Shake this rattle
whenever you're in trouble. The witch hates the sound of this rattle.
I have to let her take you away because she does not want the planet
to learn how to speak. She will bring storms and warnings upon you,
Little Earth. She will tell you that the Earth Mother wishes this
to happen. Don't believe her. Shake the rattle. Always remember
Clouds and Toys. She is the second people. Spin the top,
and the second people will multiply. They will be safe in my orchard.
When I am done picking all these apples, I will come and find you.
I will get my staff back that the witch stole from me.
She will be powerless. You will be grown up then, Little Earth.
The second people will swim in your rivers and skip in your fields.
You will once again be bountiful, and you will speak instructions
to the second people. They will listen to you, and care for you,
and Clouds and Toys will always be with you."