Dryads never see a new spring. These tree spirits live only a year, passing on as a new one is born in its place. They help spread the gifts of the trees, making the most of the short time they have.
The dryads and all the forest critters felt that autumn was ending. Winter was coming, the time when everything would be laid bare. That night, a lone red oak still held its leaves, dropping a few each day. There were maples, poplars, even a few willows closer to the lake. All were bare and all sat calmly as the coldness descended, watching the sun plunge into darkness.
Only the dryad felt any fear about the encroaching chill.
The dryad always pranced through the forest at night, spreading the strength of the oak to all others nearby. But on this night, he found a bit of extra weight as he danced from grove to lake, a heaviness that he could not recognize.
The sun set again the following evening, allowing the frost to blanket the forest floor. Squirrels huddled in their nests, foxes in their holes.
Only the dryad felt any anger about the intruding frost.
The dryad always gave stability to the dwellings of the forest creatures, sharing the fortitude of the oak with all others nearby. But on this night, it felt even more weighed down as it brushed past the creatures’ dwellings. It was a heaviness he was beginning to recognize.
On the third day, the sun never appeared. Blistery snow pelted the forest as gusts of wind knocked any remaining leaves off the trees. The trees stood tall, assured that they would weather the storm. The lake began its process of freezing for the winter, knowing that spring would return again in time.
Only the dryad shook with hatred, shrieking at the changes around it.
The dryad no longer helped anyone else in the forest. He cursed the weight pulling him down. Righteous in his anger, he knew was on the side of justice. His forest friends deserved better than this. They all did.
Finally, the oak shook with might and majesty, and the whole of the forest sat silently, in awe. A voice emerged, and the dryad looked up.
In tears, the dryad turned to look behind him. Sure enough, a bag of stones had attached themselves to his back. He released his fear and several stones dropped. He released his anger and even more stones dropped. Finally, he released his hatred and the last stones also dropped.
He saw the world as the oak tree did, as cycles of warm and cold, dark and light. He understood in that moment that there were other perspectives he never considered. He finally realized that his unhappiness was of his own making.
The stones dissolved, turning to grains of sand that blew away with the northern wind. The dryad looked around at the sparkling world surrounding him, appreciating the twinkle of the fresh layer of snow, the glimmer of ice crystals hanging from branches. It was the same forest, the same world he woke up to every day. And it was amazing.