Little Pine Celebrates the Festival of Light

December is a special month here at High on Happiness.  Along with Little Pine, we’re celebrating the return of the Light.  Each day, another adventure unfolds.  Scroll down to the December 1 post to catch the beginning of this year’s story.

The original Little Pine story debuted in 2012 and, to the delight of our readers, ran again last year.   Now you can download a copy of your very own, complete with all the original photos, from the column to the right.

Now, let’s see what’s happening in Little Pine’s world today . . .

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The Spirits of Music and Mirth

New Visitors

Little Pine and the Elves held their breath as the platform started vibrating again.  Then, poof!  In a shower of stars and music, three mice-like spirits appeared.  Three at once!  That was a good trick.

“Hey, Merry Eartlings!  We’re the Spirits of Music and Mirth!” they chimed in music-box voices.  “We’ve brought boogie and baubles and treats to usher in the Light with you!  Let’s party!”

They jumped down from the platform and started to dance.  “C’mon!  Join in!” they laughed.  And pretty soon Little Pine and the elves were caught up in their magic.  Around and around they all twirled, spinning until they were laughing so hard they fell down in a pile.

Once they caught their breath again, the Spirits of Music and Mirth and the elves and Little Pine introduced themselves.  They already felt like old friends, but they were polite and wanted to know each other’s names.

As they had done with the other visitors, the elves invited this trio to lunch and offered them a tour of the woodlands.  Then they would let them get settled in.   The beavers, Teddy Elf explained as they ate, had constructed a lovely little lodge at the pond’s edge where the visiting Spirits of Fun could sleep and entertain visitors and enjoy seeds, nuts and berries the woodland’s animals had gathered for their cupboards.

Mikey Mirth, the fellow who had brought the big red bulb, asked if he could leave it at the elves’ house, by the platform.   He and Squirrel Spirit would hook it up after dinner, he said.

“Hook it up?” Teddy Elf asked.  “What do you mean?  Do you want to hang it somewhere?  We can help.”

“Oh,” said Mikey, “It’s not a decoration.  When we plug it into the platform, it will open into a special communicator screen.   Some members of the Spirits of Fun troupe are on special assignment.   But they have a surprise for you and we’ll use the communicator to connect with them tomorrow.  You’ll see,” he giggled.  “We should be able to reach them right after breakfast.”

“Is everyone invited?” Teddy asked.

“Why, sure!” Mikey said.  “It’s going to be great!”

Little Pine volunteered to invite everybody from the lake and ponds while the elves were taking the visitors on their tour of the woodlands.

After they finished the last crumbs of their lunch, Mother Mirth offered the candied berries that she had brought with her as a dessert.   As soon as they took a candy from her bowl, another one magically took its place.  The elves took turns plucking a candy from the dish and watching a new one appeared and every time it happened it made them laugh.

Matthew Mirth, the musician among them, started playing a foot-tapping tune as the elves led them down Holly Trail.  Little Pine could hear them all singing as he skipped down the shortcut to the lake.

These Spirits of Fun, he decided, were very well-named indeed.

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The Spirit of Honey and Hugs

Spirit of Honey and Hugs

Nobody had to tell Little Pine to get to the elves’ house early.   Everyone in the woods was awake with anticipation.  Who would show up today?

The elves were already standing around the landing platform when he got there, and they had an extra mug of hot birch cider and a winterberry muffin just for him.

Before long, the platform began its musical hum, and Little Pine and the elves were quivering with excitement when the big clap of sound happened and the next Spirit of Fun appeared.

It was a bear!  And she came in a shower of sparks as beautiful as fireworks and shaped like stars and hearts.   “Oooooooh!”  Little Pine and the elves said, caught in the wonder of the sight.

“Hello, Precious Earthlings!  I am the Spirit of Honey and Hugs, come to drench you in sweetness and love.  Would you kindly help me down?  I’ve brought gifts and they’re waiting for a place on this platform.”

As soon as they recovered from their surprise, the elves rushed forward to help the regal bear step down.  And no sooner was she on the ground that the platform was suddenly filled with decorated bags full of the most astonishing things.

There were fishing poles and wagons, and lidded jars, and skis.  One bag overflowed with every kind of candy you ever imagined and some you had never seen.  There were socks and scarves in all colors and sizes that looked as soft as clouds.  Another bag was brimming with nutcrackers and bowls and hammers and saws.  And one last box had a big gold ribbon and a note that said ‘Do not open until Festival Day.’”

Little Pine and the elves were astonished.   “Every animal finds life’s sweetness in its own way,” the bear laughed as she saw their faces.  “I tried to bring something for every taste.  But one thing is certain.  Everyone loves hugs.”  And with that, she went from elf to elf, hugging them in her soft, fluffy arms.  At last she came to Little Pine.  “And here’s one, sweet little pine tree, especially for you.”

Her embrace was as light and soft as snow and she smelled of the first sap of springtime.  Little Pine felt a tingle of joy race up and down his trunk and out every one of his limbs.  He thought he might float into the sky in happiness.

“Here,” the bear said, digging through the heap of bags and boxes on the platform and pulling out a big sleigh.  “We can put everything on here and take it wherever you think might be a good place to store it until the Festival.”

Then she picked up the box that said not to open it, and turned to Little Pine.  “Would you please carry this one, dear?” she asked.  “It’s full of shooting stars for your Festival’s grand finale.  We can’t open it until then or the stars will fly away.  Could you find a safe place for it?”

Little Pine assured the Spirit of Honey and Hugs that he would be proud to take responsibility for its safe keeping.   “Hold it tight!” the bear said as she deposited it in his arms.  And as he took it, Little Pine felt it wriggle with dancing energy.  He giggled, and the bear laughed with him.

With all their goodies in tow, the elves and Little Pine led the bear to the elves’ home.  And after they stowed everything safely away, they all enjoyed a marvelous lunch together.

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Here Comes the Fun

Suirrel Spirit

“Hurry, Little Pine!  Something is happening!” the elves called.   A loud, musical humming was filling the air.  “It’s vibrating!” the elves said, pointing to the platform.

Little Pine joined the circle they had formed around it and stared at it as the humming grew even louder and the vibrating got faster and faster.

All of a sudden, there was a sharp clap of sound.  The humming stopped, and right before their eyes, in a shower of spark, a small creature that looked like a squirrel appeared, holding a hockey stick in his paw.

“It worked!  Wow! I’m here!” it shouted in a high, excited voice.  “This is fantastic!”

Little Pine and the elves whooped in surprise.  Seeing them, the squirrel laughed and said, “Yo! Earthlings!  Greetings from the Spirits of Fun!  I am the Squirrel Spirit and I’ve come to play!  Where’s the ice?  Where are the nuts?  Who are you?”

The elves burst into laughter.  “We’re the elves,” they said, “And this is our friend, Little Pine.  Welcome!  Welcome to our woodland!”

The oldest elf stepped forward and reached out to shake Squirrel Spirit’s paw.  “I’m Teddy Elf,” he said, “and we have nuts aplenty for you.  Our own squirrels have been gathering our finest for weeks now.   Follow me and we’ll fix you up and give you a tour of our woods.”

As they scampered to the elves’ house, Teddy told Squirrel Spirit that their pond hadn’t frozen yet and apologized for the lack of ice.   The squirrel just laughed and said, “No matter.  I can slide on water just as well.”

He stared at the trees, and marveled at the heaps of leaves that blanketed the ground.  His little nose wiggled nonstop as he took in all the fragrances of the woods.   “This is amazing!” he said.  “It’s so big, and rich, and, well, solid!”

The elves giggled as he chattered.  You could see that he was nearly beside himself with excitement.  He explained to them that the Spirits of Fun would be coming every day now.  He got to come first because he was highly skilled at leaping and would clear all the circuits as he made his way here, just to make sure everything was working correctly for the others.

The other spirits could see him from the platform in their own world where they were lined up, ready to come.  And he heard them laugh as he touched down here.

When they got to the elves’ home, Mother Elf set out a huge bowl of nuts, seeds and berries, and Squirrel Spirit chortled in delight with every bite he took.  The more he ate, the happier he got, and his happiness floated into air around him as if it were a magical scent, and everyone breathed it in and was filled with merriment.

After they were finished with their snack, they set out down Holly Trail to begin their tour.

Little Pine excused himself, saying he would catch up with them when they reached the pond, and he hurried home to tell his mother that the first Spirit of Fun had arrived and that he was, of all things, a squirrel!

Mother Pine said she would spread the word to all the other pines and they would tell the woodlands’ own squirrels.  She was sure they would want to gather to greet him.

And so the word spread.  And when the elves and their special guest finally reached the pond, a whole choir of squirrels was waiting with a small mountain of seeds and nuts, and they burst into song, and the entire woodland sparkled with delight.

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The Angel of the Evergreens

Angel of the Evergreens

A steaming bowl of cattail root soup was sitting on the table when Little Pine came in the door.   He inhaled its fragrance and said, “My favorite!  Thank you, Mother!”

“I thought you would be hungry,” Mother said, setting a plate of acorn muffins beside the soup.   She sat down beside him and served herself some soup, too.  “Tell me about your day.”

Morning seemed as if it was a hundred years ago and Little Pine had to think hard to remember it.  He was on his second spoonful of soup before the picture flashed clearly in his mind.  “Oh!  The elves!  Ha!  Wait until you see them, Mother!  They have bright new outfits for the Festival.  And guess what?”

He told her all about the strange platform that appeared and how it would help the visitors come to our world.  And then he told her about his visit with Holly and how the two of them talked about how much the return of the light meant to everyone in the woodland.

When they finished their soup, Mother brought a plateful of winterberry cookies and a mug of birch cider, and Little Pine told her about his visit with Grandfather.

Little Pine was yawning as he finished his story, and Mother Pine tucked him in for the night.  “Grandfather said to remember my dreams,” he said as he snuggled in.

“Yes, I think you should do just that,” Mother Pine said, kissing his forehead.  And Little Pine fell fast asleep.

Before long, his dreams began.  At first, they were made of memories from his day and of all that he had seen in the woods on his travels.   Then he caught a glimpse of Grandfather standing the glow of the golden light, his needles glistening in the wind.

The image faded and only the golden light remained, and stars began to twinkle inside it.  He watched them for a while and then a sound like a thousand silver bells rippled across the scene as the gold light faded to darkness and a brilliant angel appeared.

In a voice as sweet and warm as a spring breeze, the angel said, “Greetings, little one.  I am the Angel of the Evergreen Trees, and I am here to celebrate the Coming of the Light with you and all the pines and spruces and hollies of your woodland.

“Grandfather told me of your service to the elves and to all whom you visited these last few days.  And along with him, I give you my thanks.  Well done!

“Your guests are on their way and they will add great cheer to your Festival this year.  You have performed your duties wonderfully, and now I release you to give yourself to the wonder and joy of the celebration.   Let your days be filled with laughter and song.  And may the spell of the Spirits of Fun carry you joyfully into the Light.

“Now sleep well, Little Pine.   And rush to the elves’ side early in the morning.  Your days of merriment have come.”

Little Pine giggled in his sleep as the vision of the angel faded away, and then he slept deeply and well as the stars across the sky.

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Visiting Grandfather Pine

Grandfather Pine

A moist, cold wind set in as Little Pine approached the end of the pond where Grandfather lived and the woodland grew dark.  But Grandfather himself was bathed in a magical golden glow that radiated all around him.

He looked so majestic that Little Pine hardly dared to speak.  “Grandfather!” he finally breathed.

And the ancient tree, in a voice as warm and golden as the light that surrounded him, said, “Greetings, Little Pine.  I have been looking forward to visiting with you.  I wanted to thank you for all you have done to help prepare for our Festival of Light this year.”

“But Grandfather,” Little Pine said, “all that I have done is share the news that the Elf King and the Spirits of Fun are coming.  And I learned so much and had such a good time doing it that it felt like play.”

“That’s how you know that your work is well-suited to you, Little Pine.  It feels like play.  The Spirits of Fun would be as proud of you as I am.

“You performed a great service for your friends, the elves, Little Pine.  And service to others always brings us joy.”

Grandfather paused for a moment as the wind danced through his needles making them glisten in the golden light.  Then he spoke again.

“Tell me what lessons you learned, Little Pine, as you shared your news.”

“Well, Grandfather,” said Little Pine, “I learned that the Great Yes understands the mysteries that we cannot unravel and that we can take comfort in trusting that.  I learned to hear more deeply the songs that all things sing, and to recognize they all rise from love.  And finally, I saw, as I have never seen before, how beautiful our woodland is.”

“Your heart has gathered great treasures, Little Pine.  You are wise beyond your years,” Grandfather said.  “The night is coming now, little one.  Head home with joy in your heart.  Your joy and your thanks are the gifts that you give to the Yes, you know.  Let them flow from you freely, and be glad.”

“Thank you, Grandfather,” Little Pine said.  “Enjoy the Festival!”

“You, too, Little Pine,” said Grandfather.  “Now, good night.  And remember to pay attention to your dreams.”

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Reassuring the Holly

Holly Tree at Lakes' Edge

The holly tree lived directly across the lake from Little Pine’s home, and he had a special place in his heart for her.   He often fell asleep at night listening to her lullabies, and her morning songs ushered in each new day with grace and joy.

He knew that she had already heard about the woodland’s expected guests.  She was surrounded by the pines, after all, and the word had spread quickly among them.  But he wanted to visit with her anyway and to give her his Festival greetings.

The holly watched him dance around the edges of the lake as he made his way to her.  “Hello, Little Pine,” she said.  “You have been a busy little tree!  I’ve seen you telling everyone about the Elf King and the Spirits of Fun.  What excitement is filling our little woodland!”

She was quiet for a moment.  Then she looked at her friend and said, “Little Pine, may I ask you something?”  Her voice held a note of concern.

“Of course, Holly,” Little Pine said.  “You may ask me anything.”

Holly lowered her voice and, almost shyly, asked, “With all the focus on the Elf King’s visit, do you think our neighbors have lost sight of the meaning of the Festival itself?”

Little Pine smiled at her gently.  “Oh, no, Holly.   The return of the Light means way too much for them ever to forget.  Remember, unlike you and me, the plants’ flowers and leaves are only here for one cycle of the seasons, and in the spring the animals give birth to their young.   It’s the Light that opens the way for their new life-seeds to come.  Everyone feels the touch of the Yes itself in the return of the Light.   It’s the most special time of year for us all.”

“You’re right, of course, Little Pine.”  Holly said, sounding quite relieved.  “For such a young tree, you are very wise.”  She smiled at him, beaming with affection.

“Besides,” Little Pine said, “celebrating with the Elf King and Spirits of Play gives all of us a way to show our elf-friends how much we love them and appreciate all they do.  They keep our colors bright, after all, and remind us how fun it is just to be here in the woodland.  They’re our twinkle and spice. They make sure we never lose sight of life’s magic.  It’s wonderful that we can thank them by honoring their king’s visit, just as they help us honor the Light.”

“Well, Little Pine,” Holly giggled, “I must confess that I’ve been composing a special little song ever since I heard the visitors were coming.  And I think that you have just given me the idea I needed for the final verse!”

“I’ll be on my way, then,” said Little Pine, “and let you work on it.  I want to go visit with Grandfather Pine before our guests begin to arrive.  I have a feeling we’ll all be very busy once they get here.”

“Thank you for stopping by,” Holly said.  “You certainly brightened my day.”

“Good-bye, my neighbor,” Little Pine said.  “I will be listening for your songs.”

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A Visit with the Elves

Dancing Elves

When Little Pine woke the next morning, he decided he would check in with the elves.   He only had two more visits to make and they were courtesy visits.  He knew these last two had already heard the news.

As he neared the elves’ section of the woods, he heard their rollicking laughter.  He giggled at the sound of it.  The elves were always so happy.

“Hey! Little Pine!” they called when they saw him.  Little Pine’s eyes popped wide open.  They were dressed in bright new festival clothes and dancing on some shiny black platform.

“Like it?” they sang.

“You two look absolutely, well, festive!” Little Pine4 said.  “But what’s that platform you’re on?”

“Oh, it popped out of nowhere this morning with a note that it was a landing site for some of the Spirits of Play.  It’s got fancy hidden magnetics of some kind that help them slide from their world to ours.  It kind of tickles when you stand on it and makes you want to laugh.”

“When is the Elf King coming?” Little Pine asked.  “Do we know yet?”

The elves stopped their dance and sat down on the platform, still giggling.  “Some of the Spirits of Play are coming first,” the elves said.  “We’re expecting them in a couple of days.  The Elf King will come the day before the festival.”

Little Pine told them how thrilled everybody was that such special guests were coming and how they were preparing to shine their brightest and sing special songs.   The squirrels were gathering the finest nuts and seeds and winterberries they could find for a feast.   “And I have to tell you,” he said, “that I understand now why the Elf King would want to come here.  Our woodland is a beautiful place and all who dwell here spring from waves of love.”

“It kind of makes you want to dance, doesn’t it?” the elves said, leaping to their feet and turning cartwheels.   “How lucky we are!  How lucky!”  they sang.

Little Pine clapped his hands and told them goodbye.  He still had two visits to make.  And he set off down the trail, the elves’ gleeful songs echoing everywhere.

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Creek Walk

Creek in December

Little Pine finished the day’s tasks early.  He had shared the news about the coming visitors with all the dwellers on the south side of the large pond.  Each of them was thrilled with the idea that the Elf King had chosen their woodland to visit this year.    Some could hardly believe it was true.

Little Pine’s whole day had been filled with shouts and laughter, and now he wanted some time to let all that happiness sink in.  He decided that he would walk along the creek on his way home for supper.  He loved the music of its little waterfalls and the way the water whispered as it flowed over the creek’s smooth stones.  Its song was always so soothing.

He had only walked a little way when he was suddenly struck with the beauty of his surroundings.  Every stone, every limb, every curve of the creek seemed perfectly placed.   Even on this misty day, with its low hanging clouds and its fragrance of coming snow, the colors were exactly as they should be and perfectly attuned with each other.

No wonder the Elf King had chosen this woodland!  Who wouldn’t want to come here, especially for the Festival of Light!

Still, as he stood there on the creek bank enveloped in a trance of beauty, he remembered what the Comfort plant had told him, too.  It was a puzzle that he simply couldn’t solve.  In a world of such harmony and grace, how could fear and suffering be real?  How could there be confusion and anger?  How could there be pain?

But something inside him told him that he did not need to know.  The Comfort plant said that the Great Yes understood, and that was enough somehow.

As he continued his walk, the Comfort plant’s melody played in his heart, and he knew that her song, like the beauty around him, was a gift of the Yes and rose from an endless love.

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The Song of Comfort

Winter Flower at the Pond

Little Pine woke filled with the happiness that his dream brought him.  He was filled with energy, too.

After breakfast, he headed to the twin ponds on the far western side of the woodlands at the base of Grandfather Pine.  As he skittered down the bank of the first one, a plant he’d never noticed before caught his eye.   It was lovely against the waters of the pond as they reflected the deep clouds overhead.

He was half way down the bank when he heard the plant’s soft, sweet song.  It was so tender and touched his heart so deeply that he felt a little tear coming to his eye.

“Hello,” Little Pine said as he reached the plant’s side.  “I’m Little Pine.  I’m sorry to interrupt your beautiful song, but I have a message to share with you.   This year our woodland has been chosen to host the Elf King and the Spirits of Fun for the Festival of Light.   I’m letting everyone know so we can welcome them with our finest beauty and song.  But I have to tell you that I don’t see how your song could possibly be more beautiful!”

The little plant laughed softly.  “Why, thank you, Little Pine.  And thank you for the thrilling news!  Everyone needs fun in their lives.  Won’t it be grand to have the Spirits of Fun and the Elf King himself right here, in our own little woodland!”  She laughed again, a high, bell-like chime of a laugh.

“Before I go,” Little Pine said, “would you tell me about your song?  I’ve never heard anything like it before.”

“My song is the Song of Comfort, Little Pine,” the plant told him.  “When you have been here a little longer, you will see that many of the children of the Earth experience sorrow and pain.  Sometimes their forms are injured or damaged by disease.  Sometimes they grow sad when their friends or members of their families leave to go Home.  Sometimes their lives turn out differently than they had expected and they fall into disappointment.

“I sing my song to let them know that the Great Yes understands what they are feeling, and that no matter how sad or angry or confused they are, it is all a part of Earth living, and that, no matter what, they are seen and known and very deeply loved.”

Little Pine didn’t know what to say.

“That’s why your news is so wonderful, Little Pine!” the beautiful little plant told him.  “Playfulness and fun are as healing as my song.  They open our hearts to the light that shines on us all.  They give us a chance to laugh and to remember our joy.

“So I thank you, Little Pine, for your delightful message!  May you float as lightly as a leaf as your spread your news today.”

Her words made Little Pine remember his dream, and he laughed right out loud and, saying Good-Bye, went merrily on his way.

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Little Pine’s Dream

Cardinal in the Stars

Little Pine fell asleep that night before his mother’s goodnight kiss had left his forehead.   His day had been one of those wonderfully satisfying ones where he had a hundred things to do and got them all done.

He had walked all the way around the large lake spreading the word that the Elf King and the Spirits of Play were coming.   The sun had set and the first stars were glimmering in the sky by the time he got home and even then he could hear the excited laughter floating above the lake.

He was remembering the light of the stars as he fell asleep and drifted into the world of dreams.

The next thing he knew, a red bird was calling his name from snowy branches beyond the stars.

“Hello, Little Pine,” it sang.  “I bring you greetings!”

“Hello, Red Bird,” Little Pine answered.  “Where did you come from?”

“Most recently,” the red bird said, “I’ve been visiting the Home World of the Red Oaks.  And some friends of yours asked me to bring you their greetings.  So, as you can see, I slipped right into your dreams.”

“Too?  Too?  You’ve seen my friend, Too?” Little Pine said excitedly.

“Yes, and your dear pal Red Leaf, who thinks of you with warmth and joy.”

“Wow,” breathed Little Pine.  “That’s wonderful!”

“They watched you today as you visited all the lakeside dwellers, and they know you have much to do in the days ahead.  They said they would send you winds of happiness so that you could float as lightly as a leaf as you helped the elves prepare the woodland for your guests.  Their wish for you is that you may work with ease and joy.”

“Oh, thank you, Red Bird!” Little Pine said in his dreams.

“You’re welcome, dear one,” said the red bird, her bright feathers fluttering in a sudden breeze.

Little Pine caught the fragrance of oak on the dream-wind that rose, blowing the snow from the trees and turning it to stars.  And the red bird faded, singing sweetly, “Sleep well, Little Pine.  Sleep well.”

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