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The River Children

There was a river. She was long and beautiful. Beginning high up in the mountains she flowed gracefully down to the sea. Sunlight sparkled in her waters during the day, and the stars were mirrored there at night.

For years the river flowed peacefully, in tune with the life around her. But then a strange feeling grew within her. Snow caps melted from the mountains, and rains streamed down upon the river.

Her waters swelled and flooded, and now she was bearing children within her. All together there were three, and in time they branched off to seek their own way in the world.

The largest river child was the first to branch off. It flowed out into a forest, dark and mysterious. On it flowed, under a dense tangle of trees.

The forest was filled with life. Monkeys and birds chattered in the trees, and insects chirped and buzzed to each other. Mountain lions and bears, deer and wild pigs came to the new river to drink. In little clearings there were clusters of grass and flowers.

As the first river child flowed through the forest, millions of creatures drank of its waters. Not only did animals come to lap and suck, but even the roots of the plants stretched out toward the life-giving water. But the river child was large and strong, and there was plenty of water for all.

The second river child flowed out into a meadow, filled with sparkling sunlight and green grass. The meadow, too, was bustling with life. Mice and rabbits scampered timidly through the grass, and hunting foxes slunk after them. Birds flew about, searching for insects and seeds. All these animals and many others found their way every now and then to the banks of the river, to drink of its waters. But this river child, too, was large and strong, and there was plenty of water for all.

The third river child was large and strong, too. And it flowed out into a desert. On and on it flowed, but its waters soaked deep into the parched soil. Weaker and weaker it grew, and soon it was just a trickle.

The burning sands about were bare and barren. All was quiet, save for the whistling wind. The third river child was alone. There were no animals to come and drink, no plants to stretch out thirsty roots toward it, only the parched sands that soaked up more and more of its dwindling waters.

Days went by, weeks went by. The river child was alone, all alone.

Then a seed, borne by the wind, fluttered down to the edge of a little muddy pool -- the last remains of the dying river child.

Thirstily the seed drank, and began to swell. A tiny tip of a root poked out and burrowed down into the ground. A tiny pair of leaves broke through the seed coat and lifted their tips toward the sun. At first they were pale, but soon they turned a deep, rich green.

Hours passed. Days passed. The little plant grew. Thirstily it drank, more and more. The waters of the river child were seeping away into the desert sands. But still there was a little trickle for the plant.

In time the plant made seeds of its own, and these fluttered down to the moistened soil about the little riverlet. Each sent roots down into the ground, and reclaimed some of the water that the greedy soil had soaked away. In time other seeds were carried by the wind to the banks of the river child, and sprouted and grew.

These new plants helped to shield the river child from the greedy desert soil, and day by day the waters gained in strength again. Soon the third river child was surrounded by a patch of green, which grew and grew.

Animals came, first insects and then birds. Soon there were mice, and in time there were larger animals, too. They fed upon the plants and drank the water.

Each year the river child grew in strength, and the strip of green around it grew broader and broader. At last the desert was no more. The river child had conquered it.




©1973, 2013 The Silversteins