James H. Smith


Cedar Limb Flute - F Minor
Cedar Limb Flute - F Minor
Raven crossed the sky moving from where the sun sets toward the place where it starts a new day. The mountain he flew across was bare and almost treeless and yet Raven had found a place for his nest and was returning there with his prize.

In his beak he carried a cone from a cedar tree that was growing in the valley below. Why Raven had picked up the cone he didn’t know, only that the way the sun had been shining on it he could not look away, so he was taking it home.

As he crosses the very tallest part of the mountain the cone slips from his beak and falls to the rocks below. Raven circles and drops to the fallen cone picks it up and is on his way again toward his nest.

A small seed has fallen from the cone when it dropped and nestled itself in between two rocks with just a small bit of dirt touching its tip. For weeks the seed lay there, the snow covered it, the rain tried to wash it away and yet it clung to its place between the rocks and as the spring sun started to warm the mountain the seed started to swell and then put out a small green shoot. A cedar tree started to grow.

Little by little the trees roots pushed down through the rock searching for the dirt and moisture it needed to grow. Years went by and slowly, slowly the tree grew, surviving winter storms and summers when no water fell from the skies to wash it’s limbs or moisten its roots. Spring storms would bring water but they also brought lighting and several times the tree was struck, each time the tree stood, repairing the lighting damage and growing larger.

Birds came making their nest in the twisted limbs where the lighting had struck and small animals made their nests beneath the roots where they had humped up because there was so little dirt to cover them.

The tree stood and became the center of life for many that walked the top of the mountain. One day an animal came to the tree unlike any that had come to the tree before. This animal stood and walked on two legs, when it came to the tree it stood and looked up for the longest time then tried to reach around and hug the tree with its short front legs.

Silent Fox stood beside the tree and thought to himself, it would take four of me holding hands to reach around this tree. I wonder just how it got here so high up the mountain and how many seasons it has stood here at the top of the mountain alone, as if forever the guardian of the valley below. There was no fear in the birds and the small animals of the tree, they had never seen any animal like Silent Fox and he didn’t seem to be trying to hunt them.

Silent Fox pulled a small flute from the pouch at his side and sat with his back to the tree watching the valley below. His flute was made from the river cane that grew hollow inside. He started to blow on the flute making his own tune as he played.

His thoughts on Golden Dove, he had known her since they were both small children. As time passed each became a part of the other and yet Silent Fox could never speak the words. How he longed to tell Golden Dove his feelings. Silent Fox, the fox that never barks, others would taunt. But each time he tried to talk, his tongue would tie with the confusion in his head. The night he was born a small red fox looked in at his mother as she was having birth pains, the fox moved its mouth as if barking but no sound came out. So the baby was named Silent Fox and he was mostly true to his name.

So he would sit and play his music and everyone would say, “Such a shame; his music is so clear, so sad – his voice can’t be as the music.”

The tree listened and thought the sound this strange creature made blowing on such a small stick was a pleasing sound. Hmm! Thought the tree, one of my limbs that was hit by lighting years ago has died and the beetles have hollowed out the inside for a nest and made holes in and out under the bark. At times when the wind blows the wind blowing across the end of the branch makes a sound like the stick this creature carries. I wonder thought the old cedar tree, if this creature had my limb and would blow on it, if the sound would be as nice as the stick he now uses.

Silent Fox became sleepy sitting there in the warm afternoon sun, so putting his flute away he dropped off to sleep. As he slept the clouds moved in and the wind started to blow. The old tree thought perhaps this is the time to give my limb to the creature that walks on two legs. So as the wind whipped the trees limbs around it held onto all but one, letting the wind break away and carry the hollow limb to the ground. Silent Fox woke with a start as something hit him a brushing blow on the shoulder. He saw nothing at first, and then he saw the limb lying beside him. His first thought was he was glad it had not hit him in the head. Then he saw it was a small limb and that it was hollow inside, so it would not have hurt him much. Still he picked it up and threw it away from him. As the limb landed it struck a large rock, Silent Fox heard a clear ringing tone coming from the wood. He got up and walked to where the wood had landed picking it up, turning it over in his hand he saw where the lighting had changed the texture of the wood making it almost crystal like. I wonder, he thought, if I made the hole bigger and did a small bit of carving if I could make a flute out of this limb as I have done with the river cane?

For days after Silent Fox came up the mountain and worked on the limb. Each day he would take small rocks tied on a leather strap pulling them through the hollow limb.

Each day he used a rock just a little bigger than the day before until the hole in the center of the limb was half again as big around as his thumb. Then taking the leather strap, he would dip it in water, roll it in sand from the creek and pull it through the limb, making it smooth. Working then on the outside of the limb with a shape piece of obsidian and sand he made it as smooth as an oak leaf in late spring. From here he had to stop and think; the river cane had dividers that stopped the air from blowing out the end of the flute and causing it to be pushed up through the small hole cut in the top causing the flute to make its noise. Silent Fox found another limb the size of the hole in the hollow limb and cutting a short section from this limb made a plug pushing it about one hands width into the hollow limb, holding it in place with sap of the pine. Then taking the sharp obsidian, he cut a hole in the top of the limb on either side of the plug he had pushed inside – also a small channel between the two holes.

Now taking a strip of leather, Silent fox wrapped it around the limb so it covered one of the holes and just left a small part of the other hole showing. He sat now looking at his handy work, then very gentle he blew into the end of the limb closest to the holes he had put in the top.

The tree listened and the sound it heard sent a pleasant shiver up its trunk and out into its limbs. This sound the tree thought is my voice, it comes from one of my limbs this two legged creature blows air into and gives me a voice. And my voice thought the tree, my voice is a song.

Silent Fox thought, “What a loving mellow tone this limb has, I shall take it to the village and show it to Golden Dove.” As Silent Fox walked to the village he learned if he moved his fingers over the holes the beetles had made in the limb he could get different sounds. Golden Dove could hear the music Silent Fox was playing long before she could see him. It must be Silent Fox, she thought, but I have never heard him play that way before. So going to met him Golden Dove waited at the edge of the village and watched as Silent Fox walked down from the mountain. “Silent Fox I see you have made a new flute and the song it sings sounds of love.” Silent Fox lost in the music, before thinking removed the hollow limb from his lips and said, “Because I love you Golden Dove.” And his words were for the first time clear. Smiling Golden Dove reached out touching the hollow limb and said, “Thank you limb, for the gift you have given: I am going to call you a flute of love.