There was once a very lazy boy named Kai, who loved to sit under a tree on warm summer days and close his eyes and not do anything at all. One especially lazy day in July Kai was sitting with his back against a big beech tree when he heard a very quiet voice. He leaned against the trunk and sat and listened and listened and sat. No one else was as good at just sitting as Kai was. He sat all day. Kai came back to that same spot the next day, and the next, and the next after that.
Always, he heard the quiet, slow voice of the old old beech tree. All summer Kai sat under that tree, and heard all about sunlight and growing and worms and birds and all the other things old beech trees like to talk about. Once in a while, when he didn’t feel like walking all the way to the beech tree, Kai would sit under a maple tree in his backyard. That tree talked too, softly and slowly, so you couldn’t hear unless you just sat still and silent.
In the fall, Kai told his parents about the trees, but they didn’t believe him. He told his little sister, but she didn’t believe him either. He told his teachers at school, but they didn’t believe him. So he told his cat, Scruffles. Scruffles believed him, because cats know all about sitting still and doing nothing.
One in a while Kai would convince someone to come sit under a tree with him and listen. But no one that he brought would sit still and quiet long enough. They always got bored or restless or had something they needed to go do. So the whisperings of the trees were Kai’s secret, and he slowly grew older along with the trees.
One day, when Kai was sitting under the old beech tree, he fell asleep. When he woke up it was dark outside, and he knew he’d be in trouble for staying out so late when he got home. Just then hundreds of tiny lights began to swirl around the tree and around Kai. Then he heard another voice, one he had never heard before. It was even slower and softer than the trees’ voices were. It said to him, “We are the voice of the forest. We have been watching you. Follow the lights.”
So Kai followed as the lights flew off, into the forest. Soon they reached a small clearing and stopped. The voice said, “Now sit and wait.” So he sat and waited. No one was as good at sitting and waiting as Kai. He listened to all the nearby trees and enjoyed not doing anything at all for what felt like a very long time.
The sky began to get lighter as dawn approached, and when the sunlight touched him, Kai felt wonderful. He wiggled his roots and shook his leaves and made a happy sighing sound. A small brown bird landed on one of his branches. The birds’ claws tickled Kai’s bark. Then Kai realized what had happened to him - he was a tree! The voice spoke again: “Kai, you are a dryad now.
Your job is to sit and listen and most of the time, do nothing. If, when you listen, you hear that the trees are in danger, you must protect them. If you need to, you may turn back into a boy for a little while each day.”
That very day Kai turned back into a boy and ran home to tell his parents, who were very worried and upset that he had been out all night. They did not believe him at first. He brought them to the clearing in the forest and turned back into a tree right in front of them.
After that his parents came to visit him almost every day. They planted flowers around the edge of the little clearing. His sister brought her friends to have picnics and tea parties, and Kai shaded them from the sun while they played and sheltered them when it rained. When Kai’s little sister had children of her own, she brought them to visit him in his clearing, and they climbed in his branches and he never let them fall.Sometimes, he had to turn back into a boy to protect the trees from big storms or fires or people who wanted parking lots instead of forests. But mostly, Kai didn’t do anything, which suited him just fine.