Granny Ninna's Autumn Birthday

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on October 14, 2013

I thought the leaves changed color to celebrate my Granny Ninna's birthday, and the full moon was the brightest candle for her cake. "Oh no," she said, "there's a reason . . ."

Ninna was born October 16, 1899. I was fortunate to spend most of my childhood years in her care.  She brought with her the myths and legends of her childhood and wove them into mine, in the same way she taught me to weave strands of dandelions and red clover and violets through my hair.

I thought she was so lucky to have an October birthday.  The leaves turned wonderful colors and the moon was huge and orange-y red as it shimmered over our hollow and coated the trees and the shadows with just a hint of golden warmth.  From my upstairs window, I watched the moonlight dance on the creek that traveled from the mountain top behind my house right past my window, on its way to the big ocean and the great wide world.  I knew my Ninna was the wisest woman ever, and I knew she must be very special to have trees and the moon changing colors just for her birthday.

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There came a time when I asked her why the trees and the moon did nothing for my November birthday; by then the earth was cold and most of the color was gone. Even the moon seemed farther away, smaller, and white like the ice that had frozen over the creek. There were only a few trees that held their green color and in the stark black and snowy white mountain scene, the green seemed to be shadowed with darkness, too.

And Ninna, who had no trouble seeing into my very soul, told me this:

"Long long time ago, when th' earth was just a young'un, our heavens was filled with hunters who killed the Great White Bear in th' Autumn.  They was gettin' ready for winter, you know, and th' Bear's blood dripped over th' mountains and colored some trees bright red.  Then th' hunters gave thanks for th' Bear and then made a feast for all th' people, so they would have enough food to eat to carry them through th' deep snows.  When they cooked th' bear over th' fire, th' moon's face turned red from th' burnin', and th' bear fat dripped down an' covered some of th' trees in yellow an' some of them in orange.  And them colored trees, they went to sleep for the winter.  But some of th' trees were guardians, keeping watch, an' they stayed green and wide awake and stood tall, keepin' all them who celebrated safe an' healthy.

Now them green trees, they stay green through your November birthday an' all through th' long cold winter, keepin' watch, keepin' us safe, until spring returns an' the leaves all turn green an' all them trees is strong and awake again.

Everthin' has a reason, honey, everthin' has a season, an' for me it's the Hunter's Moon an' th' red and yellow sleepin' trees an' for you it's th' strong, green trees an' th' bright white moon keepin' watch over th' land, keepin' us all safe."

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Even though I'm no longer in my mountains, the cinnamon colored Hunter's Moon is on its way to being full this week, and the leaves are starting to turn, just in time for the great feast in the heavens, just in time for Ninna's birthday. It happens every year.

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In spite of all the education and all the scientific knowledge I've picked up through the years between then and now, I really like Ninna's stories best.  I think sometimes she told me these things just to keep me grounded.  No matter how many years pass nor how many miles I travel, I will always remember my roots.  And when the leaves start turning, I will remember my Ninna and the words of wisdom she shared with me.  The moon and the trees are celebrating her birthday.

Related articles:
autumn, myths

About Sharon Brown
I am a retired art and humanities teacher. I am an artist and I am also a writer who has written a series of articles about the history and medicinal value of Kentucky wildflowers. The articles tell of growing up in the mountains of southeast Kentucky with my great Aunt Bett and Granny Ninna. I currently live in western KY.

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