I found these strawberries at the grocery store yesterday. This is a time I look forward to. The fruity aroma, sweet taste and the bright red color of these fruits make me eager to take them home, prepare them, smell, and taste them. Of course I end up eating more than I store for later; well at least with the first batch.
So I love to tell the Cherokee story of why Creator created strawberries. I’ve related this story in my own words as best as I can.
The First Man and Woman
When Creator made the new world, he placed First Man and First Woman in a beautiful part of the land. There were mountains with wild game for food and they used the animal hides to build shelters. There were rivers with fresh water filled with fish. Everything they needed was nearby.
Just as their world was new and wonderful so was their relationship. They walked hand in hand by the blue streams and along mountain paths, enjoying each other’s company and their new home. They ate from the earth’s bounty but of all the fruits and root vegetables they found, there were no strawberries.
They began to learn the skills of survival together and lived in harmony. Over the following months, they forgot to make time for each other. As many newlyweds eventually do, they became absorbed in their own duties and interests. Saying sweet words of love, showing affection, sharing, or looking with admiration and joy at their beloved mate, were all actions that gradually disappeared and soon ceased. Soon they were too tired to share in the behaviors that made love grow and flourish.
One day this deprivation allowed angry words to be said. On returning home from hunting one day, First Man voiced great displeasure with every little thing his wife did or did not do.
First Woman had cared for their crops all day and was herself quite tired. She retorted, “Do you not care about me any more? I work hard everyday to care for the fields and make our home a good one. Why are you complaining so much? Am I not important to you any more?”
More hot, angry words flowed like lava until First Man ordered First Woman out of their home, “Get out of my home!! You are not a good wife!”
Sobbing with pain and anger First Woman ran away quickly and continued deep into the forest.
A few hours later First Man realized painfully the terrible things he had said and wanted to apologize. Expecting his wife to be outside their home, he was shocked that she was not there and realized how much he missed her.
First Man asked Creator to help him find his wife. But first He asked Creator to forgive him of his thoughtless, mean words. “I promise to ask her forgiveness when I find her and to always treasure her from now on.”
Since it was late in the day First Man also asked Creator for help in slowing his wife’s footsteps so that he might catch up to her before dark.
Creator made small green leafy plants with beautiful, white flowers to spread out along her path. Their beauty would hopefully slow First Woman’s pace. She did see the delicate flowers but only briefly admired them.
As he ran along First Man began to think of his wife, “My Woman will be getting hungry, since she didn’t eat before I ordered her away.”
He asked Creator to send some kind of food that First Woman could eat, to lessen her hunger. Also he hoped to further slow her footsteps so he could find her and ease the hurt he had caused. Creator caused the same white flowers to produce fragrant, red, heart-shaped berries: strawberries.
Their aroma beckoned to her hunger. First Woman was not able to pass by the sweet smell and taste of the berries. She sat among the green leaves and red berries of the wondrous plant and began to eat the scarlet berries as she gathered them.
Suddenly she wanted to share these delectable fruits with her husband. “How hungry my husband must be now.” She did love him and wanted to share these wonderful berries with him. First Woman gathered up as many as she could and started back toward home.
At the top of the next hill First Woman met her Husband. She dropped the strawberries to run into his arms. As they held each other tightly, weeping with joy that they had not lost each other, forgiveness was requested and pardon gladly given. Very happy but very hungry, they sat and ate the strawberries.
Remembering that they almost lost each other, increased their efforts to care for each other and nurture their love. And they lived in a more loving way from then on. As a reminder of the importance of reconciliation in a loving relationship, Creator made strawberries grow along many more paths and in many more forests.
On seeing red strawberries as they walk, the People would be reminded of the importance of reconciliation. In the homes of the Cherokee fresh strawberries, pictures of strawberries and other symbols of them, even now remind couples when anger rises, to put their anger aside and see and treasure the relationships that are so important. The Cherokee word for strawberry is “ani.”