There was little Sheep 38478, little Sheep 74675, little Sheep 56746, little Sheep 3234, little Sheep 908758, little Sheep 4567567, little Sheep 3746, little Sheep 98765, little Sheep 4565, little Sheep 57676, many many little sheep.
Although this is not a statement usually found at the beginning of a story, it is found here. For in this Land of SometimesItFogs, all the little sheep lived happily ever after.
No little sheep ever went hungry for the lush forest was all around and all the plants in the forest were tasty, nutritious food for the little sheep.
No little sheep was ever cold or uncomfortable for the weather was temperate all the time and there were plenty of nice shady trees and soft grass patches for any little sheep to curl up and have a nap.
There were good schools for all the young little sheep and elder little sheep who were great teachers teaching the young little sheep. And they were very good schools indeed. They taught all the advanced maths and science and technology. Because even though these little sheep lived in a lush green forest, they had wonderful technology to make their lives much more comfortable. They were taught how every single thing worked. And they were taught history and geography. Of how their forest came about, of how little sheep in the past worked to make the Land of SometimesItFogs so wonderful now.
And there were no arguments, no fights in the Land of SometimesItFogs. Because every single little sheep in the Land of SometimesItFogs sincerely believed in the same thing right from the bottom of their little hearts. The Land of SometimesItFogs was the best place there ever was and everything they believed in was the one and only true thing.
And so the little sheep in the Land of SometimesItFogs lived, happily ever after, in their little existence. And so, dear reader, you might think the story ends here, but no it doesn't.
For one fine day, little Sheep 73985, while walking by himself at the edge of the forest, found a little path he had never seen before. He decided to follow the little path and after walking for some time, soon found himself hot and sweaty. This was a distinctly new feeling, something little Sheep 73985 did not particularly enjoy, for in the Land of SometimesItFogs, the temperature was always kept at a comfortable level and no one ever had to sweat.
Before little Sheep 73985 had time to think about it though, there came, bouncing from seemingly out of no where, a little giRaffe, right into little Sheep 73985's path.
"Oh! Excuse me! Hello! How are you? Ohhhhh who are you?" Little giRaffe stared at little Sheep 73985.
"Excuse me, I'm little Sheep 73985. Who are you? We've never have any little giRaffes in the Land of SometimesItFogs."
"Land of SometimesItFogs? Dear little Sheep 73985, I'm afraid you might have lost your way because this is the Land of EverFog."
"Oh dear! I'm so very sorry. I thought I was still in the Land of SometimesItFogs. I didn't know there were any other lands outside the Land of SometimesItFogs!"
"Well no matter! Since you are already here, would you like to take a look around our Land of EverFog?" Little giRaffe offered generously.
"Why, that will be nice, thank you!" little Sheep 73985 accepted.
And so it came, that the first little sheep from the Land of SometimesItFogs wandered out of the Land of SometimesItFogs and met a little animal who was not a little Sheep.
Little giRaffe was happy and excited at meeting a new friend. "Perhaps you would like to see our homes first?" And so little giRaffe took little Sheep 73985 around the Land of EverFog, showing him all the different homes in the Land of EverFog.
Some of the little animals in the Land of EverFog lived in tiny trees, some lived in caves, some lived in mushrooms, some built their own straw huts - there were all sorts of houses in the Land of EverFog.
But little Sheep 73985 secretly thought, none looked as comfortable as in the Land of SometimesItFogs with their huge shady trees and soft grass patches.
"Let me bring you to my house." Little giRaffe said to little Sheep 73985. And before little Sheep 73985 could answer, he was already being led through the door of a tiny red and white mushroom.
"I'm sorry it's a little cramped, but I like this mushroom a lot. It took me a long time of looking around before I found this little mushroom." Little giRaffe told little Sheep 73985.
Little Sheep 73985 looked around the little mushroom. There was just enough space for a tiny bed, a little cupboard, two chairs and a table. With little Sheep 73985 inside, there didn't even look like there is enough space to make a cup of coffee.
"Are your houses in the Land of SometimesItFogs the same as ours?" the ever curious little giRaffe inquired.
"Well no, not really. We do not have all sorts of different houses for everyone in the Land of SometimesItFogs. We have huge shady trees and soft grass patches and a lot of space for everyone."
"So you don't choose the types of places you like best? Everyone stays in the same sort of places?" little giRaffe couldn't quite understand how everyone could like to live in the same types of houses.
"It is comfortable you see. Everyone likes it. I'm sure you will too. I have to bring you to the Land of SometimesItFogs someday." little Sheep 73985 said.
"Now you've seen my house, let me bring you around to some other places in the Land of EverFog." little giRaffe told little Sheep 73985. "Come along!"
Little giRaffe walked hoof in hoof with little Sheep 73985 into the village square of the Land of EverFog.
It was a bustling, busy, noisy, colourful little village square. Along the street there were all kinds of little shops full of shopkeepers and customers haggling with each other. At another corner, enticing smells wafted over.
"That is the busiest restaurant in this area because the chef can concoct up the best dishes." little giRaffe told little Sheep 73985. "Come along in, this is my favourite shop." little giRaffe dragged little Sheep 73985 into a tiny dark shop.
As little Sheep 73985's eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, he saw that he was in a shop full of shelves and books. "Meet the shopkeeper of my favourite shop!" little giRaffe introduced little Sheep 73985 to little Elephant.
"Are these really, books?" little Sheep 73985's widened in amazement.
"Of course they are!" little Elephant answered in surprise. "What else will they be?"
"I've heard about books in the Land of SometimesItFogs, but we do not have them, you see. The Elder Sheep who are teachers tell us that books are dangerous."
"Dangerous?" snorted little Elephant. "Tell me the danger in these shelves of books! Perhaps they will be dangerous if they all come tumbling down onto you!"
Little Sheep 73985 stared at the books. Indeed, they do not look particularly threatening as long as they do not come tumbling down on him.
"Come on, let's go and take a look at the rest of the village before the sun sets!" the ever restless little giRaffe tugged at little Sheep 73985 to get up and go.
And so little giRaffe brought little Sheep 73985 all around the little village in the Land of EverFog. Little Sheep 73985 saw plenty of little animals bustling about, busy bargaining for things or trying to sell their wares. He walked past a dingy part of the street and saw a ragged little Hedgehog begging at the corner. He walked past a little cafe and heard a little Penguin and a little Zebra arguing with each other about a particular chord in a piece of music.
"Why are they arguing? Can't they look for a elder little animal who is a teacher and ask him what the correct answer is?" Little Sheep 73985 was perplexed.
"But, there is no correct answer, you see." little giRaffe answered in amazement. "How could there be just one correct answer? Everything looks different when we look at it from different angles."
"In my Land of SometimesItFogs, there is always a correct answer." little Sheep 73985 told little giRaffe. "And there are no arguments. No disagreements. Everything is very clear you see."
"Now you've showed me all around your Land of EverFog, let me bring you to the Land of SometimesItFogs and show you around!" little Sheep 73985 was very keen to show his new friend little giRaffe how beautiful his own Land of SometimesItFogs is.
"Why, that will be wonderful! I do want to see your Land of SometimesItFogs!" little giRaffe said.
And so, hoof in hoof, little Sheep 73985 led little giRaffe back on the little path he found at the edge of the forest and into the Land of SometimesItFogs.
As little Sheep 73985 and little giRaffe sauntered into the clearing in the forest in the middle of the Land of SometimesItFogs, they were greeted by little Sheep 67849 and little Sheep 32999.
"Who ARE you?" They stared at little giRaffe. For in the Land of SometimesItFogs, there were only little sheep and no one has ever seen a little giRaffe or any other little animals.
"Uh...hrummpff? I'm little giRaffe." little giRaffe felt very shy with all the eyes staring at her. "I...uh...come from the Land of EverFog from the other side of the Edge of the Forest."
"There is another land outside the Land of SometimesItFogs?" little Sheep 67849 and little Sheep 32999 looked at each other in amazement.
"Yes there is! I've been to the Land of EverFog!" little Sheep 73985 assured little Sheep 67849 and little Sheep 32999.
Little Sheep 73985 excitedly took little giRaffe all over the Land of SometimesItFogs, showing her the huge shady trees, the soft grasses, the cool temperate weather all the time, and all the little sheep. Contented, quiet, happy little sheep.
As little Sheep 73985 led little giRaffe past another large clearing, they came across an elder little Sheep 347 with a group of young little sheep.
"They are having their lessons" little Sheep 73985 whispered to little giRaffe.
"Can I join in?" little giRaffe asked excitedly. "I do want to hear all about the things you teach here in the Land of SometimesItFogs."
"I'm sure you can." little Sheep 73985 said, and he introduced little giRaffe to the group of little sheep in the large clearing and settled with little giRaffe at the edge of the group.
Little giRaffe learnt many things that day. All about how the wind blows, how the sun goes, how the trees grew. She learnt all about how to keep the trees in the forest healthy, how to keep the air fresh, how to keep the waters clean. But she waited and waited, and she did not learn a single story the whole day.
"And that is all for today, little sheep, I'll see you tomorrow!" Elder little Sheep 347 finally said to all the little sheep as he dismissed them for the day.
"Excuse me, Elder little Sheep 347," little giRaffe asked shyly as the other little sheep went off, "Will we be learning any stories tomorrow?"
"STORIES?" Elder little Sheep 347 glared at little giRaffe through his thick glasses. "What a terrible thing! You don't expect me to teach such terrible things, do you?"
Little giRaffe was taken aback.
"I'm sorry, but I didn't know stories were such terrible things." she apologised. "You see, in our Land of EverFog, we teach everyone plenty of stories."
Elder little Sheep 347 stared at little giRaffe through his thick glasses. After a long time, apparently deciding that little giRaffe posed no real threat, he said slowly, "Stories are terrible things."
"But why are they terrible things? I love stories and I do not think they are terrible at all. We tell each other stories all the time in our Land of EverFog." little giRaffe told Elder little Sheep 347.
"Does your stories tell you exactly what to do? What happens when a tree fall in the forest for example."
"Of course they don't!" little giRaffe thought that Elder Sheep 347 was joking. "The stories are meant for us to think of what to do on our own! Some little animals might want to plant the tree back, some little animals might want to chop the trunk into little pieces and build a boat with it, some little animals might just want to leave the fallen tree where it is in the forest because other little animals might make their home in this fallen tree!"
Elder little Sheep 347 widened his eyes in shock. It was bad enough there is a little giRaffe who asked about stories, but this little giRaffe was even more preposterous, telling him about all these different things that her people might do! Why, in the Land of SometimeItFogs, there would be no doubt the fallen tree would immediately be replanted. No trace of it having fallen at all, and no question of what any little Sheep might do differently. No, all the little sheep would no doubt know that replanting the tree back immediately is the only solution.
It was the first time little Sheep 73985 has seen Elder little Sheep 347 in such a state of shock so he whispered to little giRaffe, "We better leave. Come stay the night in the Land of SometimesItFogs before you go back in the morning.
Being quite tired after a whole day of adventures, little giRaffe was glad to accept the invitation to stay the night.
Little Sheep 73985 showed little giRaffe the way to one of the clearings with large and comfortable patches of soft grasses. "Just take one unoccupied patch and sleep! The grass patches here are very comfortable."
Little giRaffe followed little Sheep 73985's instructions and was soon settled comfortably on a giant patch of soft grass. It was very soft indeed. Soon little Sheep 73985 was sound asleep on the patch of grass next to little giRaffe. But little giRaffe tossed and turned. The patch of grass was softer and more lush than anything little giRaffe has ever slept on. But little giRaffe missed her tiny little bed. And the familiar sounds of her little mushroom creaking. And the sounds from her next door neighbour, the Squirrel family who lived in the tree beside her little mushroom.
If little giRaffe was in her own little mushroom, she could perhaps get up and make herself a cup of warm something to drink. Or perhaps she could get out of her little mushroom and sit on the bench by her front door and feel the cool breeze on her face. Or perhaps she could even take out a book she bought from little Elephant's little bookshop and read until she fell asleep.
But little giRaffe was not in her little mushroom. She was lying on a soft and luscious patch of grass, in the middle of a clearing, in the Land of SometimesItFogs. A huge wave of homesickness suddenly overcame little giRaffe.
Bright and early the next morning, little Sheep 73985 roused little giRaffe who hasn't slept much. "Let's go around the Land of SometimesItFogs before I walk with you back to your Land of EverFog."
Little giRaffe was happy to comply. Groggy as she was with a lack of sleep, she was still very curious to see the rest of the Land of SometimesItFogs. And so together with little Sheep 73985, little giRaffe took a walk over the Land of SometimesItFogs.
As little giRaffe walked on, she saw clearings after clearings. Clearings with huge patches of soft grasses. "These are where we sleep when we are tired." Clearings with evenly spaced stumps. "Here are where lessons take place." Clearings with plantings of sweet tender shoots. "Here is where we eat when we are hungry." Little giRaffe saw clearings after clearings. All wonderfully built for specific purposes. All perfect. Nothing out of place. Nothing out of order. Nothing different. All perfect. All so sterile.
"Thank you for showing me around the Land of SometimesItFogs, little Sheep 73985," little giRaffe was grateful for the chance to have a glimpse at a Land so vastly different from her own Land. "I hope you can come and visit me sometime again soon! There are so many things in the Land of EverFog that I have not showed you yet."
"Well, I'm glad I could visit your Land of EverFog. It was nice of you to show me around. But you see, I feel scared in your Land. I do not know what is going to happen. I do not know the correct answer to anything. I like it here in the Land of SometimesItFogs." little Sheep 73985 replied truthfully.
"Well, it's goodbye then." little giRaffe plodded back towards the path leading to the Land of EverFog and soon saw the familiar sight of her Land. The smells, the sounds, the sights. And her friends all there.
Perhaps it is safer in the Land of SometimesItFogs. Perhaps it is cleaner, more sanitary.
But little giRaffe would never exchange that for her noisy, crazy, lively, colourful, messy, mad Land of EverFog.
Labels: Little Sheep 73985
Inside the hive, there were many hardworking little worker bees.
And ferocious and loyal soldier bees.
And maternal and loving nanny bees.
And of course, there was the Queen Bee.
It was a busy, prosperous hive.
Every morning, when the Sun came up from the edge of the Earth, the hardworking worker bees would fly out of the hive and go among the flowers in the Land of LotsofFog. There they would spend the whole day, busy gathering nectar to make into sweet golden honey.
And every evening, when the Moon chased the Sun off over the edge of the Earth, the busy worker bees would return home to their hive, tired after a day's work.
The soldier bees stood guard around the hive.
Every morning, when the Sun came up from the edge of the Earth, one group of soldier bees would take their positions and stand guard over the hive. Never faltering, ever alert.
Any being, be it another insect or another animal, or even a bee from another hive, if they were to come too near, would be ferociously chased away. If they did not run, then the soldier bees would fly straight into them and sting them, at the expense of their own lives. After all, what is the life of a soldier bee but to protect his own hive from any and every one out there. That is not a sacrifice. That is their life.
Every evening, when the Moon chased the Sun off over the edge of the Earth, the second group of soldier bees would take over from the first, standing guard over the hive. Never faltering, ever alert.
And the nanny bees took care of the thousands of young little bees borne of the Queen.
Feeding them with the honey that is made by the worker bees.
Showering them with love and care.
Every tiny little bee was carefully looked after, groomed, to grow up into either a worker bee or a soldier bee or a nanny bee.
And the Queen bee, she was the head of the hive. She was proud of the hive. The entire hive she has given birth to. She thought of every single mechanism that went into the functioning of the hive; she was immaculate. After all, the hive was hers, the bees were all hers. Every single honeycomb has to be exactly in its place, every drop of honey has to be exactly the way she wanted it to be. And of course, every single bee had to have their stripes in exactly the same distance on their tummies, their buzzes exactly the way she liked it. And when they are just the way she likes it, Queen bee can be very nice, oh so very nice.
And so time went on. The Sun continued rising from the edge of the Land of LotsofFog, the Moon continued to chase the Sun off the edge every evening, and the hive continued its busy existence.
Then one fine day, there appeared in this busy little hive, a little bee, newly born.
Instead of yellow and black stripes around the tummies of all the bees in the busy little hive, this little bee had spots!
She did not have a sting and so she could not be a soldier bee.
She did not have pockets on her legs to hold the nectar and so she could not be a worker bee either.
But the nanny bees took care of her like she was one of the bees, they gave her all the honey she needs and they sang her lullabies to sleep.
But the nanny bees were worried. Queen bee would often pop by to look at her little baby bees. What will happen if Queen bee saw little Spotted bee? One who had spots instead of stripes? So whenever Queen bee passed by, the nanny bees pushed little Spotted bee to the back, hidden behind the crowd, so that Queen bee will pass her by.
But as little Spotted bee grew, she became curious.
Who was this huge majestic being whom every bee in the hive bowed to when she passes?
Why was she always pushed to the back when the huge majestic being passed her way?
Why do the worker bees work and the soldier bees soldier?
How was it decided that one was a worker bee and one a soldier bee and another a nanny bee?
Who decided that?
Why did she have to live in this hive?
What was outside there?
Why did one have to live in a hive?
So many questions.
But the nanny bees could not answer her questions.
"Shut up" they said.
"What's the point of thinking about all these?"
"Life is good here, why spend time thinking about all these unnecessary things?"
"So what do you think happens to those whose black and yellow stripes are not aligned in exactly the right way? little Spotted bee asks.
"There aren't any whose stripes are not aligned the exact right way." They answered.
"And what happens to those whose buzzes are not in harmony?" little Spotted bee prodded.
"Everyone's buzzes are in harmony." They replied.
"But you know there are those who aren't. You've heard them. Then they are gone. You know there are those whose stripes are not exactly right. They were born here, you've seen them. But they are no longer here."
"There aren't, there aren't, there aren't. We never see them."
So little Spotted bee went off more and more by herself. Because she wanted to think. She wanted to question. She wasn't born like the rest of the bees in the hive, she didn't know why, but she didn't want to be like them either.
Spotted bee couldn't be a worker bee. Nor could she be a soldier bee. But Spotted bee soon realised, she could still be a nanny bee!
Not one of the nanny bees who stands proudly in front when Queen bee arrives, but she could be a nanny bee who looked after the little bees, who showered them with love, and most importantly, she could be a nanny bee who tries to answer any questions the young little bees might have.
So Spotted bee looked after the new little bees, she sings lullabies to them, and she talks to these little ones.
Spotted bee has never been out of the busy hive for she was neither a worker bee nor a soldier bee.
But she told stories of what she imagined the outside of the hive was like to the little bees.
She told the little bees of other hives. Hives which may not have any worker bees. Hives which may not have any soldier bees. And hives which perhaps the bees could decide what they would like to be themselves.
She also told the little bees of other bees. Other bees who perhaps never lived in hives. Other bees who perhaps never buzzed, or have stripes on their tummies.
Spotted bee has never seen anything outside the hive she was born in, but she had an imagination. And she could go where she wanted in her imagination.
And Spotted bee told the little bees. Never take for granted what you have. Never stop questioning who you are. Never stop asking, and never stop dreaming.
And Spotted bee brought up many many many little bees. Bees who became worker bees, bees who became soldier bees and bees who became nanny bees. But soon, Spotted bee knew she had to die. Just like all the rest of the bees. They were not meant to live long. Worker bees, soldier bees, nanny bees, they all worked hard, and died soon. Only Queen bee would go on and on. Making sure her hive was still exactly the way she wanted it to be. Making sure her bees were all the way she wanted them to be.
And Spotted bee passed on. The bees in the hive were still having the same stripes on their tummies. And they were still buzzing in harmony. Queen bee made sure of that.
But Queen bee never knew, in her hive now, the worker bees were flying a little further each day, exploring the world, looking at flowers further away, and listening to the buzzes of bees from other hives. The soldier bees were still standing guard over the busy little hive, but once in a while, when a bee from another hive would fly too near, they gently turned him away and escorted him back to his own hive. And the nanny bees told the little bees stories. Stories Spotted bee used to tell. And when the little bees had questions, the nanny bees would tell them, think, imagine, dream:
"We may never leave the hive, but we can go further than any bee with our dreams."
Labels: the Spotted bee
Oak, Willow, Birch, Fir, Pine.
Alm, Juniper, Beech, Elder, Maple.
Poplar, Yew, Sycamore, Ash, Alder.
More trees than you can ever name.
There was only one of each tree, and each and every tree had their own place in the forest.
The forest was not sparse, neither was it too crowded. It was just so that every single tree had it's own place and was able to grow and stretch its branches without touching another tree.
Below the ground, there lies a deep pool of groundwater which never runs dry. Every tree, as they grow, dipped their roots into the ground water and were ensured of an endless supply of water be it drought or flood above land.
It was also this pool of groundwater that joined the trees together.
For trees could not see. They had no idea which other tree grew next to them above ground.
They had no idea what their neighbour looked like; they do not even know what they themselves looked like.
They never knew how the wind rustling their leaves sounded like.
They never know of the fragrances exuded as their fruits grew and ripened.
But as they dipped their roots into the pool of groundwater, they knew each other.
It was not the knowing of how the gnarled bark of the oak felt like, nor how the willow swayed and bowed in the wind, nor the tangy smell of the pine.
Rather, it was the knowing of the old intelligence of the oak, the liveliness of the birch, the benevolence of the maple, the connivance of the pine, the penetrating understanding of the yew.
Oh how they revelled in this sharing.
How they knew each other well.
How they learned and grew from each other.
Time seemed to stand still in the forest, but oh how it grew.
How it grew in that pool of groundwater.
Then one day, a man arrived.
The first man ever to come to the forest.
He saw the trees. All the different trees in the forest.
He saw the pine tree, and he thought it was good. He liked the pine cones.
He saw the willow tree and he didn't like the look of it swaying in the wind.
He saw the oak and he thought one was enough.
He did not care for the birch or the sycamore or the elder.
Because all he saw was the sight of the trees above the ground.
So he cut away the willow, he chopped down the birch.
He planted rows and rows of pines, all around the lone old oak.
And deep down in the pool of groundwater, there was pain.
Every single time a tree was chopped down, there was pain.
Pain that had never before entered the forest, there was pain now.
The liveliness was lost from the pool of groundwater, ever since the birch was cut down.
And the pines started conniving with each other.
The sedate intelligence of the oak was not able to bring the pool of groundwater back to its old equilibrium.
The fir confided only in the benevolent maple.
Soon there was no more sharing.
Soon oak felt like it never knew pine even though all around oak was planted rows and rows of pines.
Ash missed the birch but was unable to tell elder after it was chopped away.
And aeons passed.
But the pool of groundwater, it no longer runs.
During times of drought, it often ran dry.
And the trees grew alone.
They no longer shared.
They no longer grew together, despite their differences, amidst their differences, prospering because of their differences.
They were different, but they no longer embraced it. They no longer understood it. They no longer revelled in it. They were alone. More alone than ever before.
And yet aeons passed, for time moved slowly in the forest.
The man was no longer there.
The pool of groundwater ran dry.
And slowly, the trees withered and died.
One by one.
In their own loneliness.
Until only the old oak was left.
Once he knew every single tree.
Once he understood every one of them.
Once he was one with them all.
Once he knew himself too.
Not how he looked like, not how he felt like, that he never knew.
But once he understood who he was, and believed in that which he was.
But now he has forgotten all that.
Oh how long ago that was.
Was he oak or was he beech? Or perhaps he was maple or perhaps pine.
He cannot be sure.
No, he is not at all certain.
And soon, very soon, a leaf withered upon the oak.
And two leaves, and three.
Soon, there was nothing left but a shrivelled stump of an old oak, a memory that once was.
Nothing now. Nothing at all.