A fable for myself and whoever’s listening…
…There was once an ox, whose head and horns grew large, larger than those of other oxen. The extra weight made it difficult to look up. And so the ox hung its head low and withdrew to the remote pomegranate groves. Only the near-silent worms and ants and the occasional cicada shared the ox’s low, ground-bound view. Solitary, the ox was happier, it thought, out of sight of those with lighter heads and horns.
One morning the ox felt a flashing blue light on its right horn. From the corner of its eye it saw the wings of a blue moth; their batting sounding like a string of sentences. The ox almost forgot gloom and looked up with unusual ease, as when a full moon tugs the eyes skywards.
Watching the moth pick up a pomegranate seed before leaving the grove, the ox thought to itself, “How strange for a moth to be so blue and to collect seeds and, strangest of all, to whisper in my ear…”
Dismissing this odd episode, the ox let gloom weigh its head and horns back down, sinking into a siesta, taking what comfort it could from the pomegranate’s sweet shade.
Down by the sea, other oxen were watching a boat. Its crew had necks like bruised bananas, horns like apple stalks, and an inexplicable bump between their eyes.
These aliens introduced themselves as ‘giraffes’. They explained that they had left their island because its acacia trees, their food, had turned bitter.
Acacia leaves turn bitter when they smell predators. The giraffes had learnt to trick the leaves by waiting for the wind to carry away their scent; allowing them to creep close, downwind, unsuspected.
But lately, the sea-breeze bad not been strong enough to divert suspicion and every tense leaf had grown bitter in self defence. The giraffes were now desperate in their hunger for sweetness.
While the oxen were listening to this, a particularly famished giraffe branched off from the herd, in search of naive foreign leaves, keen to find them quickly before they too turned bitter.
Remember the seed as it flies now on the wind in the mouth of the blue moth. After crossing several islands it enters a sea-cave through a moth-sized hole. Inside, the water glows like sapphire. The moth drops the seed.
Now blue, the seed floats through a tunnel that feeds the open sea.
Soon, an eagle spots the seed, “Never before” thinks the eagle, “in all my universe-long reign, have I seen a seed that glows blue. I will catch it and find out what its blueness means.”
He carries the seed to the mainland, flying back towards sunset for at least a full day.
The giraffe, having found itself in the pomegranate grove, asked the ox, “Do you know where I can find acacia leaves that are still sweet?”
The ox, half asleep, replied without shock or fright, assuming that he was still dreaming. Reality had never shown him a giraffe before.
“Oh, I’ve never heard of an ‘Atashia’ tree but the pomegranates are always sweet”, said the ox, starting to wake, feeling the old ache of its huge horns.
At dusk, the giraffe followed the ox to a river to drink. The river overlooked the valley of the other oxen. The giraffe noticed that the ox was unique, all the other oxen having smaller horns.
The ox, hearing the giraffe’s thought, groaned, “I have such large horns that I have to hang them low and that means I can’t look up easily and no-one speaks to me because I hang my head.”
“I will speak to you, if I didn’t speak to creatures below me life would be very boring!”
Carrying the pomegranate seed below his tongue, careful not to swallow it, the eagle reaches the mainland. Neither pines nor pomegranates grow here, only the venerable oak.
The air is thick with mystery and mist and feeds only birds and their small acorn-hoarding prey.
The largest and oldest of the oaks is home to an owl, a falcon and a raven. The owl and the falcon have agreed to share almost the same number of branches. The raven has the top: the lookout. Below is a lake, home to a swan.
These birds can soar above Time, using their wings to trick speed.
Owl knows everything that has passed and its effect on the Present.
Swan knows what the Present was and is and will be, seeing all possibilities underneath the reflections.
Raven sees the Future.
Falcon is the arbiter of Reality.
All answer to Eagle, their lord.
And so Eagle drops the blue pomegranate seed on a fallen tree and beckons this bird council with his five-foot-long wing, stirring the wind into a spiral that pierces the clouds like a screw.
Lightening bolts electricity over many of the islands and all of the mainland. Owl swoops down and Swan sweeps up from the lake. Falcon and Raven, clapped to attention, fly back from distant missions. All gather round the seed and wait in reverence for Eagle’s sharp tongue to explain their summons.
And so Falcon, Owl, Swan and Raven assemble on the fallen tree. Eagle swoops to the point, “What do you know about this blue seed?”,
Raven starts to speak, “Silence!” squawks Eagle, with a fierce eye-beam, “Wait your turn. The Future should never go before the Past or the Present. Let the other birds beak first.” Raven disagrees but is silent under Eagle’s glare.
Owl concludes that certain pomegranate seeds, according to the Greeks, had magical properties. He hypothesizes, “The seed might have an effect, if eaten, on the Present and even the Future”.
Swan, confident in intuition, adds “The seed has special properties but it can have no effect unless the eater is truly ready”.
Eagle asks what ‘ready’ means? The Swan, sliding over the question, replies, “It depends on which Future you look at, but they are infinite and it would take us Forever”.
Falcon has a plan. Falcon is not daunted. “Raven can search out the seed’s true meaning.”
“Already have it!” cracks Raven, “The blue moth told me yesterday, but I couldn’t understand it – I don’t speak moonish”
Raven calls moth’s language ‘moonish’ because moths hear the moon’s light, like a voice and use their wings to bat it back and forth to each other in a kind of code. The ox, if you remember, ‘heard’ the moth’s moonish messages. Although it couldn’t make out the full meaning, it is indeed miraculous that the ox heard any of what was actually a visual thing.
The Eagle asks, “So, if you couldn’t understand what the moth said, why do you think it was talking about the seed.”
Raven confidently replies “Because the moth was blue, like the seed…I do remember what the wings sounded like and can tap it out for Falcon.”
Falcon understands all languages. And so, As Raven taps the lunar percussion, Falcon translates the blue moth’s oracle:
“The eater is ready when he or she is silent as silence.
The benefit will be whatever the eater hears and whatever the eater hears is the answer to whatever the eater asks.”
The Eagle responded without hesitation, “This must be deciphered. Test the effect of the seed on someone who is ‘ready’. Falcon, go, find a ready eater.”
Falcon, matching the Eagle’s swiftness, picks up the seed, planning his route as he rises out of sight.
“My head is getting heavier. Soon it will be too heavy to raise and no one will know or care and eventually – ”
“Ox! That’s quite enough of that. We giraffe’s say, ‘Listen to the wind and you won’t go hungry’ or ‘He who disobeys the wind starves’ which I think a bit gloomy so let’s go with the first.”
“So” replied the giraffe, “I think I know what to do. We giraffes often do, thanks to the bump between our eyes we call our third eye. It tells me we must go to the highest point, wherever it is. Do you know how to get there?”
“What for?” the ox retorted, thinking how improbable this new companionship was, suspecting that the giraffe might be, in reality, a tree trunk, dappled with shadow, whose chatting was merely the flapping of leaves in the wind.
“You’ll see” said the giraffe.
“What will I see?” said the ox, bringing its heavy head back to the present.
“What you see when we get there“.
Falcon flies now across the sea, passing island after island. The island of goats, the island of snakes, the island of horses, and the island of giraffes. He dismisses them one by one, thinking,
“Goats are too nimble to get stuck in ruts, they wouldn’t even notice eating an enchanted seed, they’d soon be chewing on something else.
Snakes are notorious for high levels of suspicion and independence and would never trust or believe, indeed why should they?
Horses are too highly strung, they might panic and run away before anyone could witness the effects.
Giraffes are generally content and would see no reason to risk eating something that might taste bitter.
Besides,” Falcon notes as he crosses the island where the giraffes had been before the acacia’s had turned bitter, “they are now on the island of the oxen”.
And so the island of the oxen, “Yes,” thinks Falcon, “The ox is a creature I can reason with and who is deserving of magic, after bearing so much weight”.
Tucking the seed at the back of his throat he swoops, “I’ll start from the top of the island where there must surely be the most desolate of the oxen, for any ox who has left the valley’s easy pastures must be a lonely idiot in need of help and willing to try any remedy”.
MAP OF THE FALCON’S QUEST
FROM THE MAINLAND ACROSS THE ISLANDS
“Who is that?” Said the ox.
“That, my friend, is Falcon one of the oldest creatures”
“Why is it coming our way?”
“If I knew that I would be able to tell you the meaning of Life and why you are you”.
“But how have I never seen it before?”
“I often spot it flying high, I suppose you wouldn’t see it if you never look up.”
“Greetings,” said Falcon, suddenly balanced on a nearby branch.
“Greetings,” replied the giraffe.
Falcon, ignoring the giraffe, continued addressing the ox, his target, “I can see you are peculiar. Tell me, why have you taken yourself away from your herd and the valley’s richer pasture. I have a seed that’s enchanted and may help you”.
As the ox told the story of its heaviness and withdrawal, it heard the sea rolling and the other oxen lowing. The ox stopped. The surrounding sounds filled its weary frame, from head to horn.
The ox felt its head rise with a new ease. The ox felt no need to tell the seed or Falcon any more. Falcon prompted,
“And so you would like your head to be lighter?”
Now, the ox is silent. Falcon urges, “And so this seed may grant your wishes, if you eat it. Try it.”
With a new calm, the ox replies, “No, I am light. If the weight returns, so be it. Fly on, find others in need.”
Falcon takes up the seed and flies on, knowing that the seed will help only those who refuse to eat it.
The Ox’s lesson
The burden we bear on the outside is only as heavy as the burden we carry within. If we let the light in, we can carry everything, with ease.
Note From the Author
Writing this story and drawing its characters has helped me to cope with and recover from illness. I would encourage anyone with any problems, health or otherwise, to have a go at something creative. Everyone is ‘creative’, I believe art should be used as a first attempt at healing and recovery and not as a last resort.
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