HAROLD'S GREAT ADVENTURE
Harold sat quietly beneath the ponderous oak tree, the sun's rays glistening off its shimmering green leaves, and the nearby brook gurgling and spattering across the moss covered rocks. It was such a restful place, a place he often came to just sit and think, and what a lot he had to think about today. You see, today was Harold's birthday. He was a full six years old, having seen so much of life in his previous five years. He sat in his favorite spot pondering all those past experiences and what they meant.
When he was three, he remembered having a marvelous journey, full of excitement and wonder. Yes, although his memories were often colored with the subtle tones of the present, he could still remember. And how could he forget such a wonderful journey? Why it was excitement and adventure itself, capped off by a glorious purpose - to discover new things and to share those discoveries with his family and friends. To watch as these discovery gifts brought smiles to their faces, reflecting the joy in their hearts. Yes, it was a great adventure. What miracles he had found! What fulfillment! What joy!
Harold watched as the great oak, its branches wrinkled with age, shed a limb which fell from its heights to the brook below. SPLASH! It landed in a pool which had been slowly whittled into the dank earth by the constantly flowing nearby spring, the ripples of the splash sending out circular eddys in the once calm waters.
Harold watched as beams of light dansed and darted off the wavelets, then faded as quickly as they'd begun. "What's next," he wondered. "Surely the adventures don't end at six." With this thought, Harold stood up, leaning on the great oak as he rose. "I wonder where this brook leads?" he thought. Looking at the pool of water, his eyes followed it as it gently flowed to a distant bend where it disappeared from sight, only the golden reflections of the straw colored grasses overhanging its bank being visible. "Follow the waters," he heard a still small voice cry out. "Follow the waters and see what you find." Harold had heard this voice before and, when he had followed its bidding, things had always worked out in the end.
Harold pushed aside the scuppernon vine which had wrapped around a nearby dogwood, its twists and turns all but hiding the tree which supported it. As he reached the bend in the brook, a wind whispered in the trees, their tops slowly bending to and fro and making a clicking and clacking sound as they scrapped against their neighbors. The sun was bright here, the dense woods breaking into a clearing. The light shone down as a golden beam, tiny particles of dust and pollen swirling in its incandescence, as if projected purposefully, drawing Harold's eyes to their target. There, at the bend where the beam fell, lay a huge blue stone with a coiled creature basking in the radiance and warmth of the sunbeam.
As Harold watched, the creature slowly uncurled, revealing a shimmering surface of color and geometric shapes. "What a beautiful creature," Harold thought. As if reading his mind, the creature purred out, "Gooood daaay sirrr." Involuntarily, as he had always been taught to be mannerly, Harold replied, "Good day sir." The creature let out a gentle hiss in reply. "My name is Harold." The snake replied, "I am Anser. Do you have a question?" "Well," said Harold, "I'm not quite sure." "Everyone has a question," the snake replied. "What's yours?" The snake uncoiled himself further, his tail slipping into the pool making a ripple, his head now raised and bent slightly forward, his whole being forming the punctuation to his query.
Harold stood transfixed. "So son, what is your question?" Mr Anser hissed. "I was looking for the end of the stream sir," said Harold. "The end of the stream is a long way from here, that way," said the snake, pointing with his tail. "Its path is hidden." As he spoke, a toad hopped upon the rock. "Excuse me sir," he said to the snake. "The stream is ever so wide, and I am ever so small. Could you help me across it?" "My pleasure," purred the snake. "Hop upon my back and I will carry you." As the toad hopped toward the snake to get upon his back, quicker than you can blink an eye, the snake sprang towards the toad and they both disappeared below the rock.
Harold stepped onto the rock, peering to the other side. Mr. Anser and the toad were nowhere to be seen, and the brook seemed to disappear underneath the rock. Harold was sad for the little toad but thought how foolish of him to listen to the snake, for although he was beautiful to look at, he was still a snake. Harold wondered if anything that the snake had said was true. Was the end of the stream really in the direction which the snake had indicated or was this a trick as well? It was all very puzzling.
Harold lept from the rock to the other side of the bank and proceeded in the direction that the snake had indicated. On the other side, he found a pathway leading from the brook, scarcely visible at the bank, but broadening as it proceeded back into the woods which, just past the clearing, became very thick with large hardwoods on either side. Although the sun shone brightly, the pathway was completely shaded except for spots of light, like fireflies scattered about the ground, where it snuck past the heavy foilage of the trees, sparkling and flickering here and there as the leaves rustled in the wind.
The great arms of the tree boughs cris crossed overhead, making the path appear as a tunnel at the end of which Harold could see a large clearing. A squirrel stood on its haunches on top of one of the boughs, clicking and clucking as if to say, "This way. Come this way." Scampering down from a higher limb came another squirrel who quickly joined the chorus, both then scurrying to the base of the branch where they ran in spiraling circles around the tree, climbing higher and higher until they disappeared from sight.
Harold giggled at the funny squirrel game and started down the pathway, picking up an acorn cap as he went and, with his thumbs, making a whistle of the cap. As he blew his acorn cap whistle, a rabbit hopped out of the woods and into the pathway in front of him. "Hello Mr. Rabbit," Harold said. The rabbit's long, floppy ears picked up, turning in the direction of Harold's voice. "Hello young man. Tell me now, why are you here and what is that tune you are playing?"
"I was following the brook to discover where its waters flowed to, and since I was alone on the pathway, I thought I'd play a tune to keep me company." "It sounds like a wonderful adventure," said the rabbit, "and I like your tune. Mind if I come along?" "That would be wonderful," replied Harold. "So," said the rabbit, "which way do we go?" "Well," Harold said, "I met a snake who told me to go this direction." Harold pointed down the pathway towards the distant clearing. "Tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk," said Mr. Rabbit. "You can never trust a snake young man. Why do you suppose this snake sent you this way?" "I tell you, there's nothing good in it. No nothing good I tell you."
"Well," said Harold, "the water dissappeared into the ground back there at that big blue rock, and I don't know where else to look. Anyway, this is such a pleasant looking path ahead, and you don't have to go if you really don't want to." "I'm not so sure about this," said Mr. Rabbit. "No, not so sure, not sure at all, but I will go with you to keep you company. Perhaps I can be of some assistance." "Oh, that would be excellent," cried Harold. "Shall we proceed?" "Yes, yes," replied the rabbit. "By all means, let's proceed." So off they went down the pathway, Harold playing his song on his acorn cap whistle and Mr. Rabbit hopping by his side.
By and by, they reached the clearing. The pathway led to a farmer's house. It was a beautiful home, two stories high, painted all white, with a porch on which sat several rocking chairs. These also were white, and in the yard, across Harold's and the rabbit's path, was a long row of white sheets hung out to dry. The brightness of the sun reflecting off of all this white was almost blinding. Harold and the rabbit stepped through the row of sheets only to find another row as long as the first on the other side. "My, oh my," said the rabbit. "I can barely see a thing. I told you this was a bad idea." "Oh shoosh," Harold replied. "They're only sheets." The row of sheets went nearly to the porch to the right and all the way to the woods to the left.
"Well then," said the rabbit. "What is your proposal?" "Let's just go towards the house and around these sheets," said Harold. "No. No oh no," cried the rabbit. "They may have a dog or a cat, or the farmer may have a liking for rabbit stew. I say we go left to the woods and around these sheets." "But the woods are very thick and there is no pathway there. I guess we'll just have to go through straight ahead." "Yes, oh yes, and quickly," said the rabbit. So Harold threw aside a sheet and the two stepped through, but there was yet another row of sheets. "Goodness gracious," exclaimed the rabbit." "This will not do at all," his whiskers twitching nervously. Suddenly, the yelping of several dogs was heard within the house and footsteps of someone walking towards the door. "What are you barking at?" the farmer barked back at the dogs. "Out of the house with you."
"We haven't much time," the rabbit exclaimed excitedly." "Hurry." So Harold and the rabbit began to fling the sheets aside, each time finding yet another row. At long last, when they were both nearly exhausted and near despair, and just as the back door of the farmer's house was beginning to open, as they flung aside the sheet they feared would be their last, they saw the other side of the woodline and a pathway leading into the wood. Down the pathway they ran, as fast as they could go, putting as much distance between themselves and the house as possible.
Finally, with their energy spent, they fell at the base of a tree and listened. This was no ordinary tree. In fact, it was the biggest tree that Harold had ever seen, with roots like branches twisting and turning in and out of the earth. They no longer heard the dogs nor the farmer. All that they heard was a gurgling sound coming from somewhere below them, the ground to their right sloping downwards. "Listen," said Harold. "We found it." "Found what?" grunted the rabbit. "The end of the stream. The reason I began this adventure." "Adventure?" snorted the rabbit. "I think you mean mis-adventure." "Shush," said Harold. "Listen." Harold stood to his feet, his hands cupped to his ears. The rabbit stood on his haunches, his floppy ears somewhat raised, twitching this way and that. "What are we listening for?" said the rabbit. "The stream," Harold answered.
Harold and the rabbit listened intently, searching for the source of the stream sounds. "It's this way," cried the rabbit. "No, this way," said Harold. "My goodness. Just look at my ears. They are much, much larger than yours, even with your hands. I say it is most definitely this way," said the rabbit. "Ok, you win," said Harold. "My goodness sakes," cried the rabbit. "Who said anything about winning or loosing? I thought this was supposed to be an adventure." "Yes, of course. You're quite right," said Harold, "but even adventures sometimes have winners and loosers." "Fiddlesticks," said the rabbit.
"Enough talk about such nonsense. We have an origin to find." "A what?" said Harold. "The end of your stream, of course," replied the rabbit. "Shall we proceed?" "Please, let's," said Harold. So down the slope they went, Harold and the rabbit, following the stream sounds. Down the bank they trod, under branches and over logs long since fallen, once towering trees, and now sodden with the dampness of the earth, moss covered and brittle.
The stream sounds were quite clear now. In his excitement, Harold began to run, but the rabbit was growing weary of the adventure and straggled behind. All of a sudden, Harold came upon a clearing in the wood. There before him was the stream, gurgling from the ground, flowing into a low spot in the forrest where it made a pond. The water from the spring flowed down a mossy bank into the pond, duckweed covering its surface with a shimmery green, the dark, dank soil beneath making the water a dark, dark brown. Harold watched the water as it spouted from the spring and flowed down the bank into the pool, forming eddys where it plunged beneath the surface of the deeper water. In the center of the pond, though, was another eddy. "What could that be?" Harold wondered.
As if in answer to his unspoken question, the eddy became a swirl, and the swirl a splash, and then, from beneath the splash, a nose and two eyes from a large, arrow shaped head appeared. "Hello again," the creature snarled. "What do you mean again?" replied Harold. "I don't believe we've met" "Yesss, oh yes we have. It was at the start of your adventure. You see, I knew we would eventually meet here." "And just how could you have known, sir, as I did not know myself where I would end?" "Simple," replied the creature." "You were searching. You were searching specifically for the end of the stream, and you were earnest. I could see it in your eyes. You see, every great adventurer's success depends on how earnest he is to find the answer." "The answer to what?" replied Harold. "The answers to their questions," hissed the snake. Suddenly, Harold remembered his previous meeting with the snake. "What happened to the toad?" he snapped. "That's another question," replied Mr. Anser. "To find that out is an adventure for another day," he said. "Sufficient to the day is the trouble thereof." "I'm beginning to think you're trouble," blurted Harold.
"I am only what you want me to be or allow me to be. Anyway, it's you who has been following me, and I am only too happy to be found by those who come out of the way looking," replied Mr. Anser, his eyes catching Harold's in a transfixing stare. "Come closer," he almost whispered, "and I will tell you of many things about which you are curious." Harold, fascinated and ever so curious, inched closer and closer to Mr. Anser, his feet seemingly of a mind of their own, unconnected with that little voice in his head which was telling him to stop, STOP. "STOP!" Harold heard the voice of the rabbit behind him, and the swirl of the water in front of him, as Mr, Anser began to twist and swirl towards the edge of the bank where Harold stood.
The rabbit ran to Harold's side, frantically shouting, "Run boy, and don't look back," pushing on Harold's legs as he stood starring at the form snaking its way towards them and getting ever so close, its eyes holding Harold's in a hungry looking gaze. The rabbit made a hop, landing on Harold's shoulders and, covering his eyes with his long, floppy ears, yelled at Harold to turn around and run. Finally, the object of his transfixing gaze removed, Harold turned around and ran away from the water just as Mr. Anser was reaching the bank. "You'll be back," Mr. Anser cried. "You curious ones always come back."
Harold pulled back the rabbit's ears from his eyes and began to turn around. "No, no, no. You musn't, musn't," cried Mr. Rabbit." "Stay the course. Straight ahead's the path." "But...," Harold began. "No buts. There are no buts. Trouble you are with a capital T. Why did I let you talk me into this? Straight ahead. Tout droit. The path is just there. It's narrow, but sure to lead us home." "But it's just an ordinary path," protested Harold. "Ordinary?" cried the rabbit. "Ordinary you say? And tell me, does the path lead home?" "Why yes, I think so," replied Harold. "And is there another path by which we can get there?" "Why no, I don't think so," Harold said. "Well then," replied the rabbit, "I don't see how you could call it ordinary. Extraordinary indeed is this only path which can lead us through this strange wood to where we began." "But if I've gone no further than where I began, I might just as well have never started this adventure," Harold protested.
And what was the point of this adventure? I've completely forgotten," cried the rabbit in exasperation. "To find the end of the stream," Harold wistfully answered. "It was such a beautiful stream, and I so curious to know its course and to uncover its mysteries and share these things with others." And what have you learned that you will share with others?" asked the rabbit. "That the most useful discoveries we can make are what we learn about ourselves, and that we don't need to travel far to make such discoveries."
As he spoke, Harold and the rabbit found themselves back at that same ponderous oak from which Harold began his adventure. The rabbit hopped off of Harold's shoulders and, with a twitch of his ears and a wink of his eye, he was gone. Harold thought about his adventure and what he had learned. His friend, that little voice in his head, was right. Things had indeed worked out in the end.