A Million Suns (2005)
The long stillness of the night silently faded and a bright new morning slowly dawned over Primrose forest. The first soft beams of golden light from the slow rising sun soon crept through the forests rich canopy illuminating the heavy, waning branches of its tall ageless trees. Far below, sleepy flowers still shadowed on the forest floor lifted their petalled heads skyward to bathe their dew covered faces in the welcomed warmth of the gentle falling light. The silence of the forest soon gave way to the waking calls of yawning birds and the bizz-buzz of dozy overweight honeybees hovering sleepily from flower to flower.
Perched high on the moss-covered branch of a large old Oak tree a small bird shared the news of the new morning with the inhabitants of the forest and one by one they began to wake. This particular tree was also the home of Scamper Squirrel and deep within the warm hollow of its thick trunk Scamper began to stir. Stretching out his little arms he yawned widely rubbed the sleep from his eyes and slowly sat up. “Good morning Scamper,” he shouted, his words echoing through the hollow trunk as if spoken by the tree. “Good morning tree” he replied, “and what a fine morning it is”. Shining a large brown chestnut on his stomach he raised it to his face, and smiling proudly at himself gazed at his reflection. “What a handsome fellow” he said, as his bushy tail combed back the little hairs on the top of his head. Bouncing up the narrow tunnel into the sunlight he quickly made his way through the tall sea of ferns and scattered fragrant flowers, occasionally darting under the thick mossy trunks of long fallen trees before joining the well-trodden path leading to Bear’s home.
Little Bear’s home wasn’t far away. Just like Scamper’s, it too was a very old Oak tree but with a small creaky wooden door. Everyone in the forest knew little Bear lived there as he had the words ‘BEAR’S HOUSE’ painted across his door in big bright yellow letters for all to see. Waking early, little Bear had already welcomed the new day with two full pots of golden honey. He now lay dozing in the half-light. With his little eyes firmly closed he tenderly stroked his swollen tummy with a lazy paw, his pink tongue dangling loosely from the side of his mouth and sporting a very content and rather silly look on his face. He didn’t doze for long as Scamper was already at his door. THUMP… THUMP… THUMP…”Hello? Bear?” THUMP… THUMP… THUMP… Little Bear sat up, “Who is it?”
“It’s me!” said a voice from the other side of the door. “Who’s me?” asked little Bear. Scamper stuck his head through the narrow gap under Bear’s door and looked up at him, his tiny eyes bulging in their sockets “It’s ME!”“Oh” said little Bear reaching for the latch on the door. Scamper awkwardly rolled his head to one side to get a better look at Bear, “what are you doing?” “Well… opening the door” said Bear. “Don’t do that!” screamed Scamper “My head’s stuck”, his little eyes now very large and swollen. Wearing a rather pained expression on his face he pushed against the other side of the door with his little feet in a vain attempt to free himself but only managed to stretch his neck even more, his little eyes growing bigger with each passing second. Collecting himself, he stared up at Bear “I… am going… to die!”
“What’s that?” Asked bear.
“When you, Go… away!” exclaimed Scamper. Little Bear looked at him with a puzzled look on his face “Well I wouldn’t worry about that” said Bear, looking at the pained expression on his little face “It doesn’t look like you’re going anywhere!” and slowly opening the latch, lifted the creaking wooden door just enough for Scamper to scurry under. Standing upright and feeling rather undignified, Scamper brushed himself down with his bushy tail. Then, staring at little Bear with his arms outstretched said “Well come on… We’re going to miss it, we’re going to miss it!” Little Bear was confused, “Miss what?”
Scamper looked up at little Bear in despair, a look of blank disbelief slowly making its way across his face. “The ride in the big Sun!” exclaimed Scamper, “You know, the… thingy-me-jig!”
“What’s a thingy-me-jig?” asked little Bear, now feeling very confused indeed. “It’s one of THEM…” replied Scamper, slowly emphasising the last word, his little black eyes now glazed with a far away look and growing wider with wonder as though the ‘thingy-me-jig’ had just appeared in front of him. “Come on Bear, hurry, we’re going to miss it!” Pulling the door behind them the two companions’ were soon on their way, soft beams of golden sunlight smiling down on them as they passed through the thick undergrowth and onto the winding forest path. Little Bear loved new mornings and this one was particularly nice indeed, a very, very perfect morning. Wearing a freshly plucked Bluebell behind his ear little Bear paused along the path, enjoying the perfumed scents of wild flowers wafting this way and that on the warm forest air. Scamper always seemed ahead of Bear, bouncing wildly from rock to rock or searching the horizon from his vantage point high on a tall branch to Bears repeated calls of “Are you sure we’re going the right way?” The friends soon left the path and headed towards the clearing. As they grew closer little Bear could see something quite strange through the trees. He could see red, and still more red, in fact, that’s all he could see. Little Bear rubbed his eyes in disbelief. Looking again, he was sure the sun had fallen into the forest. Edging closer through the trees little Bear soon realised this wasn’t the sun. It was in fact a very, very large red balloon. Little Bear had never seen a balloon this big before. It was as tall as the trees and the brightest, shiniest red little bear had ever seen. “Wow” said Bear bounding into the clearing. Scamper, now balancing himself high on bears’ shoulders wobbled from side to side, his little fists tightly gripping each of Bear’s furry ears. “Hey, hey, hey!” he shouted, greeting the others as Little Bear came to a sudden stop. The others had been there for some time, Dimpy the small Doe, Henrietta Hare and Fox. “So this is what it’s all about” pondered Bear, tilting his head and raising his little eyes upward as he followed the tall sides of the balloon higher and higher and still higher until they seemed to disappear somewhere in the distant sky. Little Bear was amazed. Stretching his neck back even farther for a better view he lost his balance, falling backwards onto the soft grass with an almighty THUD. Instead of helping him up the others just stared, and then started laughing. And the more they stared the harder they laughed. Still laughing, Hennie bounced on to little Bear’s tummy for a better view, her big floppy ears wiping the tears from her eyes. Little Bear felt embarrassed, then realising they weren’t laughing at him remembered that Scamper had been standing on his shoulders. Little Bear started laughing too “Ha, ha, ha…Ha, ha, ha!” Scamper’s little arms and legs were now sticking out from behind Bears head in a rather undignified fashion. “Sorry Scamper” said Little Bear, wiping the tears from his eyes and turning to his friend. Lying motionless, Scamper stared up at Bear from under a rather heavy looking frown. “Silly bear, silly, silly bear” he said, his frown slowly turning into a pained but loving grin as he slowly got up and brushed himself with his bushy tail. Little Bear turned to the others to find a rather large bullfrog standing with them. He was the biggest bullfrog little Bear had ever seen, in fact he was so big and so round that at first glance little Bear thought that he and the balloon must be related. He wore an old leather waistcoat and a flying cap, his goggles magnifying his eyes to half the size of his face. “This is balloon master Bartholomew”, said Hennie “It’s his balloon”.
“Oh”, said Bear, and rather shyly extended his little paw “Very nice to meet you”.
“And you too Bear, I’ve heard a lot about you from your friends”, croaked Bartholomew and giggled quietly to himself. Well, as quietly as a frog can giggle. Reaching out, he dropped the end of a long rope into Bear’s paw. “There you go Bear, tie this to a tree. The warm air will be upon us soon, and we don’t want to leave before we’re ready”.
“Oh?…Oh, yes, indeed!” said Bear, scratching his furry bottom and pondering the rope in his paw. The others went about packing food for the trip into the balloon’s basket and little Bear, now also inside, sniffed each of the jars for honey. After all, it had been almost an hour since he’d eaten and his little tummy had started to rumble. His concentration was suddenly broken by a loud shout. Jumping up to see, Dimpy, Fox and Hennie stared out, and then down, their eyes widening. “The rope!” exclaimed Hennie excitedly. Raising his eyes to the rim of the basket little Bear peered out too, then down “Oh dear!” he said, suddenly remembering, “I forgot to tie it on!” The balloon had started to rise and the rope he was meant to tie was now dangling below them high above the ground. Watching helplessly from the forest floor Bartholomew and Scamper were now growing smaller and smaller with each passing second. He watched as Scamper sped off into the forest, and glancing back at Bartholomew little Bear caught his parting words as they drifted up on the rising air, “Remember, it’s not what you see, it’s how you see”. Little Bear looked around the basket as if to find something that would help their predicament and then turned to the others who now stood silent. “Oh dear” said Bear again, now wishing he’d gone fishing instead, the balloon rising higher and higher, passing over the tops of trees and rising still higher into the bright sky.
A soft wind now swayed the forest trees. Golden leaves, now plucked from their branches, shone wildly in the sunlight as they whirled over and over in the morning breeze. Looking down, the friends watched in awe as the sea of tumbling leaves glistened and sparkled like a million suns in the blue sky. “Wow! That’s beautiful”, said Dimpy, the rest of the group stretching their little necks over the side of the basket for a better view. Little Bear pondered Bartholomew’s words as he peered down “It’s not what you see, it’s how you see”. Now he was beginning to understand, he had never seen the forest like this before. Looking up at him, the once familiar forest, his home, now appeared quite different. In fact, it had become alarmingly unfamiliar and the landscape he had known was gone. Now, looking down from above, it appeared strangely flat and abstract. Sailing above the treetops they continued to look down, each of them lost in the magical beauty of the sight below. “What’s that?” shouted Fox leaning out of the basket and pointing far below, his eyes straining to make sense of what he was seeing. The others followed with their eyes, peering hard at the shifting colours of the treetops. They could see a strange small shape leaping from tree to tree. It was hard for little Bear to keep his focus for as long as he did, but it was just long enough for him to recognise the little shape far below “SCAMPERRRR!” yelled little Bear excitedly. The others cheered loudly and began dancing around the basket, screaming excitedly and waving their little arms in the air.
Far below, Scamper leapt wildly from branch to branch, his tiny face screwed tightly with concentration, his eyes transfixed on the long rope hanging from the balloon’s basket, its loose end skimming the treetops just beyond his reach. Never one to miss out on an adventure, Scamper, springing higher and farther than ever before shot high into the blue sky, his little arms clutching wildly at the swinging rope as it sailed by. Gripping tightly, he now dangled high above the forest on the rope’s end rolling this way and that as it rose and dipped with the breeze. He could see the others high above, their little heads now dangling over the side of the basket like a bunch of tiny chestnuts as they cheered and waved him on. As he watched from above little Bear thought to himself how everything now appeared very different. Very different indeed, strangely different. He hadn’t experienced anything like this before, in fact he’d never even thought about it. But ‘not thinking’ wasn’t that unusual for little Bear. In no time at all Scamper had scurried up the rope to his friends shouting “Hey, hey, hey!” at the top of his lungs, his little arms outstretched like a vain pop star acknowledging a devoted audience and wearing a very, very cheeky smile that stretched from ear to ear “It’s MEEEEE!!!”
Bartholomew watched from the forest clearing as the balloon sailed higher and farther into the sky. “He really is a silly old Bear”, he croaked, and then giggled loudly to himself, “Going up is one thing, coming down will be another thing altogether, and without my help they might never come down.” Lying on the ground Bartholomew took a great gulp of air, then another, and another. He continued like this for some time, sucking in air and not blowing any of it out. In no time he had inflated himself just like a large balloon, his eyes now pressing hard against the glass on the inside of his goggles. “Time to go” he croaked, and ever so slowly began rising just like the balloon into the blue sky, his small hands and feet sticking out, making him quite a peculiar shape indeed.
The sun watched over the friends with its bright golden eye as they sailed across the sky and stretching himself far out over the front of the basket Captain Scamper surveyed the hazy, floating colours of the world far below. Amazed at what he was seeing, Bear, with Hennie nestled firmly between his ears gazed down too as twisting, swirling, flat abstract lines of the earth changed tone as colours appeared and dissolved in the changing light. Little Bear pondered as he watched, as he always seemed to have many more questions than he had answers for. The lake far below glistened as they sailed overhead. The reflected sun’s golden light sparkled as it danced across the waters surface illuminating strange, brightly coloured fluid shapes as they were stretched, parted and dragged in different directions by the strong current before finally dissolving, then regrouping after a few moments to appear again somewhere else. Little Bear thought this quite peculiar “It looks like runny paint” he said, then added, “It’s runny too so, well… maybe this is a painting.” This had now got him thinking, and thinking for little Bear always seemed to make him more confused.
“How is this painting?” screamed Scamper, his eyes now wild and huge, his little arm pointing to the ground, a crazed look of disbelief etched deeply across his little hairy face.
“It’s not what we see”, replied Bear, “It’s how we see”. Scamper, now becoming even more agitated, looked back at Bear, “What’s THAT supposed to mean?” Leaning forward, little Bear lifted his friend to the edge of the basket and together they looked down. He didn’t know much about painting but together with his friend he tried hard to explain his thoughts. Looking down, then turning to Scamper he asked, “What is painting?” Scamper twiddled his ear as he thought and then replied, “It’s when you paint of course!” Little Bear pondered his words and after a short pause asked, “What is a painting?” Scamper thought for another moment and not wanting to give the same answer twice said, “It’s a thing you put on your wall”. Then after a short pause added,“I suppose that’s because it doesn’t take up much room.”
“I suppose you’re right”, said Bear and then realized they were two very different answers. Had the questions really been that different? Little Bear thought on. Scamper was now talking about a thing, rather than something you do. Little Bear thought this quite peculiar. Do we hang it on the wall because our eyes look ahead, or because it would take up too much space if we put it on the floor? He didn’t know, and had started to become confused. He remembered painting the big yellow words on his front door that read ‘Bear’s House’ and thought that must also be painting. But what type? And was it any less important than any other kind, it was just writing after all – but it was paint, and he had chosen the colour himself, hadn’t he? The painting on his door seemed to have a different purpose, but one no less important. As usual Little Bear had few answers but lots and lots of questions. It seemed paintings had more than one purpose and more than just one reason for being made and this now made it difficult for Bear to explain how and why he saw things the way he did when he looked at them. He pondered on, trying to simplify the various different ways of experiencing painting in the hope that he could clearly explain it to Scamper and the others but eventually had to stop as his head began to hurt and his thoughts were now very muddled.“Never mind Bear… What’s this?” Shouted Scamper, leaping between the packed jars inside the basket. “They’re Bartholomew’s” replied Dimpy, bending her long neck for a closer look. Grabbing a jar tightly between his tiny hands he raised it to his face, pressing his little eyes against the glass, “This one’s sparkly!” he exclaimed excitedly, and then bounced up to the basket’s edge with the jar wobbling loosely on his shoulder. Waiting patiently for the right moment, he coughed loudly “Ahem…” directing their attention with a flamboyant air of self importance, “Are you all ready?” The others gathered round. Holding the jar proudly at arms length Scamper spun it upside down, releasing a beautiful torrent of tiny sparkling crystals. The friends screeched with delight and Hennie, who had become much more than just a little excited, bounced up and down, and up and down, over and over again, her long ears flopping and bouncing uncontrollably around her head. Dimpy was convinced that they were in fact tiny stars collected from the night sky, and that she said, must be why Bartholomew had a balloon in the first place. As strange as this seemed, the others couldn’t think of anything else it could possibly be and finally agreed that Dimpy must have been right. The crystals fell like a wide blanket of tiny stars that sparkled and glinted with the light, illuminating the sky around them as they rose and dipped on the air. Some were lifted on the air where they lingered for a moment, as though unsure which way they to go before shooting off wildly in a million different directions on the warm breeze. The friends watched in silence as though hypnotized, their mouths wide and their eyes even wider. Scamper leaned over the side of the basket to watch the last few sparkles as they disappeared. As he watched he noticed something very, very odd. Very, very odd indeed. He rubbed his eyes with his little fists and focused once more on the strange shape below as it rose higher and slowly nearer to the balloon. “That’s no sparkle!” he exclaimed, and pointed for the others to look. “It’s a round fat thing…and it’s getting bigger!”
It was getting bigger, and ‘it’ was Bartholomew. It didn’t take long for him to sail to the balloon, the others helping him in as he exhaled long and deep and began to slowly deflate. He stood up, and smiling at the stranded group croaked “Got ourselves in a spot of bother have we? Don’t panic, I’ll get us home safely.” The friends looked on as Bartholomew climbed above and pulled the knot from a thick rope. This in turn allowed a little hole to appear like a small door at the top of the balloon, and just small enough to allow the warm air to slowly escape. Ever so slowly the balloon started to descend and silently made its way down to the forest far, far below. Little Bear peered down and for a brief moment thought he could see his home. Smiling contently, he rested his paw on Scampers little head as they looked out and said, “Scamper. We’re going home.”Back in the forest clearing the friends spoke excitedly about the day’s events before saying their goodbyes and going their separate ways. Scamper and Bear danced along the forest path, singing and laughing loudly together as they went. They stopped for a moment to gaze at the blue sky through the tall trees. “That was fantastic,” said Scamper, his little head tilting skyward. Looking up, little Bear thought to himself how wonderfully strange and topsy-turvy the day had been. A short while before he had been up there looking down, and seeing things in a most peculiar way. Now he was back down here looking up, but how he saw things from the ground, the place he thought he knew so well, had completely changed. He thought on. The forest hadn’t changed; it was the same as it always had been. The sky hadn’t changed either. Little Bear soon realised that it was he who had changed and once again reflected on Bartholomew’s words. It wasn’t a question of what things are but more a question of how we choose to look at the things we think we know. He thought on, but not for long, as little Bear was always easily distracted.Coming to the cross in the path that would take them their separate ways, Scamper and Bear said goodbye. Still thinking about the day and the impression it had made on him, little Bear turned to Scamper one last time and asked “What did you get from our trip today?” Taking a brief moment to reflect, Scamper looked up at Bear and replied, “I got to see a lot of strange things, wonderful and exciting things”, and then returned the question, “What have you got from it?”
Thinking about the things he had learned and remembering the beautiful sparkling stars and how they had twinkled in the sunlight as they fell, he smiled at Scamper and replied, “Illumination.”The two friends said goodbye again, Scamper going one way and little Bear the other. As he went on his way along the path little Bear leaped onto a big stone. He wasn’t very far from the ground and had his little arms stretched out to keep his balance. He was imagining being in the balloon and looking down at the ground as though he were still high up in the sky. Scamper glanced back at Bear as he scurried along the other path and pausing for a moment to watch, and then giggling, thought to himself, “Silly Old Bear!”