family stories: flying fish (pt. 2)

I woke up after the experience, vague memories still brushing my mind. I knew I had been there, but it was all fuzzy. I can remember the dare: to be free. I remember thinking all sorts of things, and having some pretty strange delusions. Now, however, it was time to go to my school. I felt elated until I realized that everything was exactly the same as before, except now I had huge green bags under my eyes.

One of my coworkers commented on my eyes. Asked me if I’d been up all night. Then I acted in a way completely uncharacteristic of my former self. I snapped back by saying, “You know, it’s not about the looks. We’d all do a lot better to focus more on the important things.” My coworker just smiled, and agreed, swimming off with his team.

It was a long day, longer than I remember these days being. My mind kept floating off, thinking about the stars and when I would get a chance to see them again. I was training a new set of fish on how to properly swim after food. I found myself changing my usual speech. When I should have told them how to dart after the food, I ended up blurting out “You know, gathering food’s not the be-all-end-all of existence. There’s more to life than just swimming after food.” My unusual retort caused some fish to chuckle. One fish raised its fin and said, “So what you mean is that we should give food to others?” I thought about it for a moment. “Yes, we should be charitable.”

This was met with approving glances from most of the students who understood what I was saying. Be charitable. Great idea. After the warm feeling flowed through the school, I was met with a stern command from Jody, which was an order to visit the school principal.

I swam half-heartedly to the principal’s quadrant. The flatfish looked at me with his one working eye, wearing a giant frown. Mind you, it’s hard to tell what he’s thinking, because flatfish are always frowning. He began to part his bulging lips to say something, but I could not contain my outburst. “I know there’s something different about me,” I began in my own defense.

“Different, indeed. Jody tells me you’ve been changing the training, the training we have spent so many years establishing. You don’t need me to tell you how unusual this is.” I began to interject, but I had already been impolite, and something in the principal’s eye suggested I should hold my tongue. “Now the students are talking about charity…. and we think this is a wonderful idea! How could one fish persuade an entire class to become more productive, and gather more food? Your genius is undeniable. You should start the program at once. Your rations, naturally, will increase with the students’ productivity.”

A commendation from the principal! And a promotion! The principal winked at me as I left his quadrant, and I was feeling puffed with esteem, glad that I had for once done something unusual. Maybe our society isn’t as conformist as Jacob would have me believe. But there was still something nagging at me. I should feel on top of the sea at this point, so why did I still think something was wrong?

As I left the quadrant, I noticed a change in the way other fish were looking at me. They were either proud to know me, or jealous of my success. Either way, I was a superstar… stars

What had I learned last night? I had learned that I needed to be free. Obviously, learning about freedom was an important step, and my change of thought had brought on my current happiness. But it was something the principal had said that netted me. It was his use of the word persuade, perhaps, as though I had pushed the students to think something that they would not have otherwise considered. But that can’t be a bad thing. Maybe it was the words to become more productive. Were we really being charitable? Were we really thinking about others’ needs, or our own? Either way you sliced it, I was now thought of as the charitable fish. I was the one with the halo, the one who was doing some good in this sea. I could tell others about my charitable works, and easily appear to be the best fish in the school. This was a great power, and as I began to thank the stars for my newfound power and wealth, a thought dogfished me: Is it enough to simply be thought of as being good? Is it even desirable? What does it really amount to?

That night, I again strayed from the schools. I reached the surface and I saw something terrible. Lights were coming from the sky, and it was not the light of the stars. Nightfishing. A line dropped into the schools. I saw a fish, screaming and wriggling, being lifted out of the schools. I recognized her face before she disappeared into oblivion. It was Jody.

The lights were out. I peered up to the sky, looking for an answer. I thought of my commendation and promotion. Regardless, if I would have stayed in the schools that night, that could have been me screaming and fighting the taut line, instead of Jody. My success would have been worthless. Whatever good I had begun would be for naught.

Before the massive carriers above us belched their dark grey smoke into the water, signaling their departure, I saw something else. It was like rain. No, pebbles. Then it dawned on me. The same vessels responsible for fishing us out of the schools were the ones responsible for dropping the food. They were keeping us there in our own little protective ball, just so they could fish us out when they needed to take us away. I saw into the stars, and a new message appeared:

You are not free.

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family stories: flying fish (pt. 1)

young gun park

So, Jacob starts swimming with me. I’ve heard about Jacob. He’s that fish who swims with all kinds of schools. He starts talking with me about all the different schools where he’s been swimming.

 

“Don’t you get tired of swimming with so many schools?” I asked.

“Life’s got all kinds of schools, man. Do you ever look up at the night sky?”

“No. Why bother? It’s just a bunch of darkness,” I replied.

“Aw, then you really HAVEN’T looked up at the sky. It’s not just darkness. There be stars up there, matey. Beautiful stars. Constellations. Galaxies. Places you can visit and chill out at. Realms of wisdom lost to the ages. Been a long time since folk dared to go up there.”

Go up there? Are you insane? There’s no water. You’d die.”

“Would you believe me if I told you I’ve been up there? Let me tell you, life’s like a stream. It flows into this nook or that cranny. Right at the end of the stream you see something folks call death. But it’s actually the big unknown; the mystery. It’s waiting for you, yah know?”

“So, if you’ve been to the stars, why are you down here swimming with us normal fish?”

“You all are too far out. I love to observe. Fish swimming here and there, darting furiously after little pebbles of food like it’s the most important thing in the sea, never looking around and feeling the gift they’ve been given. Every now and again though, I see a fish who needs to fly, you know? Just needs to. You ever hear of this salmon giving talks out at the berg? He says there’s this kind of fish, the boddhisatfish, who goes to the stars and then comes back to the schools to chill and help wherever possible. Help in the real way, dig? So now you know it can be done. Do what you will.”

He swims away. Pfffft. Far out. I’m not the one who’s far out. Yeah, jump out to where there’s no air, and maybe even a hook. Enough hooks dip into the schools as it is. I don’t need to get closer to the surface, where all the hooks come from. What’s wrong with swimming with the same school? Here, I know I’m safe. I’ve got a bunch of fish to swim with, and we’re doing just fine. Everyone shows up on time, and we have a purpose. We’re here to keep the schools going. We toil tirelessly for the greater good. If he really wanted to help, he’d be stooping to dart after pebbles of food like every other fish. He’d be a part of one school, and he’d devote himself to the greater purpose. Once we start going off on our own, the whole thing will fall apart. No more schools. No more structure. Everyone just going off and doing what they please. It’s shellfish.

Still, it hits me one night. I’m having dreams about what he said. I’m filled with the burning desire to see what’s beyond the schools. The feeling is so strong it could filet me. One restless night, I decide to swim closer to the surface. I’ll just have a look. I just want to see if what he’s talking about is true. Once I know he’s putting me on, I can come back to the safety of my school and I’ll know not to trust what he says. That’s why I’m going out there. To prove Jacob wrong.

Once I get there, I see what Jacob was talking about. There really are stars out there. Well, I guess I can’t prove him wrong. From this view, I take a look down and see why it is all the hooks dip into the schools. It’s because that’s where all the fish are. There they swim, just waiting to die. No, there must be a reason I felt so safe there. Now that I look out at these stars, however, I can’t think of a single reason why I thought that place was so secure. I’m just as secure here, with this beautiful view! I think I can even see something in that cloud of burning stars. Now I’m seeing words swirling around in that cloud. I dare you. No, there’s something more. I dare you to be free.

It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge to go and see beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Oh, but the risk—I dare you—it really isn’t safe—to be—but what if I—free.

Nothing in the world can stop me at this point. I swim back to give myself some momentum. I am gaining speed I never thought I had in me. I am hurtling myself toward the surface, towards the deep darkness and luminescent flare of astral bodies, and I anticipate a painful crash. I break through the surface. Instead of a crash, there is a sudden wash of nothing: a perfect lack of sound. No more voices. No more posturing. No more fish telling me what I am and what I should be and what I need to do with my life. No more schedules, no more appointments, and no more expectations. Nothing remains but beautiful, sterling silence. I thought I was going to die, but now I feel as though I haven’t been alive until now. The remaining bits of water fly out of my gills and I need to keep the breath in my body. A new breath emerges. Now I am breathing fully, deeply, and meaningfully. The light of the stars is approaching me, and I see that the stars are not terrible and pain-inflicting balls of fire, but just water in another form. I prepare to enter the mass, the words growing before my eyes.

I dare you to be free.

cultural confusion holiday love

I am the mad story-stealer! I was given this tale by a coworker who began taking English classes last year. Since then, she has really taken to the English language through much discipline and practice. I was quite amazed to hear her tell this story. I’ll admit to adding some details, but the story structure is completely hers, and she told it completely in English 🙂

Min-hu was a retailer of children’s books back then. He led a quiet, simple life. He loved having conversations about interesting things with the people who came into his shop. He spoke a little English, but not much.

Greta was a teacher of English from Germany who loved to learn languages and explore new cultures. She had spent her life traveling, a life which had brought her here to Min-hu’s bookstore in a quiet little South Korean town in Jeollabukdo.

Greta began to speak with Min-hu this fateful day, partly in Korean and partly in English. Min-hu was happy to speak to this warm, kind foreigner who had a great love for her new home of Korea and children’s books. She was teaching kindergarten in those days and had come to select the right picture book for her students.

She spoke with the gentleman behind the counter. A conversation began to emerge about the season, the cold and snow, and how in Germany it is a custom to invite friends to one’s house to warm up with a hot beverage. Greta told Min-hu that she would love it if he came over to her home, as a friend, and enjoy some tea and snacks. Min-hu was delighted to accept the invitation from the stranger. He looked forward to having some practice speaking English and possibly making a new friend.

Greta went home and prepared the ingredients for tea and snacks. She wondered what Min-hu would think of the Christmas decorations she had put all around her apartment. At the agreed-upon time of 7:30 pm, Min-hu rang Greta’s doorbell. When Greta opened the door, Min-hu was overwhelmed by what he experienced.

In the air, he could smell baking ingredients like cinnamon, clove, and vanilla. The entire apartment was lit in rich amber light, and beautified with red, gold and green decorations. Awestruck, he slowly entered the apartment where there was a small tree on a table wrapped in lights in front of small fragrant pine cones sitting around to decorate the space. On each surface, a red votive sat and burned away. In bowls, there were piles of mandarin oranges, nuts and soft sweet bread. Candies sat in smaller bowls with mint candy sticks, and three large red socks adorned the window. There were lights around the windows, each with a distinct colour: one red, one green and one blue.

Greta served tea. The amazed bookseller wasn’t really sure what to say. This woman he had just met had gone to so much trouble for this evening. She loves me, he thought.

After the pleasant conversation and tea with snacks, Min-hu went home, unable to think properly. Here, this beautiful stranger had worked so hard to tell him she was interested in having a relationship with him, but he didn’t say anything in response. What she must be feeling now– hurt, rejected, unappealing– why, that would be terrible. He quite enjoyed her company, but he never expected foreign women to be so direct!

He had to show her somehow that he reciprocated her feelings. What does a man buy for a woman to show that he feels affection for her? He thought of it. Of course. Lingerie.

The next day he went and purchased some lingerie and wrapped it neatly in a package. He called Greta and told her he would love to meet again. She agreed. He went to her home the following Wednesday evening, and as before, it had been decorated and filled with sweets. He gave her the present and she thought to herself, “Oh, what a nicely wrapped present. He must celebrate Christmas the same way we do in the West.”

There was a little confusion on both sides. Min-hu hadn’t understood why Greta’s apartment looked, smelled and felt so warm and inviting. Greta didn’t think it strange to receive a present so close to the holiday. All this confusion would be unraveled with the pulling of the ribbon from the neatly wrapped, brightly coloured package. Once Greta opened the gift, she drank in the sight of the adult apparel. It was obvious how Min-hu felt, and she instantly realized how Min-hu must have been confused. “No matter,” she thought.

“I think you were confused, Min-hu. During the holiday time, it is common for Westerners to decorate their homes, bake, and put out goodies. But don’t be embarrassed. I want to teach you about another custom you might not know about. Do you see that little bundle of leaves above us?”

Greta pointed up to the beam above them where a little mistletoe was wrapped with yarn, hanging from a small nail. She explained the tradition, and then demonstrated it.

You know, Greta and Min-hu are married these days, and they still love to find out new things about each other’s culture, and other cultures around the world.

the long game

There was once a man of age who loved to play chess. He played every day and would play with anyone who challenged him. Many did not like playing with him, however, because of his unusual style.

by ~AllisonStanley http://www.deviantart.com

His style was to defend without attacking for many rounds. This is called the long game, but it only works if your opponent is also playing the long game. If your opponent is on the offensive, you need to strategize an attack lest you lose too many pieces to defend your territory.

The problem was that everyone knew he wouldn’t take the offensive. He would always play the long game, and always lose.

An opponent asked him once, “Why do you always play the long game when you know that you will always lose? You’ve played enough times to know that you need to take the offensive to win.”

He replied, “The reason I’ve been playing all these years is not to win. It is to find someone else who likes to play the long game.”

travel: Saemangeum, South Korea

Last night I woke up many times sore from my day of cycling, changing the icepack I had laid across formidable sunburns on both my thighs. I covered everything but those, and now nursing a cold I realize I shouldn’t have done what I did in the first place, but it makes no difference at this point. We are all light, we all come from light and we will all return to light. What difference will a couple of sunburns make?

I set off at about 10:30 and did not return to nurse my burns until about 21:30. The first leg of the trip is from my apartment downtown to the Wolmyeong Mountain park, a nice workout involving many ups and downs, which I am sure is as hard on my bicycle as it is on me.The mountain range is covered by lush evergreens, firs and pines, and apparently contains a healing tree, called silver birch, under which Koreans sit to inhale phytocide. There’s a local belief that the aroma from silver birch cures anything from hangovers to cancer.On the Sunday I rode out there I could see many people reclining on the wooden beds meant especially for breathing in the healing scent. Up and down the hills I went, passing Koreans of all ages, past Wolmyeong Lake, through a school area and some rock-climbing walls, down a steep path and finally into the industrial region.
The rich, delicious, tea-like sap-soaked scent of the emerald, lake-punctuated mountains yielded to the smell of factories, a new toxic odor appearing at every turn, at one point gasoline, at one point burning plastic, at one point a scent like sulfur, and finally quitting this plague upon the senses, I turned into the large stretch of rice fields. If gold and green had a child, it would be the colour of these crops stretching to every horizon.

Gold and green met that mellow sky blue and stretched across the periphery, the scent of sweet grass filling my senses, yielding once in a while to the ocean’s odour of dead fish, a not unpleasant smell until it becomes too strong.

Of course you cannot expect the ride to be without its sting, for the greater the beauty, the greater the beast. As much as a primate like me may love riding freely among the rice fields, so do the dragonflies and lesser flies love swarming around them. Anticipating this, I wore glasses and tired to keep my mouth as well-closed as possible to avoid an unwanted meal. Still yet the spiderwebs clothed me as I rode, tickling everything, and I thanked mother earth at one point for the richness of biodiversity and apologized for massacring so many of her friends’ homes.

Off in the distance I beheld a massive monument to green, clean energy, a giant windmill, white and streamlined, stretching its arms like a colossal toy soldier standing at attention in the distance. Here near the ocean, on a flat area, it proved to be the best place for such a monster, towering above everything else including the large apartment block likely filled with its engineers.

Otherwise there was the gold and green surrounding me, and soon crept in the parks, hotels and stores built to capitalize on the world-famous record breaking seawall. The first parks and hotels are dismal. The rooms for rent are cheap, and still located close to the industrial area, manufacturing site and Gunsan’s world-famous Free Trade Zone.

I once was asked by a young Korean man what a free trade zone is and had to scramble to find an answer. I explained all I knew: that it is a part of a city or country run by an economic rather than a federal body.

To this reply, this inquisitive student asked,
“You mean the national laws don’t apply there?”
“I guess not. I’ve never thought about it.”
“So labour laws, safety protocols, and even felony offences cannot be prosecuted?”
“Well, I don’t think anyone would actually do that.”
“But they could if they wanted to.”
“Yes, I suppose it’s possible.”
“Then I don’t think ‘free trade zone’ is the correct term.”
“So what would you call it?”
“I think the correct term is ‘concentration camp.’”

Clever kid, right? Bellowing shame to those who think young Koreans can’t speak English well! I have one criticism, though. The Koreans have pocket translators, so I never know if they fully understand the implications of what they are saying. The words they are searching for may not be correct, at least not in context. This young man probably didn’t know that he was referring to special economic areas, these ‘free trade zones’ as slave camps comparable to Dachau or Auschwitz. Or maybe he did understand and it was in fact, me who did not understand the implication that he was making.

These thoughts of concentration camps, smoke-spewing factories and swarms of dragonflies whirred past me as I entered an area that looked like the setting of a zombie apocalypse. Here I could see many rural initiatives to construct sculptures, trails and playgrounds that as far as I could tell, had not been maintained nor used in the decades since they were constructed. People drive cars. Why walk in a beautiful reed-pond, or cycle through many paths and enjoy these beautiful sculptures, when the real destination is the world’s biggest seawall?

My bicycle has become a friend to me, with its own personality. We enjoy so many experiences together, going across the bridges in the overgrown reed-pond, or going through various parks on adventures. She even kept me safe during a head-on collision with a motor-scooter last week. The delivery driver claimed he was fine. Bernadette was a touch bungled up, and I made it out alright with minimal damage. No fractures, just a little muscle pain in my thigh, nothing a little ice pack couldn’t cure.

We’ve explored many of these overgrown parks: beautiful brick designs overwhelmed by weeds, bright, colourful playgrounds left to nature’s forward temperament, and toilets left as derelicts while giant steel goliaths stand wasting away from neglect. Who would care for that which no one admires? Did it matter that lawns once kept tidy for smiling, happy couples and chuckling, sobbing, rambunctious youths to roll around in were now twisted with brambles and gopher holes? Would anyone ever notice the ruinous decay of these grand designs while screeching by at speeds well above the posted limit, tossing their garbage into these fields of a hopeful urban planner’s dreams?

I am the only one to notice as Bernadette sits beside me in this wild, watching me eat spicy beef and vegetables with two kinds of kimchi. There is another witness to the overgrown fields, a minivan that seems to have stalled out in the park. Its driver is smoking out of the window and chatting on his smart phone.

My helmet and biking gloves go back on and I resume with Bernadette out of the wilderness and into the nicer area, the foot of the seawall, where there is a bustling town of fish and commerce. I should rephrase, bustling would be the right word if it weren’t for the fact that everything from the hotels to the extended quay have scarcely more than shop-owners and fishermen inhabiting them. As I will not be bringing fish along with me, the little support I can give the roadside businesses are fifty cents for a vitamin supplement and a dollar for water, both of which are quite necessary for my endurance.

Passing the quay I am now on the seemingly endless bridge into the misty horizon. The bridge stretches to an island called Sinshido, surrounded by other islands like Sunyido and Yamido. There is then a continuation of the seawall, a bit shorter of a trip, to the coastal town of Buan, a beautiful town hidden behind a lush, green forested park, which is my destination. Along the road to Sinshido there are several stops where tourists can pause to buy cigarettes, junk food, ice-cream, vitamin supplements, fish jerky or ginseng. The rest stops are called “parks”: dolphin park, wind park, wave park, and so on, and
are each marked with a new and interesting feature.

I enter the vastness, thigh smarting somewhat from my head-on collision with the motor scooter. I breathe in the air, and photosynthetically (for we do synthesize sunlight, you know) absorb the rays from above, well-protected with sunblock across my face, neck, arms and legs. I ride until I reach the island, and I ride along the interior where fishermen cast their poles at the side of a road jutting out from crumbling cement fish restaurants and tackle shops. I stop to survey my surroundings. Behind me there is sunlit tan, and before me is the sphere of the taegugki, the emblematic yin yang on the South Korean flag: below the blue of the ancestral sea god and above the red of the ancestral sky god.

Before me is a small island with a stretch of sandy beach, the first I have encountered in two years of living in a coastal town. I want so badly to get to that beach across the channel. The channel is so small that I in my insanity think I can swim across to that forested, residentless hunk of rock sitting in the placid water. But the water is not so placid, and I fear a current. I will have to bring an inflatable raft next time.

I continue cycling, inspect the small island’s theatre house I make a note to one day visit, and leave the island to discover a beach. I know there must be one somewhere. There is not much to focus my attention on for this stretch of seawall to Buan. About two hours into this stretch and I decide I should go home, even though the forested mountain sits before me. With an audiobook babbling away in my headphones, I hesitate, but decide to do something crazy and accomplish the full length, persuaded by egotistical voices in my mind prodding me with insults such as: “the man who almost crossed the world’s longest seawall” and “but why are you doing this, just to brag?” Demons away, ego intact, I push forward and pay for it at the end of the stretch with a nasty sunburn across my knees which sting terribly. I stop on the Buan side for water and find my beach which will be no fun to lie on with my ruby skin.

After parking my bike on the golden sand that was to be my prize, looking sadly past a beached sailboat into the bright misty beyond from which I cycled, I thought to enter the forested mountain beach park. At the entrance, there was a crooked old wooden arch inscribed with some Korean I could not understand. I logically deduced that the sign read “enchantress’s forest,” for truly, what else could it be? Covering the
arch were spider webs and uncommonly large spiders crawling about. I circumnavigated the spiderwebs and proceeded up the forest mountain trail. Past my sneakers crabs scurried back and forth avoiding death under my weary stride.

Scratching were my hands, itching were my knees, crawling were the crabs, guarding were the spiders, and here I came to a golden green pasture hugged by the gates of an English-style castle beside a GS gas station. That is where I found beside the path a small, abandoned cement house. The windows were boarded up, and at some point, the door had been blocked with a brick wall which was now busted and crumbled, dewy with spider webs. Of course I had to enter.

In front of me was a giant mud nest, a little like a wasp’s. The sound of arrows unsheathed at supersonic speeds whirred past my ears although it was too dark to see what they were. Fwam-fwam shot the arrows, and I wondered what lived in the giant wasp’s nest. I peer in, and one of these arrows shot out, it was a tiny bird, a sort of sparrow, and other sparrows resided within other giant mud nests. I walked forth and more sparrows flitted by at rapid speeds.

In the house, there was a bedroom, and a main room, but the room had been converted into a small barn. Plenty of poo pellets gathered around my sneakers. I looked out the window at the incredible view of the ocean from this high-up vantage point and breathed in the salty air as close to the wired up window as I could draw my face, for the smell inside was truly hideous.

This was the mystery I contemplated, the mystery of the converted house, a mystery that would not become apparent until further down the path an animal with a shiny black coat darted desperately away. I could not recognize the form, or not at least until I walked further along the path and heard a bleeting in my left ear. I turned and there was a magnificent, pure, petite white goat tied to a tree, calling to, I must assume, the black coat that had just flitted into the bush. The dark coat returned and looked me in the eye without malice, however my feelings of fear caught sight of the sharp part of its horn and played within my mind a scenario wherein the goat jerked its horn up into me as a result of its madness, for I had invaded its territory.

I ran. The goat, however, did not. It merely stood, its bleating, as well as its companion’s, becoming louder and louder as I jogged past the cement barn. I descended the path by the scurrying crabs, and finally to the castle and gas station where I was out of breath. I found a four-leaf clover beneath my feet and decided I would give it to a friend. I slathered my legs with sunscreen and returned home without haste.

family stories: clown off

The Clown-off

Words by Leif Nordholm
Pictures by Jody Persaud and Chelsea Votel

At the festival of the burning men,

C. Votel

A clown approached with his friend.

C. Votel

Another clown came, juggling with zeal,

J. Persaud https://www.facebook.com/jody.persaud.9

But the first clown didn’t notice: he was blowing a pinwheel!

C. Votel

The second clown approached and proposed a competition:

J. Persaud https://www.facebook.com/jody.persaud.9

Thus began the clown-off. What a curious exposition!

J. Persaud https://www.facebook.com/jody.persaud.9

The second clown was strong, and blew the other clown away,

J. Persaud https://www.facebook.com/jody.persaud.9

But then they sat down together to watch the two men burn away.

J. Persaud https://www.facebook.com/jody.persaud.9

The end!

the mountain’s reply

Grain of Sand floated past on the current and Pebble saw her washed away into the valley.

by *Beezqp http://www.deviantart.com

“Gone is Grain of Sand,” cried Pebble. “Surely if I were like Stone, I would never wash away. Why can’t I be like Stone?”

Stone heard this and admitted, “Yes, life is good, but I can still be washed away. I would like to be more like Rock. Then surely I would stay in one place and never be washed away.”

Rock heard this and replied, “It is better to be a rock, but I would like to be like Boulder so I would indeed stay in one place.”

Boulder heard this, laughed a little and responded,”Oh yes, I am less likely to be washed away, but more fortunate would I be if I were Mountain; he wants for nothing. He will always stand tall and still. His years will be longer than all of ours, and he will never be washed away.”

Everyone agreed that it would be the best to be Mountain. Cheers arose from the crowd in the stream, “Be like Mountain, be like Mountain!”

Mountain heard all this chatter, for he was standing right there the whole time. He gave a mighty laugh, but then began to sob. Pebble, Stone, Rock and Boulder watched, amazed by the sight of the mighty mountain weeping, until they all asked together: “What’s wrong?”

Mountain replied, “You all want to become bigger, but listen to what I say! My lament is that I will never travel through the valley. I will never see how the sunlight illuminates each part of the stream. I will never flow over the dams, feel the chill and heat of the lands beyond, and perceive the myriad smells, tastes, and sights of the world. I will never flow through the roots of trees and wash up on the shores of new and exotic lands.

Being so tall, I can see all of it. I can see everything, but I will never really experience any of these things. I will always stand outside of them, gazing over them. What you consider a blessing, I consider a curse. The water will flow past me, slowly tearing away my flesh until there is nothing left of me; in hundreds of billions of years, I will have done nothing but stand here, tortured and exiled. You want to be me, but the truth is, I want to be Grain of Sand. She is truly blessed and I hope you will one day realize it.

The crowd in the stream thought for a moment about what they had heard. They realized that Mountain had gone mad, and if any one of them could change places with Mountain, they would be thankful for their great fortune.