People are coarse, plain paper blotted in iridescent ink of the sun. I am doused in stories I pick from the sturdy back of mountains and in the sleepy beneath of pebbles. I am words of a hunger that quenches itself through letting out. I am silly pictures drawn by the ghosts of childhood. And I have to give myself up, one story a time.
There was once a little boy, and like little boys in all stories are, he was mischievous, silly and courageous. His name was Sauber Spiel and he lived with Grammy Weise in a little house by the frozen river in a town named Faul.
In those days, towns had a breath. Some towns breathed open flowers, some sighed out golden leaves and some, like Faul, held on to their breath so tight that their lungs swelled up with snow. In towns like Faul, people stayed in their homes, by the hearth, sipping hot, sweet fuzz. But the house of our little hero was different. This was because Grammy Weise was a yarn carver and Sauber a mischievous, silly boy in the warmest of clothes carved out of memories the world left behind. In that little house by the frozen river, the two inhabitants did stay inside, but they weren’t ever listless. Even in sleep, Grammy Weise muttered tales and little Sauber walked around.
I once saw a funny looking owl who told me of the night Faul let its breath seep out of its lungs.
I remember clearly the words of wisdom, ‘Hoot! Hoot!’
And that, dear readers is how it all happened. But of course I know you cannot very well understand that, for I also remember my mother tell me one fine day, ‘Daughter dear, it is more often than not that people fail to understand what owls say. I suppose it is because they use such odd words. So if you tell a story an owl told you, you must translate it in the tongue of humans.’
One night little Sauber woke up just as he was to walk past Grammy Weise’s room in his delirium. He heard her mutter and so he quietly crept inside her room and heard his grandmother sing softly:
‘In the land of misspent melody,
by the songs of a widowed goodbye:
Stay, I know of the abode of destiny!
Stay, We’re a good partnership, you and I!
Stay, for care is asking now.
Leave, for love is seething valor!
Out beneath forgetful tree’s bough
search for its truest life color.
To the lake of frigid memories,
you must speak, for the time is nigh!
Take help of the sleeping fairies!
We’re a good partnership, you and I!’
Little Sauber could make little out of the whispered song, but he felt an intense need to leave, if only to come back later. It was a need of the likes of the burning desire of a book reader to read ‘just one more chapter’ or buy ‘just one more book’ and the fierce wanting of a sportsman to run ‘just one more lap’ or practice ‘just one more hoop’.
It is beautiful how people somehow find small ways to be honest to the person they are.
He sprinted out of the house, into the cold, protected by the carved yarn that covered his body. He walked towards the frozen river and then he walked along its side until he reached the sleeping tree.
‘Are you awake?’, he questioned, in a feeble attempt to wake it.
The tree didn’t answer, but the woman who was sleeping in its hollow did. She stirred and came out and said, ‘Wha’ do ye want, laddie?’
‘I want to wake the tree up.’, he replied, trying to be bold to this woman clad in black clothes and red bandanna.
‘Aye, ‘n why would ye want that?’
‘I shall know when I shall do it, madam.’
She looked at his young face and said, ‘I know how t’ do it. ‘n I can tell ye, wee lad. But in exchange, I want ye t’ give me some o’ yer happiness.’
The boy thought for a moment and gave the woman words his grandmother had gifted him on his last birthday, ‘Happiness can’t be taken or given without the transaction hampering and tampering life. The best happiness is shared. And I promise to share mine with you whenever you wish me to. And because you are kind, I shall share it with you even when you don’t wish me to. And because Grammy Weise has taught me to be kind, I shall share it anyway.’
The woman considered his words and nodded to herself, pleased and a little sad, as often people are when they hear beautiful words. A tear clung to her eyelashes as she spoke, ‘Ye ‘ave broken me frozen heart, ‘n now I can learn t’ do again wha’ I once unlearned in sad attempts t’ be strong. I can learn t’ breathe again ‘n sail off on me ship when th’ river melts away, nah t’ go away, but t’ go somewhere. Ye ‘ave woken me up, ‘n thus th’ tree. Look at it fer soon it shall yawn away th’ slumber.’
And so little Sauber looked at the tree as it shook the snow off its branches and broke out into the green leaves and golden fruits. He then looked at the woman and felt her olive, freckled skin radiate a fierce warmth. She stood tall and strong. Then all of a sudden she broke out into a merry, purposeful song,
‘I ‘ave t’ feel th’ ocean ‘n th’ sea,
But thar be no galleon t’ accompany me.
Melt off th’ river, fer I must swim by!
We be a good partnership, ye ‘n I!’
And so little Sauber walked away from the woman and towards the heart of the frozen river, all the while thinking to himself how little acts of courage and kindness could undo the coldest of hearts. He wondered if there would be towns at all frozen if people came out of their houses to share words of their dear Grammy. After all Grammy Weise had always said, ‘Keep the doors open for a while, even if it’s freezing outside. People are beautiful. With them, we weave more twists into our anecdotes.’
Little Sauber’s thoughts were interrupted when his eyes saw two tiny boys sleeping on the frozen river. He went to them and looked at their peaceful faces. They wore a white thin gown to cover their exotic brown skin and were lying face down on the ice. He felt an unexplained pang of guilt.
‘Wake up, little fairies. The tree is awake. The bough covers you. Wake up and thank it. For thanking people even when they do things you think they should do anyways is nice!’
The two boys suddenly bolted up and looked at little Sauber for what seemed a long, long time. When they finally spoke, they spoke in unison.
‘Our hearts are frozen, the world denied
Melt our skin, our wings are tied.’
Little Sauber looked at them with his head tilted, as if trying to figure them out. Grammy Weise’s voice rung in his ears, ‘Don’t wait to help people just because you can’t judge them. People are all different. You can never truly find what another person means with all the skin and words they are. Love them, and you have a better chance. Even if you don’t, love them anyway.’
So he looked at them and whispered, ‘I am sorry. I can’t untie your wings for I don’t know how. But I do know what my Grammy Weise says.’
And so he repeated her words and the two fairies looked at one another and then at little Sauber.
‘Little Sauber’, they said. ‘You have undone us with kindness. We shall leave for you have melted what shouldn’t have been hardened in the first place and we thank you.’
And so they flew and the river broke into its flow. But little Sauber was trapped in the current!
The woman saw him struggle in vain against the water and rushed in to help. The little fairies flew back to find him out. But before they could reach him, he grew his own wings and flew to his little house by the flowing river.
His friends couldn’t find him and so they went on to find themselves. The fairies went to look after other fairies and the woman told the tale of little Sauber-the boy who taught the trees what it was like to be a tree and the rivers what it felt like to flow.
And little Sauber, well, he was a brave boy. A little silly, yes. But very brave. It was this story the owl told me. And sometimes, stories, like people, are happy now and sad then.
Love them anyway.