Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jack, Part Seven--I Love You More

Well, to make a billions-of-years-long story somewhat shorter, the dissatisfaction spread quickly and was soon an epidemic. Left and right, the animals were forgetting their gifts and instead focusing on the things they couldn’t do or that others could do better than they could.
Manitou, even though He was Manitou, had His feelings hurt. He was feeling the sting of the ungrateful animals’ complaints. He decided to take drastic measures to remind the animals of all they had been given.
Now, if you’ll remember, this story takes place at a time when the world was the perfect place—there were no blizzards, no tornados, no hurricanes, no droughts, no extreme weather of any sort. In fact, every day was 76 and sunny and every night was clear and in the fifties. Manitou decided that what might be called for was a little adversity—thinking that might make the animals pull together and forget their jealousies and their differences.
So he changed the winds just a little and tilted the axis of the planet so that as it circled the sun there were some pretty noticeable changes in the weather month by month. In this part of the world the days began to get shorter, the leaves of the trees began to receive less sunlight and soon changed color and fell off . The animals began to spend more and more of their energy just keeping warm. And they began to get worried.
But instead of bringing them closer together, their difficulties only made them fight and argue more. Things were getting bad.
Heavy cold fluffy particles began to fall from the sky. It was beautiful, but none of the animals were able to appreciate just how beautiful because they were all too busy shivering and trying to stay warm and alive.
They had to do something fast or they were in real danger of losing this world. So the crow, who was the wisest of all the animals, and the only one who had not yet given in to dissatisfaction, began flying from animal to animal, calling them together for a meeting. And because the crow was the one animal that had not joined in the arguing and petty jealousies, the other animals listened to his call and gathered where and when he said they should.
Of course it helped that Crow had the most musical, melodious voice of any of the animals in Manitou’s creation. When the other animals heard him call, they could hardly refuse. And even in the dimmed light of the intensifying storm the rainbow-colored feathers of the crow stood out vibrantly like a beacon, and the animals followed him to a large clearing in a field not far from here—near the rocks we call Sleeping Giant.
In the course of their meeting it became clear that all of the animals had some grievance or another with just about every other animal. The only one they all still seemed to trust was the crow. So they chose him to fly up to Manitou in Sky Country to apologize and see if He would change things back to the way they were. You see, by this time the animals had realized that it was probably their own arguing and complaining about what they didn’t have that had led Manitou to change the world so drastically. And they knew the first thing they had to do was apologize for being so ungrateful.
Crow agreed that he would bring their message to Manitou and also ask Him if He would consider bringing back the sun and the warmth and the green life all around. It was hard going for crow as he flew up through the gathering storm. His wings became coated with snow and ice and at times he almost gave up hope. But he continued on, knowing that all the animals were depending on him. Eventually, he made it out the top of the clouds and there, up above the Earth, the sun was still shining.
Off in the distance crow could see Manitou sitting beneath his Oak tree. Something about the way He sat Crow could tell He was grumpy. Right away crow flew over to Manitou and landed on the branch just above His head. Manitou said, “Hello crow. What brings you here, my colorful, fine-voiced friend?” Crow sang from his heart and his voice had never sounded more like the music of the Universe than it did that day, during that conversation with Manitou.
Manitou listened. When crow was done, Manitou explained why He had brought the cold and snow to the Earth. It was a lesson to the animals that they should remember all of the many gifts they have gotten and not wish for something that could not be. Crow asked Manitou if He would change the world back to the way it was and Manitou said that He could not. Instead, He explained that once in every trip around the sun there would be a time of cold and darkness and hunger, but that it would always give way to light and life and plenty.
He told crow to bring this message to the animals. Crow said he would and as he lifted his feet from the branch to fly back down through the storm, Manitou was moved by crow’s beauty and his steadfastness and He said, “Crow. Wait. Before you go back to Earth, take this branch you have been perched upon, fly over to the sun and dip the branch in the flames, and then quickly fly back down to the animals gathered in the field. I will make it so that they will know what to do when they see you. Tell them that this is my gift to them to help them through the cold times. It, too, should be a reminder to be thankful for the things you have.”
Crow did as Manitou said and took the branch over to the sun, dipped the end in the flames, and then wheeled through the sky and back down into the storm with the wood burning as he flew. Once he entered the storm clouds it grew darker and colder and crow had a hard time holding onto the branch with his beak. The flames and smoke were choking and blinding him.
At last he come out through the bottom of the clouds and when he did he saw the animals gathered in the field below. They right away worked together to gather pine needles, birch bark, twigs and branches. Others of them cleared a place in the slowly accumulating snow. A pile was made and then crow, just before passing out from exhaustion, dropped the flaming branch onto the pile and it quickly flared up, creating a beautiful, warm fire for all the animals to circle around.
After some long moments during which the animals were terrified that crow might be dead, he slowly opened his eyes. Right away the animals asked crow, “What did Manitou say? What happened? Where did you get this warmth and light?” Crow tried to answer, but all that came out was a scratchy ‘CCAAAAAWWWWWW” Next the animals asked crow about his feathers and when he looked at himself in the firelight he could see that his rainbow feathers had all turned black—singed by the fire and dirtied by the smoke of the branch.

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