If you ever wondered how the creation of the world, real or imagined, would look like to an animal. Posting this for posterity’s sake before I begin to heavily edit and/or rewrite. (If you read it through to the end you have the endurance necessary for triathlons. Things in italics are notes to myself and have no bearing on actual text.)
The Lesson of the Importance of Mountains.
(? change to have giant animals earlier, skipping a/few/some parts between? Whatever happened to every beast/thing necessary to pacify/control the wind?)
“When the world was a youngling, there were only mountains and the ocean. As no beasts or birds or plants were yet upon the land or water, these things only had each other for company,” Deborah started.
“As the mountains stood tall, both on the land and in the ocean, they took it upon themselves to be the mother and protector of the water. As a show of love for the ocean, it made trees to grow on mountain peaks and slopes and dig their roots deep to eat up the soil and flourish.
“The ocean wanted to meet these new things and the mountains in the ocean helped the waters reach all the shores by allowing the waters to follow their mountains’ bodies. In this way were the tides able to visit all the lands each night and see their friends, the trees.
“The trees thrived with the mountain’s help. Soon, they sowed their own seeds upon even more land and the grasses began to grow, then roots, then vines, then flowers, then fruits, and all manner of vegetation sprang up from the rich soil of the mountain. The ocean overflowed with joy at seeing these sights and in its desire to be nearer, the tides ran higher on the land, taking soil and sand from the land on their retreat.
“Thus adored by the ocean, the plants and trees grew brighter and more plentiful, their roots digging deeper to absorb more from the mountains. They complained that the soil they grew in was too close to the mountain, they longed to be nearer to the ocean.
“The ocean also complained that receding with the day and traveling until night to see the lands again was dull and it only wanted to spend its day gazing at the trees. The trees and the ocean entreated the mountains to help them with their wishes and the kindly mountains consented.
“The dry land-mountain and the wet ocean-mountain thought as one and the wet-mount sent warm, wet air Skyward over the ocean and the dry-mount sent cold, dry air from the Sky to the lands and a very special thing was created: the wind,” the bear sensed a question was coming and paused.
Because of the rain, Kâru was not able to sleep through the bear’s story, …and he was hungry. “Where were all the animals? I thought you said that giant beasts’ backs were what made up the lands.”
“That is true, kutti, and now that the wind is upon the lands and waters, there could be animals, beasts, and creatures since this thing is also the very breath that we draw as well as the motion that guides any flow or movement. But that comes later, for now, just soak quietly and listen,” Deborah said, nudging the lion. Kâru’s frown deepened somehow and he squished himself even closer into the warmer bear.
“The wind is a powerful force, o master, you can feel its influence everywhere. As it came onto the lands it blew the waters away from the mountains and trees, granting more space for the trees to grow. This act had its cost, as now the ocean was pushed by the wind so that the ocean’s own body was restrained by the wind, flowing slower than ever to the land.
“In the same breath, with the ocean being so restricted, the wind blew the soil off the mountains so that the trees could flourish further from the mountains and closer to the ocean. This act had its cost, too, as the mountains began to shrink and weaken, lessening their being and protection of the trees and ocean.
“To grant the ocean’s request, the wind released its grasp on the waters and they loosed with fury, becoming speedy and strong waves that crashed upon the land aided by the wind’s power. Even as the trees and the ocean were glad to be so close, these new waves stripped even more of the soil and sand from the land on their retreat, eroding more of the grounds away.
“Now, you remember that the bear said the wind is powerful and the wind is a thing that cannot be stopped, there must always be movement. Thus, the wind never ceased blowing so that the mountains continued to shrink and the waves continued to batter the lands, but also the wind pushed the waters further away and blew the soil so that the plants spread further. The trees and the ocean were together still, so they paid no mind to these things, but instead distressed that the trees had never felt the water’s touch and the ocean, too, was eager to embrace the trees. (edit?)
“It so happens that it is the nature of the wind to grow in strength, and with time, the mountains shrank faster and the soils were eroded faster and the plants fed on more and more of the soil even as it disappeared. The water reached closer and closer to the plants and trees and then the wind gave them their desire…,” the bear choked with emotion for a second, recovering quickly with a cough. Kâru was all but under the bear for his closeness, the rains forcing him to behave himself.
“The wind blew the waves upon the land with more force than it ever had before,” the bear sang gently. “The water flew into the plants and trees and soaked the grounds, settling everywhere. But the ocean’s water is not meant for the land and as the two were completely and joyfully united, the plants saw that ocean’s water was salty water, and salt is a jealous friend.
“Salt was with the ocean before the trees, so much so that they became inseparable and when the salt-water met the plants and trees, it caused them great harm.”
“How?” the lion asked. The bear shifted in position as she had to move to look downward and Kâru seized the opportunity to snuggle under her arm.
“Salt so loved the ocean that it thought to possess all the water in the world to turn into ocean water and with the wind guiding movement and motion in all things, salt found that it was able to do just that by pulling on the water in the plants and trees and absorbing it. This caused the plants and trees to dry up, but it also acted this way upon the land, so that the ground’s water was leeched up as the wind, never ceasing, must blow the moisture into the salt for it to keep.
“This is why you cannot drink salt-water, as it will absorb your water, too,” Deborah explained. “If it gets too much of your water, you will become as mad as a nuthatch.”
Kâru blew rain off his nostrils and shook his jowls in response. “I have water in me?”
“Of course! There is water in all things – it is so small in shape, smaller even than the salt, so small that it resides in us, unable to be seen, but like the wind, works in us to make us as we are, living animals, beasts, and creatures.”
“Hmm,” the lion hummed as the bear. “But…”
“‘But’ before you say any more, let us see if the lesson answers you first,” the bear patted him. Kâru frowned a third time and remained quiet.
“The trees and ocean were struck with deep despair at what befell the plants and trees at salt’s hand. The ocean still loved the trees and the trees tried to withstand on the ocean’s behalf, but the wind’s strength grew and more waves were crashed on the land, more mountain was blown away, and more soil and sand eroded on the ocean’s retreat, even faster for the lack of trees’ roots to keep any of it close.
“The mountains felt the sadness and pain from the plants and trees, felt the ocean’s helplessness, but also their own troubles at the wind. Summoning up the last of their motherly might, both in the ocean and on the land, the mountains positioned themselves around the land to shield them from the wind and the waves. This act had its cost, most of all, and the mountains then became still and unmoving.
“The wind threw the waves upon the land and ocean mountains so that the salt-water was smashed to such tiny bits that it floated in the wind to the high air. Thus bashed, the heavy salt was forced to return the water it absorbed as it is a thing of the earth and cannot enter the Sky, leaving the ocean’s water pure at last.
“The pure water blew on the wind over to the land, the tiny water droplets smooshing together the whole way in their eagerness to fall onto the plants and trees. As they flew over the lands, they were heavy enough to fall as the rains and the lands began to be lands again. The trees and the ocean rejoiced and forgot the now-silent mountains.
“For a while, at least. As the mountains continued to wither, the wind became stronger and all the problems from before became new and worsened. Now that the wind brought the rains, the plants and the trees could not absorb it all and it they began to be sick and the lands flooded for all the water as it could not return to the ocean.
“The ocean had an idea and used the mountains that reside in it as well as the power of the wind to make the first great beasts. With the wind providing the breath of life, these animals came to be in the ocean – the salt-water crocodile and the turtles…”
“Why those?” Kâru interrupted.
“It is they that can bear to be in the salty waters, for they are possessed of an organ that counters the salt’s trick by using the wind’s movement to expel the heavy salt from the water they live in. In this way, and using the wet-mounts’ rocks to fashion their scales and skins, did the ocean give rise to these great beasts and they swallowed up the water on the lands and brought it back to the ocean. They worked and moved slowly, as beasts of this great size were set upon by the wind from all their sides, but, like us, their bodies were full of water and heavier than the wind.
“This went on for a while, but as the wind is never ceasing and only growing, the mountains lessened, more rain fell and the beasts, plants, and trees could not drink up all the water and the floods and problems from before became new and worsened. The beasts, ocean, plants, and trees came together in their grief and reasoned that they needed to raise the mountains to block the wind, but also to pull the mountains away so that the ocean could again retreat from the land.
“The giants grasped the four corners of the lands and tugged and pulled. Slowly, very, very slowly, even using the wind’s power of motion to guide them and the ocean’s crashing force, did they separate the lands and create several smaller places which the ocean flowed on all sides and in between. This act had its cost, as the lands cracked and split and the mountains tore and some went this way and some went that way, but the ocean’s wet-mountains stretched and stretched instead, causing heat to build. The heat from the stretching finally erupted in a fiery boom!, creating volcanoes that pained the ocean by blasting hot rocks, melted things, and all sorts of stuff from the ocean’s insides.”
Kâru squirmed and squeaked, “’The ocean’s insides?’”
Deborah nodded, “The ocean, like the lands, trees, or anything else you can name, has a form.” The bear poked Kâru in the ribs with her elbow. “As with anything with form, it has a belly and if you dive deep enough, you will find the ocean’s belly. If you split the ocean’s belly, what to be found there? The ocean’s insides, of course – boiling, bubbling, hot greatly-greater things than can be imagined!
“You see how you shiver in the cold, but the bear remains warm and unbothered? The bear is a bigger beast than a lion and so burns hotter. The ocean is a form bigger than the lands thus it burns hottest of all, the large bodies of warm waters proof of the heat inside. The wind’s constant movement causes the insides to move and churn, becoming even hotter, and it is this stuff that poured out of the volcanoes.
“The eruptions opened the ocean and all the melted things were loosed and spilt outward, adding their energy to the moving animals, suddenly speeding their work with this new force. As the melted stuff cooled down, it hardened as new rocks and lands, pushing the giant beasts, creating the islands and some new wet-mounts for the ocean’s waters to travel along. The ocean took note of this even as the volcanoes were hurtful and the wind still grew in strength, blowing against all.
“With so much motion, some of the great beasts were unable to stop themselves and crashed into others, this act causing the lands to further crack and shoot upwards as sprouts, or rending them, creating the seas in some places, but mostly granting size again to the silent land-mounts. These things happen so slowly that they are happening even now – this land pulling away, that land smashing into another. The ocean’s injuries, the volcanoes, spit burning rocks and melted things, cooling and making new islands and mountains,” Deborah wiggled her ears.
She blinked rainwater out of her eyes and Kâru mimicked her actions as she went on, “The ocean took notice of all these things, especially the creation of the new mountains. While they were growing, they had no soil and thus no life and now the lands were separate and the ocean flowed between. The ocean saw how this changed the wind, for it trapped much of the wind among the lands, waters, and wet-mounts, creating the currents that act as the pathfinders upon the waves.
“The wind still rushed the waves and the rains still fell, and the soil and sand were blown and eroded away leaving less for the plants and trees. The plants and trees implored the ocean for a solution as they still wanted to be close and the ocean thought of the rains, little messenger droplets that carried the pure waters to embrace the lands on the wind.
“The ocean sought the plants and trees’ help to make more beasts, small beasts this time, that could move much faster with the wind and the plants and trees granted these beasts all manner of their leaves and petals to create birds of all kinds. These numerous, tiny things were too small to be moved by the wind and they ate of the grasses, roots, vines, flowers, and fruits to replenish their feathers. This pained the trees, but the birds turned the foodstuffs and water into soil in their bodies and flew across the lands and ocean, returning it to the mountains.
“Even though the birds were speedy, they were so small that they were not fast enough at restoring the mountain’s soil, but they multiplied happily since there were no harms or hurts yet to a bird and the plants and trees feared they would all be eaten up. The trees and the ocean used all manner of their everythings to create the first of the land-families and these came to be on the grounds – the bear, the wolf, the cat, the ape, the buffalo, the boar, the deerlings and horses, the insect, the elephant, the tortoises, and the fox and rodent.”
“Why so many?” Kâru asked.
“‘Why so many?‘” the bear mocked softly. “That is a small amount next to the number of different families that live even now and as each draws breath, each plays a role. The cat feeds on the bird, the wolf eats the cat, the ape clans hunt the buffalo, the buffalo, deerlings, and horses eat the grasses, the bird eats the insect to spare the plants and trees, the bear eats a bit of everything for they are modest. The elephant stamps down grounds, the insect tills the earth, the burrowers dig the wells, and each thing uses a bit of the other and these meals become soil in the bodies and is returned to the lands and mountains, replenishing them.
“Each family does their way and each way has several families that use new ways and then bear new lineages. As much as they multiplied happily, every family is still foodstuff for another family, even the trees and insect, and in this means is the soil slowly restored to the lands and mountains.
“The mountains were given their life once again and with the separate lands and the ocean and their currents, they began to form the seasons. To teach the rains when to fall, the rainy season came first. With the high mountains in place, the wind drives the warm, dry air from the lands into the Sky, the movement of which attracts the ocean’s cold, wet air, changing the wind’s direction. This changing of the wind is known as ‘monsoon,’ and the high mountains block the ocean’s air until it rises over them, spreading out and mixing with the dry air, creating the great storm clouds that the wind pushes from the ocean.
“The rains fall for the entire season, with little break for dryness, bringing the pure water to the lands. Like the first great beasts, and other early animals besides, we are all filled with water and we must drink to replenish it in ourselves as it also aids in the making of soil in the body from the meals.” The bear paused, eyeing the lion with a smirk. “Despite the fire and the forest, we are lucky to be caught in the first rains of the season, as it is a special showing of the mountain’s love for the living and we can consider ourselves favored among them, survivors of the greening season.”
Kâru made a note of this and sniffled and shivered in disbelief. As he made to say something, Deborah interrupted him,
“The mountains keep the rains over the land until they have rained their last, the drying ground sending hot air Skyward as the wind begins to pull cold air down from the mountains. The wind again changes and the ‘retreating monsoon‘ works to disperse the great storm clouds, which marks the start of the dry seasons.”
“Why are there so many dry seasons?” Kâru snuck in his question as the bear paused for breath.
“How much water can you drink, little cub? To help contain the floods from too much water, there must be time for us all to help the plants and the trees. If the rains always fell, we would all make our homes in the ocean once more.”
“And why do I need to drink? Why can’t I just keep the water inside me?”
The bear poked the lion in the nose, which is not a wise thing for any animal to do, but thankfully Kâru did not know this. She answered, “Besides making you heavier than the wind, the water in you is used for many of your tasks and as you work, it leaves you. When you drink, the water flows to your belly where it is absorbed by the body – it flushes out the dirties and the stinkies from our insides and it gives the means for the wind, our breath, to move our smaller bits around.”
“And what do you mean by that?”
To illustrate, the bear made a grand showing of inhaling and sighing heavily. “All things need air, which is to say the wind. As the living, we are comprised of all – the mountains and lands for the bones and solid skins, leaves for the fur and feathers, water for the insides… But we need the wind most of all, to provide both the breath and the motion to let these things happen in the world of the body and the world outside.
“As we slurp the water, the wind blows the water down into the belly, then into the body, using the very mountain-trick of spreading the water into tiny, tiny droplets where it can move about the whole. As we draw breath, that breath takes some of the water to the heart as the air travels to the lungs. The water in the heart, in turn, is blown to the lungs to carry the wind to the other places of the body as the waters flow to each limb and head. As each limb and head must do work, their replenishing requires more waters and wind being replaced with the new breath.
“As we eat the food, it, too, goes down into the belly where it mixes with the water and some of it is absorbed to help restore the solid parts. The remainder is turned into soil and released back to the lands, replenishing them, as we move with the wind among the land and mountain,” the bear waved her paw as if it was an animal running the veli.
“But these are just the ways of all things to keep the never ceasing wind from growing and to help rebuild the mountains. The beasts, birds, lands, mountains, plants, trees, and waters work to contain the wind, because if left alone, the wind would surely grow and consume us and every thing, even itself, for nothing that powerful can live forever. The dry seasons make it so that the life and work can happen comfortably, which is to say that the animals, beasts, creatures, plants, and trees can multiply happily and go to their ways.
“The times of flood are not over and doubtless you know that there are also times of thirst – both bear hardships to the living. These times come and there is no telling when they will come, so there is no help to worry for it, but only to enjoy comfort and peace.”
Kâru sniffed and said snidely, “Easy for you to speak of comfort with all your bear-fat and warmth!”
Deborah knew the comment was meant as an insult, but she patted the lion’s head and said, “In very deed do you say the truth! The bear is a master of comfort and peace. A bear must be, for they are among those who hibernate, a useful ability for sleeping away times of less. The dry seasons have their own dangers and a bear is prepared to nap through all of them.”
Kâru was still nestled under the bear as the rains fell. He poked his head up and both he and the bear looked to the clouds for signs of the fire. “I bet that’s a rare skill…,” he said. “The wildfire is one of those dangers? You called it the ‘herald of the rainy season.’ I’ve never seen or felt anything like that before!”
“Fire is a wonder!” Deborah sang lively. “It is bright and beautiful, but it has snared many an admirer, so as much as the body will tell you to ‘flee!’ you must obey or you will meet the same bad end as the brush.
“Fire has few causes and the lack of water is first among them. As we work during the dry seasons, even the wind does its part by lifting up the warm air Skyward, taking the tiny water droplets with it. The seasons can last so long, there is plenty of time for everything to become dry, especially the thin grasses and shrubbies.
“With no water, it becomes the nature of things to heat up as there is nothing to cool the insides. The lesser and the weak dry up fastest, but this happens even to the great rivers as they run their lengths, worsening the conditions of those that thirst. The passing of the seasons brings greater heat until the rains come, the air becoming hotter and denser as the wind starts to change direction.” Deborah paused and motioned to Kâru to watch for a lightning strike to flash and after the thundering, (and Kâru’s cowering), she assured him:
“The lightning, named Minkodi, is the Sky’s fire, made of heat, wind, and force. Like all forces, she is only happiest thrashing and crashing around, and like all other powerful things, she cannot live long, even in the Sky…”
“‘She?‘” Kâru interrupted.
“Yes, kit and more, she has a brother called Muzhangkira, ‘the thunderous,’ whose joy it is to scare the young and the timid. He is the force that travels great distances in instances, even in the body, shaking the heart and belly, as he tells the coming of the storms. It is said that those who can stand through his voice are filled with courage and vigor, the rattling of the heart causing it to strengthen.” As the lion listened to these lines, he remembered how he felt as the thunder had rumbled him when he swore his oath to his brother. He smiled as the bear continued,
“They are the children of the wind, always traveling together, dancing and playing, both so strong as to be so fleeting… and so strong as to cause great hurts, so beware when seeking their blessing.
“With all their play, eventually lightning will find the ground and any thing struck lacking water will burn up, catching the neighbors, becoming the wildfire’s blazing beginnings. While deadly and destructive, the fire’s smoke and haze help shepherd in the rain clouds, bringing the rains if they are late.
“The fire’s burning has another purpose, which is to encourage the growth of new things from the ash and ruin of the old things. Even in the char is there soil for some roots and these things thrive with the rains and become early food for the grazers. There are even those that say some flowers only blossom in the great heat of fires, at last sowing their seeds in the wake of the warm wind.”
“Have you ever seen any?” The lion tried to picture a flower among the flames, but he found that he had never paid much attention to any flower and so snorted to himself in feigned-disgust.
“No, the bear has not. It would be a marvel to see, but it is the nature of fire to be a gorger and to eat its own course and thus would it devour a sight-seeing bear. A fire spreads as fast as it can, using up all the things that are lacking water, its great heat mixing with the wind to warm up the air and dry up the vegetation, giving it the means to grow further and faster.
“A fire eats up all things that will be eaten and only by returning water to the lands will it wither as it cannot consume a wet-thing. There is more danger, too, for even as fire smolders away, it still hungers and can still feed.
“The fire’s messenger, its heat, is also deadly as it is the nature of heat to travel from the hottest thing to the coldest, which is to say that it burns and hurts the lesser as it moves speedily to them. With only water as its enemy, that means all the living are the lesser against all parts of the fire, so it is always better to flee and best to put water between.”
“I guess this means water is important,” Kâru said with authority.
The bear rustled his ears in response. “That is to put it mildly, but it looks like you have the right of it.
“As the dry seasons come, the lack of water is felt even in the very dirt. The grounds can become so dry that they loose from the earth, taking flight on the wind as the water does. But dust and sand have different natures than water and when these blow upon the wind they are heavy and they are sharp.”
“How can heavy things fly in the wind? I thought you said that salt was heavy and it belonged on the ground. How can ‘grounds’ float in the air, then?” As Kâru asked, he knew he had stumped the bear. Deborah gave him a long frown in response and muttered something about “curious cat…” and “always interrupting…”
“If I answer this for you, will you let that be bassak, ‘enough of you,’ until the end of the tale?” It was not a question.
Kâru had no one to look at helplessly and so sneered and Deborah made to explain, speaking quickly, “You remember that the bear said that the wind is powerful? And that water makes us heavier than the wind? And that dry-things heat up? And that heat goes from the hottest to the coldest, thus it rises into the Sky, casting off water as it does so, heating up things further…?” She nudged the silent lion. “When all the water is gone, the grounds are no longer heavier than the wind and they heat up just as the grass, shrubbies, and our bodies do.
“The never ceasing wind blows the dry-grounds, the dust and sand, until the wind’s movement makes it shake and jump up and down in excitement and pleasure, causing more and more dust and sand to join in the dance. As these bits dance, they are dry and heating up, and as they heat, they dance and leap more in the wind, heating up more, until they are hot enough to travel with the breeze.
“Bear in mind, cub, that these are heavy things, they do not go to the Sky – they flit among us just as the gnats and other biting-buzzies. The wind is so strong that it is able to keep the tiny barbs of dust and sand apart in its grasp so they remain light enough to fly close to us.
“As you cannot see through the ground, so can you not see through the wind of dust and sand,” Deborah lowered her voice. “Just as you cannot break the grounds, so will you not break them when the wind carries them to you. The wind traps the heat from these keen little pieces, driving them quickly forward, like the cheetah’s paws upon firm-foothold. And yes, as with all paws, you must expect claws, for the dust and sand will tear into the flesh, it will blast the eyes, fill the ears, clog the Nose, blinding, choking, searing, sharp…
“There is a name for the dust and sandstorms in every animal’s speech and when the dust and sand is seen on the wind, you will hear every one of them as a curse.”
“What do you call it?”
“The bear favors the owls’ ‘simoom‘ (sih-moom?) as it rolls out of the snout nicely. It means ‘poisonous wind,’ fitting for all its many dangers, moreso to their small kind who easily overheat already. All manner of birds are easily felled by the hot wind, but even stout creatures can be stricken with ‘pant-fever,’ the heat-sickness, for none who go into the wind remain unscathed.” Deborah finished with a paw on the lion’s head.
“None of this sounds very ‘comfortable’ at all!” Kâru hissed. He tried to imagine all the terrors that stood ready to assail him that he had never heard of before. He looked to the forest and saw that the blaze was burning weakly, he blinked in the rains and sniffed, thinking of his brother. “Why are there so many dangers? Will it ever be perfectly balanced?”
“As the wind must always blow, so must things always move. The pulling apart and crashing of lands, the winds and the rains, these things are still in motion and will always be. They will continue to change and some seasons will be great and good, with plenty and easy rest, just as some seasons must be great and terrible, with less and troubles. There is no help for it but to do your part and make your soil.
“To learn about these things is to prepare yourself for them. The greatest lesson that the bear can teach is that if knowledge will go on, so can we.” Deborah looked at Kâru, expecting something from him in the manner of agreement, but was rewarded with a blank stare.
“Thus you must always learn, deerling-idiot, or meet a clumsy end at the hand of something foolish.” Deborah sighed and roughed the lion’s head and he growled and rubbed his jaw on the bear’s side. “You do not want to be remembered for that.”
“And that story could have lasted the entire season!” he said at last. Thunder rumbled low, but the lion hardly noticed, even the rain seemed less wet than before.
“Well, you were the interrupter with all the questions!” Deborah returned. “And if you wish to stay true to your errand, ‘the tale of the ways of living’ is being told until the day of your last…”
The bear’s lines were cut short by spots of movement out of the corner of the eye. Both she and Kâru turned to see shapes plummeting away from the burning trees on the other side of the banks. It was easy enough to make out a pair of elephants crashing and trumpeting through the salty-shallows. For their size, they had no fear of the salt-crocs, but the fire would devour them just the same and they splashed their way to a distant bank.
There were other shapes, hesitating at the water’s edge, their chittering cackles giving them away as hyena. The biggest one limped into the water, the rest paddling closely next to her, as they made for the bank of the bear and the lion. (something on the return about hyena crossing croc-waters, disgust to hide fear)
PS: I don’t know why WordPress has odd paragraph-formatting options, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out how to change it.)