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The following is the first draft of one of the stories to be included in the upcoming “Animales Felices – Happy Animals” bilingual children’s book project. (More info here). Your comments, suggestions, edits and tips most definitely appreciated. Comment below!

The early morning sun glittered on the delicately frosted pine trees. It was still. It was quiet.

Then in a clamor that rose with the sun, roosters crowed the world awake. Dogs barked. Hens cackled. Fires sputtered. Breakfast sizzled in frying pans. Before the forest the village came alive.

Radios were abuzz with a cacophony of giddy music and the crazy-happy voices of people hooting the day alive. Scooters put-putted up and down the road. Yesterday’s laundry snapped in the wind.

For some time, a musician strained to string together the best of the many ideas he had swirling in his head. He wanted to create a new song. A perfect song. A song about Life, Love, Hope and the amazing experience of Being Alive. People said he was a dreamer, a gadabout. They said his pursuits were not worth much of anything. He didn’t sell his songs or his poems. These people were struggling to keep food on the table. It was difficult to carve a living out of the forest. Taking down a tree would only bring a small amount of money. Each tree felled opened a hole both in the forest and the hearts of the people who had come to be known as the people of the forest. Who would they be without the trees?

Capricious in manner, the best ideas can flee the creative mind that seeks to tame them. But the crowing, barking and shouting shoved song ideas roughly to the side. The musician became irritated. “There is too much noise in this town to think!” he exclaimed. “I need to sit where there is no racket. I need to find a place where the song of many dreams can find me.” he thought.

Packing a small bag he headed towards the woods. As he passed through the thick mantle of pine tree branches drooping low on the outside of the forest the sounds of the village left behind became muffled and much less bothersome. He walked further seeking the perfect place to sit and let his mind wander in the soothing quiet.

The forest was richly dense, cool with shadows and dark with the promise of peace. Chilly in the shade below, there were warm spots high up in the trees where the sun’s rays drenched the boughs. With a leap, the man hoisted himself up and climbed higher and higher into the welcoming canopy. He found the perfect branch with just the right amount of sunny warmth, and settled in with a contented sigh. He leaned against the trunk tucking his legs safely in between several outward reaching branches. Then the songwriter closed his eyes and soaked in the hushed tranquility.

Birdsong nibbled the quiet. A breeze swayed the trees’ arms creating a light whooshing sound as their many long needles lightly brushed one another. With a sapphire sky above, the golden afternoon sun worked its magic and soon he was not just thinking about a song, he was dreaming it. Completely immersed in it, he fell into a profoundly deep sleep.

Comfortably tucked in that nest of his own making, songs that had been flickering at the edges of his mind expanded into a soft cloud of sound, color and gentle movement that enveloped his tree and, indeed, the whole forest! The musician slept on.

He was weightless, floating within the notes, chords and harmonies of beautiful and uplifting songs. These melodies brought a sparkling gladness to his heart. He felt deep within him a fresh scented, spring green hope. His heart pulsed with a soft warm happiness. One song in particular carried with it a whiff of the deliciousness of sweet orange blossoms mixed with just-cut pineapple.

Throughout the velvety deep-space black that seemed to contain this dream, a dense swirling ocean of tiny orange flags waved and rearranged the white polka dots of a universe of stars. He slept on.

Was it an hour? An afternoon? A whole season? A million years? That is the nature of dreams. The time they inhabit can take any form.

Once the most wonderful of all the songs had become a permanent part of his soul he drifted ever so effortlessly away from this dream. Very slowly he came back to the tree. As he awoke, the friendly twittering of birds quietly mixed into his awareness. He felt a whisper of soft quickening of some sort on his arms, his legs, his shoulders, even the top of his head!

Gradually he eased his eyelids up as if entering some wholly new existence. Unexpectedly a bright ray of sun beamed into his eyes and with a sharp fast, and very loud “ACHOO!!!” he exploded into a great sneeze suddenly wide awake! Immediately, as one, hundreds —— no, thousands! —— of startled butterflies rippled up into a great cloud that completely enveloped the man. And the tree. And that whole special forest. They burst into a beautiful drift of fluid fluttery orange. Monarchs!

While he had slept they had come home from their journeys. In the hundreds, the thousands, the millions! Into this special collection of tall proud trees of the Oyamel forest in the heart of Mexico the Monarch Butterflies returned. They arrived in jubilant streams bouncing along the slightest of breezes. These tiny creatures with their black edged wings speckled with sparkling white spots.

Each fragile creature an unlikely survivor of weather and peril. Windstorms, dust storms, beating rain, frost, barren landscapes, cities, lakes, predators and distance. So much distance. Beings who live on a diet of nectar in a world that offers fewer and fewer flowers. Each a delicate creature with a body no bigger than an apple blossom with oversized wings thinner than tissue.

And yet, here they were. In the millions they had brought with them their song of hope. Of Joy. Of grand adventure. They had returned with the melody of Life itself. And it was this song that joined the songwriter in his dream. It was the melody of the Monarchs he made space for. “Monarchs are a harmony of hope.” he thought to himself, “And it is their song I will bring to the world.”

And he did and in so doing people the world over learned of this magical place. They arrived to witness this beauty themselves and soon the people of the forest made a nice living making this a beautiful experience for the visitors. They cooked food for them. They created handmade souvenirs the visitors bought. They saddled their horses and let the visitors ride them into the woods. They made a pathway magical with Monarch movement that changed the hearts of the visitors.

His people’s lives improved. They had a new reason to protect the forest. The Monarchs became a symbol of the power of perseverance and hope for a world ready to hear this message. And the musician was celebrated for his songs forever more.

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