Harold’s Great Adventure

Part II

 

     It was a beautiful spring day, the cool wind gently blowing the cottonwood seeds through the edges of the forest like sparkling snow flakes in the sun.  Harold pushed into the thirty acre wood behind his house and found the secret path to his special place at the bank of the Persimmon Creek where the great old oak stood like a towering gate marking the start of Harold’s adventures.  Harold approached the tree, its giant boughs seeming to gather him in to his seat between two protruding roots which, Harold surmised, went as far into the earth as the limbs reached towards the sky.  He sat, gently leaning into the cleft formed by the roots and the base of the tree, The spring air, the shade of the tree, the stream gurgling over the moss covered rocks, and the wind whistling through the leaves lulled him, like a lullaby, into a contented sleep.

 

     “Follow the stream, and see where it leads,” Harold heard a still small voice whisper.  Harold’s mind replayed his previous adventure.  His heart raced as he remembered Mr. Anser and his and the rabbits discovery of the road home.  He woke with a start, thankful to find himself back in his special place.  Everything was the same, his visions of his previous adventure overshadowed by the restfulness of his waking, safe and secure in the arms of the great oak.  “Hooh, Hooh,”  Harold heard the owl call, its voice loud and compelling.  “This way,” it seemed to cry.  “Follow this path and see what you find.”

 

     Harold peered into the forest in the direction of the owl’s call.  “There’s nothing there,” he thought, “Hooh, Hooh.”  Harold followed the sound of the owl call and there, directly opposite from his previous journey, was a very, very small path leading along the stream.  “That’s no path at all,” Harold thought, looking at the narrow way leading into the forest.   “Had I not followed the owl call, I would not even have seen it.”  Ever the curious one, however, Harold stood and walked to the small opening marking the entrance to the narrow trail.  Harold kneeled down, peering down the pathway, wondering what might be ahead. 

 

     Although the path was very narrow, Harold trusted his little voice once again and proceeded up the pathway which followed the stream, the two almost as one as they twisted and turned through the forest.  Harold proceeded up the path, by and by coming upon a large laurel bush which obscured the path entirely, its branches reaching both sides.  “Well, this is quite unexpected,” Harold said.  I was going along quite well until this laurel bush got in the way.  Now I can’t see the path at all.”  “Look Closer,” Harold heard his little voice whisper.  Harold looked at the laurel bush.  It was much, much taller than he and as wide as the path.  Harold plopped to the ground, sitting and staring at the laurel obstructing his path.  “This is an obstacle indeed,” Harold thought to himself.  “Where is an owl when you really need him to hoot and show you the path, however small?

 

     While Harold pondered, a pignut fell from a hickory, plopping just in front of his feet where he sat.  Harold reached for the nut where it had rolled under the lower branches of the laurel.  He grasped the nut in his hand and looked up into the dense green foliage. There, to his great surprise, lay his path, running smack dab through the middle of the bush.  “I knew it, all along, he thought.  “It just had to be here somewhere.”  Harold crawled along the path underneath the great laurel bush.  Ahead, he could see an opening. 

 

     Harold peered into the opening ahead which lay within the laurel, as if spying into a distant window from a nearby house.  The inside of the laurel opened wide, a large clearing being visible within, like a hidden green cave.  Harold stepped inside.

 

     It was as if the bush were a hidden cavern in the midst of the wood, with passages leading out in all directions.  Where did they all lead, and which one was the path he had been following?  It was all very curious.  Harold stood, transfixed by the fascination of finding, it seemed, another world within a world, an island of calm on his new quest, a calm that was soon broken.  Harold tried to back trace the entrance path to choose just where he should try to proceed.  As he turned this way and that, he soon forgot just where he had entered this roundhouse.  “There are so many paths, but only one can lead me along the stream,” Harold thought.

 

     Which path should he choose?  They all appeared alike, and Harold had long since forgotten the direction on which he had entered this maze.  Suddenly, Harold felt a calm descend upon his troubled state.  It was unexplainable.  You see, there was nothing to be calm about.  He was lost and confused inside what appeared to be a terrible choice to proceed into this glen, yet he did indeed feel a calm.  Harold sat down and listened intently.  “There must be a way out of this predicament,” he thought.  Harold heard a rustling in the leaves inside the bush.  He looked in the direction of the noise, and there, quite to his surprise, was Mr. Rabbit, his old friend.

 

     “Off, I see, on another misadventure,” said Mr. Rabbit inquisitively.  “Not quite,” Harold replied, now calmed by finding an old friend.  “You see,” he said, “I was going in a different direction entirely!”  “Quite,” said the rabbit, sitting back on his haunches, his floppy ears casually drooped down like pig tails as he appeared to look at the forest floor, his paws pulling at his dangly ears, like an old man stroking his beard.  “And just where might this adventure be taking you?” he said with a snort.  “Why, I’m not exactly sure,” Harold replied, “but I am most definitely glad to have found an old friend to accompany me on my journey.”  “Old friend indeed,” replied Mr. Rabbit.  “True, quite true, but accompany you, not sure, no, not sure at all.”  “But you must,” Harold emphatically replied.  “Must,” said the rabbit.  “Must indeed.  This quest of yours may yet be the end of me, and you no longer have your acorn cap whistle.  I hear no tune, neither dreary nor cheery, to bid me join in this quest.  Are you quite earnest?”  “Indeed,” Harold replied, “but I am not so impetuous as before.  You see, I am much wiser now, and am fully prepared for the obstacles we may face.”  Harold thought back to his last encounter with Mr. Anser.  Was he truly prepared?   “So why do you sit there fixed between two positions?” Mr Rabbit replied.  “Two?” Harold said, “There are much more than two paths leading out of this glen.”  “Stay or go, listen or no,” said Mr. Rabbit, and he stood and hopped down one of the many paths leading out of the great laurel.    

 

     Harold peered down the path leading out of the great laurel down which Mr. Rabbit had quietly hopped, without fuss or flurry, out of sight.  Then he looked around at all of the other paths.  “Well,” he thought, “I am not at all sure which path is the right path, but I most certainly know on which path I will have the benefit of a friend.”  So, dismissing his uncertainties and putting his trust in his friend, Harold proceeded to follow the path the rabbit had taken.  Crawling through the crisscrossing branches and leaves of the great bush, up the narrow pathway, Harold found an acorn cap.  He cupped his thumbs over the cap, pulled it to his mouth and blew long and hard.  It was a large acorn cap with a deep cup.  The sound was low, and pure, not airy, yet sweet.  Flowing out like waves against the shore, it escaped the laurel and echoed through the forest.    

         “There’s no need to make all that fuss,” he heard Mr. Rabbit’s voice somewhere on the other side of the foliage, “but I do like that tune even better than the one on the last adventure.  Somehow it sounds, how shall I describe it, soothing.  Yes, oh yes, and confident too.  Oh this shall indeed be a great adventure starting out on such a note as that.”  Harold emerged from the laurel and found Mr. Rabbit standing in the path with a twinkle in his eye as if he had just learned a wonderful secret.  “Follow me young man,” he said with a smile, “and perhaps we shall satisfy your great curiosity.”  “That would be grand,” Harold replied.  So off they went, up the narrow path, Mr. Rabbit hopping along while Harold’s acorn cap whistle sounded the cadence. 

 

                    Toot, we’re off, toot toot, not lost,

                    We’re traveling together ‘cause our paths have crossed

                    Toot, make way, toot toot, let’s play

                    No reason to be mopey on such a sunny day

 

                    When friends are by your side, the pathway seems so wide

 

                    Toot, we’re off, toot toot, not lost,

                    We’re traveling together ‘cause our paths have crossed

                    Toot, make way, toot toot, let’s play

                    And follow the clear water that guides us on our way

 

     Harold and Mr. Rabbit followed the pathway which followed the stream.  It wound through forest glens and green pastures filled with beautiful flowers, well beyond where Harold had ever yet adventured.  Although the path was narrow, Harold was getting much better at discerning its course.  Sometimes it appeared to lead in multiple directions, and Harold had to consider the best route.  Of course, Mr. Rabbit was always by his side with a subtle, “Tsk, tsk, tsk,” when Harold’s first guess was perhaps going down a rabbit hole so to speak.  It appeared to Harold that Mr. Rabbit had followed this path before.  He was a wonderful guide and a most excellent companion. 

 

     By and by, they came to a fork, the path widening invitingly to the left where it was smooth, level and shaded, traveling along the side of a steep hill, like a ring placed on top of a cone.  It appeared to be well worn from many a traveler.  To the right, the path was as narrow as ever, proceeding up the hill, rock strewn and open to the heat of the day.  It was not much of a path at all, and obviously not much used. “The left path looks ever so more pleasant than the right path,” Harold said, thinking out loud, “but it does take us away from the water.”  “Choose you must,” said Mr. Rabbit quietly, as he stood close behind Harold, his eyes fixed on the ground where he appeared to be drawing something in the dust with a walking stick he had picked up along the way.  The pleasant looking path almost seemed to draw Harold forward as he stared down its way, and he began to imagine the pleasures he might find along such a path.  As he imagined, a large bluish rock came into view between the path’s shadows and along it’s edge with a coiled shape on its surface, a sunbeam sneaking through the foliage like a spotlight, curious patterns reflecting off of the object on top of the blue stone.  The shape began to move, a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns flickering this way and that as it slithered silently and seductively between the shadows and the sun.

 

     Suddenly, Harold’s mind flashed back to his previous adventure, and he recognized Mr. Anser.  Remembering his narrow escape, Harold closed his eyes, turned to the right, and focused on the narrow path ahead.  To his surprise, Mr. Rabbit was already standing on a rock on the narrow pathway, pointing with his walking stick to the top of the hill.  The streams waters gurgled and splashed over the stones as it ran down, over ledges and pools, from its source.  “Wisely you have chosen,” he said joyfully.  The pathway is narrow and, although it may appear difficult, is pleasant indeed.  The summit is only a short climb.  Shall we proceed?”  “Oh yes,” Harold replied.

 

     As they proceeded up the hill, although it was very steep and rock strewn, their travel became easier, as if the most difficult part of navigating this obstacle to following the narrow path was the decision to do so.  Although it was very steep indeed, Harold and Mr. Rabbit found a pathway, previously unseen, that guided them around the biggest obstacles.  It simply seemed to appear out of nowhere after they chose the path – like magic.  The stream, likewise, seemed to whisper and coo, sputtering over the rocks, throwing sparkles, like diamonds glistening in the sun, as it splished and splashed down its rocky way, each waters dash over or through a rock as if lifting their feet upward, higher and higher.  In the twinkling of an eye, they were at the top of the hill.

 

     Harold looked around from his now lofty height.  Behind him he could see the narrow path and where he had started his climb far below.  How in heavens name had he and Mr. Rabbit climbed up such a hill so quickly?  To his right, and far below, he saw the dark and shady entrance to the glen that followed the lower road.  Harold turned and looked ahead, from where the stream was flowing.  The stream widened, now much more than a stream, the waters here meandering through a beautiful green pasture, the most brilliant flowers on its banks, as if a rainbow quilt of color was draped along its shore.  Harold and Mr. Rabbit followed the path to where the grass was lush, like a great green cushion covering the ground.  The stream here appeared still and calm as it made a pool in a bend of the bank.  Mr. Rabbit lay down in the soft grass and said, “Such a pleasant place for a nap.”  Harold lay down beside him, and soon they were both fast asleep.

 

     It was such a pleasant nap.  The wind whispered gently through the grass, the stream gurgled softly through the rocks and the scent of the flowers of the field were like a faint but sweet perfume, the suns rays a blanket of warmth.  Harold began to awaken, but rolled over into that space between sleep and awake where dreams can be remembered.  He was walking up the stream through the field, and the sky grew dark, clouds rolling in and blocking the sun’s rays.  It was cold here and foreboding.  Something was ahead, not yet seen but felt, as one feels an unseen stare on the back of ones neck.  Harold awoke with a start.  Mr. Rabbit was already awake, again doodling in the ground with his walking stick.  “The day grows long, and we have still a long journey on this adventure,” he said.  Harold, now wide awake, was relieved to see everything as it had been.  “Well,” he said emphatically, “if we can climb that steep and stony path, then surely we can handle whatever lies ahead.”  “And how did we handle that path?” replied the rabbit.  “I’m not quite sure,” Harold replied.  “I chose the path and seemed to wind up in this pleasant pasture quite unexpectantly,” Harold said.  “Quite,” Mr. Rabbit replied.  “Quite?” Harold said, a look of confusion on his face.  “Yes,” Mr. Rabbit replied.  “Quite what?” Harold said.  “Quite right and quite bright, young man.  You chose the right path you see.  After that, you had some help.”  “Silly old rabbit,” Harold retorted.  “Anyone could see that it is just you and me.”  “Shall we proceed?” said Mr. Rabbit, still looking at his doodle.  “Of course,” Harold replied.  “I’ll lead the way.”  Mr. Rabbit gave a sigh and then, placing both paws on his walking stick, pulled himself up from where he sat and said, “Lead on.”

 

     Harold proceeded down the path with Mr. Rabbit hopping close behind.  Although the pathway was now quite level and smooth, and seemed infinitely more passable than the hill which they had just climbed, Harold felt as if he were climbing a hill twice the size of that which they had just climbed.  As he lifted his feet to take another step, he felt as if he were lifting a great weight.  “Perhaps I should have taken a longer nap,” he thought.  Step after ponderous step he took along the path, making little progress.  At long last, he fell by the stream.  He dipped his hand in the water and splashed it on his face. It was cool.  He cupped his hands and drew the water to his lips.  It was sweet.  He took a long drink and then, bracing himself on the bank, plunged his head beneath the stream.  The stream’s cool waters enveloped him, embraced him, and revived him.  He raised his head from the stream, wiping his eyes.  “At this rate,” said Mr. Rabbit “this will be a long trip indeed!”  “Perhaps you should lead the way,” Harold replied.  “Well, I wouldn’t presume…” Mr. Rabbit retorted, “but if you are willing, I will do my best.  Are you quite ready?”  “I think so.” Harold said.  “Well then, let’s try this again,” said Mr. Rabbit.  “Have you your whistle?”  Harold felt into his pocket and found his acorn cap.  “It’s right here,” he said excitedly.  “What tune should I play?”  “How about a march?” said the rabbit.  “A march indeed,” said Harold, and he began to toot a cadence while Mr. Rabbit sang a song.

 

Come all who hear our song, and walk this path we’ve found

It’s leading us to higher ground, it’s leading us to higher ground

Where we will ‘ere be found, where we will ‘ere be found

 

     Mr. Rabbit pounded the cadence with his walking stick as he sang, with each stride striking the stick into the ground before him and pushing himself forward.                     

 

                    We’re marching higher, onward and upward and higher

                    We’re marching higher and higher

                    To see what lies beyond

 

      “What lies beyond what?” Harold shouted over Mr. Rabbit’s cadence.  “Beyond and above this pleasant path,” Mr. Rabbit said with a smile and a twinkle in his eye, stopping for a moment and, with a grand gesture, sweeping the air with his walking stick to indicate all the possibilities which lay on the path ahead.  “I am beginning to enjoy this adventure very much indeed,” said Mr. Rabbit.  “Me too,” cried Harold.  So onward and upward they traveled, Mr. Rabbit leading the way, Harold following, and the crystal stream flowing gently beside them.

 

     By and by, the path wound to the base of another hill, much larger than the previous one.  The stream widened into a large pool into which the water plunged from a great rocky ledge at the top of the hill, a mist rising from the pool where the water, like a great white sheet, poured from the precipice, spattered off the flat rock ledges and splashing like thunder into the basin below, the sun’s rays shining through the tumult and forming a beautiful rainbow.  Mr. Rabbit hopped ahead and disappeared into thicket just off the path as it wound up the hill.  “Where is he off to?” Harold thought, and then looked back at the beautiful waterfall.  He sat down on the green grass covered bank, kicked off his shoes, and dipped his feet into the water.  It was cool and refreshing after their long walk, and soon he felt revived again, like after a pleasant nap, but he was beginning to get hungry for an afternoon snack.  “I wonder what I might find to eat,” He thought.  “Maybe some berries or scuppernongs grow in the fields or along the woods here like at home.”

 

      Harold looked towards the thicket by the path where Mr. Rabbit had disappeared and saw him hopping back to where he sat carrying a long pole.  “That is much too long for a walking stick, and besides, you already have one,” Harold chided.  “Walking stick?  Fiddlededee.  This is to catch our lunch.  Hand me your pocket knife.”  “And how do you know that I have a pocket knife?” Harold protested.  “Come, come.  Every young man who spends time in the woods or on a farm has a pocket knife.”  Harold reached into his pocket and felt for his pocket knife.  His father had given it to him, much to the consternation of his mother.  It had been a Christmas present.  All of the packages which could be seen had been unwrapped, and his one wish had not yet been fulfilled.  Then his father said, in an uncharacteristically playful voice as he sipped his Christmas toast, “What’s that I see below the desk?”  Mother set a quizzical look as all of the gifts she knew of had already been opened.  What was he up to?  Harold had crawled under the desk and found a small box, tied with a bow, although not so prettily done as mother tied, hidden by the wall.  Mother’s quizzical look turned to a frown as she imagined what Santa had hidden under the desk unbeknownst to her.  Harold remembered snatching the package and crawling out in front of the old man, then looking up at him.  He only smiled.  “Open it, open it” he had said excitedly and then affirmingly, as if saying, you’ve earned it.  Harold recalled that his fingers could not move fast enough to tear away the paper and poorly tied ribbon.  As he pulled the knife out of his pocket and held it out to Mr. Rabbit, the memory of that Christmas day of long ago, its surprise, joy and laughter, made him smile.  “Quite,” he said, now focused on the task at hand. 

 

  Mr. Rabbit took the pocket knife and whittled the end of the stick into a sharp spear.  “That should do quite nicely,” he said aloud, admiring his own handiwork and holding the stick out for Harold.  “Quite nicely for what?” Harold asked.  “Why, to spear a fish for dinner, of course,” Mr. Rabbit replied.  “You go down to the stream, just there behind us, and see what you find, and I will prepare the fire.”  “But what if I don’t catch a fish?” Harold retorted.  “What if – what if?  The world is full of what ifs and has far too few why nots,” Mr. Rabbit replied, still as if talking to himself.  “Why not trust?  Why not try?”  Harold took the spear and walked down to the stream.  He stepped into the water until he was ankle deep.  It was cool and clear, reviving him from the tiredness he felt after his long walk.  “Further out,” he heard Mr. Rabbit cry.  “The fish are further out.”  Harold gingerly stepped further into the stream.  He peered below its shimmering surface at the pebbles which caught each ray of sunlight and glistened like jewels, jade and jasper colors sparkling in the sunbeams.  The water was now at his shins.  “Wade out a little bit deeper,” he heard Mr. Rabbit say.  Harold stepped further into the stream, its current now a bit stronger away from the bank, looking through the crystal clear water for movement, the water now at his thighs.  He looked behind him, to his left and to his right.  Then he looked down at his feet right in front of him.  There, at his feet, right between them, was the biggest fish Harold had ever seen.  It was just floating there, just above the bottom of the stream, its side fins flapping back and forth, its tail gently swaying side to side, keeping it one place against the current.

 

     Harold raised his spear and aimed at the big fish.  The fish just sat there, oblivious to its impending fate.  Swoosh!  Harold thrust his spear towards the great fish, and it struck the pebbles in front of its prey.  The ripples in the water where Harold had plunged his spear faded, and there was the fish, just where it had been, as if taunting him to take another go.  Harold slowly raised his spear to prepare for another strike.  The great fish, growing tired of this game, gave one great sweep with its large tail and darted through Harold’s legs, hitting one as he passed and causing him to fall.  SPLASH!  Into the water he went, falling backwards gracelessly.  Fully immersed in the water, Harold quickly forgot about the fish.  It was refreshing, like drinking a tall glass of lemonade on a dog hot summer day after doing outside chores at home.  “Ahhh,” Harold thought, still beneath the water.  Then the sound of laughing intruded his reverie, and he stood back up in the stream with a start.  There, on the bank, Mr. Rabbit lay, his paws holding his side, his legs in the air, laughing so hard it caused his side to ache.  At last, Mr. Rabbit composed himself, sat down on a fallen tree log, and said, “Come and sit here young fellow.”  Harold began wadding out of the stream and saw Mr. Rabbit sitting by a small fire with something on a spit above it which he turned now and then.  “What’s that? Harold said with a quizzical stare.  “Why, it’s a fish,” replied Mr. Rabbit.  “But I failed,” Harold retorted.  “Failed you say?  I should say not,” said the rabbit.  “Why not,” Harold replied, now quite confused.  “Why not indeed,” replied the rabbit.  “What if became why not, and now the fish is in the pot, so to speak,” replied the rabbit.  “Like magic!” Harold exclaimed.  “No, by faith,” the rabbit said.  “Faith?” Harold repeated the word.  “I don’t understand.”     

 

     “Tell me, young fellow, why did you follow this path? Mr. Rabbit said with that same twinkle in his eye.  “A little voice told me to follow the stream.” Harold said, thinking back on how this all began.  “And tell me,” said Mr. Rabbit, “had you heard this little voice in your head before?”  “Oh, yes.  Many times,” Harold replied.  “And when you followed it, things had always turned out for the best?”  “Yes,” Harold said, “although I was never quite sure just how they would turn out.”  “Ohhh,” said the rabbit, pulling on his whiskers.  “You mean you trusted the little voice in your head to guide you along the right path even though you didn’t know where that path would lead or what would happen along the way?”  “Why yes, I suppose so,” Harold said.  “Why, young fellow, I think you know much more about faith than you let on,” exclaimed the rabbit.  “Well,” explained the rabbit, “faith is both believing without seeing and going without knowing.”  “I don’t quite understand,” Harold replied.  “Well,” the rabbit continued, “you believed that the little voice was real although you never saw from whom it came.”  “Well,” Harold replied, “it was just in my head you see.”  “Quite,” replied the rabbit, “but so was another voice that told you not to listen.  Am I correct?”  “Why yes,” Harold said, “but how did you know that?”  “Well, if you remember, I accompanied you on your first adventure where you were almost done in.  That which you saw distracted you from that which you could not see and could only hear if you listened intently.”  Harold remembered seeing Mr. Anser swimming ominously towards him and the little voice telling him to run away.  “You gave me quite a fright on that adventure,” the rabbit said.  “And what made you listen to your little voice?” the rabbit questioned.  “Why, you jumped on my shoulders,” Harold said accusatively.  “Yes, yes, but that is not the point.  You stopped looking at that which distracted you from hearing your little voice.”  “And we ran and ran, and I ended up just where I had started,” Harold said indignantly.  “Perhaps so,” said the rabbit, “if you consider where we started as a place, but not if it is considered a condition.”  “Why I don’t have any sort of condition,” Harold said indignantly.  “And what was it you said you had learned from that adventure?” the rabbit pried, as if cracking a hard nut.  Harold thought and thought.  What was it he had learned?  At last he exclaimed, “I remember.  That the most useful discoveries we can make are what we learn about ourselves, and that we don't need to travel far to make such discoveries."  “You see,” said the rabbit, “we had not wound up where we started at all because you had learned something that you didn’t know before.”

 

     Mr. Rabbit turned the spit, the fire licking the other side of the meat, the smoke from the fire curling and twisting as it rose from the coals.  Harold watched as the smoke disappeared into the sky above, the warmth of the fire drying his cloths.  A few moments later, Mr. Rabbit put the fish on a rock between them and pulled out a piece of hard bread from his pocket.  Breaking it in two, he handed Harold a piece, and they ate.  With a full belly and a long day behind him, Harold lay by the fire and was soon fast asleep. 

 

The End