This is a story that Megan Phillips, our Outdoor Classroom instructor, told us at campfire on Saturday night:
Once upon a time, ages and ages ago, before humans existed on this earth, the sky held only light. There were no people on this earth, there were only animals. For a while the animals existed in peace and harmony. But soon, as in any small community, the animals began to fight among themselves. The bickering got louder and louder, and meaner and meaner. The Great Spirit heard the bickering get louder and louder, and meaner and meaner, and decided something must be done. He decided to punish the critters by blanketing the earth in darkness.
Immediately there was chaos. The animals, loud before, began to make so much noise that they couldn’t hear themselves think. Then the grizzly bear made his voice heard over the tumult of the animals. He said “I am the strongest, and some may say the wisest, of all creatures. I bet I could tear that blanket down.” He asked the snakes to form a ladder that reached up to the giant black blanket in the sky. The snakes slithered together and formed two poles with rungs in between. The bear climbed slowly up the ladder till he reached the giant black blanket. He reached out his paw and made a giant swipe at the blanket. He lost his balance and fell to the ground WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE splat. So you should probably know that back before there were humans on this earth, the bear had a long muzzle so big you couldn’t reach your arms around it. When the bear fell down, he fell on his nose and squished his face right up. And so it is still to this day that the bear has a squished up face.
The animals went straight back to their bickering and whining, and complaining and arguing. The elephant and the moose got into a fight over who was the strongest and who could get the chance to tear down the blanket. They start rumbling and rumbling and rolled right over the beaver’s tail and squashed it flat. And so it is still to this day that the beaver has a flat tail. So the animals, of course, went back to their bickering and whining, and complaining and arguing. This made it nearly impossible to hear the sound of the jaguar’s voice. Eventually, however, the jaguar got the attention of the animals. He said, “ AH HEM, as you all know I am the most beautiful of all the animals on the earth, and I do believe I could climb the snake ladder and convince the blanket to fall right down at my feet.”
Even though this was not much of a plan, the animals agreed. So the jaguar climbed, 1, 2, 3 rungs up and looked over his left shoulder, and 4, 5, 6, rungs up and looked over his right shoulder, just to make sure everyone was paying attention and noticing his dazzling beauty. He continued in this fashion, and when the jaguar was halfway up, the snakes began to tremble. When the jaguar was three quarters of the way up, the snakes were right out shaking, and by the time he got to the top of the ladder the snakes collapsed. And when the snakes collapsed the jaguar fell WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE splat. And when the jaguar hit the ground, the colors of his coat flew right out and made the wildflowers we know today. And so it is still to this day that the jaguar is completely and totally black.
So the animals, as you can imagine, were none too happy with their situation. They got right back to their whining and complaining, and bickering and arguing, and it was near impossible to hear the sound of the vulture. Luckily, the vulture was persistent and when he got the attention of the animals he said, “As you all know, I am the strongest flier among us, and given the opportunity I could fly up there and tear down that blanket.”
Without waiting for the animals to agree, he pushed off and began to flap his wings. WOOOSH WOOSH up WOOSH WOOSH higher and he was flying so hard and so fast that his feathers were flapping behind him. Back when there were no humans on this earth, you see, the vulture had 6 foot long feathers of all colors: red, black, and white. The animals stared as he flew hard and fast towards the big black blanket. Suddenly POP the vulture’s head went right through. The animals down below could only see the vulture’s body, and could see that he was struggling because as you can probably imagine all the sun’s heat was concentrated on the other side on his head. That was none to comfortable for the vulture. The vulture was pushing against the giant black blanket, and finally he freed himself and fell WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE splat. When he hit the ground and raised up his head, all the animals gasped. What they saw was not a head full of long beautiful feather, but a red bald wrinkly head for all his feathers had been burnt off. And so it is to this day that the vulture has a red bald wrinkly head.
The animals then went right back to whining, bickering, complaining, and arguing. Some of the animals began to panic again and scream to the heavens “We are going to live in darkness FOREVER!”
Through all of this noise it was impossible to hear the sound of the hummingbird as he flew and flit around the crowd of animals. He said in a very timid voice, “um guys, um guys, guys, um guys, um i know I’m not the strongest and I know I’m not the mightiest, um, and i know I’m not the wisest, and well, the truth of the matter is I don’t think I could tear down that giant black blanket, but I think I could do something.”
The hummingbird flew up and pip! poked a single hole in the blanket, and a single itty bitty bit of light shone through. And then pip! he poked another and then pip! pip! pip! more. Then all the other hummingbirds of the world joined in and poked more holes. The animals looking up at all the holes that the hummingbirds poked with little bits of light shining through were silent. They finally began to talk, and when they talked they spoke with a very different voice than they had used before. They all began to laugh, smile, and find shapes in the bits of light. They said, “You can put those two together and its like a giant spoon in the sky, and those three make a triangle with a circle on top, like an ice cream cone!” Even before humans were on the earth, there were ice cream cones.
The Great Spirit, upon hearing this new and also very old way of speaking to each other realized that perhaps the animals could get along and not live in darkness forever. But perhaps they could use a reminder of using kind words every now and then. The Great Spirit decided to take away the blanket but lay it down again occasionally, say every twelve hours or so, as a reminder to use kind words. Still to this day we have the day and the night, and when we look up at night we can still see the first swipe of the grizzly bear. We call this the milky way. We can also see the hole poked by the vulture’s head, and we call that the moon. We also see the first hole poked by the first hummingbird, and that is known as the north star. We see all other holes of other hummingbirds, and we call those the stars. And so it is still to this day.
-Francesca Mennella, New York, NY
and Clare Anderson, Bar Harbor, ME