Not once, but many times, there was a boy who wondered about things.
He wondered why the sky was blue in the day and black at night.
He wondered where the ocean ended.
He wondered what was at the bottom of the world.
He wondered how trees get so big without falling over.
He wondered who put the stars in the sky.
He wondered why people died.
He wondered so much that often, he forgot things
Not once, but many times, he wondered.
So he decided to find out why the sky was blue in the day and black at night.
He went to the mountains. He climbed over rocks and ducked under branches.
He climbed and climbed and climbed. By the time he reached the sky, it was night.
At the top of the mountain it was very quiet,
So he laid on his back and looked straight up at the black,
The more he looked into the dark, the closer it seemed to get.
The hills and trees and plains and oceans fell far below and far away.
The glow of the sunset was long gone, it melted into nothing.
He lay there such a long time that he forgot the time
He lay there such a long time that he became very sleepy and
Slowly, very slowly, he closed his eyes.
When the boy saw blue sky again, he jumped and tried to touch it.
He built and climbed a tower on top of the tallest mountain and swiped his finger in the air.
Some of the blue came off and stuck to his skin.
“Somebody painted it that way,” he said, “well, now I know.”
And off he went.
He continued to wonder, however, and then decided
To find where the ocean ended.
So he got in a boat and sailed straight out. . . .
By the time he got there it was night time again.
He felt the wind pushing him forward, and forward he went until the water was as black as the sky.
He sailed straight to the end of the ocean, so far from the light of the cities on the shore
That he forgot what they looked like
So far from the light
That he could no longer see his sails.
He couldn’t see his rudder.
He couldn’t see the bow or the stern or port side or starboard.
He couldn’t even see the bench he was sitting on.
His boat was all gone and he couldn’t see which way was home.
He was alone, floating in the darkness were the ocean meets the sky
It was a little bit frightening, but also very peaceful and so
Slowly, very slowly, he closed his eyes.
When he finally landed, his boat hit the sand with a hiss.
He ran ashore, and into a cave, forgetting to dry his feet
There was a hole with a rope and a sign that read, “The Bottom”.
So down he shimmied. Down, down, down.
And down some more
Farther and farther, lower and lower, until the light at the top of the hole was just a dot.
It looked like one single, solitary star in the night sky.
He still could not see the bottom, so he stopped and wondered,
“This will take forever, just shimmying down this rope. How much farther could it be?”
Just then he felt a cool breeze come up from beneath and something tickled his feet.
Sliding his toes a little farther south, he could feel the frays at the end of the rope.
“Well this must be it” he said to himself,
And he let go of the rope, without fear.
But the bottom was nowhere near…
The more he fell, the more it seemed like he would never stop.
His heart was beating so hard and fast that he could hear nothing else,
But the rush of the wind and the rhythm in his chest.
He fell for hours
He fell for days and what seemed like years
He fell so far, so long that
He forgot what not falling felt like
And he grew very tired just from being afraid, not knowing when he would find the bottom.
He didn’t want to sleep, but he was so exhausted…
So slowly, very slowly, he closed his eyes.
The boy hit the water!
It was icy cold and it stole his breath.
He flailed for something to grab onto.
When he coughed he could see his breath.
When he blinked he could feel ice-sickles hanging from his eye-lashes.
He kicked his feet to stay afloat and finally grabbed onto something.
It was the root of a tree. He was still in a cave, but he could see a way out.
The boy followed the root, hand over hand,
His teeth chattering and his knees knocking together
He emerged into the warm, amber morning light.
It was shining like gold in a furnace
Through the timbers and leaves of a forest.
There at the mouth of the cavern was the base of a tree
Uprooted and tipped on its side.
It was bigger than a car, bigger than a house!
It was the biggest cluster of roots and dirt and crunched up earth the boy had ever seen!
It must have been the tallest tree in the world
…Fallen completely over
Leaving a crater out of which the boy crawled
The sky-high and scraggly roots parted the sun’s rays like curtains
And the train-sized trunk stretched toward the dawn.
The icy cold of the water had left him
Without him even noticing, the light warmed him like a fire
He sat down on the trunk and looked toward the sun,
He was lost and completely confused
“Whose idea was this anyway?” he said out loud,
“To go looking for things, for tops and bottoms and ends and beginnings?
To sail so long and fall so far, and now I’m just lost in the woods!”
He looked left
He looked right
He looked up
And then he looked down at his feet
He let out a deep sigh, and a moment later he shouted,
“Hello” a donkey replied! He was standing by a bush.
“Where did you come from?” the boy exclaimed,
“And who taught you how to talk?”
“My father of course, didn’t your father teach you?”
“But where did you come from? Who are you anyway?” the boy demanded.
“My my, so many questions… I wonder, are you going to need a ride?
It’s a long way out of this forest, you know, and you look very tired already.”
“First tell me who you are!” The boy exclaimed.
The donkey looked left
And then right
And then straight
“I’m the donkey, at your service”
After much deliberation, the boy agreed and climbed up on his back
They walked and walked down the trunk of that tree
The sun rose high as they followed it through fern gullies and olive groves
The sun began to hang low as they walked through violet meadows
And across silver streams
Just as the sun disappeared, they came out upon a field.
The tippy-top of the last bit of branch lay gently against the grass
It was a vast expanse of yellow tall-grass that faded with the day
Into shades of blue beneath the glowing night
In the field there were fireflies
Twinkling here and there
“I gathered them all” said the donkey
“From where” inquired the boy
“From wherever I found them, I brought them here and look you can see just why”
The donkey stopped in his well-trodden tracks and the boy looked down below.
Thousands and thousands, even millions perhaps
Making their lines and keeping pace with the others
Each one could see his way
Because of the nightlights he’d gathered for them
“It sure puts a smile on my face” the donkey sighed
“I hope they know I care for them so”
“But they’re only ants” the boy said with his eye-brow raised
“Yes of course, but who else would you have me care for?
And who else would care for them?”
“Aren’t there other donkeys?”
“Oh no, not here” said the donkey,
“I’m all alone in this forest of mine,
There’s no one else like me,
So I plant the trees and I gather these nightlights,
I walk the meadows and I carry whoever I can”
“But don’t you have a family?”
“I had a son…” The donkey paused,
“ …He died when that tree fell down.”
The boy climbed down off of his back and looked him in the eye
“I’m sorry,” he said,
“It’s not fair when people die”
The donkey stayed quiet for a long time
And then he said,
“You know, it’s taken me seven years to gather these fireflies
The trail was just so hard to travel, impossible for an ant to make it.
When that tree fell, it cut a path
Clear from there to here
When I saw you climb up from that hole.
I thought you were my son
I waited for three days wondering
You just look so much like him.
I figured you’d just bumped your head
And forgotten who you were
It was quite a long way to fall, you know.”
“Well,” the boy wondered,
“I’ve been gone so long from home, looking for tops and bottoms.
It would seem…
I really have forgotten.
Perhaps I am yours. Although
It would be strange to have a donkey for a father”
“Stranger than what?
What was your father like?”
“Well I know he wasn’t pleasant.”
“Well which would you prefer? A donkey or an unpleasant un-memory”
“I would prefer a donkey any day” the boy said with a smile
“Then it is a donkey you will have everyday”
So the donkey adopted the boy
And carried him to a burrow in the forest
They talked and ate together
They sat and laughed together
They lived together for a very long time until
Slowly, very slowly he opened his eyes.
Only then did he realize he had fallen asleep
For the first and last time on his journey
He was left looking up at the stars
Like fireflies, they danced
He rose and looked out from the mountain
He saw trees waving like blades of grass
He saw rivers bending like hoof-prints
And he saw his home town, bustling under the sky
All the crisscrossing roads and piled up buildings
Like a hill of ants at night
And he returned to the house he had forgotten
To the bed were he belonged
Remembering the donkey
He smiled and sighed and rolled to the right
No longer wondering but planning to dream
Tomorrow would be the perfect day for it
Needing rest for his next journey, he decided and
Slowly, very slowly, he closed his eyes.