The Wide, Whirling World
Picture a squirrel. Squirrels are cute and mostly harmless. This squirrel, we shall name her Winnifred, spends quite a bit of her formative years happily frolicking with the other squirrels of the forest. Or so we think! In fact, poor little Winnifred has been experiencing a lot of sadness and confusion. She finds that being around all the happy squirrels makes her feel deeply alone. So when it becomes entirely too much, Winnifred scampers off on quiet little feet.
She finds a nice, solitary and serene spot by a lake. It’s a bit swampy, but it’s peaceful. And here Winnifred settles. She enjoys a rare conversation with the chance dragonfly that passes by. She passes the time with a badger who waddles to the lake to fish occasionally. And by way of a nervous starling, she keeps a vague ear to the world behind her.
In her self-imposed isolation, Winnifred’s fears and sadness are her truest companions. But even the best companions can become wearisome after a time. And so Winnifred musters up what courage and determination she could find, and sets off to re-introduce herself to the wider world.
Unbeknownst to Winnifred, the wide world had changed! And she finds herself so completely and entirely lost! She’d been used to her quiet world with few contacts and only the barest of news. Here, suddenly, she was confronted with a sprawling metropolis, interconnected in so many new and fascinating ways. And it was all so horribly intimidating.
Timidly, she whispers, “Hello?” and the squirrels she had once known sped by her, not hearing, not noticing. She wades deeper, calling, “Hellooo?” She finds herself desperate to be acknowledged, after such a long time alone.
Stepping further into the bewildering chaos, often stopped short by a confounding cloud of hummingbirds who sweep across her way like a mini dust-storm, Winnifred reaches the end of her courage. Collapsing into a shivering ball of fur, her tail wrapping around herself like a blanket, she piteously weeps.
How could she move on? How could she find a place in this busy, busy world? It was all so overwhelming! Her thoughts raced, her heart pounded painfully, and Winnifred found herself so frightened and wanting nothing more than to retreat to her quiet life by the lake.
She rose on shaky little feet, and made her way to retreat. Wiping tears from her face with her tail, she spied something curious. A group of animals, standing out of the way of the humming and buzzing, were holding hands and talking quietly. Winnifred’s heart swelled at the thought of this real connection, and inched closer.
Spying from behind a tree, Winnifred heard the critters talking – rabbits and badgers, ‘possums and mice, even squirrels like herself talking with great tall deer! A motley assortment, and of all things, they were talking about how hard it was to fit into this whirling world!
Creeping closer, Winnifred did the most daring thing of her entire life: she coughed. Dozens of heads turned her way. Freezing, her tail bushed out straight up behind her, eyes wide and glistening, she quietly whispered, “hello.”
Within moments, she was surrounded. Passed from one embracing hug to another! From paw to hoof to claw to wing, Winnifred was tenderly welcomed and praised. To a one, each told her their stories, tales short and winding – of how they longed to connect and were so afraid to! And Winnifred told hers, how hurt and alone she’d been, how she’d run so far, and come back to a place so strange and scary.
Within hours, she felt at home. Loved and supported by this wild and eclectic group of strangers. The leader of the group, a proud and winsome stag with towering antlers on which she so graciously perched, encouraged her to step out once again into the world. To share with others the tale she had to give. For he and the others found her way with words touching and compelling. Perhaps Winnifred could reach out and find others who felt as lost and alone in this great world. Perhaps her words could give them comfort, and lead them to a home they’d never known!
And so Winnifred stepped. Every move tremulous and timid. She would often look back to find one of the extraordinary flock urging her on, giving her confidence for that next step. So deeper went Winnifred, calling her “hellooo”s, speaking to every creature who would pause to listen. She called to the hummingbirds, to the squirrels who would hear, to the trees to pass along what she’d learned.
Every step frightened her. With every step she wanted to go back. But the menangerie (as they were for they were kept caged within themselves in fear) urged her on. If not in word, in her heart. For after hearing their stories, feeling their silent suffering, she felt compelled, beyond her own fear, to reach out and give the comfort she had found to others.
And so, with quiet desperation, and quite a bit of agitation, Winnifred pushed on, and pushes on still, through the wild, whirling world. Through her fear and self-doubt, she calls her faint “Hellooooo,” and hopes to be heard.