By Joan Barron
Once upon a time, there was a sandpiper who spent the endless days running
in and out of the surf catching snacks. Sometimes the sandpiper just ran for the fun of it -- chasing the waves into the sea
and running ahead of the waves as they returned to the beach. During the evenings, the sandpiper would settle into the white
sand and sleep through the night, kept warm by the sand, which had been sun-heated during the day.
One day, the sandpiper was doing the usual snacking, chasing and hopping when
a flock of other pipers flew overhead. The sandpiper flew up to join them and they traveled out over the blue sea. They sailed
in the air -- catching thermals and soaring without effort for hours. At times, they would dive bomb each other ­
for practice and for fun. They soared and soared.
As the sandpipers headed back to shore in the evening, a strong wind suddenly
came up and blew them off course. The piper was blown further and further away from the flock and from land. When the wind
died down, the piper headed for a white beach, visible in the darkness. When the piper landed on the beach, it felt very cold.
It discovered to its dismay that the beach was not white sand but snow! This would not do. But the piper was lost. It
did not know how to get back to its home. A muskrat stuck his head out of the snow and startled the piper.
"Wait until spring," advised the muskrat. "Don't you know that it is dangerous
to fly long distances during the winter?"
The piper thought of the long wait, its little body shivering. Just then, several
Canada geese approached and offered to put up the piper for the winter. They took the piper to a nest and took turns providing
warmth to the little bird.
One morning, the piper awoke and peeped out from under the goose's wing. Its spirit
was immediately lifted. The sun was shining brightly and the snow didn't seem so cold with the sun out. Then the piper stared
in amazement at a slender thing hanging from a nearby tree. It was clear and the piper could almost see through it. It was
colorless yet had a bluish tint. As the piper watched it glisten, it saw a rainbow and then its own reflection looking back.
"What is that?," the piper asked the goose
"Oh, that's an icicle"replied the friend.
"What is an icicle?"
"Frozen water" answered the goose.
"Frozen water! The thought spun in the piper's mind and it became dizzy.
In horror, the piper saw that the nearby pond was frozen solid. This was too much.
"Can the sea to the South freeze too?," asked the piper.
The geese looked puzzled. Finally one answered. "I'm not sure but I don't
know why not. Water freezes here."
Now the piper was in a panic. Not being near home, it had no way of knowing what
had happened since it had left. The piper reasoned that it had never happened before..this freezing water... but then the
piper would never have believed such a thing possible until now. It had seen frozen water for itself. The icicle was right
there and the pond too!
Suddenly a vision of the frozen surf popped into the piper's head. The waves were
solid and not moving -- neither chasing not being chased. The piper felt ill. For the remainder of the day, the little
bird was sad. The geese tried but could not cheer it. The piper did not sleep well all that night. Bad dreams of frozen
surf made being awake and tired better than sleeping.
The next morning, the piper felt terrible from lack of sleep and the thoughts
of frozen surf and, try as it might, the piper could not get out of its head. At that moment, it saw a large white bird soaring
across the sky. It looked more like a ball of fur than a bird and it made no sound when it flew.This was very curious. The
bird shot soundlessly past the geese and hit a pile of snow. In its talons was its breakfast -- an unfortunate little
mouse who had not been able to run very fast in the snow.
"It's an owl," thought the piper. "I remember seeing owls near the coast at home.
They often sat in the Australian pines near the surf."
The owl popped the mouse headfirst into her mouth and swallowed it whole. The
piper's eyes were huge and it was a little sick to its stomach at the sight. Eating a mouse was very weird. The piper could
understand eating fish; a lot of birds along the coast did that . But a mouse! The owl noticed the bird staring and turned
its head all the way around in a circle to stare back.
"A bird's got to eat," she announced unapologetically.
One of the geese leaned over and whispered to the piper.
"Ask the owl about the frozen surf. She knows everything!"
The piper recalled that owls were supposed to be very wise. It was not sure it
wanted an answer. Sometimes it seemed best not to know. Then again, it really is best to know the truth or how else do you
adjust to it?
"Excuse me" the piper said timidly. "Could I ask you a question?"
"Sure," said the owl. "I'm good at giving answers. It's one of the things I do
best -- that and flying without making a sound."
"Do you know if the surf to the South freezes like the water here?"
There, it had asked. Now waiting for the answer was agony.
"How far South?," asked the owl.
The little piper was unprepared for this. It had no idea how to reply. Finally
it said, "Where I come from." This was all it could think of, after all, the piper had no idea where it was or how far from
"Let me see your foot," the owl directed. Only the piper's head was sticking out
from under the goose's wing. The little piper stuck a foot out and was immediately sorry. It was very cold! The owl
eyed the foot for awhile with its big eyes and then replied.
"No. Where you are from, the surf never freezes."
The piper felt immediate joy. All the scary feelings left and the knot in its
stomach melted away. The piper was so happy that tears came to its eyes but froze on its cheeks, so it quickly stopped crying.
Still, its little heart felt like it would burst from happiness.
"Now, if you keep going South,down to the bottom of the earth, the water does
freeze,"the owl continued. "It freezes into great islands of ice."
But the piper did not want to hear this; it was too much to understand. Sometimes
it seems best not to know too much before one is ready.
"Never mind about that," interrupted the piper. "I was only wondering about where
I came from; nowhere else"
"Never, never freezes there," the owl said and flew away without a sound.
The piper was so happy it could not speak. Instead, it fell asleep. It was very
tired from a rough, sleepless night. The geese were glad to see the piper sleep and they all huddled together to provide as
much warmth for their friend as possible. As the piper slept, dreams of the surf, the sun, the diving pelicans and most
of all, the warmth of the sun, floated through its mind. Sometimes a dream can take you wherever you want, and for awhile
it's as good as being there.
One night before bedtime, as everyone was settling in, one of the geese asked
the piper to tell them about its home to the South. The little piper delighted at this -- it loved to share its thoughts outloud
as it made them
"It's a wonderful place,"it began. "The sun shines every day and it is always
warm. There are such clear skies at night and a million stars like diamonds scattered in the heavens. On full moons,
it's so light with the reflection on the sand that you can stay up all night and never bump into anything."
The geese were appalled at this description. Sun every day! Always warm?
A millions stars! How did anyone ever sleep? It seemed so boring to think that this went on day after day with no change in
seasons. The geese did not want to offend their little friend by asking how the piper could stand it. But they did look at
one another and roll their eyes. The piper could not see this as it was very small and the geese large with very long
necks. The piper could not look at them eye to eye without laying its head way back, like it did to look at the stars. Anyway,
the piper was too excited with its own story to notice the reactions of the geese. It continued its story.
"There are wonderful friends to the South. Some are very talented. I am impressed
by the pelicans. They are such great divers. Why, they can spot a fish from amazing heights and dive bomb it with a speed
that is truly impressive. They fold back their wings just before they hit water and shoot like an arrow under the surf and
pop up like a cork with a fish
which they swallow whole -- head first."
The piper thought of the owl and the mouse and felt more understanding and less
'Dive under water?,' the geese thought this demented but did not want to speak
badly of the piper's friends. The piper spoke on.
"Sometimes the salt from the sea collects on your wings and it's fun to run your
bill through your feathers and get squeaky clean."
Salt in the water? This was too much. The geese stared in horror at each other.
Truly, their little friend was mad. They all felt sad. But the piper seemed so happy and more and more excited as it spoke
about its home. Maybe this kind of madness isn't so bad, thought the geese.
The more stories the piper told, the more memories flooded its mind and the images
became so real that for a little while, it no longer felt cold and the snow began to look more and more like the pure white
beaches back home. It was as good as being there.
Another morning many days later, the piper peeked out from under a goose wing
and was amazed to see flowers of all colors covering the ground. It reminded the piper of seashells on the beach after a storm.
Such a wonderful sight. It is okay to fly now, the geese told the piper. They gave the piper a big farewell party; they had
grown fond of the strange little bird, and a gift of an AAA map marked with the most scenic route to the South. The geese
then pointed the way and the piper flew off.
It returned to its home beach and the piper was greeted by old and new friends.
In the evenings, under a full moon, the piper told of the place of icy beaches and whiteness over all the land. Everyone liked
the part about Spring best and no one tired of hearing about the flowers. The sandpiper was the only one who had experienced
this. It became the storyteller of the flock.
The other birds could only imagine the piper's great adventure. As the piper settled
in for the night,thoughts of the friends to the North always came to mind, and the piper happily revisited them in dreams.
"What wonderful friends I have known. How fortunate I am to have gone on
such an adventure. What seemed like such a terrible thing became the greatest events of my life. You never know what wonder
tomorrow will bring."
And to the North on the same night, the Canada geese thought of their little friend
They spoke of the happiness of sharing time with the piper. There lives were enriched by knowing the strange little bird from
the far off place.
As the piper in the South and the geese in the North settled in their nests,
all looked to the heavens and marveled at the stars above, knowing the other was blanketed by the same sky at the same time.
It made them all feel closer. As darkness settled, the same prayer arose from their individual consciousness at the same moment:
Mother/Father Spirit Bird, Divine Creator of all that is known and yet to
be known, thank you for the wondrous world of abundance. Thank you for the unending grains of warm sand. Thank you for the
sea that shines with pearl-like drops in the sun. Thank you for the diamond stars in the endless night sky. Thank you for
the grey days that make the sunny days brighter. Thank you for the snow with flakes that go on forever -- large ones, small
ones, wet ones, fluffy ones. Flakes that cover the trees and provide warmth to the creatures that sleep all winter. Thank
you for the icicles with rainbow reflections, the frozen ponds and islands of ice to the far North and South. Thank you for
the wisdom of the snowy owl who disappears into the whiteness as it flies on silent wings. Thank you for your care that provides
all that is needed. But most of all -- thank you for friends present and those in the past who added to our lives
and especially for those not yet met who travel the same path of self-discovery and wait for us in the future.
All is well. All is perfect. And so it is.