Starting next Tuesday I will be posting less often and later.
Arthur was young, but not stupid. He was actually quite talented, and very intelligent. Just a bit naive at times about how people should or should not act with each other. On one such day he was taking a short walk with Merlin, who was chatting up a storm, talking about how one day he was going to raise stones to create a Cosmic Calendar and an invitation to the gods. And how many clovers there were in the pasture. How many butterflies it took to lift a cow. And so on.
Arthur wasn't really listening after all. So it came as a big surprise when he got a smack on the back of his head. Not a hard one, just enough to shake him out of his fantasies.
"Why did you do that, Merlin?"
"Living in the now is all there is. You live in your head. You die in your head. You never get to live in the real world at all."
"Sure, but everybody does it."
"Sometimes, Arthur. Sometimes. But those who do well in our world do not live in their head as much as you."
Arthur shrugged. "What else am I supposed to do when I'm threading. It's beautiful work to do, but boringggggg."
Merlin gave him a bemused look on the last word. "You're beginning to sound like those rich kids who have nothing better to do with their lives than eat pastries and grow up and get married."
Merlin smacked him again on the back of his head.
"Do you hear nothing I've been telling you?"
"What hurts is to think that I'm wasting my time on a young king...young boy...who wants to be a king and hasn't the guts to deal with his reality."
"I'm going to be a king?"
"Not at the rate you're going." Merlin snapped back, his eyes twinkling with mischief. "You can't expect a goat that wants to live like a chicken, to ever grow up to be a Ram."
"But they all do." Arthur insisted.
"Yes. But then they get their wool shorn, and their bodies eaten for meat."
"That's morbid." Arthur retorted, screwing his nose up in a look of disgust.
Merlin sat down on a broken tree stump and tapped the other side of the stump.
Arthur hopped up beside him, his feet barely touching the ground, compared to Merlin's which went a good several feet longer. Merlin was a tall man by any standard. Even a giant might have to think twice about picking on him. Arthur smiled to himself. But then the giant wouldn't know he could be turned into a bunch of broccoli for doing so either.
Merlin smacked him again, this time a bit harder.
"Come back into your body, lad. The angels will have you soon enough!"
"You believe in angels?"
Merlin gave him a sly look. "Do you?"
"Not really. Wings on a person, kind of weird if you ask me."
Merlin laughed. "You have more opinions that a loom has threads, Arthur."
"What do you expect from a young kid?"
Merlin pointed to an oak across the path they had been traversing. "Quickly, tell me what you see?"
"An old tree."
Merlin shook his head. "Wrong. Try again."
Arthur narrowed his eyes and scrutinized the tree more closely. "It is an old oak, with many branches, some of which are touching the ground and some the sky."
"And like that mighty oak tree, you also must bend and rise. Touching the ground for strength and the sky for vision."
"But I'm not a tree, am I?" Arthur fired back, a smirk on his lips.
Merlin sighed. "Young man, you will never be a tree. Nor I, but that doesn't mean we can't love it for what it is, learn from it."
Arthur considered that. "And they make good wood for fires too."
Merlin laughed. "Ever the practical soul, are we?"
"I learned that from you."
Merlin smiled, and then made an expression of awe. "Oh!"
Arthur looked and a turtle came into view, plodding along slowly.
"Don't move an inch." Merlin warned with a whisper.
The turtle got closer and closer and Arthur could see a Blue Bird on its back as well. It was squatted, its wings folded about itself and sleeping. They watched the turtle come up, and then stop at Merlin's feet. It nuzzled his shoes a moment, then seeing it was not a tasty thing, moved back onto the path again.
The Blue Bird never moved once, but kept its wings folded, its eyes closed.
Finally, the turtle and the bird went from view.
"Tell me what you saw, Arthur."
"A silly turtle carrying the weight of two."
Merlin arched an eyebrow, which he usually did when he was excited or annoyed. Arthur couldn't tell which, but he assumed the latter.
"But he was." Arthur protested.
Arthur when a soul is weak and weary, the strong will take its burden and carry it for a time until it has regained its strength."
Suddenly, the Blue Bird shot into view. It dipped in the sky over their heads several times, chirping sweetly, and then hurtled into the forest behind them.
Arthur thought about it.
"Then I shall be a turtle when I grow up and help those less fortunate to carry their burdens until they, like the Blue Bird, are rested enough to stand on their own."
Merlin smiled. "And this is why I am so proud of you, dear Arthur." Merlin said, his voice rich with warmth and pride.