Hill of Expectations

By early evening they had reached another bridge. Epic gazed across at the setting sun.

“This is the ’Miracle’ bridge,” he announced. “Here, Milo, you can experience a miracle. Here you can change in an instant.”

Milo and Daisy gaped at the structure.

Epic continued “What is your greatest fear? Has anything happened, which, if you think about it, leaves you petrified?”

“That’s easy,” Milo began, “I used to swim by a weir.

It had always been a special place. One day I foolishly ventured too close to an eddy. There was a huge swirl beneath me. A pike grabbed me in its jaws and took me down into the depths. I thought ‘This is the end’, but when the pike opened its mouth to swallow, I managed to dislodge myself and break free.” Milo’s eyes glazed with the memory and his body tensed. “I swam to the riverside undergrowth and climbed out. I have never been able to picture that day without an awful sense of panic and terrible fear.”

“Excellent, Milo!” remarked Epic. “Firstly, look up at the beautiful sunset. Now, think of a time when you knew there was an element of danger, but you felt confident and alert.”

Milo’s eyes brightened.

“Yes, I’ve felt like that on this journey when crossing some of these open fields.”

“Good,” encouraged Epic. “Are you ready to relax and remove your fear of the pike?”

“That would be great!”

“Keep looking at the sky and think of another time in the past when you were enjoying a sunset and feeling really calm and relaxed. Now, I don’t know whether you are going to go into relaxation as you become aware of your breathing or whether you are going to notice changes in your breathing as you go deeper.” Epic’s voice sounded gentle and faraway, “But don’t go all the way down into relaxation until you’re ready.”

Milo’s eyes drifted shut. Epic smiled, nodding his head.

“That’s right, close your eyes, feel those lovely feelings.”

Milo found himself sinking into a deep slumber, yet he was alert and aware of the pictures he began creating in his mind. Throughout this state, he knew what was happening. It felt as if he was watching himself escaping the pike. Epic asked him to play around with different images, changing between the pike and the field. At one stage, with Epic’s direction, he found himself tapping on different places on his body – around his eyes, above and below his snout, on his paw. Then he felt himself drawn back to the present. He opened his eyes and found himself gazing at the sunset.

“How do you feel?” asked Epic.

“Lovely, calm and dreamy.” Milo replied. His voice sounded soft and mellow.

“What about the pike?” Epic tested.

Milo noticed that he could recall the memory without tension or fear.

“That is amazing! My fear has gone! How did you do that?” he asked incredulously.

“Not me, Milo. I just showed you how to use the power of your mind. You did it. It is always there available to you.”

Milo asked Epic where he had discovered this, but all that the lizard divulged was that he’d learned it long ago from someone called Milt. A character who Epic swore brought about miracles.

“Epic, you’re right!” exclaimed Milo. “This really is the ‘Miracle’ bridge.”

They spent an enjoyable evening together, sharing jokes and delighting in each other’s company. Epic did not mention that this would be the last evening they would all spend together.

The following morning brought clear skies. Stirred by the peaceful daylight, Milo still felt amazed at what had happened the day before.

“We need to be setting off soon,” Epic advised. “I want to show you a special place today”.

Following close behind the lizard, Milo inquired as to their destination. Epic turned to answer.

“Today, I am going to take you to the foot of a hill. Milo, at the top you will find the answer to your problem, but you may not realise it when you see it.” The lizard’s gaze fell on Daisy, “Everyday for the rest of your journey, I want you to sit opposite Milo by the river for a few minutes. Tell him all the things you like about him and then I want Milo to do the same for you. And then I ask that both of you look at your reflection in the river with those same feelings.”

Daisy nodded, sharing a smile with Milo which warmed Epic’s heart.

“I have to go now,” the lizard motioned ahead. “When you come back down from the hilltop, follow the path to a river”.

He hugged Daisy and Milo in turn.

“Goodbye, both of you fine creatures.” He grinned widely. “And good luck!”

They climbed the hill with a strange mix of emotions. Milo felt intrigued by what he would find, but also found himself saddened at Epic’s departure. He couldn’t help thinking that Epic should have stayed with them during this crucial part of their journey. A winding path up led them to the top of the hill. Just as they reached the crest, they caught sight of a bridge. Upon drawing closer, they discovered statues of carved heads on either side of the entrance to the bridge. Daisy marvelled at the beauty and detail of the heads, each representing a different creature. Despite her obvious awe, Milo failed to share her wonder. He drew closer, his eyes darting about as if trying to find something. Unexpectedly, he found words engraved above each head. The words read SHOULD and MUST.

This meant nothing to Milo. In fact, the lack of clarity irritated him. He wanted to go back.

As they descended the hill, Milo raced ahead, hoping Epic would still be there. In his rush, Milo was confronted by his thoughts and feelings. He felt undeniably angry with Epic for leaving when he did. He had regarded the lizard a mentor, even a kindly uncle. Epic should have stayed with him and shown him the answer. He felt let down, upset and angry for being so bothered. Daisy, however, although fond of Epic, had been looking forward to travelling alone with Milo once again. Their separation from Epic did not have the same effect on her.

Throughout the next few days Milo was withdrawn, brooding. He remained locked in his head, thinking. When he did communicate with Daisy, it was only to moan about how Epic should have stayed and should have shown him the answer. Finally, after another morning had passed with the same behaviour, Daisy snapped.

“Milo you are completely in your head!” the little mouse scolded. “Should, should, should! What Epic should have said, what he should have done!”

Milo stopped and looked at her. It was a ‘eureka’ moment. Now he understood! The head carvings represented the mind; his mind. He had expected to find an answer there, locked in his head. The answer should have been there. He remembered so clearly the bold SHOULDs carved into the heads. Epic had presented him with the means to work the answer out for himself. He respected and admired the lizard all the more for this. He felt a tremendous sense of gratitude. Casting his mind back, Milo realised his errors. He had thought he should have been able to climb out of the cave in the story and that he should have been better when crossing the ‘Trust’ bridge. When he had decided that he must escape his tank it had helped him, but he had only looked for one perfect way out. He realised suddenly that he did not have to hold himself to an ideal. He could do what works for him.

“That’s it!” he gasped, overcome with joy, “Do what works.”

He could instead of should. He could do one thing or he could do something else. This realisation and understanding restored Milo’s wonder and lifted him from his dark mood so that he barely noticed passing over a bridge. They enjoyed a blissful day together and Daisy, happy for this change in her companion, began to enjoy spending time with him again. Their journey began to progress calmly.

Honouring Epic’s request, Daisy carried out the exercises next to the river that the lizard had suggested. She quite enjoyed it, but Milo felt very self- conscious when sitting and looking directly at Daisy, then at himself in the river. However, he noticed that he always felt better afterwards and that the feeling stayed with him throughout the day. There was no denying that it was helping them both.

Previously, Doc had advised Daisy to eat a certain type of berry, which would help keep her calm. They could only be found by the river and every day Daisy would forage for them. Doc had been adamant that she only eat berries that were exactly the same as the ones he had given her. Yet having felt good for the last few days, Daisy had not bothered to look for any berries.

However, when she next searched for them, a few days later, she felt uncertain as to whether the ones she picked were what Doc had recommended. Instead of double-checking the undergrowth, she decided to try them. Within a few hours, she felt sick and by the next day she was doubled up in pain and deteriorating. Milo was panic-stricken. He knew certain berries were poisonous and at worst, fatal. The thought of losing Daisy became too overwhelming. He knew he had to do something. Doc had mentioned that if poisonous berries were consumed, then one should seek the aid of a kingfisher for advice regarding an antidote. Determined to get help, Milo promised Daisy that he would find an antidote. After ensuring that she was nestled out of sight, he set off, running as fast as his legs could carry him.

Chapter 7. Into the River