The next morning Epic accompanied Milo and Daisy as they followed the path of the meandering river. Milo took the opportunity to bombard Epic with questions, which the lizard answered with the same unique and intriguing perspective that had fascinated Milo from the start.
“Questions are good, Milo. I tend to find that questions open doors, whereas answers usually close them.”
Encouraged by Epic’s words, Milo broached the topic of individuals who tended to think they had all the answers. Epic responded with an ease that made his wordplay all the more engaging.
“Know it all’s? No, no, stay away from them. Don’t be in the know, be in the mystery!”
Milo was enthralled. He had never met anyone who talked this way – totally confusing, yet insightful and oddly clear at the same time. As Milo pondered the lizard’s charming idiosyncrasies, Epic changed the focus of their discussion.
“Now about you two!” exclaimed the lizard, “You two are a splendid couple! So modest you probably don’t even realise it. Then again, that’s part of your charm. Fine sensibilities! Yes, the best kind of creatures. I like to think of you as the 5 C’s!”
At their puzzled expressions he clarified, “Caring, considerate, cautious, conscientious and creative. In fact, I have just added another one. The 6 C’s: courageous. This journey is proof of that!”
As the skies began to darken they stopped for the night and watched the sun set in the distance. In the peaceful quiet, Epic turned to Milo.
“I was very interested in your story yesterday and I have a question I would like to ask you.”
Milo felt a wave of excitement at Epic’s special attention, which is what he had been craving since the night before. The lizard smiled.
“But first I will tell you a story, told to me when I was a young adult. It is about a lizard.” Epic settled down and cleared his throat, “Well, this lizard was a tremendous climber but was training to be a warrior. As part of his training, a trial was given to him. He was taken into a dark cave, which was sealed behind him. Now, it was completely dark in the cave apart from a light high above. He was given enough food to survive for a week and he was told that the challenge was to find a way out of the cave.
The walls were difficult to climb, but at the top they angled inwards toward a ledge. Day after day the warrior climbed but he repeatedly fell onto the ledge, unable to escape. Soon his food ran out and he was too weak to climb. Before he starved he was rescued. On being released, he was told that the wall was impossible to climb, but he had still failed the test.”
The lizard regarded Daisy and Milo in turn, before settling his gaze solely on the vole.
“So Milo, what would you have done in that situation? Would you have passed the test?”
Milo racked his brains but could not think of a solution. This concerned him, for he wanted to find the answer and secretly impress Epic. The lizard left him to think. Milo stayed up most of the night, searching for a solution, turning around the possibilities in his mind. He could not come up with an answer.
Morning came too quickly. Milo still had no solution. He felt even more frustrated when Epic told him that he had until midday before the answer would be revealed. Just like the dawn, midday arrived too soon and Milo had to admit that he could not work it out. Just as Epic was about to reveal the answer, he turned to Daisy.
“Daisy, I think you may have the answer to this. What do you think?”
Surprised, Daisy turned wide eyes upon the lizard, but she answered almost immediately.
“Well, I know that I would not have been able to climb out, so very quickly I would have given up” She paused a moment, “Now, if it was a trial, then there would be a solution. Maybe it was not a trial of strength. I think maybe there was a tunnel behind the cave walls that would have led him out.”
“Brilliant, Daisy!” exclaimed Epic, “If he had given up climbing and started digging into the walls, he would indeed have found a way through the softer stone.
The tunnel would have been dark and small and most unpleasant and scary to crawl through, but if he had faced his fear of the unknown and pulled himself through, he would finally have arrived into the light, free and triumphant! There is a proverb which sums up the answer. Trouble is a tunnel you pass through not a brick wall you break your head against. ”
With the answer before him, Milo felt annoyed with himself for not having guessed at this solution. It also bothered him that Daisy had thought of the answer with no apparent effort. But such was his respect and fondness for her that he did not begrudge her success. Even so, it had dented his confidence and he felt vulnerable. The rest of the day he retreated into himself. He remained passive and withdrawn, lost in his own thoughts. Epic allowed him his space and did not approach him.
The day passed quietly and the following morning, Milo said little. This gave Epic and Daisy a chance to speak. The lizard enquired as to how she was feeling after the incident in the Valley of Shadows. Daisy shook her head, managing a smile.
“I can’t believe how different everything looks. That terrible fear has gone. A couple of times I have felt the inclination to panic, but have thought ‘So what, it’s a trick, it will pass’.” Her eyes brightened, “My fear of the fear has gone. I feel calmer and clear-headed. In fact, I’m not always thinking and worrying anymore. Sometimes, time just passes as I’m absorbed in whatever we are doing. It is wonderful! I have not felt like this in ages.”
Epic nodded, “Daisy, you are a lovely creature with a most sensitive disposition and kind, caring nature. Your temperament is a gift, and when you learn how to flourish with your sensitivity, you will realize it is a gift. Sometimes you may find yourself becoming overloaded or over excited, but that’s okay.” He tapped the earth with his foot, “Stay grounded and centred. Trust your feelings and your intuition. Live from your heart, stand up for yourself and assert who you are. Above all, like who you are.”
Daisy thanked Epic and the he gently held her paw. In a reassuring manner he encouraged her to see herself as he did. For if she could see herself as he saw her, she would see what a wonderful creature she was. With such kind and earnest words, Daisy felt great warmth in her heart and a sparkle touched her shining eyes. She became so absorbed in her enjoyment of the morning walk that she barely noticed their change in course. Leaving the river path behind, they made their way across a field, arriving, by mid-afternoon, at an incredibly unusual place.
The land gave way to a low gap and a river ran down below. A stone formation acted as a natural bridge.
“We will cross here,” Epic announced, “It is a bit awkward, but not a major problem. If you tumble, the river is deep and will break your fall quite safely.”
Without further instruction, he hopped onto the bridge and with majestic ease, crossed to the other side.
“Right!” he called over, “Who’s next?”
Milo hesitated, so Daisy confidently piped up.
There was an elegant deftness in her crossing. She nimbly reached the other side and turned to look at Milo. Painfully aware of their gazes, he felt self-conscious, conscious that his hesitation had been noted. He wished he had gone before Daisy. His confidence had plummeted after he had failed to find the solution to Epic’s story. From across the bridge the lizard cried out.
“Trust yourself! Have some faith! You’ll find it easy!”
But Milo was assailed by thoughts. As a youngster, he would have been the first to cross. He would have crossed to prove to himself and everyone else that he could do it. But he had become more cautious and wanted to ensure that he didn’t fall. He edged forward, adamant that he would cross slowly. Assailed by his worries, he found himself clinging to the stone. Despite knowing he could cross, hesitancy and caution slowed his approach.
When he finally reached the other side he felt embarrassed and crippled by a sense of shame; he had let himself down. Despite having been met with no judgement, he withdrew into himself. They carried on across the field, with Epic glancing back to check up on them. Milo looked disconsolate. This was the time Epic thought it best to have a word. Drawing the vole to the side, Epic lowered his voice.
“How are you feeling Milo? You crossed over the ‘Trust’ bridge. It’s a very unusual bridge isn’t it?”
At this invitation to talk, Milo felt more than willing to offload his problems.
“I didn’t cross it very quickly. I held on too tightly. I didn’t do it very well. I couldn’t even work out the solution to your story. I’m a failure.”
“Now listen, Milo,” Epic replied, his voice stern but benevolent, “You are definitely not a failure. Having a feeling that you failed is just that – a feeling. A feeling passes. You are not a feeling. You are so much more.”
Sensing Milo’s unease, Epic offered a smile, “Success is not where you are at this moment but it is in the direction that you are moving. You are on a great journey and you are successful right now, with every little step you take.
As far as the story is concerned, it was much easier for Daisy to answer as she had just solved that problem to overcome her fears. I just wanted to show you a different perspective. I have crossed the ‘Faith’ bridge many times. Many creatures won’t cross and find a different way. You crossed and continued! You are doing very well! Tonight, I will show you another way to develop faith and trust and you find your own great power.”
Bolstered by Epic’s kind words, Milo felt inspired and eager to carry on. No longer did he hover over the abyss of disappointment and despair. Instead, he moved with a bounce in his step and hope in his heart.
Chapter 7. Hill of Expectations