The death of the tortoise and the hare
A short story I wrote while walking through the tranquil Wudang Taoist mountains. A story about the importance of slowing down, observing our surroundings and being one with nature.
Photo Credit: @georgethompson.uk
We all know the classic fable of the tortoise and the hare: “Slow and steady wins the race”. But did you ever wonder what became of the two beloved characters? We join them now at the end of their journeys, as they look back on the paths they’ve walked and the lives they’ve lived.
“So here we are”, said the hare.
“Yes, here we are”, replied the tortoise, “and look how far we have both come”.
“Ha, indeed! But some of us further than others!” the hare excitedly squealed. “I lost just one race to you and it’s all anyone ever seems to talk about, but look here, I have truly won this race”.
“Ah yes, I remember, slow and steady I beat you to the finish line,” replied the tortoise with a gleeful smile.
“But not this time! This time I am surely first! I have travelled to every hill top, crossed every stream, and swam in every watering hole. I have been everywhere there is to be and seen everything there is to see”, the hare declared triumphantly.
“Oh, I wasn’t aware life was a race,” the tortoise pondered, “I have only climbed a few hill tops, and I have only wondered by a few streams, I have my favourite watering hole but as for others, I have not been.”
“You see, slow tortoise, you missed out on so much in life. I saw the tallest peak and the deepest canyon, the widest river and the largest sea. Really, what did you even see?”
The tortoise stood still for a contemplative moment. What had he seen along his journey? What was more impressive than the superlatives of nature Hare boasted about?
After a long meditative pause, the tortoise finally spoke, “I have stopped to watch crawling caterpillars create their cocoons; I have seen them grow and hatch into colourful butterflies that break free and spread their wings.”
“Oh,” said the hare surprised, “I have not seen that. Where did you see them?” he demanded.
“Along the paths I walked every day. I would often stop and look around, observe the tiny insects or listen to the music of the birds.”
“Hmm, what else have you seen?” inquired the hare.
“I have seen great trees grow from small seedlings. Their roots digging deep and solid into the ground, trunks growing thick and strong, branches spreading far and wide.” The tortoise replied.
“I never thought to watch trees grow, in fact I never thought they even grew”, the hare said in a questioning tone.
“Well, of course, where else do you think they came from?”, laughed the tortoise.
“I supposed I’d never really given it that much thought and I was never really around long enough to see them change.” Hare replied.
“They are part of nature just like you and me,” said the tortoise wisely, “they grow, and breath, and interact with each other, and depend on everything else…”
“What do you mean they depend on everything else?” interrupted the confused hare.
“Well, what is a tree?” Replied the tortoise “At first look it is just the roots, branches and trunk. But look a little closer and you’ll soon realize the tree won’t live long without the rain from the sky, or the nutrients from the soil, or the energy from the sun. The tree needs these things just as much as it needs its leaves or its bark: in this sense they are also part of the tree.”
“You can really see all that by looking at a tree!”
The tortoise smiled, “Yes, but I don’t like to see a tree as a tree, or a plant as a plant, or you as a hare, or think of myself as a tortoise! We are all nature; we are all part of the same whole.”
The hare sat there silently for the first time the tortoise could ever remember. “I have travelled far and wide. I have visited many places, but it seems I have seen nothing at all.”
“When you look with your eyes you see only your surroundings, when you look with your heart, you’ll see the connection between all things.” Rhymed the tortoise, before he turned around and wander off to his favourite watering hole to have a final drink before it was time for him to go.
The hare stood there watching him walk away, and thought, “My eyes can see you leaving, but my heart feels closer to you now in every way. Goodbye dear friend, until we meet again another day.”