Siezus Lazius Fortius
One day I got lost in the dark wood, unable to find the right way… around the zoo.
A story.. by “Nonno Panda”
…happened to stumble across my friend Virgil. He has always been a strange character. He claimed to have written many poems and books, but as I can’t read myself I just have to take his word for it. What I like about him is that he is always ready to take me on an epic journey–whether that means going places physically or simply in his imagination.
“Nonno Panda do you feel spring coming on?” he asked me as he approached me.
“Well, I can see the days lare getting longer,” I replied, “but I’m not sure about the temperature. The winter seems to be hanging around a bit longer this year. Even the snowdrops haven’t come through yet.”
“My dear friend, you’re getting too old in your soul. That’s not good! Spring is the rebirth of nature, a feeling of opening up to new things. You’ve got to get out of the woods sometimes and see what’s out there. Come with me and I’ll show you the effect spring is having on other animals like you.”
Nothing wrong with letting somebody else taking the lead, I thought, so I went along with him.
We walked for a bit till we left the shadows of the trees behind, and clear space opened up in front of us. The snowdrops were right there, and the first yellow primroses looked like a ray of sunshine against all that white.
Spring was definitely coming. It was all there in front of me .
Virgil told me this open green field has seen many gatherings for all kinds of things, from a concert performed by the Lupus Rock band – which the Wolves gave in honour of their new cubs – to the annual convention for the Geese when they organised a fashion parade to show off their new plumage.
How extraordinary, I thought. And all this has been going on practically under my nose. I should definitely get out of the woods more often. Apparently, the latter event always culminates in the election of “Miss Goose of the Year”, a very prestigious award indeed. And every Mother Goose with nubile young daughters attends, swelling with pride and hoping to see her dream come true for her daughter – one which, more often than not, she had failed to realise for herself.
Virgil told me there had been some controversy about the fact that the contestants seemed to get thinner and thinner every year.
“I know the reason,” I told him. “Winters are getting longer. I can see the effect it’s having on my shape. I’ve almost used all the fat I’d built up during the summer. And that’s not good! I look all wrinkly.”
But Virgil laughed, replying that was not what the matter with the geese was. “They do it on purpose so they can show off their plumage to better effect.
I could not even begin to imagine what they looked like under all those feathers. Not a pretty sight, I thought.
But the ganders do not seem to care much about that. In fact, the riots that happen every year– when all those males turned up, hoping to take the winner and her princesses – have become almost as traditional as the contests themselves. The resulting deaths are accepted as an inevitable fact of life.
I guess winning a trophy is more important than anything else. Ah! The raging hormones of driven youth. I suppose it was all so long ago for me that I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like.
Not all the cultural events that have taken place here have been as light-hearted as that one. Sports too have been taken seriously here. The motto of the games is in a strange and forgotten language: Seizius, Lazius, Fortius.
While no-one quite knows what it means, it sounded very grand to me, especially when Virgil pronounced it properly.
The strengths and the abilities of each species are pitted against each other, in the hope of this possibly resulting in new and exciting evolutionary trends. Sadly, nothing ground-breaking has been seen for years as Virgil confirmed. The Cheetahs continue to hold the land speed record; the Kangaroos always win the jumping – though the fleas give them a good run for their money! The Monkeys are unbeatable at pole vaulting. The swimming medals, however, are often shared between the Dolphins and the Sea Lions from amongst the mammals.
Disputes in sport are common, especially if a sponsor gets involved and they are settled by the FAG – Federation for Animal Games, whose decisions are always accepted by the competitors in the end, though not always with good grace.
A particularly popular sport is the famous spitting contest between the Llamas – those unashamed salivators – and the Cobras. It must be said, though, the Cobras have an unfair advantage; unfair, that is, in the eyes of the umpires – literally – as their spit is, of course, highly poisonous. The honour of having to judge this contest is not eagerly sought after .
It is, in fact, the high risks the umpires run that attracts the huge crowds, as you can well imagine. But the contest is becoming increasingly rarer as the years go by because the traditional umpires have been dying out and there are no volunteers to replace them. FAG claims it is tackling this problem, and their delays have managed to string things out for years. In fact, it may ultimately be a politically-correct way to end the controversy by so-called natural causes, namely the lack of umpires.
Other events, like calculating exactly how long something lasts, are the exclusive domain of the Sloths, those undisputed kings of the time trials. It always feels like nobody can ever go as slowly as they can. In fact, Sloths takes a whole day to reach the top of a tree and climb down again. The Monkeys, the usual denizens of those high branches, can translate each stage of the journey into the appropriate time-span for anyone that’s interested.
“Tree branches, one hour,” a helpful monkey might shout out, to the intense annoyance of the Sloths,who would prefer an uninterrupted stroll.
“Here we are dear Nonno Panda,” said Virgil. “I hope, now that you’ve seen all this, I’ve convinced you you should be in a better mood.”
I did not think I was in any kind of a mood at all, but I did not have time to reply, as Virgil then launched into reciting something that sounded like one of his poems..
“When daisies pied, and violet blue,
And cookoo-buds of yellow hue,
When turtles tread, and rock and daws…”
He gestured at me, getting carried away in his poetic train of thought
Ah! The mood of spring, I sighed as I watched him fade into the distance, with the sound of his verses ringing out. I decided to stay back and ponder on all the activities my fellow animals had indulged in .