The Turtles

The Turtles

Av Johnny Danielsen

Norwegian version here / Norsk versjon her.

Once upon a time there was this very special kind of turtles. They were giants, with huge, flat shields. The shields were so big and flat that soil gathered on top of it, and usually with the years, plants started growing. Even trees. Small gardens were what the turtles were carrying around on their backs. But there were a huge variation on what were growing in these gardens. Some had almost nothing growing, others could have a lot. Some had shield gardens with a lot of fruit, while others could only offer leaves, grass and other veggies.

Once two turtles met each other. One of them had a somewhat sparse grown shield garden. The leaves on its small trees were more yellowish or grayish green, than they were green. The shield garden on the other turtle, on the other hand, was so big that the turtle’s shield was totally covered in the rich, thick foliage. The leaves were strongly green, and an abundance of berries, fruits and flowering flowers were everywhere in the shield garden.

The first turtle was surprised to see such an incredibly garden, and wondered how it could be. He thought that since the two turtles lived in the same area, the two gardens should have been pretty much similar? Usually such turtles do not eat the growth of other turtles, nor their own. But the smell of the flowers and mature fruit awakened such a hunger in the first turtle, that he just had to ask the other. “Sorry, but could I get to taste some of the fruit growing on your back? It smells so nice!”

“Off course you can!” the other answered, and put his broad side towards the first, so he could just pick and choose. The first reached its head towards a particularly tempting apple. It tasted sweet and good, it was like fresh nectar. The first apple was quickly followed by others, but then he saw some plums and had to taste them as well. Then some cherries and the greatest blue berries he had ever seen. He had never tasted such fruit! Finally, his curiosity got the best of him. “How is it that there is so much tasty fruit growing in your shield garden? After all, we live in the same area; shouldn’t we have quite similar shield gardens?”

The other watched the first thoughtfully. “I believe it is because I’m always outside…”
“Outside? Aren’t everyone outside?” the first looked surprised at the other.
“Yes,” the other answered. “But you seek shelter when the sun is too strong… or when it starts raining. You find yourself a cave or find cover elsewhere.”
“But that is because it isn’t very comfortable to get completely wet by rain, or to be baked in the sun!” The first exclaimed. The other smiled. “It is true that it’s not always so nice, especially it could be hard in the beginning.” He reached out his head towards the first’s shield garden and bit of a leaf. The face he made made it clear it was a bit bitter. Then he looked at the first turtle, “Once, my shield garden was quite similar to yours, but with the time, it became this fertile.” He shook himself gently, so his whole garden rustled. “Today it gives me both shadow against the sun, and it keeps me both dry and warm when it rains.”

The first turtle reached out for a tempting plum and enjoyed its taste. “Taste great too! But how do the sun and the rain help you get such a garden?” The other smiled again, and stretched itself out after an apple from its own shield garden. “Well. When you seek cover for the rain, your shield garden never gets the water it needs, and the plants growing on you need water. They will also need water in order to withstand the heat of the sun at noon. That’s why it’s a good idea to seek places with a lot of rain when it rains. Then the plants will hold up a lot better when it is warm.”

The first nodded “Yes, I can see that. But why do you want to stay out when it is hot? Wouldn’t even the plants do better if not exposed to the strongest heat and sun?”

“You’re no fool, I hear!” the other answered. “There are times that the heat get so strong that I do seek cover. But the plants grow at the best when they get the heat they need, and the sunlight make the fruit both larger and sweeter. That’s why it is a good idea to seek good, nice warm places when it is sun and you got enough water.
“Hmm…” The first had just reached out for another sweet and juicy apple. “You may have a point there. But it sounds both a bit too cold and a bit too warm, what you are talking about. How did you start?”

The other went over to a small stream nearby. “Not only plants need water.” he said, and drank of the fresh water. “It started actually a day when I met another turtle. He had the most fantastic shield garden I ever have seen. Flowers and fruits everywhere, and he let me taste.” He licked himself around his mouth. “Never have I tasted such fruit. Just as you, I wonder how that could be, and he shared the same idea I just shared with you: To stay outside.” He laughed a bit “I guess I really had a dream about being able to eat myself full every day on fruit from my own shield garden. Anyway I started following this other turtle I met, hoping to learn how to get such a garden myself. But in fact I was disappointed. It didn’t take long time before the plants I had in my own shield garden started withering.”

The first looked at the other dismayed. “Withering? Why?”
“Look at the mountains, do the same plants grow on the whole hill side?” the other smiled.
The first turned its head towards the mountains, “Well… no, the tops are bare, farther down grass and scrubs, and on the slopes, trees are growing in varying layers. But what does this have to do with this?”
The other shook his shield, “Look at your shield garden, then on mine. Do you see many of the same plants?” The first nodded. “Off course, there are… uhm…” He studied the two shield gardens closer. “Hmm… no, actually none. Why do you think that is so?”
“For the same reasons the plants in the hills grows in different layers. The layers come from different temperatures, but you will also see that where there is much water, other plants grow than where it is dry. I guess you are able to see the difference between a march and a forested top, don’t you?” He winked jokingly to the first.

The first laughed “Yes, off course I do! But what does that have to do with your shield garden withering?”
“Well, what happened”, the other said. “Was that when I started following my new friend, it was like if I moved from a forested top down into a marsh… or from the top of a mountain down to the bottom of a valley. And the plants that grew in my shield garden couldn’t survive, so they withered away, but little by little, new plants started growing. I actually believe some seeds to my new shield garden came from my new friend. A that time little were growing still, and that was when the cold of the rain was at the worst. And the heat of the sun almost cooked me in my own shell… But the plants were growing in good, wet soil, and after some decades, my shield garden was nice and fertile. Not by far close to how it is like now, off course. I needed quite a few more years before I got this far.”

The first turtle smiled. “So your dream came true then? Each day you are eating yourself full from your own shield garden?”
The other shook his head. “It may have been my dream, but the time with my friend taught me something new. I didn’t see him eat from his own garden very often. Usually he ate the same stuff that most turtles do.”
The first was surprised “But why that? He could have eaten of the best food that has ever existed!”
“That was what I meant too. But what I saw him doing, was that he shared of his fruits to everyone he met – both turtles and others.”
The first was even more baffled. “Shared with others? Why?”

“Well,” the other turtle answered. “One day I asked him about it. He asked me how many turtles I had met that had a shield garden similar to his. Have you seen many?” He looked at the first questioningly.
The first shook his head: “You’re one with the most fertile shield garden I have ever seen. Not even one has come anywhere close to yours!”
“That was the same answer I had, and the old answered that’s why.”
“That is why?”
“I said that too. “That’s why” he answered. ‘Because there are way too few turtles that get a chance to taste such fruits. That’s why I travel around to share of my fruit to everyone who wants some.'” The eyes of the other went blank. “That is when I lost a dream… and got a new one. I followed him some more months and learned more, before I left him to share of my fruits with others. That’s why.” He smiled to the first. “Do you want some more fruit?”

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