The Id of Life
Tag Archives: jungle
“Do you have a blog, grandpa?” the boy asked, kicking his legs against the stool rungs in the nursing home.
“No, I don’t do much with computers,” the old man said. “We didn’t have them when I was growing up and I guess I just didn’t find the need afterwards.”
The boy considered this. “What was life like for you, growing up? What was it really like?”
“It’s hard to explain,” the man said after a moment. “You’re too young to understand and there’s a lot of it.”
“Then you can start a blog and write about it.”
The man smiled. He pointed at the boy’s open backpack. “What’s that?”
“My social studies book. I got homework. We’re studying biomes.”
“Let me see it.” The man flipped through it, then handed it back. “Come back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you about my life.”
The next day, when the boy came to his grandfather’s room, the man handed him several pages covered with a firm, flowing script, made shaky at the ends by age.
“Can you read it to me?” the boy asked. “We don’t learn that kind of writing in school anymore.”
“This time,” the man said, looking more put out than he really felt. “Get your mom to type it out for you. Okay, here we go: The Biomes of My Life.
“I was born in the jungle, emerging from my cocoon into a world bursting with life. At first, I was amazed at the bright colors and variety around me but unaware of the dangers that stalked through the shadows. There were jaguars and tigers in the trees that watched as I climbed and swung through the trees. One day, an old tiger caught me and mauled me badly and that ended my career climbing trees. I stayed, stifled, on the floor of the jungle, and it felt like the trees were pressing down on me. I longed for fresh air.
“When I was a teenager, I finally found the savannah and reveled in the open space and air. I ran and jumped and played, unrestrained by anything. I saw the groups that moved around: the zebras and antelope, the lions and hyenas and remembering the old tiger, I allied myself with the hyenas. I was not going to be a victim. I was the killer now, preying on the flighty animals that ran in front of me. It was a glorious existence while it lasted, but the lions reminded us who were bigger and in the end, I took more harm than if I had run with the zebras.
“My early twenties were a desert. I had run from the lions and leaving the savannah, I wandered for long periods of time in areas devoid of life with just the rocks and sand as companions. The sky was large and although life seemed wide open, it was empty in every direction I tried. The scorching sun and wind burned me, crushing my young will. I could have died in that barren place if I had not found a tiny trickle of water that led to a river, which led to the ocean.
“It was in my late twenties that I embarked on the great ocean. It was as wide open as the desert but finally I was going places and life was all around me again. The crests and troughs followed in quick succession but I rode every one and although I was never satisfied, I went further and faster than I ever had.
“It was during this time, in my early thirties that I found my tropical island. The air there was heavy with the scent of flowers and luscious fruit was everywhere. It was the first time in my life that I was truly happy and I could lie on the beach for hours, just drinking it all in.
“But after a while, the lure of the fast-paced ocean life lured me back. I went back to the island when I could, but the visits became less frequent as I traveled further and further on the wild waves. Finally, I came back to find that half the island had burned. That was a shock. I gave up the ocean and spend the next several decades restoring the island back to life. It was never what it had been, but it became my home.”
The old man stopped reading. “What do you think?”
“I don’t understand,” the boy said. “You were born in a jungle?”
“It’s a riddle,” his grandfather said. “You will need a key to unlock it.”
“Experience. Then you will understand my story. But for now, let me tell you the lessons I have learned. Watch out for tigers and hyenas. Run from them. They are not your friends. Avoid the deserts but if you find yourself in one, never give up. There is more out there. And finally, if you find your tropical island, take care of it. It is more precious than you think.”
“Okay, I’ll try to understand it later.” the boy said. He looked uncertain and the grandfather gave him a hug.
“I hope so. Then you can tell your story to your son and grandson. You can even blog about it if you want.”
The tiger had left its mother that morning. He had felt the time coming for a few days, that antsy excitement thrilling through his lithe form that something was about to change. Then, that morning, she had walked out into the jungle, followed by his two sisters, and for the first time ever, he did not follow. He was alone and free.
For a while, he had played, gamboling around and splashing in the small river nearby. But then, he realized he was hungry and there was no one to provide him food. The realization filled him with a flood of unanalyzed emotions, mostly positive. He knew of a cache of food nearby that his mother had left, but the concept of Ours was fading and now he realized that it was Hers. A new concept, that of Mine, was beginning to form in his mine and he set out randomly to explore it.
He walked far until the scent of his mother faded. He avoided the scent of other tigers as well, especially males. The sun reached its peak and was starting to descend when he stopped to drink from a small stream. Then he caught the scent of wild pig. It excited him so much that he whipped around, catching at his own tail before remembering the business at hand and climbing a tree to wait.
He had watched his mother do this many times. He had killed before, but always under her watchful eye. Now, he crept along the branch just over the stream, watching and smelling the air. The pig appeared a few minutes later, rooting around in the soft dirt. The tiger watched it, waiting for the perfect time to strike. The pig approached and the tiger’s muscles tensed. Then, he sprang.
There was a loud crack and the branch he had been sitting on broke off and fell into the stream, the tiger following it. He landed on his feet and was bounding towards the pig as soon as he landed but the pig was already gone, squealing and crashing through the underbrush, back the way it had come.
The tiger pursued it, glorying in his young, strong body. The pig was dodging this way and that, but the tiger was gaining on it. The pig’s bobbing tail appeared through the foliage in front.
Suddenly there was a roar and a tawny flash and the pig disappeared, knocked to one side. The tiger saw a huge male tiger sinking its fangs into the pig’s neck, silencing its terrified squeals. Then it dropped the pig and turned back, roaring a challenge. The younger tiger retreated back to the stream.
He was angry and hungry both, but he knew better than to challenge the larger male. He prowled back and forth, trying to decide what to do.
There was a sudden boom, like thunder, although the sky peeking through the canopy was blue and cloudless. He climbed a tree and crept towards where the sound had come from, back towards the other tiger. It lay dead, with blood coming from its neck. Two other creatures, tall thin ones that looked like large monkeys, stood over it with sticks in their hands.
They did not look dangerous. The other tiger was dead and the pig was lying on the ground, his for the taking. He waited until one of the creatures had disappeared into the trees, and then he leaped.
The creature turned and cried out in fear. It raised its stick but not in time. The tiger knocked it to the ground and bit its neck. He could feel the warm blood flow over his teeth and the life go out of it. He was tempted to take this prey or the pig and run, but he was young and the taste of blood was fresh in his mouth. He stalked through the trees until he saw the other creature come running, stick raised. Then he pounced.
The sun went down, burning the tips of the leaves a fiery orange. The tiger sat gorging himself. His thoughts flicked to his mother and sisters, but he did not miss them. He was his own tiger now.