The Gift

Part III

The Revelation

Bartholomew flew with the swans to his treehouse. They placed the sundial in his water bucket at the edge of the pond. From there it was hoisted to the kitchen. Then, they carried it to the dining table. They could have brought it up the steps, but that would have been a bit awkward. The swans’ day was not yet done. They said goodbye and left to pick up a load of tea for Petunia Porcupine.

Bartholomew walked to the book shelf and pulled out his astronomy book. He found a section on sundials and studied how to properly mount them. The critical information he needed was the latitude and longitude of Ballymore on the surface of the earth. He took down his big atlas and was able to determine those numbers fairly accurately. He also needed to figure out the angle at which to mount the sundial. All of this information was required to ensure that it would show the correct time.

The next morning, he sent a message to Morris Muskrat asking if he could visit. Then, he cleaned and polished the sundial. When he finished, it was gleaming and looked brand new.

Morris knocked on his door in the late afternoon. Bartholomew invited him in, and he immediately noticed the polished sundial.

“Now that’s impressive, and it was in the underground cave?” he asked.

“Yes, Cyrus Owl was quite ingenious,” said Bartholomew. “It will be mounted in front of the new pavilion building. Would you make a pedestal for it, please. I have already figured out most of the details.”

“Of course,” answered Morris. “What do you need?”

“The pedestal will be polished hardwood, four feet long and one foot in diameter. It will be buried two feet in the ground. The top will be sloped at a precise angle that I am still calculating.”

“That’s a pretty easy project, Bart. I can have it done in a few days. What colour finish would you like?”

“I think a dark mahogany would be nice,” said Bartholomew. “Thank you. I’m sure it will be beautiful.”

Morris left, and Bartholomew prepared dinner. He ate at the opposite end of the dining table from the sundial and found it difficult to keep his eyes off of it. He thought about how long it sat in that cave waiting to be discovered, waiting to be used and appreciated again.

More important was the purpose of its mission. After eating, he got up and took his Bible from the bookshelf. Matthew 7:12 was still bookmarked. He sat by the fire, opened the book, and read the passage again:

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — Golden Rule

You should treat others the same way as you would like them to treat you.

He thought about the importance of that simple concept to the world. The Golden Rule was written for people, but it’s the animal residents of Ballymore who live by it and prove its worth every day.

Why has it been so difficult for people to honour it, he thought.

Is the answer related to obtaining basic needs such as food? If you are alone, then you have no help. In order to obtain food and shelter, you might have to break the Golden Rule. However, if you are part of a community, you can rely upon your loved-ones and friends, and they can rely upon you. People need to belong to something and not be alone.

Is the answer related to greed and envy? There are many who have everything they need but want more. There are many who want something simply because someone else has it. Is there something broken in people that causes greed and envy and other sins? How can it be mended? The effort has to begin in the heart of each individual person.

Bartholomew sighed, said a prayer, and fell asleep holding the Bible in his wings.

Four days later, a message arrived from Morris saying that the pedestal was ready. The owl flew to Morris’s cottage to see it. It was as beautiful as he had imagined. With the ducks’ and swans’ help, the pedestal and sundial were moved to the front of the pavilion on the island. The moles dug a hole, and the pedestal was lowered into place. After the hole was filled, Morris cut the top of the pedestal to the angle calculated by Bartholomew. The animals then lifted the sundial and placed it on top. It was secured with shiny screws.

The animals stood back and gazed at it.

Bartholomew said, “It’s wonderful, isn’t it?”

They all agreed.

He covered it with its velvet cloth and said, “We will have the unveiling on Thursday at 11 bongs in the morning.”

At 11 bongs on Thursday, there was a light rain falling. Bartholomew decided to wait for a while, and the rain ended thirty minutes later. Every animal resident of Ballymore was there to see the sundial and hear Bartholomew. Even though it was damp and a little foggy, he began.

“Everybody, welcome. I don’t know that I have the right words to do this momentous occasion justice. This is a very special day for Ballymore. Thanks to all of your efforts, we have successfully located our gift from Cyrus Owl and the Ballymore residents of 1801. A gift that was left for us over ninety years ago.

“In his original letter, Cyrus told us what they hoped to accomplish. He expressed fear that the values that served Ballymore so well might be lost in the future. He and his fellow residents put considerable effort into this project.

“Their efforts were not wasted, and their fears were not justified. We have faithfully maintained the same values they had in 1801. Our community joined together, again, to locate this wonderful gift.

“I will now unveil our golden sundial.”

As he finished, he pulled the cloth from the sundial. A loud cheer went up as most were seeing it for the first time. Everyone gathered around to admire and touch the sundial. They congratulated each other and hugged. After a few minutes Bartholomew asked them to step back, and he explained the operation of the instrument.

“When the sun is shining, it hits the vertical piece and creates a shadow on the flat face. As the sun moves across the sky, the shadow also moves across the face. There are lines and numbers engraved on the face. When the shadow hits a particular line, that indicates the current time of day.”

“Now, if we can get a little sunshine, it will show itself off to us.”

Everyone waited impatiently. The thin fog began to lift, and the trees on the opposite shore could now be seen. Everyone was looking back and forth between the sundial and the sky. Then, the sun finally broke through the clouds. A shaft of sunlight shone down on the golden sundial and created a narrow shadow on its face. Simultaneously, a rainbow appeared in the sky behind the pavilion. Soon thereafter, the Waterford hamlet bell bonged twelve times in the distance.

Their new Ballymore sundial read exactly 12 noon.


The Gift