The thoughtful owl gazed out over Ballymore pond, as he has done many
times previous. It was just before midnight on the final night of
February. The small cottages of the Ballymore animal residents hugged
the water’s edge, and smoke drifted from the chimney of each. A bright
moon was rising to highlight the wavelets on the water. As the large
pond responded to a cool north breeze, changing light patterns danced
across its surface. The moonlight also outlined a small island near the
centre of the pond. On the island were a few more cottages. The wild
creatures of the area were asleep in their own burrows or nests. The
trees and bushes also rested, each in its own way. Save for the wind
there was a peaceful silence, as the sounds of spring remained a few
Bartholomew, as he was known, firmly gripped the branch of the old oak
tree on which he perched. He was careful not to injure the bark with his
sharp talons. Over the years, he had developed a warm and mutually
beneficial relationship with the tree. Since his arrival, the pesky
bugs, which had long annoyed the tree, were gone. In return, it provided
a safe place for his cozy treehouse. More than once it had arranged its
branches to protect his home from storms. It was on nights like this
that he felt a sense of brotherhood with the tree. He couldn’t describe
it but it comforted him.
He has lived in the tree at the edge of the pond for many years. His
treehouse was built with wood from another oak that hadn’t survived a
winter storm. With much help from his beaver and squirrel friends and
more than a few hammered tails, it was securely built in the main crook
about twenty feet above the forest floor.
His home was modest with only three rooms, a parlour, kitchen and
bedroom. A small stone fireplace sat in one corner of the parlour. The
furnishings were comfortable but not fancy. A large, pillowy rocking
chair faced the hearth. Along one wall was Bartholomew’s library with
books on nearly every subject. Along another were paintings of Ballymore
and his friends. The bedroom held only a well-used chest of drawers and
a small but very soft bed. The kitchen was full of pots and pans and
cooking gadgets. A wooden bucket-n’-pulley system filled a corner. Each
morning he used it to hoist cool water from the pond through a hole in
the floor. Of course, he made sure the hole was covered when not being
used. He preferred not to fall into the pond again. It was small comfort
that no one witnessed that embarrassment. He was also lucky that he
didn’t catch a bad cold. That was a morning both to remember and forget.
Near the base of the tree, he had a root cellar filled with every type
of food and herb on which he could get his talons. Its small round door
was securely locked to keep out prying paws. Although, it was unlikely
that anyone from Ballymore would take anything, except perhaps Wilde and
Wilder, the weasels.
Bartholomew felt the gentle breeze and inhaled the soft scent from the
many pine trees. He was content as he watched the slowly moving water.
He absorbed the silence and enjoyed this peaceful time away from his
many responsibilities. It helped him stay in harmony with the natural
world. Nature moves at a steady, even pace and will not be rushed.
Everything has its appointed time and place. Bartholomew learned that
lesson many years ago, and it has served him well ever since.
Does Bartholomew have responsibilities? Oh my, yes, as you will see. As
one of the oldest and most educated animals in Ballymore, he is often
relied upon for advice and guidance. Over the years, he has come to love
this role, and he felt a sort of calling to watch over his “sheep”.