The Circle of Life

All of Woodlands is in great excitement. It is early April and preparations for the Festival of Existence are well under way. Madame de Halloumi has decided to stage the procession by height this year. Last year she used alphabetical order which ended up with voles being stood on by weasels and, rather unfortunately, a fight breaking out between several shrews and some of the young squirrels, when one side accused the other of deliberately standing on their tails. Shrews are known for their fine, long tails but lesser known for their bad temper and aggressive outbursts.
This year, Madame knows she has it sussed. The tallest and largest creatures will be at the front of the parade and all will glide gracefully by until the smallest, the water voles, pass by the dignitaries and applauding crowds.
For those who are not familiar with the Festival of Existence, this is an annual event where all new parents proudly show off their first born of the session. Within the woods, lots of families keep their new born underground for up to several months so this is a glorious chance for all Woodland dwellers to finally meet up. Many, mothers especially, haven’t been out of their homes and setts since before last year’s hibernation curfew. This wonderful day of celebrating and feasting is greatly anticipated by all.
Outside caterers have been brought in from the woodland edges and this year the food is to be prepared by the fabulous Pickles. Hare triplets famous for their adventurous use of exotic ingredients such as orchids and bugle.
Meles Meles Badger has liaised with the Pickles and developed the most pleasing of menus. Woodland dwellers are to be spoiled. She has organised an entrée of pignut and wood melick fritters. Followed by water parsnip soup with oak apple thins. The main course will be turkey tail fungus with a wild strawberry glaze and for dessert, that Woodlands favourite, King Alfred’s Cakes. She is sure that all will enjoy these vegetarian treats.
The entertainment is being organised by Sylvester, the American Mink. He caused trouble when he first arrived in Woodlands as he ate several of the smaller residents but he has contacts in the entertainment world and so everyone is eager to see what he produces.
The day of the great Festival arrives and all parents with their new born are lined up by height in symmetrical rows. This means that the further back you are, the more space you have. Madame de Halloumi has no intention of giving the shrews an excuse to ruin her parade this year.
Madame is making the final inspection of her troops, checking that ears and tails are clean and that fur is shiny and full. She is spraying on Feverwort lotion to counteract static in longer fur and she rubs the bald head of a new born hedgehog affectionately for luck. Everyone looks wonderful. She blows her whistle and they are off.
Madame is happy to see that all the creatures are in time and sticking to the four paw shuffle as practiced. They round the corner to the centre of Woodlands. Polite applause erupts into a breath-taking cheer. The proud parents are beaming with pride. The audience is overwhelmed with the heartening scene and cry “Woodlands forever.”
It takes nearly an hour for the procession to past and the scene to quieten. The residents of woodlands are sitting down to feast and Badger Badger has risen from his chair to make the first toast. He wisely keeps it short, talks about the wonder of the next generation and doesn’t go into too much detail. This is followed by a display of barn dancing by a troupe of field mice and finally Wise Owl, the wisest creature, talks about the meaning of what it is to be a Woodlander. He talks about the recent problems in the Emerald Forest with deforestation causing mass migration. He talks of the community spirit shown when Mole Pox flared its ugly head and finally he talks about the prospects for these new members of the Woodlands family and how it is every creature’s responsibility to make sure that they have a healthy woodland to grow up in.
The meal is finished, with what is generally agreed, to be the most magnificent and delicious King Alfred Cake even eaten. The Pickle triplets are loudly applauded and everyone makes their way to the central meeting patch for this night’s much anticipated entertainment.
As the creatures enter the arena baby glow worms flash past them alternating between blue and green. They send out patterned trails of light by which the animals can see to be seated. Next the babies stand to attention as a bevy of beautiful grasshoppers perform a very complicated acrobatic display full of twists and turns. An orchestra of crickets starts to play mood music and large glow worms, with yellow and green lights, project images of the new generation onto surrounding trees.
The ground begins to shake and holes start to appear in the centre of the arena. Heads emerge and seem to float upwards. The glow worms change position and the heads disappear, replaced by fine wings. These twitch, jerk and then jolt as they become rigid and ready for flight. Applause and cheers of encouragement explode from the audience as the cock chafers, who have spent the last seven years underground, burst from the ground and take wing. They flutter, they glide, soaring across the sky, lit up by the synchronised glow worms and harmonised in time to the thunderous beat of the crickets.
All the creatures are overwhelmed with emotion and joy. They guffaw, tootle and whoop. They rise to a standing ovation as the cock chafers fly away one by one. The glow worms dim their lights and the applause goes on for several minutes. Sylvester, the American mink, walks to the centre of the arena and three cheers go up. He waves and takes a bow, then mysteriously walks away.


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