By: Kyle Jacobson
The hub-bub echoes in the forest, but is short-lived. The time has come to move on to the next pressing matter. The buck motions the woodpecker to gavel. “Settle down woodland creatures, settle down.” They attend to the buck’s authority and stand erect with respect. “On to the next item: the rights to the tree between the river and the mountain. Mister wolf, I assume you are referring to the old juniper?”
“Then the floor is yours.”
Hidden amongst the thickest of tree and brush is the sacred valley in which the wolf makes his way to the front. All eyes track him as he trots chin up, like a confident member of the council should. He looks out beyond the crowd to his pack. “It is my opinion that once I spray the tree it becomes mine by law of the wood.” Some uneasy rustling comes from the deer. “With all due respect, it is my opinion that the tree belongs to me, and only I have a right to it.” This sends the owls and songbirds into a rant that is countered with howling objection. The deer stomp about and the squirrels scramble in scorn.
The buck throws his chest forward to silence the crowd. “Settle down all of you!” It takes time for the rumblings to become mumblings, but each creature manages to find its civil sense of decency. “Let the wolf make his case.”
The wolf nods to the buck. “Therefore, it is my opinion, that any creature found at my tree is trespassing, making it fair game for me and my pack.” The buck glares at the other members, and is pleased to see they are restraining themselves.
“Alright, we have a miss squirrel who wishes to provide a counterpoint.” The animals part slightly for the critter as she scampers her way to the front. Straining their ears to her squeaks, the other animals fail to interpret her frustrations. A raccoon hands a piece of cone shaped human by-product labeled “Eco-Coffee” to the squirrel.
“Thank you raccoon.” The squirrel turns her attention to the committee. “My family has lived in that tree for as long as I can remember…”
A low slow voice interrupts, “The av-er-age life-span of a squir-rel is on-ly fif-teen to eight-teen years.” With irritation, everyone recognizes the voice.
“Oh come now mister tortoise.” The buck rolls his eyes. “What stake in this matter do you have? Just go back to your home. You’ve no business here in the first place.” The tortoise lowers its head and is hurried out. One leg stretches steadily to unreasonably unsure footing, and is followed by another, and another, and another. With impatience, a ram butts the back of the tortoise’s shell and pushes him the rest of the way.
“Uck, disgusting, wrinkly thing that one,” The buck snorts over his breath. “Please squirrel, continue.”
“It is my opinion that the wolf chooses to ignore territory rights and spray wherever he wishes. I have made my nest, as have my parents and theirs. Clearly I’ve invested more into the tree than the wolf. The right to it should be mine.”
“But why bother dear squirrel.” All turn to the wolf in the back. “It is my opinion that since I cannot climb to your home, you have no stake in the matter to who the tree belongs.”
“Whom.” An owl flaps to the front and perches perchless next to the squirrel. “To whom the tree belongs. And it is my opinion, dear wolf, that the matter of the tree’s ownership is an issue of greater importance for those of us with wings. I desire a branch on which to sleep, but there is no such place free from the trifling songs of those carpe-diem canary wannabes.”
“Are you referring to us?” A mourning dove flaps a raised wing.
“I am referring to no one in particular, but it is my opinion that the one who would question the direction of my reference is likely the one who is aware of the ruckus it wreaks unto others, yet continues to perform its unpleasant pleasantries.” The mourning dove makes for the front, but is stopped by the buck as the woodpecker gavels at breakbeak speeds.
“Enough!” The dove moves back to the great voice of the buck. The buck turns to the owl who in turn returns to his seat. “Squirrel, would you kindly take your seat. I believe your point is heard.” The squirrel nods and returns to her ilk. They bounce and cheer incomprehensibly to the courage of their cousin. It isn’t often the squirrels speak out at these meetings. Even the buck gives miss squirrel a reassuring nod that she has performed well.
“It is in my opinion,” The buck takes an unexpected stance on the issue, “that if wolf sprays are to be recognized as official claims to territory, then the same should hold true to the rubbings of a buck. I have rubbed that tree long before you were born wolf. It would seem fair that the branches be considered separate property from the ground around the tree.”
“What of those that can climb trees?” The mountain lion’s voice quivers, breaking the unspoken rule that one is never to interrupt the buck. With eyes slit, the buck stares in the mountain lion’s direction. “Speak mountain lion.”
“Well, I mean, it is my opinion that if I have taken rest for the night, or am hunting from a tree, it is mine until I choose to leave.” The lion lets his paw hang limp as he bows his head. “As a general rule I will do my best to notice sprays and rubbings, but I cannot guarantee I will always be able to oblige as I may be driven by hunger.”
The valley erupts in clashing howls, squeaks, and burps fighting to make their opinions heard, ensuring that none are. The woodpecker gives up as its beak has grown far too sore. The buck loses control, and joins the rest of the woodland creatures. By custom and convention, the meeting is coming to a close.
“Excuse me. Umm, excuse me.” A tiny little voice is made out by a nearstanding eagle. The eagle flies high and pierces the fuss with a screech. All attention gravitates to the eagle, who then lands next to the voice. A humble rabbit lowers her head before hopping to the front with encouragement from the great raptor.
The rabbit stands before her woodlandmen with unassuming determination. All stare in wonderment as to what a rabbit would have to contribute to the conversation. The rabbit shakes her head and clears her throat. “It seems odd, to me, that we argue things we can only claim opinion to. Mister wolf, it would seem to me that your opinion is not actually yours, but the pack’s. You learned it from your parents and your community. It has not been adapted to fit you specifically, but rather forced and sold to you as truth. And miss squirrel, though your courage is admirable, you have only learned your opinion from your parents and husband. Mister owl, it would seem your outlet of information stems from a similar source.”
“I will not have my children brought into this discussion.” The owl ruffles his feathers.
“Outlet, not owlet.”
“Alright, carry on.”
“I just want all of you to ask from where your opinions come. Are they yours? The time of our ancestors is over. We must form new truths from which we can start a new society. One that resonates with who we are and what we want from this moment. Forget what you’ve always known, and think for yourselves with experiences that you’ve had without the biased visions pressed onto you by those who’ve passed.”
The entirety of the committee sits stunned. Such a small creature, with such a small voice, has spoken large and powerful words. Eyes bounce about themselves in confusion. Was it that they had never taken the time to consider their opinions? It would seem the most sensible and commonsense place to start these meetings. The time grew long before one had the courage to break the silence brought on by the modest rabbit’s insight. Towards a ruffing cough, all turn to the wolf who initiated the dispute regarding ownership of the juniper. The creature felt an urge deep inside that could not be confused for the desires of another.
“It is my opinion, that we eat the rabbit.”