Once upon a time, there was a flower named Lilly that lived in the forest. It lived with other flowers under the canopy of trees. Its life was very happy, especially because this flower and all of its relatives could talk to each other. Each day was filled with conversations about the sunshine, the birds, their families, and how to grow the strongest petals or the best pollen.
And so it happened that in the middle of one of these conversations, Lilly received a letter (by the way, letters are carried by bluejays in Lilly’s neighborhood). It was from her brother, who lived past the swamp and over the mountain. He was getting married! And Lilly needed to be there for the wedding (of course!). Lilly began planning her trip immediately, since it would be a long and difficult journey for her.
She packed her bags with a few essential items–she wanted to travel light in order to make her passage over the tricky terrain as easy as possible. In her bag she brought honey, a length of spider web, and a berry bowl. She was pretty sure that was all she would need–hopefully! It’s also important to mention that, although Lilly and the other flowers could talk, they could not move themselves or walk. Each flower relied on bumblebees to help move them around. Luckily flowers and bumblebees get along famously, and all a flower has to do is whistle and a bumblebee will rush over to help carry the flower somewhere.
Ready with her luggage, Lilly whistled for a bumblebee taxi and started on her journey. The bumblebee carried her to the edge of her wood and started to carry her across the dreaded swamp when something jumped out of the water and gulped Lilly and the bumblebee down. It was a huge fish, swimming in the swamp’s water! The bumblebee and Lilly sat there in the belly of the fish, with no hope of getting out. Lilly could feel the fish swimming through the water, traveling through the roots of trees and the wavy swamp grass. As she began to feel cold, damp, and wilted, the fish jerked upward. They were no longer in the water–the sound of water passing through the fish’s gills had stopped. Where were they? Lilly and the bumblebee crept towards the fish’s mouth and did their best to pry it open. They glimpsed blue skies and clouds! They were flying–but how? And then Lilly spotted it–a claw wrapped around the head of the fish. A bird had picked up the fish, without realizing they were already inside of it.
Reaching into her bag, Lilly counted her blessings that she had thought to pack some honey. Taking it, she moved to the front of the fish and said, in a clear and loud voice, “Excuse me, but there are two passengers inside this fish. If you place the fish back into the water, I will give you this precious honey, which I know birds rarely get to enjoy.”
It was clear the bird had heard Lilly, because soon two shining eyes framed in red feathers peered inside the fish’s mouth. A cardinal! “Show me the honey,” he said. Lilly pulled out the vial and held it up to catch what little light reached inside the fish. Its beautiful amber color reflected itself in the bird’s eye. “It’s a deal,” he said. Lilly felt them switch directions and soon found herself on the ground, next to the water and the struggling fish, who had spit her and the bumble bee out when it landed on the ground with a Plop!
Looking up, Lilly spied the cardinal examining her. “The honey, please.” Looking at the fish as it struggled for air, Lilly pulled out the honey but, before handing it over, said “I asked for the fish to be returned to the water.”
“As you wish,” said the cardinal. With his beak, the cardinal rolled the fish back into the murky swamp water.
“And here is your prize. Thank you for your help,” said Lilly. Turning to leave, she saw the cardinal settle into his tasty honey treat. Moving back to her task, Lilly and the bumble bee proceeded forward once again. Thankfully, they reached the edge of the swamp without any further incident.
At the edge of the swamp, though, Lilly noticed that her bumble bee looked nervous. “What’s wrong, bumble?” she asked.
“I’m scared,” the bee said. “We almost didn’t make it out of that fish’s mouth. I just want to go home.”
“But I can keep you safe,” Lilly said.
“I’m sorry, but I need to go.”
“I can’t move without you!” Lilly cried. But it was useless. The scared little bumblebee had already buzzed away towards home.
Lilly was stuck. She stood there and wept into her leafy hands. How would she ever move herself? She didn’t know any of the bees or ladybugs in this strange wood. Would they even help her if she asked? Looking up to the sky, she saw only clouds and sunlight. Nothing was flying around her and there was no one to talk to.
Turning to look into her bag, her tears began to fall into her berry bowl. Seeing her reflection in the pool of tears, Lilly had an idea! Setting out the bowl filled with the water, she crossed her leafy fingers and hoped that her idea would work.
You see, dragonflies love to take baths. Anytime they see a puddle of water or a little stream, they can’t resist going down for a quick dip. Lilly hoped that, if she waited long enough, a dragonfly would come to her berry bowl for a bath. Then, all she’d have to do is lasso him with her spiderweb thread and ride him over the mountain.
A day and night passed, and Lilly began to lose hope. She was growing lonelier and lonelier with no other flowers to talk to, and without any rain and with no bees to carry her to water she was also growing thirsty. Finally, she reached out to her berry bowl, having resorted to drink her tears as a way to put off her ever-increasing thirst. As she hoisted the bowl in the air and poised it below her lips, she heard a distinctive buzzing and it was getting louder. A dragonfly was coming!
She raised the bowl up to the sky with one arm, hoping the sun would catch the water and glisten into the eye of the dragonfly. With the other, she readied herself with the length of spiderweb. ‘Here he comes,’ she thought, as she heard the dragonfly change directions and start to plummet down towards the berry bowl.
When she felt the dragonfly land on the bowl, she carefully and quietly began to swing the web with her other arm. One loop, two loops, three loops and. . . throw! The spiderweb caught in the fuzzy shell of the dragonfly’s tail and Lilly hoisted herself on top of the dragonfly. Riding him like a horse, she attempted to strike a deal.
“Dragonfly, I did not want to trick you, but I must get to my brother’s wedding. If you promise to take me to my brother’s home over the mountain, I will give you all of this water in my bowl for your bath.”
Considering this, the dragonfly replied, “This is fair. I will take you over the mountain.” And after he had enjoyed his bath, the dragonfly did carry Lilly over the mountain to her brother’s garden home.
At this point, you may think that Lilly’s adventure was over. But, as she readied herself to knock on the door to her brother’s garden, she realized that she no longer had anything to give her brother for a wedding gift. Everything she brought with her was now in the hands of birds and dragonflies.
Hearing a buzzing behind her, she thought that perhaps the dragonfly was returning to ask for another bath. As she twisted around to tell him she was fresh out of tears but, if he waited a second she might have some more, Lilly saw that it was not the dragonfly. It was the bumblebee who had deserted at the edge of the swamp.
“I am sorry that I left you there all alone with no way to help yourself,” he said, his head hung low in shamed. “It was wrong of me to abandon you when it was my job to protect you.”
Lilly, never one to hold grudges, replied, “You were scared. I understand why you left. And I’m here now. I’m not as helpless as I thought.”
“Still,” the bumble bee said, “I want to make things right. I’ve brought you something that I found inside the fish while we were trapped and I hope it will help make amends for the way I treated you.”
Pulling something from behind his wings, Lilly saw a golden glow emerge. Looking closer, she realized she had never seen anything like. Round and ridge, with a copper-glow and strange imprints of faces and buildings on it, she felt it must be priceless. Gasping as she took it into her hands, she looked at the bumblebee and thanked him. Taking his wing and letting him guide her into her brother’s wedding, Lilly rejoiced that she had finally come to the end of her long journey and that now, thanks to her new bumblebee friend, she could give her brother a gift so perfect. Opening the door to the garden, Lilly cradled the penny in one arm and smiled as she saw her brother’s face.