“Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot will be shot,” wise words from the late Mark Twain. This is a thought-provoking narrative. Prepare to be provoked into thinking.
The sky is an amazing thing. It is limitless, and almost pointless, if you think about it. It isn’t really a roof, for it doesn’t keep the rain back, and when people tell you to “touch the sky” it truly is impossible. But then, telling a child to “touch the sky” is only said for twisted amusement, anyway.
So, if the sky is so endlessly pointless, why do we find it so fascinating? I suppose it is because we’re so small and it is so big. Big things can be quite fascinating to small people.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watch Merry raise an arm and point to the great blue stretch endlessly above us.
“It is an upside-down tree,” he declares. I crane my neck, wondering how on earth he got an upside-down tree out of what was clearly a clay pipe on its side.
“What–do you mean the one that looks like a chicken’s leg?” asks Frodo, who is craning his neck also.
“It is a tree, I swear on my life, it is a tree!” insists Merry.
“You are both backward,” I interject, “It’s a pipe. Look!” I point, using my index finger to outline the fluffy pipe in the sky, but change my mind. The cloud has begun to dissapate, and now it looks more like, I confess, a chicken’s leg. Only with a queer sort of foliage pertruding from its knee.
“I don’t see a pipe,” says Frodo.
“It’s gone. You missed it,” I reply, frankly, shoving my hand back behind my head again.
There is a silence once again as the three of us continue to stare, all lying in a circle–or a triangle, as Merry always insists on correcting me when we cloud-gaze–with our heads in the middle and our eyes transfixed on the sky above.
It is astonishing how something so dull becomes so enchanting to very queer people. I say “queer” loosely, for I often wonder what is queer? “It is something not normal,” I will be told. I suppose, then, I am apt to ask what is normal? And then at this point I am looked upon as childish and dumb, when the fact is, they don’t know, either. So, then I’m led to think that “normal” people are mean and stupid, while all us “queer” people have all the fun. In the end, I don’t mind being queer. “Queer” just means that mean and dense people think that you are too smart.
I swat at a fly that buzzes near my ear as Frodo asks: “What do you suppose the time is?”
“Not sure,” replies Merry, covering a yawn with his hand, then points, “Look at that one: it looks like a funny hat.”
This time I do see it, and have to laugh to myself. It looks like Gandalf’s, all tall and pointed at the top. How furious he would be if he knew how long the three of us had lain there, not doing a single thing. Then again, maybe he wouldn’t be. I cannot be sure. He was quite the unpredictable chap, that Gandalf. Perhaps that’s why I got so fond of him. I could never tell what he was up to: one moment he might be sentencing me to clean dishes, the next I might see him laughing and attempting to dance a hornpipe with people less than half his own size. Yes, he was quite frightening, but quite the brick as well.
“I wonder where he’s got to,” I mumble aloud, by mistake.
“Where who’s got to, Pip?” Merry asks. Luckily, I am not that easily embarrassed.
“Gandalf,” I answer, “I do not believe I’ve seen him since Bilbo’s party.”
“He left soon after that,” Frodo replies, and there is something in his voice that I’m not sure of, like he’s only telling half a story.
“So soon?” I inquire, almost forlornly.
“He was in a hurry,” replies Frodo.
“What for?” I press.
“‘Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards,’” Frodo quotes, knowingly.
“‘Unless it has something to do with your uncle,’” I supply, in the same tone as Frodo. I watch as Frodo heaves a heavy sigh, visibly exasperated. Unfortunately, I seem to have that effect on people.
“He had nothing to do with Bilbo’s disappearance,” he says. And I have reason to doubt such a thing.
“Then how did Bilbo disappear,” I ask, “if not by Gandalf’s magic?”
“I cannot be sure,” admits Frodo, rolling over and taking an interest in the clover.
“Where did Bilbo go, Frodo?” I ask, geniunely.
“Off to finish his book.”
“Pippin!” shout both Merry and Frodo. I flinch to a stop, nearly biting my tongue.
I shall admit to having the tendency to ask far too many questions. But inquisitiveness isn’t a fault. Is it? Oh…there I go again. My mum calls it a “thirst for knowledge,” but then she’s always been one to tell me to “touch the sky.” Mothers can be like that sometimes. They find every way possible to make their child look perfect, and challenge them to actually be perfect. I find this exhausting, but I wonder what we’d do without it. I suppose the idea of “perfect” is kept alive by the mothers. Without mothers, no doubt we would all end up drunkards and beggars. Without mothers, we might never be asked to “touch the sky.” And then no one would cloud-gaze. What a horrible waste of clouds.
Sighing contentedly, I notice that dusk is approaching, but pay it no heed. A cool breeze slithers through the leaves of the elms that rise to great heights around us. And I give an involuntary shiver.
“It’s just so big,” I hear Frodo murmur.
“What is?” I ask.
“The sky,” Frodo replies, “It just stretches forever, and it is so tall and wide. And to think that we all live under the same sky, that Elves and Men and Dwarves could all be staring at this very same sky! I daresay, it puts you back in your place, does it not?”
I hear Merry shift his weight a little, perhaps taking in this new idea too quickly for the rest of his thoughts to catch up.
“I suppose you could look at it that way,” he answers, sniffing.
“I like that thought,” I openly admit, “Do you really think that there are Elves out there, looking up at this same sky?”
“Of course they are!” Frodo exclaims, sitting up, suddenly, “and it puts a whole different light on ‘touching the sky’.” Now I’ve sat up.
“Do you think so? I was only just thinking about that,” I say.
“I like to think of it as,” Frodo replies, “it isn’t ‘touching the sky’ in the sense that we think of as children: simply reaching out and touching it. It stands for something.” He speaks like he has said it before and is explaining it to a small child. But I take no offense at it.
Ah, symbolic. That is something different altogther. Frodo pauses as I am swamped with new thoughts.
It isn’t the sky, it’s what it is: limitless, as dreams are. By following the sky, it can take you anywhere. Like coming to that low point on the horizon where it seems you could just reach up and touch the clouds, if only you were there. And if you could reach the end, there would be no limit to what you could do. Of course that’s why mothers would tell their children such a thing: they wouldn’t want their child to be limited. “Touching the sky” is about achieving the impossible.
“We will touch the sky someday,” says Frodo, with a smile, and I realize I haven’t been listening. It seems all right, though, for I have sorted things out for myself. And I am satisfied.
I hear Merry laugh.
“We can’t ‘touch the sky’, Frodo!” he exclaims, “We’re only hobbits.”
“That never stopped Bilbo,” says Frodo. He has a point. But I laugh in spite of it. Hobbits? Achieving the impossible? It couldn’t happen, least of all to me. I’m far too small.
Think About It.