Once there was an old woman who lived in a rainforest.
She needed a walking stick.
And so she made one.
The walking stick was strong, and it gave the woman new strength and she found it easier to walk around the leafy, cluttered forest floor.
The old woman and her tribe were called the Penan people. They lived in the rainforest on the island of Borneo.
Living with these people, the walking stick learned about them and the way they lived in the forest. He listened to the old woman tell stories to the children:
The forest is our home, but it does not belong to us. The land belongs to everyone, and so we take what we need and move on
The walking stick loved his home with the Penan people, he loved the hot, steamy, wet rainforest and he loved the old woman.
But soon the old woman grew sick. Walking grew harder and harder. It was hard for her to get up in the mornings. And then one day, she didnt get up at all.
She was buried, and the Penan people moved on.
They left her walking stick behind. And for a long time he was alone.
It was not until a long time later that an orang-utan happened upon the poor little stick, picked him up, and on his way home chatted to him.
Youre a strange thing. But you come from the forest floor, and all things from the ground a strange.
The stick thought that was a funny thing to say. So he asked where the orang-utan was from, if he was not from the ground. The orang-utan laughed when he asked this
How silly! Everyone I know comes from the canopy! We live in the tops of the trees and find everything we need to live there.
The stick thought that was strange too. He had never known anywhere but the forest floor, and everything they needed they could find there.
Soon they reached the orang-utans home, in the tops of the trees, with lots of other orang-utans.
And for a while the walking stick stayed in the canopy with the orang-utans. But he was not happy there, because the orang-utans threw him around and yelled at themselves and each other all the time. He couldnt see the forest floor at all and no-body walked with him.
What is the point, he thought, of a walking stick that nobody walks?
But walking sticks cannot move by themselves, and so it was a long while before the orang-utans eventually grew tired of him and left him in the trees by himself.
And for a long time he was alone.
But it he was a fortunate stick, for eventually he found himself in the beak of a large bird, and soon he was flying towards the birds nest.
This will look lovely in my nest! said the bird. She kept flying higher and higher, and the walking stick began to get worried.
Excuse me, but where is your nest? he asked, although he wasnt too sure he wanted to be in a nest at all.
The bird chortled and almost dropped him. Where is my nest?! Its in one of the tallest trees of the forest! One of the tallest trees in the whole emergent layer!
But this only confused him more. The emergent layer? What is that?
The emergent layer is on top of the canopy! Only the tallest trees are part of it!
The stick had not thought that there could be something on top of the forest where he first lived, and then more on top of that! The forest sure is a strange place, he thought.
But when they arrived at the birds nest she couldnt get the walking stick to fit in anywhere. She tried on top, she tried on bottom, but he didnt suit her nest and didnt fit in anywhere. She cried loudly at her frustration, and shook the tree so much that he fell from the tree.
Down past the emergent layer, and all the birds.
Down past the canopy, and he oran-utans.
Down, down, down.
Down to the forest floor, where he stuck fast in the mud.
And for a long time he was alone.
But a long time afterwards, a tribe came along. And in this tribe was an old woman, who remembered the stick and its original owner from when she was a young woman.
She had just been thinking that she needed a walking stick.