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A Guest Blog by Karen Barrett

PB had enjoyed his stay with the moor monsters but he was now back on the road and had been for a week when he began to recognize things.  It was late morning when he stumbled upon this familiar place.  The sky was still a beautiful bright blue, but there were now cottonwool clouds floating by, the trees were bare, and the woods had a carpet of yellow and orange leaves.  He walked over a large stone bridge, stopping briefly to reminisce about losing many games of pooh sticks here.  While his gaze was drawn up to the tall trees with their warm coats of lichen, he lost the main path, and only noticed when the path forked in two.

One path led over an old tree trunk which had fallen across a fast running stream, and the other led into thick woodland.  Both paths looked risky, but he stopped to ponder which was the least risky.  He imagined what it would be like to get lost in the wood or slipping and falling into the water.  He knew he was an excellent climber, but he should also be a confident swimmer.  Under all his fur, he should be strong and lean due to a strict diet of bamboo.  However, PB thought he might have been a bit too adventurous with his food and wondered if this might have affected his floating abilities!  He decided to take the path which led into the woods.  He could not see the whole path he would have to walk, but he reminded himself how determined he was, and that challenges were not meant to be easy.

He had not walked far when he saw a low hedgerow with red berries on it.  He was not sure if they were wild cherries (which he loved!), but he was so hungry he pulled one from its twig and was just about to have a bite when he felt something brush across his back at such speed that it made him jerk forwards.  A large tree standing nearby caught his fall, but he dropped his berry.  Before he had the chance to pluck another berry, a deep voice spoke gently,

“You must have someone looking out for you.”

He looked up and saw big, black eyes, a sharp, narrow beak, and a mass of tufty, brown and cream downward feathers.

“You woke me up”, the owl said sternly.

“I am sorry, my mistake.  Something must have pushed me, but it seems to have gone now.  My name is PB.  I am on a journey, but I keep getting lost, and now I am very hungry.”

PB remembered how hungry he was and reached for another berry, but the owl shrieked loudly and swooped down, landing beside him.

“Well, that something woke us both up, but it did give me the opportunity to stop you from eating that poisonous berry.  I believe you can climb.  Follow me and I will share my food store with you.  Those berries are no good, although something seems to be eating them.”

PB climbed up the tree and, once he reached the owl’s tree hollow, stepped inside.  It was surprisingly cosy and everything was neat and tidy, books filled the shelves, and fascinating objects of all shapes and sizes hung from the ceiling.  The owl seemed distracted, but he continued to make conversation.

“I have met a bear like you once before, his name was Bernie.  He stayed here, sharing his wisdom with us all.  He did not stay long.  It is sad we never saw him again as I wanted to return this book of his.”

PB saw the notebook on the desk with its worn black cover and opened it to the first page.  He could just about understand the written language of the ancient panda bears:

‘In a secret location, high up on Dartmoor,
Where no one has walked nor ventured before,
Moor Monsters live in a place well hidden,
Where life lessons are learned, and guidance given.’

PB was stunned and speechless.  Who was Bernie?  What had he learned from the moor monsters?  Where was he now?  PB turned the page again and excitedly read all the notes Bernie had made during his stay.  Before he had the chance to open his mouth and pour out a million and one questions, the owl flew away and perched himself on the branch outside.

“Come and meet all the other animals in the wood.  At first, I thought you were an imposter, but now I see that fate brings you here for a reason.  There are no…”

“Mistakes?”, finished PB.

While visiting the other animals and listening to each one of them intently, the owl spoke about the importance of a Sense of Purpose, and how they all worked together in harmony.

Suddenly, PB felt sad.  He did not know what his purpose in life was.  He started to doubt himself.  He was so small in such a big wide world, but he desperately wanted to make a difference.  Was he an imposter?  Should he be here?

The owl led PB to a waterfall and, with a lift of his wing, revealed a small tunnel, hidden from view behind the gushing water which fell in front like a curtain.

“I can see you are looking for answers, just like Bernie was.  I wonder if the answers you are looking for are in there.”

“I do not think I could swim free if I slipped and fell into that water.”

“Falling in will give you the opportunity to climb back up out, stronger and wiser.  And I will be here to support you for as long as you need.”

He felt a little anxious, but the owl seemed to have faith in him.  He had taken many risks before and not one of them had been a mistake yet.  With each challenge, he felt less frightened.

“Has anyone else gone in?”

“Yes, only one other… Bernie.  Some of us have tried to follow him but have failed for various reasons.”

“Can you tell me about Bernie before I go?”

“You remind me a lot of him, even down to the same thick black and white fur.  He had a healthy attitude towards learning, seizing every opportunity, taking risks, and accepting the consequences whatever they might be.  He was always asking questions too, saying there was no such thing as a silly question as there was always something to learn.”

It was getting late in the day now and the afternoon chill was teasing the air.  PB nipped back to the owl’s tree hollow to pick up his suitcase and, on the way back, collected a bag full of the poisonous berries.  He had read about these in Bernie’s lost notebook and thought maybe these might be the missing link to his success through the tunnel. Bernie was the only one that had made it through, and seemed to be the only one to pay any attention to these apparently useless poisonous berries.  After thanking the owl for his kindness and saying goodbye, he bravely ran through the waterfall then down into the tunnel.

It was deeper than he imagined, and very smelly.  The tunnel soon began to level out and he could see remnants of half-eaten poisonous berries everywhere.  PB had been right in thinking that they were not poisonous to every animal.  Just then, a creature scurried towards him so fast he nearly did not have time to reach for his bag.  Quickly, he poured his offering of poisonous berries down in front of him, and as soon as the creature saw them it stopped abruptly.  It had thick black and white fur just like him.  Was this PB’s first encounter with a badger?  He had learned from Bernie’s notebook that the berry’s sap could cause irritation.  Was their thick fur preventing the sap from irritating them?  And was this the reason only he and Bernie had made it this far?

The badger’s steel eyes darted in every direction.  However, once he realized PB was not an imposter, the sadness and loneliness in his eyes became apparent; it was obvious he was not used to having company.  They connected with each other, sharing an unspoken language.  The badger could tell PB had worked hard to get this far and he respected that, so it shuffled aside, allowing him to pass.

He plodded through the tunnel and, when he saw sunlight, could not help but smile.  He was beginning to understand his purpose now.  He was an adventurer.  He had accepted yet another challenge, confronted his fears, and worked out how to tackle the obstacle in his path.  All his past experiences were proving invaluable now; learning was fun, but it was also necessary to move forward in life.

When he was able to climb to his feet, he found himself standing in a deserted pit with steep stone banks.  Without hesitation, he dug in his pocket for his ribbon and coin and used this to lasso up to the top of the bank.  He looked back down at the pit and wished he could tell the owl everything he had learned.  Instead, he took out his trusty notebook and wrote down how he would always learn using a CLEAR Sense of Purpose from here on:

  • Clarity: Identify the challenge and accept there is something to learn
  • Learning: Collaboration achieves the best results, so surround myself with those who trust and encourage me
  • Edginess: Use my confusion to motivate me to ask questions and take risks
  • Agility: Have the courage to make connections quickly and confidently
  • Remember: Never stop learning, never stop trying

And without further delay, he set off with determination and reached his last stop just in time for dinner.