The Little Pond in the Woods, by Muriel Ward, illustrated by Tibor Gergely, Simon and Schuster: New York, 1948
I loved this story as a child. Something in it spoke to me.
There is a beautiful pond deep in the woods, and gathered about it is a community – a duck, a butterfly, a frog, a bird, a bee, a squirrel, a bunny, a bear and a deer. They all love their pond. But the summer is long and hot, and the pond gets smaller and smaller, and eventually, one day when the deer comes for a drink, there wasn’t even a drop to wet his tongue.
The animals gather to talk about what to do, and the duck has a suggestion. She has seen a great big lake, far away over the trees. She leads all the animals to the new lake, the butterfly riding on the deer’s back. It is a long, hot journey, but the woods around them start to turn green, and there at last is the lake, sparkling in the sun.
There was water for swimming and wading and drinking, there was cool shade and green grass, but it was not home. They still missed the pond.
One day, the rain came, and the duck came flying in excitement.
The pond – the pond – the pond is full again. I’ve seen it. The rain brought water to our pond. Let’s go back again.
So off they went. And at the end they got home…
to the pond – their pond – the pond they loved. It was gleaming and bright, smiling a joyous welcome to them all, to each and every one.
As you can see, there’s still a copy of this book at my family home. It’s my mother’s copy, and she loves it too. In many ways, the book is foreign to us: there are no squirrels and bears in New Zealand. As my mother and I talked about the book, we realised that it spoke to us of the joy of home, of the sense of belonging that comes from being in our own place.
Australia and Adelaide have been good to us in the three years we have been there. Our children have flourished, we have made good friends, our careers have progessed. But I have been bitterly homesick.
In the last few weeks I have felt a great sense of joy at coming home to the small pond where I belong. I love the blue of the sky here, the rich greens of the bush, the red of pohutukawa and rata, the calls of tui and riroriro and ruru. I watched the display flights of keruru, and my heart sang. The wide brown land is very beautiful, and it has everything we need. But it is not for me.
How good it is to be home.