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Fairy Tales & The Stories Behind Them

In 1988 concerned at the destruction of the Amazon, I cycled around Iceland, hoping to find in the loneliness of the wilderness, what it was that I could do to help preserve the natural environment that we all need to exist.  After cycling through the wilderness of the Icelandic interior I arrived at the plains of Thingveller – Iceland’s ancient seat of democracy, pitched my tent, and went to sleep.

The next morning a violent storm with wind screaming like a banshee ripped my tent to shreds and sent my belongings flying. I grabbed what could, stuffed it into my saddlebags, and prepared to ride away. The skies grew black, lightning thundered and crashed, and yet in the middle of the torment I had to go for a walk. It was so powerful, it was magnificent. 
I came to a chasm created by the shifting tectonic plates of Europe and the Americas which split the plains of Thingvellir. The chasm was long and narrow, no more than a few meters deep. 

I looked in and thought, "Wow! That’s beautiful" Then I walked on.

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But something drew me back and though the storm raged I sat there, enchanted, as a magical world unfolded before my eyes.

I realised that I was looking at the creation of life on Earth.

Even in the harshest of lands life was ever forming. Out of the very rocks, multi-colored from eruptions past, came the spores of life. Mosses and lichens covered the rubble-strewn base, in a sea of life that appeared so soft I could easily fall asleep on it.

Amidst this simple beauty, an alternative world exploded into sight. Within the rock walls, I saw faces. They were the guardians of the kingdom below. The chasm floor was now a valley. Now there were villages, waterfalls, rainbows, and tiny translucent people doing the most magical things. I was elated. I finally knew what I would do to help preserve the beauty of the planet. 

I would become a writer of fairytales. I would travel the world, make incredible journeys, and create and tell stories of the beauty that I had seen, in the hopes that I could inspire people to action.

I came back home, gaveup my job and next thing you know I was walking down the road penniless. 

Every fairytale is born out of reality. But sometimes reality is born from a fairytale.
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The Scientist & The Ice Cream Lady

Walking through my garden one day, I noticed an Ice Cream Shop amidst my roses. It was set  inside a huge snowball topped with Holly.

"That’s funny, it was not there yesterday, or the day before," I thought, as I entered the snowball to find an Ice Cream Lady standing behind a counter of cracked, crunched, and crystallized ice.
"How came you to my garden?" I asked....

Story Behind Scientist & Ice Cream Lady

The story behind the Scientist & The Ice Cream Lady

When I returned to Canada from Iceland in 1988, with a mission to help save the Amazon I took a great leap of faith and wrote a letter to President Gorbachev, who was in the process of bringing down the walls and ending the Cold War while President Reagan was talking about ballistic missiles and 'Star Wars'.

So, with peace and the planet in mind, I took a chance, expecting the CIA would come knocking and sent my letter to the leader of the Soviet Empire, urging him to send not only scientists into space but also artists, poets, free thinkers, people with a vision who could look back on this planet and explain in ways easy for everyone to understand, why it is that we need to preserve nature for us to continue to exist.  
Thankfully the CIA did not come knocking and soon after I received in the mail a book from Mr. Gorbachev, 'Space Flights Serve Life On Earth'.

It was a cosmonauts manual and though I could not comprehend most of it, I came to understand how the Soviet Space Program had for decades been using space to benefit life on Earth. That letter led to many wonderful experiences, including a meeting with the Soviet Space Team the day the first Soviet Space Exhibit opened in the United States. Thanks to the book, I discovered the Magnetosphere, the outer layer of the atmosphere which due to solar winds trails behind the planet! Wow! I could picture it so clearly. As if the Earth was an Ice Cream and the magnetosphere was an Ice Cream Cone.

And like magic, a story appeared, 'The Scientist and The Ice Cream'. 
It was the first story I had ever written and it opened the doors to a magical world... to complete it, I found myself eight months later leading a Balsa Raft expedition down the Amazon in search of Salvadoro the Ant, the next part of the fairy tale. 

Salavadoro The Ant

Once upon a time, there was an ant. His name was Salvadoro. Even for an ant, Salvadoro was small.

So small that only the tiniest of ants noticed him.

To be this small for an ant can be very bad, for ants see with their other senses, and the bigger ants imagine nothing could be smaller than they are, so they often trip over the tiny ones.
One day as Salvadoro was working in the mountains, he sensed a bus traveling on its dusty way.
"I wonder who’s on that bus?" he asked his friend, the next smallest of ants.
"I wouldn’t worry about that if I were you," his friend replied.  "Keep on working; otherwise we’ll be in trouble!
"Work, work, work. We always work, yet still we remain hungry, thirsty, and poor. There must be something better than living like this",  said Salvadoro, who could not keep his mind off that bus.
So he quit work, packed a bag, and waited for the next bus to come along...

The Story Behind Salvadoro

The search for the story the scientist would tell to ants led me to lead a 700-kilometer balsa raft expedition through the Amazon in 1989, where I intended to find the characters and the experiences to create a fairy tale.

To find the expedition team I placed this add in 'Now' a Toronto magazine popular with a young audience. I thought people were either going to think I was crazy or were going to go for it.

I was amazed by the response.  

I got twenty-five phone calls in two days and two months later the expedition team, four women and four men, one of whom was a journalist from the magazine, were in the Amazon, building two balsa wood rafts with the Seona=Secoya tribe. 

One day as we floated down the river and the forest drifted slowly by I saw an ant fall from our raft into the river.

Caught in a tiny whirlpool I watched as the tiny ant spun around and around until I recognised that it was going to die unless I saved it.

I reached out my hand, scooped it up, and put it back on the raft.  "Now that's a story," I thought.

Bang! Just like that the story of 'Salvadoro the Ant' the smallest of ants, who goes on the greatest of journeys to save the rainforest appeared.

Eight months later I read it to 100,000 people with a band from Peru playing in the background, while a girl from the University of Toronto conducted them from inside a teee! Fairy tales can be very powerful especially when they connect to real life.

The Quite Parrot

The Pumpkin

sat down to dinner

with the Parrot that did not talk.

"What a tale this Parrot would have to tell," the Pumpkin thought,

as he tucked into a Halloween sandwich, which looked like a human very distraught.

A hundred and ten this Parrot be, yet not a word would he reveal of his history.

"Please tell me oh friend with feathers of red, green and blue,

what does it mean to be silent like you?"

The Parrot thought as he broke a seed,

"What does it mean, indeed?"

Quite Parrot

The Story Behind The Quite Parrot

 In 1990, while walking from Canada to South America to draw attention to the first Earth Summit and the deforestation of the Amazon, me and Linda, Tracy and Chris, who were walking with me at the time were invited to stay at the home of the 'Parrot Man', a well-known expert on Parrots.  

Parrot man lived in a small townhouse in the heart of Baltimore and asked us to look after his birds while he went away for the weekend.

There were forty of them!  In the morning, when they woke up, they started squawking and screeching.

What a racket! It sounded like murder going on!

At breakfast one day I said to Tracy, "I wish there was such a thing as a quiet parrot".

I remembered the story parrot man had told of the Spinks Macaw, the last of its kind that had recently been released back into the wild as no mate could be found.  Destined to be alone till the end of its days I pictured its sadness and couple of hours later I had the story of 'The Quiet Parrot'.

I gave the story a Halloween theme as it was around that time of year, and set the stage of a last supper, with the parrot discussing the fate of humanity with a pumpkin. 

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