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Written and Illustrated by Steve Zagorski

The River Of Wisdom by Steve (the Turtle) Zagorski

Editing by Cindy Eastman Digital Editing by Lin Zagorski Steve Zagorski is an architect living in Austin, Texas. While bike riding the local Barton Creek greenbelt so many times in all conditions of the year, a story emerged from observing through redundancy the wildlife along Barton Creek and the Colorado River. Printed by Capital Printing Co., Austin, TX

First Printing Copyright 2010 by Steve Zagorski. The book author and illustrator, Steve Zagorski, retains sole copyright to his contributions to this book. All rights reserved. No parts of this work covered by copyrights hereon may be reproduced or used in any form by any means- graphic, electronic, or mechanical-without written permission of Steve Zagorski. To purchase a book, go to Contact Steve Zagorski at 512-789-3259

There you are!! What took you so long to find me? I’ve been waiting for you. Be sure to fasten your seat belts--it’s going to be a bumpy ride... (caution nudity)

One time, not so long ago, in a place called LaLa Land there was a very curious little turtle named Steve. Steve the Turtle lived in a pool in the Stream of Knowledge directly below Sculpture Falls, near the Uncomfortable Rock.

All of the turtles would sun themselves day after day in the pool near the Uncomfortable Rock eating trans fat-free puffed cheese twists, playing shell games, Marco Polo, and drinking lemonade through a straw because that’s just what turtles do in LaLa Land.

By night, the turtles would dance around the campfire in a slow turtle tango and sing doo-wop songs (“shoowop shoowop… shoowop shoowop”) and they would recite prose poems and snap their little fingers in quiet applause because turtles are very quiet by nature.

Some evenings the elder turtles (the ones with a lot of moss growing on their backs) would sing the blues: “My momma dun left me… when I was a baby… she got into the water… when it was a-flooding.” They would tell tales of what lay downstream and tales of those lost in the floods during the rainy season who were never to be seen or heard from again. There were lessons in the songs and stories of what might happen if you weren’t strong enough to hold on…and what might happen if you just let go during the floods. The fear of letting go haunted Steve the Turtle. But what haunted him more was the question: What was at the end downstream?

One day while swimming laps in the pool below the falls near the Uncomfortable Rock, Steve the Turtle came upon a fish. While floating in the current with the fish Steve asked, “Do you happen to know what is at the end of the stream, Mr. Fish?” The fish said, “We fish believe that there is a place at the end of the stream where we never have to swim against the current, because here we swim and swim and never get anywhere. We work hard staying in one place with no reward, but at the end we will get what we deserve as long as we are good. At the end of the stream there is a better place, and we will go there when it is our time.” Steve said, “Thank you, Mr. Fish, I hope you are right and I hope you get what you deserve.” And Steve swam a bit further down the pool in the stream...

Further down the pool in the Stream of Knowledge, Steve the Turtle came upon a rabbit washing his paws at the edge of the water. He asked the rabbit, “Do you know what is at the end of the stream, Mr. Rabbit?” The rabbit said, “We rabbits believe that at the end of this stream there is a paradise with 1001 giant carrots for every rabbit, but only if you live your life as a good rabbit because bad rabbits never make it to the end of the stream.” Steve the Turtle said, “Thank you, Mr. Rabbit, I hope you are right and that your life is a good one and that you find what you want at the end.”

Swimming further downstream, Steve saw a cow wading in the shallows of the water and he asked the cow, “Do you know what is at the end of the stream, past the Sculpture Falls and the Uncomfortable Rock?”

The cow said, “We cows believe that there is a new beginning at the end of the stream, that we begin again in the form of another… perhaps you will see me again as your brother or your friend or maybe even a zebra or giraffe! But be good in this life because you will live it again in the next, as the stream is eternal.” Steve said, “Thank you, Mr. Cow, I hope you are right and maybe you will be my brother at the end or maybe you will be a zebra or a giraffe.”

Still swimming, Steve the Turtle did not realize that he had gone well beyond the protection of the pool, but he kept going and soon he came upon a monkey drinking from the stream. Steve said, “Hello, Miss Monkey, do you know what is downstream at the very end?” The monkey said, “We monkeys reason that there is a paradise at the end of the stream with great banana trees and vines for swinging, but this will be revealed only at the end of the stream and we dare not go there now before our time. So be good and good things will come your way.” Steve said, “Thank you, Miss Monkey, I hope in the end you get your bananas and trees with vines for swinging.”

Just at the bend in the stream, Steve the Turtle noticed a bright yellow cat coming from behind the bamboo to the water. Steve said, “Hello, Miss Cat. Perhaps you know what is at the end of the stream.” The cat said, “We cats believe that there is no end to the stream, just as there is no beginning. There is only the here and now where we exist at this moment. There are other dimensions, however, that we cats move in and out of. Most believe we cats have nine lives, but the truth is that we just keep moving in and out of parallel dimensions. We are alive and dead at the same time.” “Wow!” said Steve the Turtle, “it sounds kind of like a dream to me.” “Interesting perspective,” said the cat, “anything is possible.”

And they both broke into a few rounds of:

“Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”

By this time it was starting to get a little dark and Steve the Turtle realized he was a little lost, but he also knew that all he had to do was swim and crawl upstream against the current and he would find the pool below Sculpture Falls, near the Uncomfortable Rock. Suddenly, without notice, there was a fluttering sound and Steve the Turtle saw a white bat flying just above him. Steve asked the bat, “Mr. Bat, do you know what is at the end of the stream?” The blind bat said, “We bats believe that there is nothing but darkness at the end of the stream, and if there is nothing but darkness at the end, why go there? At least we have something here, even though we can’t see it.” “OK. Thank you, Mr. Bat. I hope you are wrong, but who knows, maybe you are right and there is absolutely nothing at the end of the stream. By the way, Mr. Bat, do you know what color you are?” “Color?” asked the bat, “what is color?” “Never mind, Mr. Bat, it makes no difference for those who do not see.”

In the darkness of night and now a little lost and disoriented, Steve the Turtle came upon a snake. The snake was crawling upstream and said, “Hello, Mr. Turtle, you look a little lost.” Steve answered, “Yes, I am a little lost in all this darkness and I miss the campfire and the doo-wop songs, but I know how to get back upstream and will return in the morning when I can see where I am going. The snake said, “That’s where I am heading because the spring rains are coming and with them--the floods. I don’t want to be washed downstream because we snakes believe that there is a great waterfall at the end of the stream and we fear falling down into a large black swirling hole, into the underworld where evil gorgons live and there is poison ivy everywhere and we snakes hate poison ivy because we have nothing to scratch with. Don’t let yourself get washed downstream, never to be seen again in the floods of spring. “Thanks for the warning, Mr. Snake. I will try to do as you say.” said Steve. And the snake slithered off into the night.

In the morning, as the sun was coming up, Steve the Turtle saw the silhouette of a large owl in the tree near the stream, and the owl said, “Who are you and what are you doing this far downstream? We don’t get many visitors this far downstream.” Steve said, “I am Steve the Turtle.” And he found himself telling the owl the story of how he met the fish and the rabbit, the cow and the monkey, the cat, the bat and the snake. “That is a very interesting journey, Mr. Turtle. Have you learned anything from it?” Steve said, “I did. I learned a lot about differing beliefs as to what is at the end of the stream. You seem very smart, Mr. Owl. What do you believe is at the end of the stream?” The owl said, “We believe in a river of wisdom at the end of the stream where anything is possible and therefore everything is possible. At the end there is no want or need, as we become part of something greater than ourselves. This life is about the journey from here to there, so what is at the end is not as important as what is here now on your journey in the stream.” “Thank you, Mr. Owl, I respect your beliefs, just as I respect the beliefs of all the others and wish you well.” The Owl said, “Thank you, take care and be good to others simply because it is the right thing to do.”

Later that morning, Steve the Turtle was swimming and crawling back upstream against the current, attempting to find the pool below the Sculpture Falls, near the Uncomfortable Rock. While climbing up a large enchanted rock, Steve slipped on some moss near the top and slid off into a free fall.

Disoriented, and controlled by gravity, Steve spotted a beautiful wild black tulip growing from a crack in the rock. Without time to think, he grabbed onto the flower and it broke his fall...

...but only for a moment, because the force of his fall pulled the beautiful flower out from the rock by her roots and they both fell head over heels for what seemed to be an eternity, yet in reality, was only a fraction of a second. Steve the Turtle let go of the beautiful flower so as not to take her down with him and she blew away in the wind--over a boulder and out of sight.

Landing below onto a sandy shallow, Steve the Turtle found himself on his back, upside down (one of the turtle’s greatest fears). Try as he might, Steve the Turtle could not turn himself over and was hopelessly stuck in the sand on his back, alone in the hot, blistering sun. There was absolutely nothing he could do and since turtles are very quiet by nature, his calls for help were not heard; like in one of those dreams when you yell and no words come out. Steve lay there in the sun all day and into the evening thinking about his friends and relatives back in the pool below Sculpture Falls, near the Uncomfortable Rock and he thought about his journey and the fish and the rabbit and the cow and the monkey and the cat, the bat and the snake and the owl and thought about never knowing what was at the end of the stream.

Just then, he felt a drop of rain kiss him right on the lips. They were kisses of water, and then another and another and soon it was pouring down rain. It was the spring rain! With it would come the floods that the snake had warned him about and that all the turtle stories and songs were about!

As the water in the sandy shallow began to rise, so did Steve the Turtle. And before he knew it, Steve was being swept downstream at an alarming rate engulfed by a wall of water, and worst of all, he couldn’t see to hold on to anything in the darkness of night.

Then around 3:33am, Steve the Turtle saw a rather large branch hanging down into the water that he was able to grab onto. Unfortunately, the water was moving too fast and his ability to hang on was nearing the end. As Steve’s strength was giving out, it suddenly dawned on him that after all this time wanting to know what is at the end of the stream, all he had to do was to let go and his answers might be there at the end. It was the fear of the unknown and the fear of the journey that kept everyone in one place and believing one thing. Steve the Turtle--at that very moment-- decided to just let go‌

That feeling of letting go was so liberating that Steve the Turtle decided to make a sport out of his journey in the rapids. He dodged the rocks and bodysurfed himself into the deeper and faster flowing currents; enjoying the ride and getting to the end even faster.

Slowly, the rains stopped and the waters stilled and there was an overwhelming sense of peace and quiet as night turned into day. Steve the Turtle found himself in an amazing place; a huge continuous body of water where there was hardly any current, just as the fish had said. Steve saw long lost friends and relatives and saw rabbits and giant carrots and cows that looked like zebras and giraffes and monkeys swinging on vines from the highest banana trees. He even saw bats and snakes and a waterfall, too.

As he swam to his friends and relatives, he once again saw the silhouette of the owl, and the owl said to him, “Welcome to The River of Wisdom. What took you so long to get here?�

Steve the Turtle answered, “I was afraid... afraid to let go and afraid of the unknown.” “Yes,” said the owl, “most fear the unknown, but most don’t realize that although it takes a lot of strength to hold on, sometimes it takes even more strength to let go. And now that you have found The River of Wisdom and no longer fear the unknown, you might ask yourself the question: What is at the end of The River of Wisdom?”

That night Steve the Turtle thought about what the owl had said as he danced around the campfire in a slow turtle tango with his long lost friends and relatives and they sang songs about their journey and everyone they had left behind back along the Stream of Knowledge and Sculpture Falls near the Uncomfortable Rock.

The next day, Steve the Turtle was sunning himself in the sand on a 100% cotton terry cloth beach towel...resting from his ordeal of bodysurfing the flood in the Stream of Knowledge. And he began thinking quietly to himself, “What, oh what, could be at the end of The River of Wisdom?�

The End (Or is it?)

The End (Or is it?)

Turtle-isms When life hands you lemons make turtle lemonade. When life hands you cheese make trans fat-free cheese twists. Crawl softly, but carry a big idea. A turtle’s capacity is relative to its goal. Turtles that get bored... are boring turtles. Turtle is... as turtle does. We turtles can do better than this. Try going with the flow and following your passion. Just do the right thing, turtle. Can all of us vertebrates and invertebrates just get along. The mass of turtles live their lives in quiet desperation. To thine own turtle-self be true.

The reviews are in! The New Pork Times 52 weeks on the best smeller list. “This book smells... I mean it stinks big time!” Steve’s Mother “I told him he needs a car chase and a love interest... but does he listen?” Steve’s Father “It’s not too late to get a real job!” Steve’s Brothers “Dork... this is so lame!” Steve’s Sister “Weirdo!”

the river of wisdom  

a journey for what is at the end

the river of wisdom  

a journey for what is at the end