~for Julian & Edith~
There was once a tiny little ant. She was unlike all the other ants. She didn't want to walk in a straight line, and she found it hard to work tirelessly all day long. So one day, she decided to strike out on her own. She slung a few crumbs and a blade of grass onto her very strong back and headed into the forest, away from her ant-hill home.
The forest was green and shadowy, drippy with moss and raindrops, shimmering here and there with sunlight.
The tiny ant thought it a very magical place indeed. In fact, the little ant was so captivated by the beautiful, fragrant forest that she did not notice that she had walked right into a spider's web.
She tried to get out, but her legs became more and more stuck. She felt very afraid and so she decided to become very still. Just then, an elegant spider, as black as she, crept quietly back onto her web.
"Pardon me, Madam Spider. I seem to have become stuck in your web and I do apologize if I have caused any damage. I am a good worker and I can fix it for you in a jiffy." The spider considered her catch, who seemed quite green, as they say. Usually the spider caught her dinner in this web, but she was full already and also, she was lonely.
"I will free you from my web," she grumbled, "but you must keep me company for one year.
For I am a spider, and I am lonely. My children all leave when they are born and my spider friends have their own webs to tend." The ant considered this. Of course, she did not want to be rude, but she had been really looking forward to some alone time when she left the ant hill.
"It's too bad you cannot become an ant and I a spider for a year; my people could keep you company and I could learn how to be on my own."
The spider thought a little, and she said,
"Well there is a witch and she can help us."
They traveled for one day and one night (which is a very long time in spider and ant time) and they found the witch's cottage. She switched them and told them to return to a special grove in the forest one year hence, to be changed back. The ant who was now a spider headed off to work on her web and the spider who was now an ant marched off towards the anthill.
A year passed.
On the day that they would switch back, neither of them could wait. The ant had grown desperately lonely, and all the work of making a spider web could not compare to the satisfaction she had when her whole, enormous ant family finished a project. For example, carrying half a cookie across many miles to the anthill. But she had much more respect now for the work of spiders.
The spider was equally surprised to find that all the chatter and activity of the ant hill had caused her to grow weary and irritable. She missed the simple elegance of her web making life, and her quiet time for thinking. But she had much more respect now for the work of ants.
The two met up where they had planned to a year before. But nothing changed. They called on the witch to come and help them. She appeared and, much to their dismay, said, "I am no longer a witch! I am sorry but I did not want to be a witch anymore so I switched places with a baker. I must say, I do so miss being a witch! I do love baking, but it takes even more exact ingredients than my spells and I miss taking care of the forest creatures. I will take you deep into the forest, to find the baker who is now a witch and see if she can change us all back!"
And so they traveled through one day and one night (which was a very long time), and they found the Baker-Witch. The Baker-Witch had a beautiful cottage. They watched as she worked so industriously on all kinds of projects. She was doing spells and weaving a dream catcher, she was preparing for her dear friends to visit and talking about how much she loved her quiet mornings to herself. But, she said, in the end, "I am best at baking," and she revealed under some cloth the most beautiful breads and cookies and cakes and pastries anyone had ever seen. She offered them to the ant-who-was-the-spider and the spider-who-was-the-ant and the baker-who-was-the-witch and everyone's bellies were very full as they told stories of the past year.
"You do not need me to switch you back," said the Baker-Witch finally. "You need only to remember what you are best at in this life. What you love to do the most."
Everyone closed their eyes and did what they were told. Suddenly there was a swirl of light between them and the little ant was again an ant and the spider a spider and the witch was again a witch. But everyone was changed, because they had each learned a lot during their year being something else. They never forgot the new things they had learned.
From that day on, the witch and the baker spent many days together teaching each other spells and recipes, and the spider stopped by the ant hill often to socialize and the ant took long walks by herself through the forest whenever she needed some quiet alone-time.
But everyone mostly did what they did best. Everyone did what they loved to do the most. And everyone was very happy.