Once upon Atime, a giraffe named Boris woke up in a forest high up in the Himalayas in the middle of the Kullu Valley. “It’s very cold up here,” he thought to himself as his knees shook, so he rustled through his bag until he found a hat and a scarf that he was given as a present when he was a little bit younger.
He was alone in the forest for quite some time, which he didn’t mind at first because he was at an age where he craved independence, but after a little while he became quite lonely and began to wonder where he was and how he got there. He had vague memories of climbing into a hot air balloon in the Serengeti, where he had lived with his family since the day his mother licked him to his feet, but he couldn’t remember it taking off and he certainly had no idea where he found himself now, staring curiously at strange white flakes falling heavily from the sky.
He was dressed very inappropriately for any time of year, but especially for the harsh winters of Himachel Pradesh, where sometimes the snowdrifts would have covered even the tallest giraffe, were giraffes known to frequent the area, which, as it happened, they weren’t. He wore only his hat and scarf, which in his attempts to keep warm only served to heighten just how cold he was in all the other parts of his body that remained uncovered. He looked into his bag once again and pulled out a fire log and a box of matches as his whole body shivered against the cold. He didn’t really like fire logs very much as a fire, but he didn’t mind them as kindling, and when he sat down on the rock by the stream, he had a nice little fire going within a few minutes, and he put his front hooves over the flickering flames as his body started to thaw and his knees stopped trembling.
“It’s melting!” he said aloud though there was no-one around to hear him. “That’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen!” he continued, utterly captivated by the brilliant white powder transforming as it ran its way across the rock and into the stream. He poked at the snow with the end of a hot stick until eventually there was a small avalanche and almost all of the drift by the fire fell at once into the river without melting at all. This saddened him a little but he didn’t really mind too much because he was warm again.
When he got hungry, he snacked on a nice patch of grass by a brook in the river, and he went back and forth between the brook and the fire happily from the morning into the afternoon. “If I’m going to be here for a little while,” he thought to himself as he sat criss-crossing more sticks on the fire, “I’m going to need to find a shelter for when it gets dark later on.” He looked around the valley hoping to see a cheap hostel anywhere in the distance, but all he saw were the endless pine forests that rose up the cliff face of the mountains, separated from each other by waterfalls that fell from a height that made him dizzy. There were no hostels anywhere, nor even a cave that looked a suitable size to accommodate his considerable height. He thought about his situation for a minute and decided that he needed to fend for himself.
“I must build a house,” he said categorically. “There are plenty of trees here and I know enough of carpentry to get the basics right.” He had studied carpentry for five years in school in Africa, and was also a fully qualified architect, despite spending his time on the plains selling leaves to the hungry in the dry season. He got the idea for it one summer during the monsoon when he noticed leaves stayed fresher when they were in water, so he filled his bath with leaves and waited for the food shortage to arrive as it always inevitably did. He reached into his bag and pulled out a chainsaw that started with a whirr the third time he pulled on the chord.
“What’s that racket?” said a voice from above him and he looked up to see who it was. All he saw above him were the pine trees stretching up toward the sun and he wondered if he had imagined hearing the voice. “My goodness!” the voice came again. “What are you planning to do with that?” and as he was looking up he noticed that the voice belonged to the big pine tree he intended to make into a house.
“I’m sorry,” he said to the tree. “I didn’t realise you were alive.” he said apologetically.
“Didn’t realise?? What did you think I was??”
“A house I guess.”
“I am a house.” Boris smiled and took the tree’s words as the green light to begin cutting him down before the tree added, “For thousands of others who are alive too.” He turned the chainsaw off and the tree immediately relaxed. “I can’t help but feel,” he went on, “that you’re being a bit selfish by wanting to cut me down. For the others I mean, whatever about the discomfort it would bring to myself.”
“But when the night comes I’ll freeze to death.”
“Maybe you should have thought of that before you came here?”
“I didn’t meant to come. I just woke up here this morning.” Boris said honestly.
“Do you have a name?” the tree asked, sensing the giraffe’s need for empathy.
“Boris. And you?”
“I don’t believe in names. We’ve always thought of ourselves as rooted in the same earth here. If we give each other names we create a separation that doesn’t actually exist.”
“But everything must have a name!” Boris protested, struggling to fathom the tree’s logic.
“We all perceive things differently. There-in lies the beauty of life, but yet there’s always those who claim their perceptions are greater than others. Names are a nonsense that gives an understanding to an irrelevance.”
The tree told Boris where he could find plenty of loose stone to build a shelter for himself. He spent the afternoon talking to the tree as he built a tall, narrow, and neat cottage on the spot where he first started the chainsaw and they became great friends from that day to this.