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Isabella, the Ladybug
by Debra Brinckley
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Isabella, The Ladybug

Once upon a time, in a distant land where golden rays of sunlight lingered, an enchanted forest lay hidden. This forest, however, was only visible to the faithful dreamer. For it was here in this magical land that dreams came true. The inhabitants of this dreamland traveled from far and wide to reach the forest. They each traveled their separate paths with only their dreams to light their way.
The many dreams that brought them all together varied greatly. There were dreams of grandeur & fame and dreams of simplicity & peace. There were dreams of beauty & wealth and dreams of freedom and joy. Though each dream differed they all became reality in this golden forest. The dreamers themselves were also quite different. They contrasted in color, shape and size.
These forest dwellers lived each day with new excitement and anticipation. For no one ever knew what was to happen the next day. You see the dreamer controls the life of a dream. The dream can thrive only as long as the dreamer continues to dream, and dreams can be explored and expanded in many ways. So the people of the enchanted forest filled their days with fantastical dreaming. For such is the life of the dreamer.
Many, many miles away in a distant country, however, a different life was being lived. It was a life of little spontaneity and no dreaming. It was a country where all worked and none played. Here the natives were content to settle for life as usual and did not bother to dream. No one that is but Isabella.
Often Isabella would abandon her job of collecting leaves in the late afternoon light to chase after the sunbeams between the trees. Sometimes she would slip away to gaze upon the clouds telling their stories through their shapes. Loud, harsh scolding would pierce her daydreaming though and drag her back to her leaves.
She was continually being scolded for being a lazy dreamer. All the other ladybugs did their share of the work. It was only fair that Isabella be required to do hers if she was to share from the supply when winter came along. And ladybugs definitely knew how hard the winters could become. The winds often blew hard enough to blow away entire ladybug villages that had been buried deep beneath the autumn debris. The number of predators also increased during the colder months, as larger animals grew desperate for nourishment in the frozen forest. Isabella would dutifully remind herself of these things and go heartily back to work. Today was no different.
The evening was growing late and the ladybugs began to gather up their day’s findings and head home. Isabella trailed behind the others, gazing up as she crawled.
“Isabella, it is the end of the day. Could you manage to keep up with the rest of us for once? It is late, and it has been a long day. I do not feel like watching out for you,” yelled one of the older bugs.
“I’m sorry. I just was watching the sun for a moment. Have you ever sat and watched the sun as it goes down in the sky. It is beautiful to watch the way it lights up everything else in the sky?”
“Isabella, I will never understand you. What is so amazing about the sun? It is the sun that scorches us in the daytime. It is the sun that kills the leaves in the summer days. How can you find beauty in it? Humph!”
“But,” Isabella replied with a smile, “it is also the sun that warms us in the winter. It is the sun that brings new life in the spring. It is the sun that causes our food to grow. How can I not find beauty in it?”
The older bug turned his back on Isabella who was still gazing on the sun. He shook his head in frustration and decided that the day had been too long to trouble any one over their slacker, Isabella.
All of the ladybugs had worked hard that day, and they were looking forward to enjoying an evening of fun back at the village. The younger bugs saw the band of workers approaching. They ran out excitedly to greet them and to help carry in the food. Soon after the party’s arrival, the festivities began.
One of the littlest bugs ran to straight to Isabella. “Isabella, what did you see today? Tell me please. Did you meet any one new? Or perhaps today you merely found wild flowers hidden in the roots of the trees. Oh, I just know that it was wonderful. Tell me all about.”
“Oh you are right. It was so wonderful. The sun was shining brightly and there were just enough clouds to complete my story from yesterday. And what an ending! I met a horsefly today that told me what it was like to fly higher than us ladybugs. He was funny. We raced a couple of times, but he always won. Well his wings are so much bigger than mine you know.”
“Isabella! Get over here and bring your portion to the table so we can prepare for the dinner. Although I am sure that with all of your gallivanting you haven’t much to offer the village.” Once again, an older bug was standing above her shoulder.
She leaned close to the younger bug’s ear and whispered, “I will tell you all about the rest later. Perhaps if we have time, I can even tell you the end of my cloud story.” She left the bug in curiosity and turned to follow the others delivering their food.
The bugs worked hurriedly to arrange the dinner. It was always such a grand festivity when they gathered enough food to celebrate. All of the leaves were arranged on a beautiful, long table. There were wild flowers placed in the crevices between the various plants. Tiny lit twigs illuminated each end of the table. Each ladybug would pass by and eat bits of the colorful arrangement until their black dots had expanded into huge circles. The laughter was loud, and the sun was growing faint.
As the moon made its way into the night sky, a great fire was lit. The younger bugs dragged twigs to the center of the village. The king of the bugs lowered a small torch, and soon the flames illuminated the party. It was quite a spectacle to observe. All of the bugs danced around the flames, fluttering their wings and stomping their feet. A few even dared to blow into a reed to accompany the singers as they sang of seasons past.
Isabella was one of the many bugs dancing around the flames. She soon grew tired from her day of gathering and fluttered to the side to catch her breath. She landed next to one of the reed players and panted for a moment before she could attempt a conversation. He was happily playing his reed and watching the dancers, so he had not even noticed her sitting next to him.
She turned to him smiling, “I just love all of your songs! When did you start to play the reeds,” Isabella asked inquisitively.
“Oh, hi Isabella! Well, I am not sure. I have been playing for as long as I can remember,” the old bug with withered wings answered.
“I imagine that you have been playing for a very long time then because you are quite old,” Isabella stated matter-of-factly. “Don’t you ever tire of playing the reed?”
“You are right that I am old,” the old bug sighed, “but there is something about playing this reed that I do not think I could ever lay aside. It is hard to explain, but perhaps I can try. You see, when I am playing the reed, even the flames seem to dance. My world is transformed by the music that I play. Well, it’s as if I found my way into one of those sunbeams that you are always chasing after.”
“That sounds wonderful. One time, I heard the most amazing song ever. I had wandered from the path to chase after a playful young doodlebug. As I turned the corner, I was overwhelmed by this incredible noise. I had never heard anything like it before. I followed the notes the best I could. And they led me to the window of one of the giants...”
“Isabella, you know you should never get near the giants. They kill our people with no regrets. How could you place yourself in such danger?” the old man asked in horror.
“I know that I should avoid the giants at all costs, but I couldn’t escape the music. If only you had heard it, you would understand. It was beautiful.” The flames were growing larger, and the heat was spreading farther. Isabella’s face began to glow from the light of the fire. But she continued her tale with passion. “I made my way into the window. When I first saw the giant I fled in fear. But the music drew me back. I just wanted to know what was making it. So I went back to the window. Inside there was a large black case that had a row of long black and white buttons. I watched as the giant would move his fingers quickly from one button to the next. As his fingers would touch the button, music would come from inside the box. After the giant finished the song, I left quickly and found my way back to the path. Some day I would like to find one of those music makers and play like the giant.”
The older bug’s tone softened and he smiled at Isabella. “You know, Isabella, I would love to teach you how to play my reed some time. Then at the festivals you could be a part of the music. But you must promise me to stay away from the giants.”
Their attention was turned from one another to the crowd assembling near the fire. The dancers and music makers had gathered together in a circle to pray and ask that tomorrow they would find much food on their paths. Isabella lingered in the back and allowed her mind to wander and recall the sweet music of the black object.
In the distance beyond the flames of the fire, Isabella could see another light glowing. She at first assumed that it was just the night-lights of the giants they often saw. A few moments later, however, the light began to grow brighter and pulse. Isabella glanced around to make sure that there were no supervising eyes watching over her. She was puzzled that no one else seemed to notice the fierce glow of the light. Not one person among the villagers even looked up. Perhaps they assumed it was one of the giants as well. So at the moment everyone was preoccupied with the handing out of assignments for the next day’s work. So quietly, Isabella flew to the boundaries of the village.
It was dark in the forest. The flames of the village fire were behind her and the moon was not bright enough to provide much lighting for the path. As Isabella flew along she kept her eyes fixed on the glowing light. It seemed to be magical and she just had to find out what it was.
It didn’t look to be too far in the distance. She was sure that she could travel the little ways. She would just find the source of the light and return to the village quickly before anyone could notice she was gone. As she flew, she hummed the tune of the song she had heard the giant playing. She remembered every note and hummed them with ease.
While she hummed her mind began to dream of playing a music maker just as the giant had. She could play one on each of her sides. She imagined herself before a large crowd of ladybugs. They all cheered her name, and when she began to play they all sat in silence savoring each melodious note. She dreamt of concerts and songs. The strangest thing began to happen as she dreamt though, the path below began to glow with the light she was flying towards and suddenly the forest was no longer dark.
The festival in the village had come to an end and all the bugs were heading off to bed. The older reed player whom Isabella had spoken to began to look around for her. He was going to give her his reed and let her practice playing. He searched all throughout the village and asked some others if they had seen where she had gone. No one had seen Isabella since they returned from their work.
He walked towards the edge of the forest. His eyes were fixed on the tremendous glow coming from beyond the forest. He had seen that glow only once before in his life. He somehow knew that Isabella had wandered off into the forest, and she would not be returning to their village again. “Please be careful, my little ladybug. Follow the music of your heart, it cannot lead you wrong,” he whispered in the still of the night.
Isabella had gone far into the forest now. She had almost completely forgotten about the festivities that she left behind. She never once worried about the others missing her and coming after her. Her mind was consumed by the music of her dream. She was nearing the light, and it was growing brighter. It lit up the whole forest now. She could see various creatures that lived in the forest being awakened from their sleep and scurrying around to find a dark place that the light didn’t invade. She watched as the owls and bats came to life in the night air and flew in search of food.
As she was coming to a turn in the path she saw a clearing in the forest. She flew into the middle of the clearing and flew to the ground. She lay down on the cool, damp ground and stared up at the stars. As she was watching the flickering of the stars she suddenly was aware that someone was beside her. She glanced over her shoulder and saw a small doodlebug much like the one that she had been following the day she had heard the music.
“Hi!” he said in a quick, high-pitched voice. “What are you doing out here all alone in the forest at night?”
“Oh nothing,” she replied. She wondered if he was aware of the light too. “I was just sitting here looking up at all those really bright lights in the sky. Do you ever wonder what they are and how far away they are?”
“Oh sure, all the time. I like to just sit for hours and stare at them. One time when I was little…” Isabella stifled a laugh for she knew that the bug could be no older than just a few weeks. “my mom told me a story about the stars. I was asking her questions about the god that we pray to for rain and food. I was asking what he was like and that sort of stuff. Well she told me that he was HUGE! She said that he was so big that he filled up the whole sky. And he was also really, really bright. She said he was brighter than all the lights we can see in the forest. But she said that he wanted us to know that he was there so we would know we would have food and shelter and protection from the big animals. So he poked holes all over the sky. And those bright lights that we see at night are really the bright light of the god shining through. Amazing, huh? But anyway, how can you see all the stars tonight with that bright light shining at the end of the forest?”
Isabella had listened to the story mesmerized at the idea of the lights being the god. When the doodlebug spoke of the light though she sat up quickly, “Can you see the light too?”
“Yea, of course I can. Why?”
“Well, that is what I am doing. I am trying to find where the light is coming from. Do you want to come with me?”
“Wow! That sounds like an adventure. But, no, that’s okay. I can only crawl slowly, and it would be hard to keep up with you and your wings. Plus, I have never been away from my part of the forest before, and I would get scared. Have fun though. And if you find it come back and tell me what it was.” The little doodlebug scurried off and left Isabella alone staring at the stars again.
She watched him crawl off and sat silently for a moment. After staring at the stars for a little while longer she was up and off again. She was getting near to the edge of the forest now. The trees were becoming scarcer and the moonlight was getting brighter. The light was consuming everything around her and she knew she had almost found it. She weaved her way around several trees and turned a sharp corner.
Suddenly she saw a huge gathering of all kinds of creatures. There were other ladybugs like her, but there were also doodlebugs, lions, wolves, sharks, worms, and even some giants. She could not believe what she saw. She knew she must have been dreaming. She would wake up, and it would be time to go gather leaves for the next day. She stood silently in awe at the edge of the merriment.
She was not there for long though. Promptly a crowd began to gather around her, and she was pushed into the center of a large circle. They were all talking at once and laughing and smiling. Isabella wasn’t sure where to go, but oddly enough she wasn’t afraid. Without warning or apparent reason, her company grew quiet. The far end of the circle opened, and Isabella could see the light shining brighter than ever through the opening.
She walked towards the light on the path that had been left by the onlookers. They followed closely behind her. As she made it out of the circle she finally found the source of the light that had led her there. The light was coming out of a large black case that had a row of long black and white buttons. She could not believe her eyes. She walked over to it and ran her fingers over the top. A shiver of thrill ran through her. It was just her size.
She touched one of the keys to see if it would truly make music. She was greeted warmly by a quick note. She hummed the song quietly as she took her seat on the bench. The group gathered around her and remained quiet, waiting for her to play. The song came easily, and she played beautifully. The song came to life beneath her fingers. The light completely enveloped her now, and soon she was lost in the music.
That was many, many years ago. Last heard, Isabella was still living in the enchanted forest hidden, away in the sunbeams she had chased for years. Her music greets all newcomers to the magical land, and she continues to dream wild dreams and chase after the stars. The light has led many others to the forest since Isabella arrived, and dreamers everywhere continue to follow their own dream-lit path.

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