Once upon a wintertime, Little Bear, woken up by an Owlet’s whooping, looked around and saw a new and unfamiliar world. The clumsy little bear falls asleep when autumn is still young, the woods and meadows are not hidden under a veil of snow, the frost is mild, and the time for blizzards is far away.
Little Bear, woken so untimely, stuck his nose out of the warm den and asked in a sleepy voice, ‘Who is whooping so loudly? Who disturbed my sweet sleep?’
‘I am surprised too!’ the little feathery babbled, confused. He was sitting on the branch of a pine tree right above the bear’s den. ‘You still have plenty of time ahead of you to sleep, you furry cub!’
‘Well, I wish… But who would sleep well when you’re whooping right into my ear! Hoo, hoo, hoooooo!’
‘That’s how it works! I need to learn about everything! Because when I grow up, I will be the wisest bird in the forest!’
‘How can you learn about everything?’ Little Bear was surprised. ‘One can’t learn everything at once!’
‘You’re right!’ the little hooter became animated. ‘That is why my mum and dad have given me a special book. It is called Forest Book. It tells everything about everything! The basics are about seasons of the year. There are four of them; each lasts for three months. The first snowy season is winter. The winter is fading away; the warm weather is coming. Grass and leaves become bright green and juicy. All living things are waking: spring is here! Then summer comes over. Everything is blooming and scenting in those warm months, and the inhabitants of the forest are walking around, enjoying the time. The gifts of Nature are ripening and colouring. Then autumn takes its turn, and the sun is no longer shining so bright. The green colours wither away. Many birds fly south, and animals begin to store food to survive winter cold in their warm holes. Then winter sets in again. Winter is a time of cold frosty days; everything in the forest is sleeping deeply under the white cover of snow.’
‘Is this what you are whooping about so loud?’ Little Bear asked.
‘Don’t rush, you eager-beaver! Everybody knows about the seasons, of course. It’s no surprise,’ the little winged owlet turned up his nose. ‘Winter, spring, summer and autumn consist of months. There are twelve months in total. They are all different. Each one is very special. All together they make a year. Come here, I’ll show you.’
Owlet held a big book in his wings and bent a little forward from the branch so that little bear could also see from the ground when out of nowhere a naughty wind blew away the first pages of the clever book.
‘Oh, no! Poor me!’ the bird began to squeal. ‘What shall I do now? I can’t read the book and understand further without those first pages about the months! I will not make it out without help! How will I study now?’
‘Look,’ Little Bear tried to calm his friend down. He sat on a tree stub and pondered. ‘I will think about something! I will help you find out the names of the months… But how…?’ he muttered under his breath so that Owlet couldn’t hear him, and returned to his den where his mum was still asleep.
Upon returning to his den, the clumsy little bear couldn’t fall back asleep. Thoughts were spinning in his head; he couldn’t stop thinking about those mysterious months of the year. He was trying to figure out how to help Owlet.
The next morning Little Bear decided to make a journey around the forest and find the necessary information. He quietly said goodbye to his Mummy Bear — she was still sleeping tight — and swiftly got out of the warm den. The sun was shining brightly but the frost was biting very noticeably. So there was nothing else for Little Bear to do but start off on his venture.
Little Bear had been walking on the snow, white and glittering like sugar, fragile and crispy like waffles, for too long, so he began to worry because he hadn’t met anyone at all yet.
‘Why is it so quiet in the forest? Where has everyone gone?’ the clumsy little bear wondered. Suddenly he heard something crunching. Then he saw a heap of empty conifer cones and nutshells right under a tall fir tree. A little blue and grey squirrel was sitting right there on a branch at the top of the tree and nibbling the cones one after another, ‘Munch-munch-munch, crunch-crunch-crunch!’
‘Squirrel, is that you? I didn’t recognize you at first sight! I remember your fur was short and ginger, and now it is long and grey!’
‘Clip-clop-clip-clop,’ the squirrel said, clicking her tongue. ‘Winter is here, so I’ve changed my outfit! I’ve got warmer clothes now to protect myself from the cold! Is that so surprising? Why are you here so early, Clumsy Cub? It’s still your time to dream and lick your paw!’
‘Yes! But it just turned out that way… Little Owlet had bad luck today. You know, he needs to study the names of months of the year. If he doesn’t know them, how will he learn and become a wise owl?’
‘W-e-ll… As for being wise, later we will see. Owls are naturally very clever! But to become a knowledgeable scientist… Eh!’ the fluffy squirrel clicked her tongue again. ‘So, Little Bear, you have noticed I have got a different fur coat. That’s because January is one of the coldest months and also the first month of the year. It is freezing! The frost is severe! The frozen crust of snow is creaking when you step on it. Thousands of tiny icy crystals are glittering under your feet. Now you won’t see a badger or a hedgehog, a swift or a heather cock. They are asleep until the spring comes.’ The squirrel jumped down onto the snowy ground and took a half-frozen piece of birch bark from the trunk of the tree. With her sharp little claws, she scribbled numbers from one to twelve and wrote the word January next to number one.
‘There you go! This scroll will help you. When you learn something new, write it down. It’s time for me to go back home and peel cones for my baby squirrels.’
Little Bear followed his footsteps to go back to his den. When he returned, he cuddled up to his mum quietly, and started thinking where to get the names of the other eleven months for Owlet? He had a nap for a couple of days, then woke up and got out of the den again. It was time for another journey. The frost was tingling and pinching him slightly; there was still an abundance of snow, but the air had already got a little warmer, and the icy crust had become a bit softer. The icicles were beginning to thaw and drip a little, and the sky was like blue velvet. The days were a bit longer, and the nights were getting shorter.
Across the air-whipped soufflé snow hills, Little Bear strolled along the forest. When he reached the edge of the forest, he saw a pattern of tiny footsteps. Those belong to hares, little brats, leaving their footprints in the early morning. The playful leverets were having fun and enjoying the scent of spring, but quietly, whispering. They noticed Little Bear, ran towards him and encircled him.
‘Why are you winding around here so much?’ Little Bear asked them.
‘We are fouling the trail… We don’t want the lynx and her kittens to track us down! Their claws are long and sharp; their paws are quick and hefty… There are smaller footprints, and over there you can see the bigger ones…’ the leverets whispered. ‘It’s not that we are scared! Not at all! It’s just that lynxes, spotty woolly beasts, love running and playing around. But our fur is so white, soft and fluffy. It is not good to smudge it! Why are you, Little Bear, wandering around alone? Isn’t it still your time to sniff and snuffle, have your dreams and not to ruffle?’
‘Yes, hoppers, but Owlet needs my help, so I’m walking around, trying to figure out… I need to find the names of months of the year! Do you know anything?’
‘Our ears are big and long, we’ve heard a lot! We know what magpies are chattering about! We know what foxes the little rogue ones are gossiping about! That is how weather tokens are made up!’
‘Don’t drag it out, leverets! Please tell me!’
‘Ugh, ugh! Can you feel the frost!’ leverets pattered with their paws.
‘Can you feel it biting? You should know that the summer’s going to be exciting! It will be very nice and warm. Can you see the frost-dew on the branches? That’s good for you! This year will give you an abundance of honey! Winter and spring are crossing their path this month, and it’s named February.’
‘The hares are telling you the truth,’ confirmed the lynxes. The whole family went out to listen to what the hares were whispering about. ‘Can you see the field voles running on that lawn? It means the thaw is around the corner.’
The leverets got cold feet in the presence of the uninvited guests. They hid behind Little Bear and didn’t move.
‘Don’t be scared! Don’t be shy! We’ve just come over like good neighbours because we heard your conversation. How could we stay away? We know the Owlet’s family. We respect them and can help them.’
‘Thank you, leverets. Thank you, wild cats. I am very grateful! I will take a note of it.’ Little Bear unrolled his scroll and wrote down February next to number two.
It was getting dark. It was time for the clumsy little bear to go home to his den.
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