How a Possum, Vulture, and Spider Brought Light into the World
By Drew Holmes
“So, who was the hero of the story?” I asked.
“The Old Spider!” Sam, my five-year old son, enthusiastically replied.
“Anyone else?” I questioned?
The story we had just read was a Native American folk tale telling how sunlight came into our part of the world. At the start of the story, only one side of earth has sunshine. The animals on the dark side want light, so they ask for a volunteer to retrieve it.
The first volunteer, Possum, makes the arduous journey to the other side of Earth and collects a piece of the sun. He has nothing to carry it in, so he wraps it in his furry tail for the return trip. The sun is so hot it singes off all the hair on his tail (which is why possum tails to this day are hairless) and so bright he can’t see the way home (which is why possums squint). Unsuccessful in his mission, Possum returns home with nothing to show for his efforts.
The next volunteer is Vulture, who also undertakes the perilous journey to the other side of the earth. He retrieves a piece of the sun and carries it on his feathered head. This proves too hot, so the feathers are burned off (resulting in the bald vultures we have today) and confuses him causing him to lose his way (which is why vultures drift aimlessly in the sky). Defeated, Vulture returns to the darkness empty handed.
The last volunteer is Old Lady Spider. Seeing the failures of the other two animals, she brings a bit of clay and leaves a trail of spider silk behind her. Though not big or fast she makes the trip and retrieves the piece of sun. She fashions a pot from the clay to carry the sun and follows her thread back towards home. Successful in her mission, she returns with the sun to the joy and admiration of the other animals.
As musicians, we draw from the example of others. Attending concerts, watching videos, or listening to recordings are all ways we can immerse ourselves in the creativity of others and see what else is possible. Sometimes those examples are positive and should be emulated. Other times the lesson is a cautionary tale warning of what not to do, whether it was a poor programming choice, a not quite right composition, or just a bad day playing.
But we must always remember that lack of success is a failure only if no lesson is learned from it. As Thomas Edison is credited with saying, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
In the story, Spider is the obvious hero since she is the only animal to successfully return with a piece of the sun. Sam, however, did not hesitate in his response to my second question, exclaiming “Possum and Vulture were also heroes!” Though they did not accomplish their individual missions, he recognized the importance of their contributions. The animals persevered and eventually got sunlight but only succeeded through the efforts of everyone brave enough to try.