If you can find a ship sturdy enough to sail you across the starry skies, you may find yourself at the other end of the universe, in the smallest of galaxies named The Garden.
A special wind blows through The Garden — one that fills the days with a warm breeze, the night skies with dancing colours, and hums a quiet hymn across the planets. Stars and moons and suns across the universe travel to this galaxy, seeking a stay in this magical place. At the far ends of this galaxy, wherever and whenever you may arrive, you will find The Gardener there. The Garden is under his care, but he works invisibly, quietly, except when a visitor appears. There and then, he will appear.
On this day, a young sun, proud and bright, arrived. His name was Flare, and he had travelled across the universe, blazing through the galaxies, before reaching the Garden. At the edge of the Garden, Flare found the Gardener waiting.
“Gardener!” He said. “I have heard much about the beauty and magic of your Garden. I would like to seek a place to stay.”
The Gardener smiled at Flare and asked him “Will this be a brief sojourn? Or would you like to stay in this garden always?”
“Ah!” Flare said. “I have seen much across the universe. I have kept entire cities alive with the strength of my rays. I have rushed across planets with mountain ranges taller and more magnificent than anything in this galaxy!” Then Flare paused, and continued in a humbler tone. “But I have heard, that in your garden, one can experience incomparable tranquility, and true happiness. I have had the most exciting of journeys; now I would like to experience the peace that can be found here.”
The Gardener looked deep in thought for a moment, and then nodded his head. “Yes, you may stay. But before I give you your place in this galaxy, you must accomplish a task.
From here, if you sail straight past the line of twenty-three planets, you will arrive at the heart of The Garden. There, you will find a golden planet, the smallest in this galaxy. On the planet, there is a glass house and in the glass house, you will find a sunflower. From this moment, the sunflower is in your care — you will nurture it and keep it strong and healthy. When the time is right, something miraculous will occur. You may then come to me again, with the sunflower, and I shall find a place for you in this garden of mine.”
Flare agreed joyfully, and blazed towards the heart of the galaxy, towards the golden planet with its sunflower.
Flare rode the winds in the galaxy and swiftly sailed past the twenty-three planets — ten of them were planets of fire and ice, five were dust and snow, two were hard diamond planets and the last six were shimmering planets of copper and silver. (There will be time for tales about some of these planets, later.) Then, he arrived at the golden planet.
The golden planet was indeed the smallest, no more than a hundred paces in each direction. But it was big enough to contain a glass house right by a small hillock and stream. Flare, like all young suns, can swell or shrink as he wishes. Now, he made himself small enough to fit in the glass house. And there, he found his charge, the sunflower, peeking out of a brown pot of damp soil, on a white stone table in the middle of the glass house.
Although, he thought to himself as he glanced at the small green shoot, this is hardly a sunflower. It is a mere seedling, a sprout!
“Well then,” Flare said aloud. “I am to care for you, and I shall.”
To his surprise, the little green shoot gave a quiver (of delight? he wondered) at his voice.
“Oh. You are not just an ordinary sunflower then. All right, let’s get down to it!”
Then like all suns arriving at a new planet, he set about the business of preparing the place for life. Although, of course, in this instance Flare was not to be the sun to the golden planet. There were already suns aplenty in The Garden and the golden planet had its own. (And that too, is a tale for another time.) But a glass house might be a planet, especially when he was responsible for the sole life in it.
Here is what he did. He shook the ashes and tinder out of his rays and checked that he was warm and glowing, but not so blistering that the sunflower shoot would shrivel and wilt. Then, he reached out with a small finger of flame where the stream flowed past the glass house, creating a small opening in the corner. It was just large enough for a trickle of stream to flow in and form a small pool on the stony ground of the glass house. Flare heated up a touch more, just enough for the surface of the pool to sizzle and rise as vapours — if you paid attention in science lessons, you will know that the vapours will form clouds, and when the clouds are heavy enough rain will fall, and water will pool once more on the ground. This cycle will repeat, and that is how, Flare created weather in the glass house, giving the sunflower the rain it needs.
This took all day and now, Flare found himself a comfortable corner in the room and put out some of his rays. Then, glowing like a quiet ember in the dark night, he fell asleep under the dancing colours of the night sky.
Only, of course. The sunflower did not let him sleep.
Minutes after his eyes have drifted close, he heard a whimper.
(Now I must digress to explain this business about suns sleeping. The clever children among you will protest, but suns don’t sleep! They only appear like they do! When they set in our part of the world, the sun really is rising in another part. And you would be right, and a very clever child indeed. But here’s the secret — in this story, suns really work in pairs, just like moons do. So for each planet where you see a sun and a moon, there are actually two suns and two moons. If the suns are young and quarrelsome, they often carve out one half of the planet each for themselves, and never set their eyes on the other half. So when each sun sets in his own half, he really is going to bed and letting the moon take over the night. Sometimes, a planet has many moons; and once in a while, there are planets on which you can see more than one sun at a time. You can ask your science teacher about them, or read about them in the library — both are very good habits to have when there is something you want to find out more about.)
(Ah yes, the clever children that you are, you also ask, if suns work in pairs, then why is Flare here at The Garden alone? Where are his partners? What will they do now that Flare has gone? I can only say this: we all have histories but we must focus on Flare’s present and what he will do in the future. But you might have guessed that when Flare arrived at the gates of The Garden, he was not the happiest of suns. Someday, you may find out why. Or you may not. But we must now return to Flare and his sunflower.)
Flare had barely dozed off and now shook himself awake.
“Whatever is the matter, little sunflower shoot?” He asked, peering at the little green shoot trembling in its pot.
The sunflower shoot could not reply — it had not yet grown the sooty face that sunflowers have, and is still a small green shoot without a voice. But it trembled again.
“Are you cold?” Flare asked, moving towards the shoot and kindling a few rays closer to the sunflower. But the sunflower continued trembling.
“Do you need a drink?” Flare swept an arm of heat across the ceiling where some clouds were gathered, shaking a small shower of rain out of them. The shoot straightened a little, but then trembled yet again.
What else do sunflowers need? Flare wondered? Nothing, I suppose. Perhaps all sunflowers whimper and tremble at night. With that thought, he once again returned to his corner and let his eyes close.