A girl called Sunshine becomes lost in the bush, but her friends help her find her way home.
Sunshine is a girl. Always barefoot, with long brown hair stretching down her back; highlighted with the colours of autumn: rich golds and fiery reds. Her slanted cat eyes are strikingly deep purple. She glows with happiness and adventure; this is what makes her beautiful, shining from the inside out.
It’s late afternoon in the Australian bush. Sunshine swings her basket as she skips past the familiar gumtrees; which are covered in long green strands of leaves softly flowing in the wind, like hair. Gentle dusk light is filtering through the trees and lighting up the grass like a fluorescent carpet. Sunshine promised her best friends they would have a feast of all their favourite foods at sunset.
Sunshine bounces and skips through the bush and greets nature as it’s beginning to wind down. Good afternoon to the magpies who are starting to sing, G’day to the grumbling wombat beginning to wake up and Hello to Mr. Moon, beginning to peek through the crisp blue sky.
Sunshine arrives at her favourite clearing just as the sun is beginning to set and unpacks her food onto a big, cracked tree stump. A blueberry pie, carrot and pine nut noodles, sweet rhubarb brownies, pumpkin rice with fluffy cream and strawberry, orange and mint juice. Sunshine sits down crossed-legged and patiently waits, feeling the sunset gently warming her skin.
One by one her friends arrive: Ruby the Rabbit. Honey the Platypus. Atlas the Possum. Bouncy the Baby Kangaroo. And Electric the Echidna. Sunshine greets her friends with a friendly “Good Morning!”. Being nocturnal animals, Sunshine’s friends have just awoken after happily sleeping all day. They all gather around the tree stump and fill their tummies with the goodness of food, the rainbow of tastes pulling them into a blissful half-sleep. They fall back onto the soft, long grass and watch the fluffy clouds float past above them.
Sunshine sees a dragon breathing fire and a handsome man with a kind smile. Ruby sees a bunch of big, crunchy carrots. Honey sees lots of silvery fish swimming. Atlas sees a baby possum just like her. Bouncy sees a giant kangaroo fighting evil. And Electric sees an Echidna, but instead of spikes, she is covered in fluffy cloud.
The sky starts to turn pink, making the clouds look like cotton candy, then turning a soft violet. Her friends start to hop, scuttle and waddle home with full bellies and smiles on their little faces. Sunshine feels an immense happiness wash over her, sending her into a deep slumber.
Sunshine opens her eyes and sees that the sun has gone and Mr. Moon is up, shining brightly like a giant glowing cream pie. Her surroundings have changed; everything is tinted a periwinkle blue and there are dark shadows swaying around her. The soft light from the moon and stars gently bathe her skin in light. She hears crickets chirping and the flutter of birds who are finding their way to bed. The smell of jasmine and honeysuckle hangs softly in the air, pulling Sunshine out of her sleep. She slowly rises, stretching like a long lanky cat, and packs up her basket.
There are glowing white flowers covering the clearing; they look like small ladies, dancing in the breeze. Gracefully fluttering in the air are butterflies as big as her hands, with wings patterned with gold, orange and fuchsia, glowing brightly.
Sunshine is grateful for this extra light, which will help her find her way home. She exits the clearing and starts to walk through the dream-like bush. It is very quiet; she can hear the wind rustling through the leaves and the soft sounds of the night-time animals. Amongst the branches are lots of beady gold eyes watching her. Sunshine knows they belong to the very kind owls and cheeky fruit bats.
After some time walking, Sunshine suddenly realises she isn’t sure which way her home is. She starts to head back the way she came, so she can go back to the clearing and retrace her steps, but she seems to be getting deeper and deeper into unknown trees. Sunshine closes her eyes, takes a deep breath and continues walking. Working out a plan with each step. She has lots of friends in the forest, she will ask them for help. She stops and looks up at the shining moon through the trees.
“Gentle Mr. Moon, will you help me find my way home?,” Sunshine whispers.
“To be like the Moon, always see the big picture,” the Moon replied in a deep, chuckling voice.
Sunshine stares up in silence and waits for some more information.
“Thank you, Mr. Moon,” she finally says, continuing on her way.
Through the trees, Sunshine spots a patch of dark sky filled with stars, blinking down at her. The big picture, Sunshine thinks.
“How about you little baby stars, can you help me?” she says.
“Even though we may be small, we have so much light to give. With lots of us and determination, we can light up the world. Even within darkness, keep shining your light,” all the stars chime.
“Thank you, baby stars,” Sunshine says.
Sunshine continues on through the trees with assurance and brightness. Keep shining through the darkness, Sunshine thinks. As she thinks this thought, the scenery begins to change, the trees becoming more sparse. Sunshine can hear the soft trickling of water in the distance. She follows the light of the moon to an opening where she finds a large river. It is sparkling dark blue like it’s filled with sharply cut sapphires, with the moon and stars dancing in the reflection. The banks of the river are covered with soft green grass and mossy rocks. It’s cooler here; the fresh breeze brushes through Sunshine’s long hair and cools down her hot cheeks.
Sunshine looks out across the river.
“Hello, Miss. River, it’s nice to meet you,” Sunshine says.
“Good evening,” says The River, in a soothing, relaxed voice.
“I’m not sure which way my home is, could you help me?”
“With persistence, water can break through anything, even stone,”
“That is all I have for you,” says The River.
“Ok, well, thank you very much, Miss. River.”
Sunshine sits on the banks of the river for a little while longer, swirling her feet around in the cold water to help relieve the soreness from her journey. She gets up and continues walking along the river bank.
If I keep trying I can do anything, Sunshine says to herself. She has now entered back into the bush, further upstream. She stops to listen. She can hear the familiar humming whisper of Grandmother Tree in the distance!
Sunshine follows the whisper song through the trees until she reaches the giant grey gumtree. There are clusters of branches with long greyish-green strands of leaves hanging down around the tree like a curtain. Sunshine gently moves through the leaves to find Granny’s silver tree trunk, which is covered in a maze of deep lines and thick green moss.
Sunshine has been coming here since she was very little, finding comfort in the worn wrinkly bark and the fresh eucalyptus smell of her leaves. Sometimes she would fall asleep cradled in her thick branches, after playing with the rainbow beetles, laughing along with the kookaburras and talking to the possums that live among her. Grandmother Tree is so big, Sunshine knows she couldn’t fit her arms across her in a hug, but she tries anyway, lying flat against her and embracing the tree like a long-lost family member.
If Sunshine had a real family, Granny would be it.
“Oh hello, little one. How lovely to see you!” Grandmother Tree says in a warm crackly voice.
“I’m afraid I’m lost Granny, will you help me?” says Sunshine, her face pressed against the cool bark.
“My child, learn to be strong and hold yourself tall like me. Always be connected to the ground but freely moving in the breeze.”
Sunshine takes this wisdom into her heart, like a missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle. She thanks Grandmother Tree and continues on. The dark is closing around the forest like a blanket.
Sunshine is determined to get back. She takes a big breath, straightens her spine and holds her head up. If she has found Grandmother Tree, then she mustn’t be too far from home. Sunshine is learning to trust her instincts, so she exits the clearing the way her body pulls her, towards a familiar tree and into the dark forest once again.
I am tall just like a tree, Sunshine thinks, stretching up on her tippy toes as she walks. She is starting to feel a lot more confident in the way she is traveling, imagining that her warm, tiny cottage is not too far from here. She built it herself (with some help from her forest friends) out of wood, mud and leaves. They painted the front door a bright turquoise colour and the window frames a lemon yellow. Out the back is a small veggie patch filled with giant tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplant and pumpkins. In this meadow where her home is lives Sunshine’s cow, Barna-Bella and her little calf, Patch. Barna-Bella is big, soft and brown with sparkling blue eyes, while Patch is small with long legs and matching to his mother. Barna-Bella helps to keep the grass short in the meadow and keeps Sunshine company. Every morning, Sunshine collects Barna-Bella’s extra milk, which she drinks down while it is still warm, and then churns it into butter and makes big wheels of cheese.
Sunshine’s mouth is watering at the thought of all that food; she didn’t realise how long it had been since she ate. As she’s walking, Sunshine spots a sleepy Koala perched in the nook of a gum tree, slowly munching on some leaves. She walks to the tree, climbs up with her picnic basket and sits on a branch next to the Koala, her legs dangling down. Sunshine opens the basket on her lap and snacks on the leftover food from the picnic.
“I think I’m nearly home Mr. Koala,” she says.
The Koala slowly blinks up at Sunshine.
“Remember that it is always okay to take things slow, just like me,” he says in a slow, sleepy voice.
“Thank you very much,” said Sunshine.
Sunshine finishes her snacks and carefully climbs back down the gumtree and continues walking through the dark bush.
Finally, Sunshine starts to recognise where she is, and knows her beautiful home is not far away at all! She starts to walk faster in order to quickly break through to the familiar meadow. She runs through the trees and sees the shining sun peeking over the hill above her cottage. Sunshine sees Barna-Bella and Patch asleep further down in the meadow, and her beautiful home perched on the hill above them. Sunshine says Hello to the sun which is lifting its frosty blanket to reveal a crisp light blue sky. Hello to her cottage, her flowers, her meadow and the beautiful trees. As Sunshine slowly walks through the long grass she silently thanks all her friends for helping her make her way home.
Sunshine enters her cottage, lights a fire, toasts some marshmallows, curls up on her cloud of a pillow and falls asleep with leaves in her hair and Sunshine in her heart.
Illustration by Kelly Anne Abbott
1. In this story, Sunshine uses the wisdom of her friends to find her way through the forest. What other ways in life might we use the wisdom of our friends and loved ones to help us?
2. When Sunshine is lost, she doesn’t lose hope, even when she doesn’t know how she will find her way home. What does she do instead?
3. What do you think this story might say about listening to our own voice inside?