Sachiko was sitting in front of her house and painting flowers on a linen canvas. The day was pleasant, with the Sun high in the sky, warm wind blowing from the south; it was the beginning of spring, and most of the people in the town would walk to the nearest river called Daiko and throw pebbles into it as a form of leaving the old winter days behind and welcoming new ones.
After Sachiko painted ume flowers, she thought it would be a good idea to savor a cup of tea – especially made with water from Daiko river, because it was generally very clean (despite of some pebbles thrown into it). However, the water from tap was not the one from the spring, but from a city rather nearby, and it was not as clear. Sachiko decided to take a plastic bucket and go to the upper part of the river.
As she was walking on a sand way, passing by numerous trees and animals such as rabbits and hedgehogs – the town was basically a village with buildings and a few streets – she noticed she was feeling somewhat strange.
“It’s like something is different today,” she wondered. “Subtle differences, but I can feel them.”
She kept on walking until she reached the river, which was a calm stream, but this time there were no other people besides of one person. Or, to be precise, almost a person.
A sad scarecrow was sitting by the river, staring hopelessly at the surface of the river. Sachiko at first felt slightly scared, but after a short moment figured out he didn’t really look too dangerously, maybe he needed some help. She sat next to him and looked at his white face made of an old pillow.
“Hello sir,” she started. “May I ask you if everything is alright? You seem to be depressed”.
“I lost everything. My home, my dreams, my future. I’m a broken scarecrow and have no meaning for life anymore, not even bird are scared of me. I’m a pathetic failure,” the scarecrow replied, and furiously started hitting its head against the grass. “I’m an avid gambler! I thought I had luck, I did for some time, I’d won every bet I made… but then I… I put a bet on my soul, on my raison d’etre, and lost; from then, my meaning has been torn apart and thrown into an abyss.”
Sachiko noticed the emptiness in his eyes. Suddenly the wind felt colder and she got shivers.
“To whom did you make the bet?”, she asked as calmly as she could, yet nervousness has gotten into her voice.
He looked at her as if she was the most bland thing in the world, as if she was the most boring person that could ever exist. Then he sighed, crossed his legs and hid face in his hands.
“To myself”, he replied hopelessly. “I put a bet on whether I could accomplish something worthy, and I did not. I am a failure to myself, and I set my heart on fire, then threw it into oblivion. When I did it, I realized there is no turning back and what I’ve done was a terrible mistake born from too high ambitions. Because I am just a scarecrow and my meaning was to scare birds off. I’d never amount to anything, I am useless besides of that.”
After he said that, he jumped into the river and floated away. Sachiko nodded her head, and felt very disoriented, slightly confused. Soon she proceeded on doing everyday things, such as drinking tea and painting. She realized that the moral of the story is to treat life as something that just is, that everything happens because it happens, and not seek for any special meaning. Because we set meaning for ourselves. Or we jump into a river and float away, like a scarecrow.
After all, we all just scare birds away and set our hearts on fire trying to accomplish something.