All Tulo had wanted was some light and warmth to sustain him and his tiny sister through the terrible storm. But the star which he caught in the folds of his red kite promised far from more than that. Here is the shining, joyful message the star Acabar gave to Tulo—a message meant not only for the boy but for all those who dream of changing their lives for the better.
“A great story has again come from the genius of Og Mandino”—Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
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They were wandering and hunting across more than one hundred thousand square miles of primeval wilderness, now called Lapland, long before Romulus and Remus founded Rome and Homer wrote the Iliad, long before the Hebrews entered Canaan and Stonehenge was erected in Britain, long before the Tassili rock paintings were scratched on the caves of Algeria and the great pyramid for Khufu was completed, long before Nebuchadnezzar built his hanging gardens and Gautama Buddha preached in India. The world knows them as Lapps but they call themselves Same, and there are no more than thirty-five thousand scattered in isolated villages and cabins throughout the northernmost regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and even Russia.
They have suffered the most vicious of climates with courage and patience. They have tended to their families with love and compassion and trained their young, by example, in the art of living and self-reliance … and they have endured. They have never had a country or even a state they could call their own, nor have they ever accepted aid from any government.
They are small in stature yet big of heart. No stranger is ever turned away from their doors nor are their homes ever locked. Crime and divorce are virtually unknown except for what they read in their few newspapers or hear on their radios.
The Lapp people have been a credit to the race of man for more than eight thousand years, yet less is known about them than about any other people on the face of this planet. Certainly, in the mysterious cycles of eternity, their moment in the spotlight of history was long overdue.
And so it came to pass that once upon a time … but not very long ago, mind you … in a small and desolate Lapland village far north of the Arctic Circle … a miracle occurred.
If only the world had known.…
The plaintive cry of a solitary wolf echoed in the outside blackness, the dreaded sound penetrating the walls of every home and cabin in Kalvala as it swept through the desolate village on the first angry winds of winter.
Tulo Mattis dropped his pencil and pushed aside the green leather-covered ledger. He held his breath and listened. The wolf howled again until a single rifle shot crackled across the frozen tundra.
With a sigh of relief Tulo rose from the table and limped painfully toward his sister’s small bedroom. He paused to stroke Nikku’s thick gray fur as he passed the slumbering spitz.
“Dog, you are getting old and lazy. I can remember when a howling wolf would have had you tearing holes in the door.”
As he approached Jaana’s bed her frightened voice came from beneath many blankets. “Tulo, did you hear that wolf?”
“Yes. Uncle Varno must have shot him. No harm will ever come to our reindeer while he stands guard. And no harm will come to you either, so go to sleep, little girl.”
The green ledger was still open when he returned to the kitchen table. Tulo pulled it toward him until it was directly under the unshaded light bulb and read the words he had written to mark his fourteenth birthday:
The dark time is now upon us.
It is two months to sunrise.
But even if the summer’s midnight sun were shining and the heather and goldenrod still covered our meadow this would be the saddest birthday of my life. What my sister and I have lost in the past twelve months can never be recovered.
I have read that one can always find a seed of happiness in every adversity if one looks for it. I have searched in vain, and all I have for my effort is a pain in my heart that will not go away.
I must not lose hope. I must remain strong for Jaana’s sake.
Tulo slowly closed the ledger. He brushed the moisture from his large brown eyes, turned toward the small oval gold-framed photograph which was always on the table, and cupped his mother’s image in both hands. In the sounds of the wind he was certain he could hear her warm voice once again.
“My son, God must have special plans for you. How else can one explain your gift with words? Someday your name will be honored by all our people, and the words you write will be bound in leather so that their truth and beauty can endure and light the entire world like a star of hope.”
Sobs shook Tulo’s small body. He raised the photograph to his lips and kissed the glass, again and again. “Mama … Mama … I miss you … I miss you … I miss you.…”
Nikku’s impatient scratching against the door interrupted Tulo’s self-pity. Out of habit he pulled on his woolen cloak and the four-pointed cap that Jaana had knit and followed the dog on his nightly trek to the meadow.
The snow had ceased, the clouds had passed, and now the wind was only a soft whisper. Above, instead of its usual star-flecked dark-blue pigment, the sky was a rippling patchwork of luminescent colors. Flames of sun-bright intensity leaped upward, cascading billows of sparkling green particles against soaring eruptions of lavender and gold. The boy had never seen the northern lights perform so brilliantly. Even the snow under his feet rippled from the shimmering aurora, transforming the meadow into a magic lake filled with rubies and emeralds and opals and diamonds.
Tulo was so captivated by the dancing lights that he forgot to be sad. He even forgot his injured knee as he skipped and danced through vagrant snowdrifts, laughing and singing and scooping large chunks of white crystals which sparkled like diamond dust when he showered them on Nikku. Finally he reached the big tree, where he fell gasping for breath while his snow-drenched animal crouched close by, barking impatiently for their romp to begin again. Instead, Tulo lay back and watched the tumbling coronas of heavenly fire continue to change color between the thick silhouette of pine boughs.
The big tree had been a village landmark longer than the oldest resident could remember. Its sturdy trunk reached more than fifteen meters into the sky in a land where dark and interminable sub-zero winters and brief summers produced only dwarf willows, scraggly birches, stunted spruce and pine. The tree’s needles were long and green, and its branches constantly multiplied and grew as if its roots were being nourished in a lush tropical forest. Some said it had been planted, centuries ago, by Stallo, the legendary giant of the Same people, and one side of its trunk, close to the ground, had been rubbed free of bark by those who believed that contact with its wood was enough to bring good fortune. Jaana called it her star tree, innocently insisting that stars, at least from her low vantage point, actually hung like fruit from its massive limbs. No one disputed her.
The big tree, above all, had become a symbol of hope to both young and old of Kalvala, a living example that it was possible not only to survive but also to grow tall and flourish, even under the worst of conditions.
Tulo suddenly sat up and rested his back against the rough bark. A strange thought had occurred to him as the northern lights continued to swirl in iridescent patterns across the sky. “Old dog, do you suppose those wise men of our ancestors, those shamans who once protected our people with their drums and magic words, do you suppose they spoke the truth when they said that if one whistled at the northern lights one could call the dead?”
Nikku barked, ready for more play with his young master.
“I wonder. I wonder.”
Softly, Tulo began to whistle the tune to a lullaby that his mother had often sung to Jaana when she was still in her wooden cradle. He shaped his small hands into a horn and aimed shrill notes up toward the brightest pennant of flashing color.
Then he closed his eyes … and as the lullaby’s melancholy melody continued to float skyward through the fluttering pine needles, his thoughts moved backward through time to events of his brief past that had already shaped his life and would eventually seal his destiny in a way Tulo could never foresee as he sat under the star tree … and whistled at heaven.