POSTED: 10 APRIL 2008 - 7:00am HST

TGI #27: Earth Mover and Earth Tender

image above: illustration by Kinuko Y Craft for Lotus Corporation

[Normally these columns are scheduled to appear every other Sunday in the Kauai Garden Island News.The final published version may vary from this text as TGI retains the right to correct and edit the material. The copyright to the published version is held by TGI owner Kauai Publishing. Some material in TGI columns may have appeared on already.]

A fairytale by Juan Wilson on 13 April 2008 Revision 7.0 080403
2008 revised from story published in The Gobbler in 1993 and here in 2004

Once upon a time,
a couple lived on a far off green tropical island. They weren't quite folks like you or me. He was called Earth Mover. She was Earth Tender. Some people today might say they were gods. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. They had not made the island, they just lived on it. They weren't really fairytale giants either, although they were big and could get a lot done in one day if they set their minds to it.

Their day jobs consisted of making the island a beautiful and better place to live. They searched for unfinished places, that could stand a little improving, then go at it. It was hard work, but it had its satisfactions.

At night they relaxed and had fun. While the moon and stars revolved slowly across the sky they talked about what they had done that day, and discussed their plans for the next day.

Earth Tender especially liked it when Earth Mover told funny stories about his day's work. Earth Mover liked best hearing from Earth Tender about what a good job they were doing and how much she loved doing it. Then when it got late they would snuggle up together. Soon they would be dreaming through the night until the next morning.

Earth Mover usually was the one to begin their projects. When he woke, if he was in a waterfall building mood, he might spend half the morning wading up to his waist through a hardwood forest until he found just the right spot. Once he started working it was hard to distract him. He would work in a frenzy.

To do a waterfall,
first he'd kick down a bunch of trees. He'd cut a chasm through the exposed rock. At the bottom he’d scoop out the earth in a broad flat bowl-shape with his bare hands. He'd place special boulders in just the right places. Finally, he'd use a large tree trunk to scratch out new paths for the surrounding streams to feed the falls from above.

When he was done he would sit leaning against the hillside at the edge of the forest. For a while he'd watch the streams trickling and then tumbling down his new creation, filling the pond below. Then he'd usually fall asleep. He called this napping.

Often this is how Earth Tender would find Earth Mover - having one of his siestas. That's when she'd begin her work on the project.

With a waterfall, Earth Tender would begin planting algae and weeds to feed the fish and other creatures who would live in the pond. She'd mend the rough edges of the shoreline where there were dead stumps. She'd hide them in fresh ferns and wild taro.

She'd spend hours smoothing the jagged broken stones, turning them to rounded pebbles for a little beach. She'd cover the boulders with moss and lichen. By the time Earth Mover woke from his nap she'd be done. Wading birds would be landing in the sparkling water. The pigs would be sniffing its coolness from beyond the tree line.

images above: 3 shots of waterfall building tutorial from

Earth Tender will tell you, as nice as Earth Mover's work was, he'd always leave a real mess behind him. Sometimes he'd leave muddy streams all stirred up. She'd calm them down and make them clear again. Sometimes, especially in the old days, when he was working on new valley he'd dig too deep and flood much of a newly finished valley with molten lava. If you've never dealt with red hot lava, you can be sure, it’s quite a mess to clean up.

"Oops!" he'd say, and look at her out of the corner of his downcast eye. Then she'd have her hands full.

Just a few flowers.
Although Earth Mover would never say so, Earth Tender had a tendency to go a little overboard in her own way. She seemed to have a weakness for bright colors. Occasionally she'd just smother a hillside in different colored flowers, and Earth Mover would just shake his head. And if a particular creature pleased her, she'd just make uncounted numbers of them.

It usually fell on Earth Mover to fix things up when they got way out of hand. If it got too bad he usually made it very dry, or very wet, or very cold, or very hot for a while and then the trouble would just go away on its own.

Earth Mover and Earth Tender passed the centuries working together this way, and thousands of years passed. All in all, the island was getting more beautiful all the time. He would cut and shape the mountains. She would blanket them with life. They were both very happy. But, as is usually the case, just when things are going great, trouble comes.

It all had to do with the people. Oh yes, regular people were around even then. At first here weren't many of them. They spent a lot of time running around with pointed sticks yelling at each other. At night the people made fires and told scary stories to each other. They didn't know much about the work of Earth Mover and Earth Tender and didn't care. Frankly, this was because they were not too bright. Of Earth Mover's work they would say,

"What did we do to deserve this mess?" and

"The gods must be angry!"

Of Earth Tender's forests they would say,

"Cut them down! Don't worry, they grow back."

Or sometimes, when pressed about a nasty mistake they would say,

"Time heals all wounds."

People went about cutting and hunting down everything in sight. They made at least as much of a mess as Earth Mover himself. When a place was ruined they would simply move on to another part of the island.

As I said, they were pretty dumb. But Earth Tender had taken quite a liking to the little creatures. When Earth Mover wasn't around she'd make sure it was easier for people to get food and shelter. She thought it was cute the way they fell in love and cared for their young. Soon the little pests were everywhere. Instead of planting a sturdy stand of trees against a new mountain slope, she'd be watching her pets build even bigger villages.

images above: 2 shot from "Sid Meier's Civilization III" computer game

People under foot!
None of this was of serious concern to Earth Mover... until people started getting underfoot. One blissful summer evening he was just settling back to rest against a cliff. He planned to tell Earth Tender a particularly funny adventure he'd had while carving out a new sandy beach. Then it happened. A group of people had started a big fire right next to him. First he smelled the smoke. Next the smoke was in his eye. Confused, he roared and tried to roll away. In so doing he kicked out the fire and crushed several of the little creatures.

Earth Tender was furious. She called him a brute. Earth Mover felt terrible. To make amends, he tried to rebuild the fire for the survivors and only succeeded in burning down a large section of their village. Earth Tender didn't speak to him for a week. The little people were furious too. They had never been too happy with him getting in their way. Now they were calling him a wrathful fire god. As Earth Mover saw it, he wasn't a god... Just a guy trying to do his job.

To keep Earth Tender happy he tried to stay as far away from the people as possible. He walked far from their settlements to start his day's work. These hikes to distant places must have inspired him, for he did some of his most dramatic and breathtaking work in these remote parts of the island, especially along the high cliffs of the north shore.

But staying out of the way of people proved impossible. Earth Mover couldn't finish a new project before the people were underfoot again. They would make more fires, and wave their pointy sticks. Eventually, people began to occasionally sacrifice a pig, thinking this would make Earth Mover happy. He thought they were crazy.

image above: lava pours thru streets of SimCity3000 virtual realtiy

As their numbers grew, the people spread out across the island. This was a real chore for Earth Tender. Now she spent most her time trying to clean up after all the new people in places that were just about perfect until they arrived. Earth Mover and Earth Tender began to argue a lot. He said she wasn't getting her work done. She said he didn't care about anything but himself.

"I'm sure they will listen"
Finally, one night when Earth Mover was feeling tense and unhappy about the way things were going, Earth Tender asked,

"What's wrong with you? Are you upset? Tell me what you're feeling.”

He knew this might start an argument so for a moment he was silent. Then he said;

"It's those people of yours. They're underfoot all the time. They are making holy-hell of the places we made beautiful long ago. New work is getting almost impossible to do. Those people are even moving into unfinished areas. They seem willing to live anywhere, as if it didn't matter where they were. To get anything done now I'd have to flood or bury some of their overflowing villages."

When he finished he hunkered down, waiting for her angry words. But they didn't come. Now it was her turn to be silent. Then she turned to him and said;

"You're right. I've known for some time that they were spoiling their own nests. They even ruining things for other creatures. There are too many of them and they don't seem to know what they are doing. Sometimes I even think they may be stupid or something. They certainly don't seem so cute when there are so many of them."

"Okay! Let me turn the heat up on them for a while," he interrupted.

"Not yet!" she answered,

"Before we do anything rash, let me talk to them. I’ll explain to them they have to limit their activities, or else. If they won't listen to me then we'll just start all over again. And this time, if there are any people, we will make sure they don't spread around so much, make such a mess or ruin the fun for all the others."

Earth Mover was glad to hear this and drifted off to sleep, dreaming about digging out a huge red walled valley he'd been thinking about in his spare time. Earth Tender was glad too. She resolved to get up early the next morning to tell the little creatures about the new rules. As she drifted off she was sure they would listen.

image above: dawn over SimCity4 virtual realtiy

The Garden Island News Column Menu Listing of all "Island Breath" articles submitted to TGI
27 March 2008 - 8:30pm HST

TGI Article #26: Kauai Township Districts  A better way to manage our island may require charter amendment