As Whitby Valentine Hedgehog ambles along the overgrown trail, he starts thinking about how many times he’s made this trip into town and back: every day, year after year, since he could walk. He doesn’t scurry along as he did when he was just a hoglet; he doesn’t even move along briskly. No, these days, it is definitely a meander, and he is just fine with that.
As he heads into his twilight years, Whitby may have less might and dexterity but at least the universe gifts him with a growing reserve of wisdom and patience to offset. His eyesight is fading, too - a more difficult adjustment - but Whitby figures it is simply an opportunity to see with the heart rather than the eyes alone. True, he now listens better and speaks more thoughtfully, and even though he had a beautiful spirit before, he now connects with others more deeply and wholly. As Whitby rounds the final curve of the brae, gingerly treading up four low, wide stairs before reaching his house, he steps squarely on a fire ant hill. Totally unintentional, of course; his eyes being dim, he couldn’t see. But those ants, protecting their formicary, alert Whitby of his misstep by nipping at his legs straight up to the knees. Unbeknownst to him, James Willoughby Red Squirrel, a stained-glass artist by trade, had been perched in a nearby tree and saw the entire debacle. As Whitby bumbled home to soak the sting away in an herbal bath, James returned to his studio, inspired to help. Being ever resourceful, he found some old pop bottles and, from their bases, was able to chisel two thick magnifying lenses just the right size. He fitted them into makeshift wire frames, and they fit perfectly.
Whitby Valentine loves his new spectacles and wears them proudly; he is eternally grateful. So are the fire ants. But, from time to time, he’ll leave them on his console table as he heads out just to remember what it means to really see.