One of my favorite places to visit is a tranquil lake next to Pingret Forest. When life gets overwhelmingly busy, I make a stop here to catch up on things that are dear to me, things that I can only understand when given enough of the right amount of peace and quiet. The naturally calming sound of water flowing through streams and falling down as sparkling waterfalls reminds my inner spirit to rest and recharge. However, the Universe didn’t see it fit this time around, because just when I was settling down, loud thundering footsteps suddenly startled me! I jumped up and looked around, trying to locate the offender of what was supposed to be my peaceful alone time. Peeking from behind a bunch of bamboo stalks, I saw – you won’t believe this – a familiar fluffy face that I could never ever forget in my life!
“Bamboo??” I whispered under my breath, stepping out from behind the plants and then self-confirming with another excitedly loud “BAMBOO!!!” The big panda turned around to look at me with his big kind face and immediately said “Hi Bamboo” like I taught him years ago (see “Say Hi Bamboo” adventure log)! He bounded over to me and gave me the largest, gentlest, fluffiest eggplant panda hug ever! I smiled and released a deep sigh as I hugged back my dear old friend.
“It’s so good to see you!” I giggled, scratching him behind his adorably fluffy ears. “You certainly got even bigger than I saw you last time!” Bamboo gave a grunt of approval and sniffed my face with his big nose. As I was holding him, I discovered that Bamboo had fresh looking scrapes and scratches on the left side of his cheek. It’s hardly noticeable without parting the thick fur in that area of his face. “You know Bamboo, you should be more careful. How did you get these injuries?” I asked of the great big eggplant panda as I leaned a little closer to get a better look.
Just then, another set of footsteps (still loud, but softer than Bamboo’s) came from behind us. Out of some dense bushes rolled out four more eggplant pandas – one teenager (about ¾ the size of Bamboo) and three tiny squishy toddlers! Since I didn’t want to scare them away, it took everything I had not to shriek and immediately go squeeze all of their cute faces! Bamboo got up and greeted them with a soft grunt. It was at this point I figured out that they were his children! Not a single elusive eggplant panda was ever discovered outside of Pingret Forest, but today there was an entire family of them! Imagine that, a bunch of Bamboos running around Pingret Forest! This new warm thought put a much-needed smile on my face. I still feel truly lucky that I’ve had this experience today.
Bamboo took his family swimming in the lake and motioned for me to follow along. Eggplant pandas are built to live on land; but with their strong hind legs, they are just as capable in water. I would consider myself a good/fast swimmer (I learned from Figaro), but the entire family definitely slowed down just so that I could keep up. We swam to a hidden cave behind a large patch of lily pads, where the entire family dined on some bright green plants called Mossy Almond. I ate some too and enjoyed the unique mildly sweet nutty flavor! After a scrumptious meal, Bamboo’s energetic family and I played some water tag and chased fish around the lake bed. The pandas were not carnivores, but thoroughly enjoyed a good fishy chase to work up an appetite before their next meal. They were so speedy – almost like they had little jet engines attached to their feet!
Bamboo’s teenage daughter seemed more interested in checking out the colorful rocks along the edge of the lake, while Bamboo himself lazily sunbathed on a nearby rock. He hugged the rock and laid as flat as can be, looking like a big pile of the fluffiest pillows you can imagine! I took the opportunity to pounce on top of his back and ruffle his hair. Wanting to enjoy the warm sun, he grunted in complaint and shook me off. This caused an unexpected chain reaction, because all the other pandas saw my action as fun and ran over to stack themselves on top of Bamboo too. Now, Bamboo was flatter than ever! The chunky panda looked at me with the funniest disapproving face, as if blaming me for his predicament. I just couldn’t help but roll on the ground in unapologetic laughing hysteria.
However, little did I know I was about to get a taste of my own medicine. The little pandas had already gotten off Bamboo and then pounced on top of me. Now I was the one looking like a flat pancake. Their fur was tickling my nose so bad that I couldn’t help but sneeze three times in a row. Bamboo walked over to where I laid stuck and looked at me sideways with his kind and smiling eyes. As if feeling sorry for me, he then helped pull me out of my own self-made panda trap. I sat up with appreciation and fixed my ruffled hair. Then suddenly, Bamboo’s calyx, fell off from the top of his head and landed on my lap. “Yikes!” I exclaimed.
I was alarmed and thought there was a problem, but Bamboo didn’t seem to be hurt by this. In fact, small sepals (leaf-like petals) were already growing in place of the old one. With his teeth, Bamboo gently picked up the fallen calyx from my hands and placed it on top of my head, as if wanting me to wear it like a hat. The texture was coarser on the outside while soft on the inside due to all the little velvety and very purple fur. Although it was slightly too big for me, the calyx somehow felt warm – though not warm as in temperature, but more like heart-warming. Amazingly, the hat grew another three more sepals while I wore it. I took it off to admire Bamboo’s beautiful gift in the sunlight. I loved it so much and hugged Bamboo’s happy face in gratitude.
The whole family gave me a last gigantic fluffy group hug before heading back into Pingret Forest. If you’ve never been hugged by four eggplant pandas before, then let me tell you, it feels like being sandwiched between warm fluffy but furry marshmallows! It was bitter-sweet when the day ended, and I had to wave goodbye everyone. With all my might, I fought to stop any tears from falling, as if it would prevent time itself from passing too fast and taking away my friends. I was only partly successful because although the tears never fell, the eggplant pandas had already disappeared back into Pingret Forest.