The sea lion was not entirely alone in those parts. For it was there he met the tortoise. Now this tortoise was an ancient creature, so weathered by his life in the barren lands that at first, the sea lion mistook him for a rock. He told the tortoise of his plight, hoping that this wise one might be able to help him.
"Perhaps," the tortoise mused, "this is the sea. "
His eyes appeared to be shut against the bright sun, but he was watching the sea lion very closely. The sea lion swept his flippers once against his side, gliding to the end of the water hole and back.
" I don't know, " he said. "It isn't very deep."
"Somehow, I thought the sea would be broader, deeper. At least, I hoped so."
"You must learn to be happy here," the tortoise told one day. "For it is unlikely you shall ever find this sea of yours." Deep in his old and shriveled heart, the tortoise envied the sea lion and his sea.
"But I belong to the sea. We are made for each other."
"Perhaps. But you have been gone so long now, the sea has probably forgotten you."
This thought had never occurred to the sea lion. But it was true, he had been gone for a long, long time.
"If this is not my home, how can I ever feel at home here?" the sea lion asked.
"You will, in time." The tortoise appeared to be squinting, his eyes a thin slit.
"I have seen the sea, and it is no better than what you have found here."
"You have seen the sea! "
"Yes. Come closer," whispered the tortoise, "and I will tell you a secret. I am not a tortoise. I am a sea turtle. But I left the sea on my own accord, many years ago, in search of better things. If you stay with me, I will tell you stories of my adventures. "
The stories of the ancient tortoise were enchanting and soon cast their spell upon the sea lion. As weeks passed into months, his memory of the sea faded.
"The desert," whispered the tortoise, "is all that is, or was, or ever will be."
When the sun grew fierce and burned his skin, the sea lion would hide in the shade of the tree, listening to the tales woven by the tortoise. When the dry winds cracked his flippers and filled his eyes with dust, the sea lion would retreat to the water hole. And so the sea lion remained, living his days between water hole and tree. The sea no longer filled his dreams.