Monday, June 29, 2015

A Meeting of Roses

Way back in time, long before men and women walked the earth – say about 30 million years ago – there were two rose bushes. They were lush and healthy. They had rain and sun. They lived in healthy soil and had grown deep roots.

One day they spoke to each other. Now these roses didn’t have mouths or throats so they couldn’t speak like we do but they could communicate through their roots. And it was as their roots were spreading that they connected.

“Hello Rose-to-my-right!” greeted the Left rose.

“Good morning Rose-to-my-left! My apologies if my roots bumped into yours.” replied the Right rose.

“Oh not at all. I am very happy to meet you” returned the Left rose.

“How do you like this neighbourhood?” inquired Right rose.

“Well it’s just fine I think. I never thought about it before. Why do you ask?” answered Left rose.

“One of my rose hips blew close to the river and reported back to me that although the scenery is lovely, it could get very windy there.”

(Rose hips are the fruit that grow after flower dies. They become orange or red and are full of seeds. The birds carry them away, eat them and when the seeds pass through their stomachs, some settle in the soil, and grow into rose bushes too.)

The left rose being sympathetic said “How difficult for her. I am quite content here – we have shade when the sun gets too hot and shelter in the wind and rain from the tall trees. We are lucky to be here”.

“Yes I am grateful for all these things, but we are so dependent on the weather. If the sun and rain don’t return in the right order there is nothing we can do about it. We could shrivel up and die”, sighed Right rose.

“True. True.” agreed Left rose.

“Wouldn’t it be good if we grew wings and could fly to wherever the birds go? Or could run to different places like mice?” asked Right rose.

“No not really” said Left rose. “Because if we moved about we would become birds or mice, and how would the other creatures find our flowers for the nectar and pollen? How would they find rose hips?”

“Ah I never thought of that.”

“Where would the ants find seeds and dried leaves if they were not tucked in beneath our branches hiding in the soil? And how would the worms hide from birds as they scavenge around the top of the earth” Left rose continued, unable to stop herself.

“Okay. I get it now” Right rose chimed, feeling a little embarrassed that she hadn’t thought of these things before, adding “and how would our fragile leaves survive if we ran around the forest scraping against other plants?” This was to assure her neighbour that she fully understood.

“Of course – we would not survive if our leaves got damaged”, said Left rose.

Having regained her confidence in observation, Right rose added “and then there are all these different plants around us, feeding different birds and insects who might not like rose hips. It’s amazing that we all offer different gifts isn’t it?”

“Not to mention how pretty we all look together, although we roses are the most beautiful.” bragged Left rose.

“And we won’t tell anyone about that”, advised Right rose. “We’ll let it speak for itself.”

Then a little voice from a few feet back announced. “I don’t agree – I think we are just as beautiful” said the wild ginger.

“So are we” chimed the pink mountain heather.

“What about us?” asked the salmonberry.

“Oops, I think others were listening to our conversation”, said Right rose humbly.

Later that day the flowers realized that each one was unique and each one had a particular purpose, just as each child has a unique purpose and each adult a particular beauty, and together we make a blooming meadow.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hey You! You!

Once upon a time there was a small village nestled in the country called Home.

This village was called Home because the villagers knew of no other place outside of that. Everyone there had been born there. Attended school, got married, had their own children and worked there.

They knew the names of the minister, the mayor, the plumber, the dress maker, the doctor, even the names of all the cows in the field and chickens in the barn.

They gossiped about who would marry whom and how many children they would have. 

They knew the names of everyone’s grandfather, grandmother, aunts and uncles.

So the people of the village called Home were friendly.  They were experts on everyone else’s business, willing to give advice even when it wasn’t asked for. 

And most importantly everyone was happy.  That is, until, one day a stranger came.  The stranger bought the sheep farm just beyond the edge of the village and would stroll through, followed by his sheep out to the hilly moors. At the end of the day he would stroll back home to his farm happy as you like, smiling and waving at all the other villagers, patting their dogs and children.

After a few weeks, someone noticed they had never seen him at church. After all everyone wanted to go to church on Sunday, to sing the jolly hymns and listen to the preacher. This was mainly because, after church, they all went to the local café for hot chocolate and egg sandwiches. It was THE social event of the week. They exchanged news, events and argued about the weather and how much rain could be expected in the next week.

But the stranger never came. So the people knew nothing about him, not even his name.

Later during the week someone shouted to the stranger “Hey you! You! What’s your name?” The stranger waved and carried on his way. Soon other villagers joined in. “Hey you! Who are you? Where do you come from? But the stranger simply smiled and carried on.   

This began to irritate some of the villagers. They were puzzled and disturbed.  “He is not like us” they would say. “He doesn’t belong here”.

One day an irate farmer called out “Hey you – why don’t you attend church on a Sunday? You are not welcome to stay in this village if you are not friendly.”

The stranger walked over to where the farmer stood, followed by all his sheep,  and said “I don’t want to go to church, but you are welcome, all of you, to come to my farm on Saturday morning. I will make hot chocolate and egg sandwiches and we can get to know each other.”

“Well what is your name?” asked the farmer.

“My name is Bartholomew Noklebok  Melfuddin and I know that is a  difficult name to remember so why don’t you just call me You-You like you have been.

So the following Saturday morning the whole village walked over to You-You’s place. They sang songs, told stories, drank hot chocolate and ate egg sandwiches.  They had such a good time they went every Saturday morning  and on Sunday morning they went to church as they had always done.

Eventually the strangers home became affectionately known as it the You-You Church.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What Do You Look Like Inside?

Do you ever wonder what you look like inside?

You might look like one of these people on the outside

but who can see what you look like on the inside?

 Do you feel your inside is the same as your outside 
or is it different?

Are you the same person on the inside as you are
on the outside?

When you look like this on the outside

Do you sometimes feel like this?

I know there are times when I think I am happy
because I look happy on the outside,
but on the inside I feel sad.

And if I am honest with myself, I admit
I am hiding my sadness because of fear.
I fear no-one will love me if I let my sadness show.

And I learned after many years that if I hide
what I am feeling,
this can happen…

And because I want to be loved,
then this can happen soon after

When all I want – is to look like this?

And feel like this?

And after many, many, many, many years,
it occurred to me that there is a lot going on inside me,
and probably everyone else.

There are as many insides
as there are outsides in this world.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Feeding Big Man (not for children)

Once upon a time, there was a village near the river
like other villages, but in this village was a man - taller
than everyone else. He was jolly and bright, an optimist who
could build huts, plough fields, catch lots of  fish too.

With each passing day the man grew more confident
as villagers grew more adoring and complacent
forgetting their skills they focused on worship
investing their hopes, their eyes looking up.

So in awe of big man they planned how and when
to feed, wash and clothe him, they elected chairmen
their mandate to instruct the village of their duty
laws were established to keep him strong and beefy.

Soon their man got so big he couldn't leave his house
stuck behind his door, fearful chairmen marched like grouse
up and down the streets in a solemn search for
answers now that tradesmen were retired, poor

keeping big man in style and manner to which
he'd become accustomed, his appetite large and rich
too big for his humble home, he demanded more
– a castle or a mansion, while the villagers bore

the cost with their labour, health, and their virgin
daughters, crushed under weight of his lust, his sin
but what could they do? It was tradition and might
until a child crept with courage to the castle late at night

to speak with the big man, to plead and to show him
how the village was so poor, so weary, their lives so grim
her last feint hope for reason and compassion
and he wept, overcome with guilt he thanked the maiden

promised to create a village based on fairness, equality
and when the girl ran home to tell her kin they were happy
but the chairmen were outraged and charged that girl
with treason, called her wicked, wanton and evil

to go above her station, above their counsel, to enter
the sacred castle of the big man, so they banished her
offering instead to save the village, to bring them wealth
by invading their neighbours with arrows, with stealth.

Forgetting their hunger they painted their faces
thumping their chests they mounted wild horses
charging the commons, the forests, the rivers
killing their innocent neighbourly sleepers

no blood was enough to fill up this story
no more was the big man the object of glory
filled with ambition the warriors planned
campaigns everywhere, let peace be damned

big man and chairmen were sacked and replaced
with new gods their history was censored, erased
forgetting their skills as fishers and builders
as lovers and fathers, as farmers and brothers

and so dear reader don't look for an ending
this tale of a village breaking and bending
there is never an end to the battles and wars
as long as the mind gets stuck on the scores

of winners and losers and what is worth saving.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Socrates the Hummingbird


Stripe-tailed hummingbird by Dirk van der Made
This is a tale about a family of hummingbirds here on Vancouver Island.  

Now these hummingbirds gather to feed on the Red-Flowering Current bush. There are many of these bushes to feed on and they are large too – as tall as 7 feet and just as wide.   

In the spring this bush produces thousands of tiny flowers, and the hummingbirds feed on nectar deep inside each flower with their skinny long tongues.

Inside each flower are stamens and on the stamens there is  a fine dusty powder called pollen. As the birds feed on the nectar the pollen falls on their brow and is deposited on the other flowers they visit.  

This fertilizes the flowers and eventually they become berries. Berries are food for larger birds and mammals. Inside the berries are seeds which pass through the stomach of  these creatures and fall somewhere on the earth where the rain, wind, and fallen leaves fertilize the seeds as they lay dormant until the next spring.

The seed, in time, becomes a seedling and the seedling grows into another Red-Flowered Current bush, producing more food for the hummingbirds.  

Now the hummingbird family in this story didn’t know all this. They believed the current bush was sacred, and that they had a duty to feed from the flowers of all the current bushes in their territory. 

The trouble came when there were so many hummingbirds coming for the flowers they had to line up and wait their turn. As they waited their wings would be flapping away at 80 times per second, which is 4,800 times a minute.  You can imagine how exhausting that would be, and how grumpy they would get if some other bird came and pushed in.  Although they were family it was hard not to fight in times such as these.

Then one day they noticed a stranger, a hummingbird that looked a little different. This bird would fly right by and not get in line. They wondered where he was going.  He looked well fed, not starving at all.  With each day they became more  and more curious. Why was this stranger not anxious or grumpy? Why did he look so content?

One day they decided they would call him over and ask him. “Hey Stranger” they chirped “how come you never eat at the current bush yet you look so well fed?”

“Because there are other flowers to feed from – and the current bush is so busy I would have to line up”.

“Other flowers? Other flowers! Besides the current bush? That’s not right!”

“We have a solemn duty to get our nectar from the current bush. It was good enough for our fathers and good enough for our mothers, and it’s good enough for us.” replied one of the birds.

“But why is it your duty to only feed at the current bush?” asked Stranger.

“I don’t know why” answered Ms. Elder “Something inside tells me it’s the right thing to do”.

“How do you know if other flowers are good for you?” asked Mr. Elder. “What if they are poisonous?”

“Look” said Stranger “I will show you where the other flowers are that you can feed from.  Follow me.” 

So a small delegation of elders followed the stranger. He took them to a field where different flowers grew in different shapes and colours – pink, purple, orange, red – and they looked stunning. There he pointed out the ones he found most tasty.

Not all were blooming at the same time – hummingbirds find nectar in Asters, Blue-Eyed Mary’s, Kinnikinnick, Nodding Onion, Red Columbine and Trumpet Honeysuckle, throughout the summer and fall they live on the island.

“They look pretty but I don’t know if I want to stick my tongue in them” confessed Mr. Elder.

So the Stranger flew to each of those plants that had blooms and drank from them, then flew back to where the elders were perching.

“Look” he boasted “I am still alive, I am well, I am fed.”

So Mr. Elder went to the flowers that Stranger had visited and tried the nectar.  “Hmm” he remarked “they have different flavours, possibly an acquired taste … but yes – they are good.” Then all the other members of the delegation tried the flowers, and thanked Stranger for helping them.

Upon returning to their family they concluded they were entering a new age where there was choice – yes the elders were right to feed at the current bush – to be faithful to the ones who had always fed them, and so was Stranger right to find new flowers, new tastes, new vistas, to feed from. 

The age of the epicurean, le gastronome, the gourmet had arrived and hummingbirds would no longer have to line up to feed on the current bush all the time. Of course they  still fed there, but now they had more choice.

They thanked the stranger, invited him to join the family, where he was no longer a stranger. They named him Socrates.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Princess Self Esteem

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there lived a Princess whose name was Essie. It was said this princess was very beautiful.  The news of her beauty spread far and wide across neighbouring kingdoms. 

Rumours like “Her beauty radiates outward”, “anyone who gazes on her face will fall in love immediately”, “she casts a spell on all who meet her” – spread out beyond the hills and valleys, and became the subject of conversation everywhere.

A few kingdoms over was a Prince who was really intrigued with these rumours, and he was looking for a princess bride. (You knew this was coming right?) Every time he heard about her beauty he imagined big brown eyes with long eyelashes, a tiny button nose, and full soft red lips.  The more he heard the bigger her eyes became, the smaller her nose and the fuller her lips.  Eventually he was tortured by these images and decided he had to meet this princess.

So he travelled days and nights without rest, up the hills, through the valleys, across the rivers to her castle.  He knocked on the door and demanded to see the king.  By this time he looked pretty dishevelled but was so exhausted he didn’t even think of how he looked.

“I am the King!” said the man who opened the door. The prince thought “Oh he must be a Unitarian”.  

At first the King thought the Prince looked a mess and wasn’t sure whether he wanted his daughter to meet him, but as he heard his story of the rumours and his torment, he agreed to let him meet her.  He asked his Page to call on the Princess to come to the chamber and bid the Prince to sit.

A few minutes later the Princess entered with a tray of scones and tea cups.  The Prince looked crestfallen.  Her appearance was quite ordinary, nothing like the rumours of her beauty at all.  Her eyes were like anyone’s eyes, her nose was the size of anyone’s nose, and her lips were no different from anyone else.

The Princess went up to the Prince and shook his hand.  “I’m so pleased to meet you” she said.  She gazed into his face and asked “what can I do for you”?

The Prince backed away and mentioned all the rumours of her beauty and how he came to seek her hand in marriage, but finds her actual looks don’t measure up to the rumours, and in fact, he is quite disappointed.

“Well that’s okay” she said “because marrying you wasn’t in my life plan. Not because there is anything wrong with you, but simply I hadn’t met you before and didn’t even know you existed. But before you leave please do stay and have a nice up of tea and fresh baked scones with clotted cream and jam – these will pick you up, no end.”

At this the King said “My dear boy please do stay longer and rest for a night before you take your journey back – I couldn’t bear to send you out again without some sustenance.”

It was this gesture that brought the Prince to his senses. How rude he had been to the Princess and how he had insulted the King. And then he looked down at his costume and realized what a mess he looked and how could anyone think he would be suitable for a princess. Humbly the Prince apologized.

The King replied that no offence was taken – he and his daughter were quite moved by his determination.

Over tea, the Prince asked the King why he called his daughter such an unusual name. The King said she was named Essie – short for Self Esteem – because it was their greatest wish that she learn what Self Esteem is, and what it isn’t.

“Yes” said the Princess.  “I have learned that self esteem is not what others think of you, and it is not about superiority or how many friends you have. Self esteem comes from being honest with yourself, and how you treat others.”  She paused and added “yes that’s it really – how you treat others is a mirror into how you feel about yourself.”

“Oh!” said the Prince.  Although he didn’t really understand it fully, he was too tired and thirsty to ask any more questions, and the scones really were delicious.