The Fertile Seed of Grace, a fable
The Fertile Seed of Grace, a fable
[composed by Simon Williams, Winter 2010]
This story begins like a seed… where will it land? How long will it take to germinate and grow? What rain and sun will touch it and shape it? What will it become?
One day, long ago, a young man sat on a rock on a hillside full of rocks. He had sat on these rocks for most of his life. He had thrown them, kicked them, tripped over them, scratched letters and shapes into them. And they were still as dull and unresponsive as they had always been. As the young man sat, he ate a fruit. Many people of that time and place would have found this fruit delightful to taste but to the young man it was bitter and lifeless. Being accustomed to these qualities he took one bite after another but began to think of the perfect fruit he might find in another place. Thoughtlessly he spat out his final mouthful, placed his hands on his knees and rose to follow the sun.
The young man wandered for a year and the places he came across were more often than not full of rocks very similar to the place from which he had come. The people he met reminded him of home. They might have been different but in his relations with them he was made to feel the same way he had always felt. And even the fruit of their generosity only filled his empty soul with the bitterness he knew too well. Then he had an accident and was forced to return to his homeplace once again.
As the young, crippled man sat on the hillside muttering vaguely to himself, he heard a strange, small and muffled voice. He shifted his backside and found he had been sitting on a seedling. Its bent and crumpled form seemed to be commiserating with his woes. This he thought was rather ridiculous, “I may be hopeless, but you are worse than me. Look! You are truly stuck. You can not even hobble!” And he pulled himself up and willed his feet to take him far, far away.
The man travelled long and far. He walked across ground that gave more under his stumbling feet, ground that ran a different colour in the rain, ground that gave a new ring to his awkward step. At first the people he met just made him feel like someone different, to them. After time, he gradually began to feel like someone different to himself. As often as not he even enjoyed the company of others and was appreciative of their food and customs. But without fail he woke each day with the same bitter taste in his throat that puckered his soul and drove him relentlessly on.
As the man grew older, the bitterness he felt inside reflected ever stronger in the places around him. He came across places like giant prisms where every person appeared identical to the next. The fruit on their trees hung like so many bleak stars, trees standing row after row, dotting hillside after hillside. He developed an odd preference for this sort of fruit. Its blandness held the perculiar quality of allowing him to forget the bitterness of dissapointment he constantly felt in himself and met everywhere he went.
One day as he leaned heavily at the bench of a watering house he heard a story being told of a most unusual fruit. It seemed everyone knew part of the story. “Its taste is reminiscent of precious stones…” “If you hold it to your ear you can hear ancient whisperings…” “It was planted from an angry resentment that held within it the fertile seed of grace…” “When you eat it…” The man heard more stories in other places he stopped at. “No such thing exists,” he enlightened the naïve tellers with, in the dwindling way only a bitter old man can. “No such jewel of life exists and I will prove it to you.” He knew it was fanciful but he began to follow the strange directions in these stories. They led him to more places and more stories. “No such thing…” he often repeated to himself, in time with his jilted gait.
Many more years of hobbling and kicking stones wore the old man to the bone. He didn’t talk much anymore. He didn’t really know how to listen to other people and the rattle of his own thoughts had driven him deep inside. He didn’t eat much but he could taste the nuances in the air he breathed as he trudged through nameless hillsides. Occasionally the dim sound of children’s laughter scratched his lungs and made him cough. The perennial and unasked-for dewpdrops kept his soul alive despite his persistent movement of escape.
When he could physically move no more, the old man heaved down onto a rock at the base of a mighty gnarled tree. He thoughtlessly picked up something the size of a small rock. It was slightly knobbly but fitted well between the palms of his hands and its skin felt like polished wood. It smelled faintly of roses and old memories and when he bit hesitantly into it, its mellow, savoury taste held him like the comfortable gravity of a mother’s arms. With each bite he understood that this fruit held many stories, many rains, many suns, many moons. He leant his wizened body back and strained his neck to catch the magnificence of contorted limbs above him. A breeze gently rustled the autumn-coloured leaves. This was a tree whose strong trunk still held freedom in its flowing sap, when so much in the world around was flacid and stagnant. This man had travelled far through time and place yet this was the first time he had felt the deep freedom of restful contentment. The bitterness of life still lingered in his mouth, mixed with tastes and desires more rich and varied than he could possibly describe.
…This story ends like a tree, now grown large and complex … a familiar mystery inspiring stillness and movement in the same breath…