Friday, June 16, 2017

June 16, 2017 - Home, Sweet Home

The desire for home is deep-seated within each of us.  There’s not one of us who would say that he does not hold a special place in his heart for home, but there are many who do not have a “home” anymore.  Perhaps they never had it, or perhaps they have been away for so very long that they cannot remember it.  The desire is still there, though—the longing, the searching, the secret tears.  But for many, the satisfaction is always just out of reach.

Home, sweet home.

There’s nothing worse than sitting in your own home and feeling homesick.  This can happen if you have forgotten what “home” truly is.  While a home is the four walls around you, it is also much, much more.  Four walls can surround anything from a home, to a school, to a prison, etc.  No, home is not just four walls, although it does include them.

Home is a “feeling.”  Home is where you feel safe, where you feel comfortable, where you feel wanted.  Home is where you can set down the outer mask and be yourself and just breathe.  Home is flavored with your unique personality.  Home is where you don’t worry about judgment, and you don’t have to try to fit in.  It’s where you belong, where you can relax, where you can stop pretending for five minutes.  Home is where you keep your memories, where the past still lingers in corners and old chest drawers.  Most importantly, though, home is where you simply live—not survive, but live.

And yet so many people these days are bereft of home.  They wander around without an anchor, floating this way and that.  You can see it in their eyes.  Something is missing.  You can see it in their actions.  They are always searching for the next thing to do, the next place to go, the next item to buy because maybe, just maybe, they think they might find a moment’s comfort.  And perhaps they do—just a moment.  Then the eternal search begins again.  Watch them.  Watch their eyes.

But how is this possible?  How can so many people be without a home?  Oh, they might have wonderful houses or apartments to go to after work.  Perhaps they are large and lavishly furnished, or perhaps at the very least they are functional, but they are not “home.”  These houses and apartments are places where they sometimes sleep and sit if they have nothing else to do.  But they are not home.  At best, they are four walls that provide temporary privacy.

How did it happen?  Bit by bit, and yes, it was done purposely.  I could get into a million reasons why, one of which is that people without a firm foundation, without that solid anchor we call “home,” have nothing worth fighting for, worth living for, or worth preserving for the next generation.  As such, they’re easy to manipulate and don’t give much trouble when demands are made, no matter how outrageous, and of course, they’re great consumers.

And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Back to “home.”  You’ll recall the story of Hansel and Gretel?  They were led into the forest to die by their own father and mother (later versions say father and stepmother) who could not afford to care for them anymore.  But the children learned of the plan and Hansel left a trail of pebbles as they walked into the forest, which they then followed back home.  A second time they were led into the forest by their parents.  This time Hansel only had bread, so he left a trail of breadcrumbs, which were quickly eaten by birds.

Hansel and Gretel wandered in misery and hunger for a long time until they found a house made of delicious confections, which they began to eat.  It belonged to a witch who lured them inside with promises, imprisoned Hansel, and enslaved Gretel.  The witch’s goal was to eat them both, but they outsmarted her.  Gretel pushed her into the hot oven meant for the children, and they burned the witch.  Then they escaped with the witch’s jewels and went back home to learn their mother had died and their father had bitterly lamented the loss of his children.  They lived happily ever after with the witch’s wealth.

You know, at some point we all leave our parents’ home and strike out on our own.  It’s a natural and normal thing to do.  Most of us miss our homes dearly, and some of us then spend a good amount of time building our own version of home.  We do this for ourselves and our own children or children-to-be.  At least, that’s what people used to do.  Now it seems like many people find an apartment or house, but they do not build a home.  There’s a big difference.

And why is that?  Some may not have had a strong version of “home” with their parents.  Some may have been too busy with their electronics to look up and identify what home actually is in the first place.  Some may have been caught up in consumerism along with their parents.  There are many reasons why many people walk around today without a home, yet still they long for that feeling of home, just as everyone does.

Were you clever enough to leave a trail of pebbles so you could find your way back home?  If so, you’re among the lucky.  It means you didn’t burn all of your bridges.  It means you recognize the value of home—something which cannot be bought at any price.  It means you have come to a point in your life where you choose order over chaos.  Good for you.  Follow those pebbles home.  Now.

But what if all you had was breadcrumbs, like Hansel had the second time they went into the forest, and the birds have long since eaten them?  How will you get back home then?  You have no trail to follow, and if you keep going further into the woods, you will definitely find that house made of confection (if you haven’t already).  Do you think you’ll be lucky enough to shove the witch into the oven, or do you think that you might end up in the oven yourself?  I’ll give you a hint:  Most people end up in the oven.

No.  You’ve got to go back home, and if there’s no trail, then you’ve got to re-create home step by step.

First thing’s first:  STOP whatever you are doing.  Do not keep going into the darkness or you will surely find the witch.  Rest assured she knows you’re there and she’s waiting for you.  Don’t even give her half a chance to enslave you, because she’ll take it.  Stop where you are now, sit down, and breathe.  Don’t bother blaming anyone for your predicament, including yourself.  If this is where you are—without a home—this is where you are.  Deal with the here and now.

Next, understand what home is.  It is everything I said above and more:  safety, comfort, belonging, nonjudgment, relaxation, memories, etc.  But understand this:  You don’t just create it on a whim.  You build it, and building it takes work.  But what about the relaxation, you ask?  Yes, that comes after the work, which you must do daily.

Are you waking up in a place that is cluttered and dusty and dirty, with old laundry lying about and filthy dishes in the sink?  If so, you are waking up in a pad where you crashed the night before.  That might be okay temporarily for a college student, but it’s certainly not a home.  That’s not a place where precious memories are created and stored.  That’s not a place from which you draw strength.  That’s a place you want to get away from as soon as possible.

Do you want some pebbles to follow instead of some breadcrumbs?  Here are a few:

1.  Clean everything up.  Everything.  And keep it clean.  Every day, you must clean a little.  Every week, you must clean a lot.

2.  Throw out or give away anything you haven’t used in a year.  Get rid of the clutter in your surroundings, and you miraculously unclutter your mind in the process.

3.  Stock your clean cupboards and clean fridge with wholesome foods, and then cook them and eat them.  And share them.

4.  Fix and repair the small things that are broken, the squeaky door hinge, the hole in the curtain, the blown out lightbulb, etc.

5.  Get the laundry off the floor, wash it, dry it, and put it away.

6.  Get rid of the cobwebs.

7.  Turn off the TV, shut down the computer, and put your phone away every day for at least a couple of hours.

8.  Add beauty and ambience, small decorations and things that make you smile.  Secondhand items are perfectly fine and often desirable.

9.  Add romance.  Yes—romance.  Make things with your own hands, no matter how humble, and enhance your surroundings with what you have made yourself.

None of this has to cost very much money at all.  In fact, it often costs a lot more money to be a slob.  Takeout food and takeout coffee can add up fast.

“Home” doesn’t just occur by accident.  It’s not something you stumble on to incidentally.  It’s something you make and something you continually maintain.  Home means work.  That’s right.  Yes, there’s relaxation, too, but you have to earn that.  You don’t get it until you work for it.  Home means responsibility and daily chores.  It just does.  If you don’t do these things, you lose your “home.”

No one wants memories full of dirt, clutter, disarray, and confusion.  You can’t sustain yourself through life’s difficulties—the witch who wants to destroy you—on a head full of junk.  You can’t survive and thrive on laziness and petulant, entitled boredom.  Even if you have a ton of money and you can afford to pay for someone else to make your living quarters clean and respectable, the witch will get you in the end because you have a head full of money instead of a heart full of memories, and you’re still lost in the forest—even if your shoes are nice.

The only way to get those memories is to work for them, to strive for them, to make terrible mistakes sometimes and laugh at yourself and keep going.  The only way to build a home and make memories and have that feeling of belonging is to do it step by step.  You earn it, and when you earn it you know it’s yours and no one can take it away from you.

Then you will know “Home, Sweet Home” in your heart:  Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.  (John Howard Payne)

That’s what home is.  Then you have the right to say:  This is me.  This is mine.  This is my territory, no matter how humble.  I built this.  I made this.  I strived for this.  I worked so hard and I’m so proud of myself.  This is where I can be myself.  I earned this place.  I earned each one of these precious memories that make me smile so much.  This is where I create peace.  This is where I share beauty.  This is where I make order out of chaos.  This is where I stand.

Friday, June 9, 2017

June 9, 2017 - Forget-Me-Not!

The tiny forget-me-not with the brilliant yellow or white star at its center makes an appearance now for a few weeks in spring.  They are a precious few weeks that are gone in the blink of an eye, taking the forget-me-nots with them as if they were never there at all.  Then you become so busy with the summer work that you all but forget about them.  Almost.

The tiny forget-me-not, Myosotis arvensis.

Yet every spring in the most unlikely places, you will find the forget-me-not.  She never takes center stage anywhere but instead prefers a small hidden spot on the sidelines or far in the back of the garden.  You could almost miss her if you weren’t paying attention, but there she is, waving on the breeze in the background, saying, “Don’t forget about me!”

The other plants ignore her, but she doesn’t care because she isn’t growing for the other plants.  She’s growing for you.  She moves from spot to spot as the years pass by, rarely ever blooming in the same place again because she doesn’t want you to grow accustomed to her place and then forget about her.  “Do you remember how much we loved each other?” she asks.  And you smile because you do remember.  You remember the little stars.

She doesn’t have the regal stateliness of the rose.  She hasn’t the height of the iris or the brilliant splash of the tulip.  She doesn’t have the crazy abandonment of the daisy or the breathtaking beauty of the rhododendron.  She is small and tiny and powder-blue, and she looks almost as though she might float away on the slightest breeze, like so many dandelion wishes.

Then she fades, and one day you go out to the garden and she’s gone.  Again.  No one asks you anymore if you remember the secret you carry in your heart.  Now the summer work comes on in earnest, and you work and toil from sunup to sundown.  The days are hot and the nights are humid and you are tired of the pace.  Harvest season hasn’t even arrived yet, but you find yourself longing for the deep slumber of winter.

You could stay there forever, you think, in the cold and snow.  Almost.  Until she reminds you again, brilliant and blue and laughing on the wind.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

June 3, 2017 - The Schedule

Everything is happening exactly on schedule, exactly as planned.  A happy walk through the woods shows me that things are just as they should be.  I knew these lady slippers would be appearing soon because they were on the schedule, and sure enough, here they are.  They were once an abundant flower but are now becoming rare.  In some states, it is even illegal to pick them.  I’m glad they’re still on the schedule.

The elusive lady slippers.

And the greenery!  Yes, that is right on schedule, too.  For so very long everything was frozen and the world was locked in rock-hard ice and covered with a deep layer of snow.  Of course, that was on the schedule, so it had to happen, but then the schedule changed as it always does.  Now it’s on to greenery and flowers and insects.  Yes, many insects.  The black flies always manage to find their way into a large chunk of the spring schedule.  Persistent little fellows.

The spring runoff from all the rain and melting snow was abundantly on the schedule this year and provided an ideal breeding ground for the Maine state bird, also known as the mosquito.  Ahhh, I couldn’t resist saying that!  But it’s true.  The swampy areas are just as they should be this time of year, and we are not disappointed by what they bring us—irritated, perhaps, but not disappointed.

The animals are right on schedule too, and everything is going off like clockwork (which, of course, it is clockwork).  There are babies everywhere I look.  Eggshells litter the forest floor, tossed out of the nest by ever-clean mama who cares for her new little birds.  The fawns are being born now, and I saw a family of five deer in a thicket.  They were afraid of me, and when I told them not to worry, they ran away.

I saw a tiny baby squirrel fall out of a very high branch in a tree.  Miraculously, he was okay, just a little startled and confused.  Within 15 seconds his mother came bounding down the tree, scooped him up, and carried him back up to their little home.  She probably didn’t have to spank him because he'd already gotten his punishment for not listening about being careful on the branch.  I think I heard her say, “Now do you see what I’m saying to you, young man??”  He squeaked weakly back at her.  Squirrels squeak a lot.

All of the mothers are busy being good mothers, and they’re doing everything right on schedule, as they always do.  They have a lot of work to do, so much work!  They keep their nests clean and tidy so that the babies stay healthy.  They forage for a lot of food, and they know which kind of food to bring if a baby isn’t feeling well.  They chop the food up finely for the little ones and teach them how to eat.  They teach them how to walk and play and jump and run.  They teach them how to find their own food and build their own nests so that they will be good parents too, when the schedule calls for it.

They never complain about the work—ever.  They never shirk their duties.  They never “blow off” their responsibilities.  They never ignore their babies.  They never protest.  They never become angry, unless you are foolish enough to play too far out on a branch and you fall flat on your behind.  But even then it doesn’t last long, and you certainly deserve a sore bottom in that case.  They are ever vigilant and always careful.  They make mistakes, of course, but they fix them right away.  And they are always on guard.

Until very recently, all humans were like this, too.  Many still are, of course, but a great many more seem to have forgotten.  Somehow they lost the schedule, and then they forgot all about it.  Or it could be that some became petulant with the schedule and decided that they would no longer follow it.  They don’t know that the schedule rolls on ever forward and whether they like it or not, whether they acknowledge it or not, they will reap what they sow.  That is the wonderful thing about the schedule.  Unless, of course, you sow nothing.

There are a great many people walking around today sowing nothing.  They are not learning and growing.  They are not preparing for the future.  They are not tending to and teaching their young.  They live in squalor and chaos.  They have chosen to forsake the very thing that guarantees them comfort, joy, and a life lived in peace and love.  What an odd bunch of forest creatures has man become.

But the schedule still rolls on, keeping time to the exact second.  We cannot see its inner mechanisms and we cannot know exactly which day a certain thing will occur, but we can feel it.  We can know it in our bones.  We can do what we are supposed to do because that will bring the abundance of the schedule.  We can do the busy work, the tedious work, the thankless work, the boring work.  We can do all of this because it is on the schedule, and whether we like it or not, it is important to do it.  In fact, it is perilous not to do it.

Put your house in order.  Remove all clutter and garbage.  Clean all floors and surfaces.  Wash all laundry.  Have a place for everything and everything in its place—everything.  Let your kitchens and bathrooms gleam brightly from your hard work so that you and your family may stay clean and healthy and productive.  Do not complain.  Do not shirk your duties.  Do no task with resentment, but instead realize the necessity for every task, no matter how menial.

We must do these things.  We are on a schedule, and if we do not keep the schedule and do not sow when we are supposed to sow (which we cannot do if everything is in chaos), then we will not reap what could and should be ours.  We must embrace the schedule and teach it to our children.  Over and over, we must give them the rhythm of life so that the schedule grows into their bones again, as it used to do for all humans.  Everything happens in its season, and the schedule waits for no one.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May 24, 2017 - Simple Things

Small things.  Cherished things.  Little decorative elements.  These make up a memorable home and, indeed, a memorable life.  Not too long ago, people cherished their small and colorful things, their “breakables,” their decorations.  It didn’t matter if they were tattered and torn and mended several times over.  They were still just as loved and just as prized, perhaps more so.

A collection of simple things that bring joy.
A small old wooden table with a scratched and dented surface becomes a sweet place to have tea and cookies when a pretty vintage table cloth is placed on it.  The table cloth might be worn and repaired in tiny places.  The colors on it might be faded and the lace might be torn some, but the appeal is undeniable.  It says, “Welcome, you are home.”

Enter a world full of “apps,” wristwatches that are really telephones and mini computers, microchips embedded under the skin . . .  I’m not sure how it all happened—and so quickly!—and I’m not sure why, either.  I’m not sure wondering about it makes much of a difference.  But happen, it did.  And here we all are in a strange new world where the latest gadget is highly coveted, money is now openly God (as opposed to secretly), and young people have nothing tattered and torn that they truly love.  Some have yet to even find something they love at all.

Saucer and sugar bowl, WS George, Peach Blossom, 1948.
It’s all fine and well, of course; it’s progress, so they say.  The world must keep on moving.  We can’t stand still, they say.  I have nothing against all the newness.  At least, not usually.  Most people will go in the direction in which they are led, and that’s not always a bad thing for most people.  The world does not operate according to a single person’s whims but rather to the whims of the majority of society.

But when we search back in our minds in times of stress and trouble—those times that hit us all—it’s the little decorations we find waiting for us in the corners of our memories.  It’s the faded lace and the old teapot and the sweet cookies we think about.  We see them as if in a dream with sunlight streaming in through a window, gleaming off the clean and simple surfaces.  If we strain our ears we can still hear the old music playing, and we can still smell our favorite dish cooking.  If we’re honest, we can admit that it brings tears to our eyes.

Saucer and creamer, Artmark, Occupied Japan period.
It’s the simple things in life that matter.  We hear that all the time, don’t we?  And I think most of us agree with it, but once heard, it often leaves our mind as soon as it enters.  Many people are so busy today, and that is not their fault.  That’s the way society seems to be purposely geared.  They rush to work and spend all their energy there, and then they rush home through crazy traffic.  They often eat something that’s not good for them because they’re exhausted and tired.  Then they unwind with something that will shut out those flashing lights.

We cannot live in the past, but we can live like the past.  We can choose what we want—some would call it cherry picking.  We can do that.  There are no laws against it.  We can take the simple things that bring peace and joy and security, and bring them into our own homes right now.  We can turn off the gadgets for a few hours a day.  We can stop paging endlessly and uselessly through mind-numbing “social” media.  We can turn off the flashing lights and the loud noises, knowing full well that we can go back to it all later if we so choose.

Cup and saucer, Currier and Ives, Blue by Royal, 1950s.
Start wherever you are.  That’s always a good place to begin.  Empty the cupboards and throw out or give away everything you don’t use.  Clean everything.  Make it sparkle.  Make it simple.  Make as much open space around your “things” as possible.  Put an old cloth on the table.  Pour a cup of tea and have a hot biscuit.  No noise.  No gadgets (hide them for now in a dresser drawer).  No flashing lights.

Then sit and think and remember who you are.

American Limoges, Chateau-France, 1940s.

Limoges France, Statue of Liberty trinket box, 1940s.

Monday, May 15, 2017

May 15, 2017 - Order in the Court

The judge banged his gavel heavily against the wooden block.

“Order,” he said loudly, “Order!  Let’s have the next case.”  It was the case everyone had been waiting for, the reason the courthouse was so crowded that day.

Death was led into the courtroom, his head held high, his face defiant, his hands and feet shackled.  He stood before the judge, silent and sure, powerful even in his captivity.  All around, whispered gossiping of his crimes could be heard.  There were muffled cries from the back of the courtroom, and some people were openly hissing.  Again, the judge loudly demanded order by banging his gavel, and a hush finally came over the courtroom.

New growth from the dead . . .
“You have been accused of the wanton death of innumerable creatures of the forest, from the tiniest of insects to the largest of trees,” the judge said.

Death did not respond but stared stoically ahead.

“You may still request counsel at this late date, and the court will adjourn until such time as you have procured proper representation.  If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you at no expense.”

“I will represent myself,” Death responded.

“You are advised against this,” said the judge, “And the court again recommends that you seek counsel.”

“I will represent myself.”

“Very well.”

The general counsel read a long list of Death’s crimes.  The morbid deaths of birds and insects and animals were discussed.  Gruesome photos of the dead were shown.  The devastation of brush through purposeful fire and the ruin of stately trees by uprooting were shown to the court.  Count after count, victim after victim, the general counsel painted a grim picture, indeed.  To all of this, Death said nothing.

Witnesses, one after another, were brought forward to tell their sordid stories of the Hand of Death.  After each one, Death was given a chance to cross-examine them, but after each one he merely shook his head and said, “No questions.”

At last, with the general counsel’s voice weary from extended talking and accusations, his expression grim, and with the stricken faces of the silent people in the back of the courtroom, the judge asked heavily, “Have you anything to say in your defense before your sentencing?”

Death stood.  “Only this,” he said.  “Yes, it was I who removed the life from each of the creatures spoken of in this courtroom.  There is not one who died without it being by my hand.  I am guilty as charged of each and every death spoken of today.

“It was I who killed the insects—every one of them—as sustenance for the birds.  And it was I who took the lame among the birds and animals, those who suffered tremendous pain in life due to simple misfortune.  It was I who provided the predators and the creatures of the night with prey, killing each one with joyful abandonment.  It was I who did the slaying when the animals fought for territory and resources in their dwindling habitat.  It was I who set the fires and killed the brush that was overtaking the meadow and draining the stream.  It was I who felled the trees, uprooting them from the forest floor and crashing them down upon countless creatures.”

Gasps were heard in the courtroom, but not one person spoke.

“It was I who caused the decay of the once vigorous among the living.  It was I who took the life of each creature as it aged and could no longer run in the forest.  It was I who summoned the hidden flesh eaters from the Earth—the bacteria and fungi—and set them loose on the dead to remove all evidence of my heavy hand.  It was I who called the mosses and the lichens and set them upon the decaying corpses in the forest.

“And . . . it was I who brought sustenance to the hungry mouths of the forest.  It was I who opened the thickets so that new trees and brush might come.  It was at my command that the necessary elements of life were sent to the deep dark of the Earth, only to return yet again to the land of the living in a new form.  It was I who fed the masses.  It was I who took the spirit of the living and gave it back to the Wind to redistribute before delivering the body to the hidden ones in the Earth.  It was I who opened the pathways for the Sun to bring his energy into the woods.

“I am guilty as charged,” said Death.

A great hush came over the courtroom.  Those who had angry accusations on their lips only moments before were now gazing uncomfortably at the floor.  The general counsel was busy shuffling through his papers, perhaps looking for some long lost and forgotten charge to hurl anew at Death.  The judge was stony-faced, staring into the eyes of Death.

“One cannot look too long directly into the sun,” said Death, a tiny smile bringing up one corner of his lips, and as he did so, he broke the trance between himself and the judge.

At last the judge was able to release his eyes from the hypnotic gaze of Death.

“The evidence presented to the court is incomplete,” the judge said, banging his gavel against the wooden block.  “Although we detest the defendant and find his behavior reprehensible, we also find the defendant in full compliance with the Law, without which none of us would be here.”

The stenographer feverishly typed out the words of the judge as the bailiff removed the shackles from the hands and feet of the now free defendant.  As he did so, Death brushed his hand against the bailiff’s chin and whispered in his ear, and what he said will never be known since the bailiff did not return home that night to tell the tale.

As Death passed through the courtroom on his way to freedom, each person sitting there felt his icy hand.  Most were able to brace themselves against him, as they had always done thus far, and avoid the chilling cold.  The bailiff was not so fortunate, and the judge found himself searching for a new helper the following week.  The general counsel was buried in papers, as always.

Out in the forest, the joyful news spread far and wide almost instantaneously that the Dark One had returned.  The trees whispered knowingly in their vast network, relieved that the overcrowding issue would soon be a thing of the past.  Somewhere a terrible squawking indicated that a fox had found a bird’s nest.  New green shoots sprang up in greeting from the old dead trees.  And the scent of decay mingling with fresh growth was utterly intoxicating.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

May 11, 2017 - Chasing Ra


Wave after wave crashes in the clouds
laughing at the water below
the ocean silently watching, jealous
wistful for the dance with the sunset
chasing Ra in his celestial boat
as he sails across the universe
an endless ocean full of stars
and brilliant blue globes of water
sparkling in the night

Monday, May 1, 2017

May 1, 2017 - On Being a Seed, Part V

[This is Part V of “On Being a Seed.”  Click Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV for the prior episodes.]

Once touched by the King, you are never the same again.  It is not something I can adequately put into words.  Only those who wear the green ribbon can commune with the King.  The other members of the land of liquid gold—those who moved on two or four legs, the jealous ones—cannot commune with Him.  They can talk to Him, they can sit with Him, and they can delight in Him.  But they cannot commune with Him.  That is for the wearers of the green ribbon, only.

The green ribbon.
It is as if your outward covering, your skin, is completely porous, but the only thing that can enter is the King.  The water dancer tries her best to do so.  The gentle breezes nudge and push.  The delicious earth hugs and squeezes.  Yet none can enter but the King.  It is a true communion.  The liquid gold enters in an eternal embrace, and a feeling of absolute power ensues.  It is a reaching out to the ends of the universe and beyond, but as I said, it is not something I can adequately put into words.

It is a direct transference of power and energy, and while it is happening, the entire universe is at your command.  Then the King leaves without warning, and the world seems black, indeed.  Gone is the universe in the palm of your hand, like a fleeting dream, a wisp of spirit.  The memory of ultimate power fades almost instantly, an unsure fantasy.

So I took the gold the King gave me and I hid it in tiny places where I hoped he would never see.  Tiny fractions of energy and power, they were, and I took them and greedily hid them.  I was energized by them, entranced by them, empowered by them.  I used them to grow exponentially.  My body ripped and tore itself as it grew rapidly upward toward the realm of the King.  It was my intention to enter His palace and claim Him for my own, so I did not care when my skin was stretched and ripped and twisted.  I laughed at the pain because I knew that it brought me that much closer to Him.

But there were things in this new world that were not as kind as the King.  The two-leggeds and the four-leggeds were terrible, indeed.  They would often destroy many of my green-ribboned brethren, and I feared they would destroy me as well.  But they did not.  The King protected me, I told myself.

Just as I ate incessantly in the Underworld on my way to the land of liquid gold, so too did these terrible creatures eat of the green-ribboned brethren.  I decided it was a jealousy they had because they could not commune with the King directly.  In order to receive the King’s power, they had to consume those of us who did commune with the King.  The King loved them, but He did not share Himself with them.  He shared Himself only with the green-ribboned brethren, and so the creatures came and stole His gold.  But like water in their fingers, it would eventually drip out completely and they would have to steal more.

So far I had managed to avoid them.  I heard some of the other green-ribboned brethren talking, and they said that we were completely immobile because of our unique relationship with the King.  Some said it was so that He could always easily find us.  Others said it was a punishment for storing his power deep within.  (Yes, they were doing it, too!)  Still others said it was a gift to the two-leggeds and four-leggeds from the King Himself.

I didn’t care what the reason was.  I hated the creatures and the fact that I was immobile and they were not.  I watched in rapt fascination and horror as they consumed many of the green-ribboned brethren.  Did they know—did they see—the tiny flashes of liquid gold in their mouths as they consumed?  I could see them all like flashes of lightning, and it frightened me to the core.  I did not want to lose even one tiny bit of my secret liquid gold.

But the nature of this bizarre world was inescapable.  It happened one day as I was growing strong and tall and sure.  I felt a breach in my energy field.  Something was taking my gold.  I looked down and saw a yellow and black and white striped creature with black antennas sitting comfortably on one of my beautiful green leaves.  And she was voraciously eating my beautiful green leaf.  Every bite she took was so very painful.

“Stop that!” I yelled at her, but she only laughed.

“Stop, I say!”

“I will not,” was all she said.  Then she smiled and kept eating.

Tiny bits of liquid gold poured out of me with every agonizing bite, and she hungrily devoured them all.  She was a thief of the worst kind.  But then, we all were, weren’t we?

(To be continued.)