by Lesley Smyth
An abandoned field lies next to my son's school. You could call it overgrown and most would say it is in need of a cut. But where there is even a tiny scrap of nature, there is magic. Today it whispered a tale.
I was admiring the pattern of the breeze as it danced amongst the long stalks of grasses. Something about that dance immediately calms my soul. And when the soul is calm it can hear things it never heard before.
"Rows and rows of the same," I heard it whisper. I had used the phrase just the other day to describe the monotony of our half-lived lives, endless days of the same stretching before us on the horizon. The grasses were those days. The grasses were us who lived them. Thousands upon thousands of blades lost in their ordinariness. Each was straining to obey the commands of the wind. "Lean to the left," it said, "now sway to the right, gently does it, carefully please. Now pause a moment...stand still...ready? Now let's repeat it again." It was a time-worn dance. The direction and the pace changed from time to time but the steps always remained the same. The blades, thinking they knew this tune, tried to anticipate the breeze and sometimes found themselves caught by surprise.
A few blades popped their heads above the masses, defying the pattern of the field. These were the tall poppies, the ones who refused to conform. They had discarded convention and struggled against the wind to dance to a tune of their own. The collective blades shook their indignant heads, unhappy with these rebels. Their presence roused some distant, uncomfortable feelings that called to be heard. The blades were confused. Another voice suggested they be squashed. "Cut the poppies down," It said. "Be rid of them and you will be safe once more." Yet no matter how hard they tried they could not rid themselves of all these rebels, for no single way ever worked. They were blind to the secrets of uniqueness. Confused, they turned their backs and denied them the safety of the clan.
Revelling in their gifts, the rebels stood there, defiant. Heads held high above the masses, proud and strong and fragile. The act of shunning ordinariness had offered them no shelter from the wind. Vulnerable, they had weathered its every breath alone. As I looked closely, I noticed many had paid the price for their waywardness. Damaged and broken stalks were the casualties. Some struggled on and limped to the dance. Others lay crushed on the ground. The stakes were high for those who dared to defy the wind and many had paid the price. Somehow others survived. They smiled and continued to thrive. I thought about those stalks and the struggles they had faced, and knew it was a brave stalk that chose to withstand the tide.
I was about to clear a pedestal for those rebels when the field whispered in my ear, "Come closer. There is something else you must see." The wind took me by the hand and called my eyes amongst the swaying grasses. "Look with your heart," It said. And my heart showed me the divine smiling in each and every blade. No two were the same. Their gifts were unique. I realized the poppies had also been blind, for they had missed the secrets of ordinariness. "They are beautiful," I said.
"Yes," replied the Divine, "I am pleased with my creation."
I remembered it was the unison of those blades that had calmed my soul. That sublime dance of conformity served a purpose too large for me to understand. Quietly, they made their sacrifices and lived in that field weathering the whims of the wind. As I looked closely I noticed damaged and broken stalks also lay in their midst. They too had their casualties. They too had paid the price. They showed no less courage than the poppies. This was their chosen dance. And it was only in comparison to them that the poppies could recognize their own splendor. Somehow that seemed a gift. I thought about those grasses and the struggles they had faced and knew it was a brave stalk that chose to go with the tide.
The field drew me back to witness one final performance. The grand dichotomy of life played itself in that scene. I wondered what other mysteries it held. For I knew I had been shown only what I could understand. As I watched them sway, masses and poppies alike, I knew why the Divine had smiled. It was indeed an exquisite creation.