Wednesday, June 10, 2009
toad-flax, cormorant, rain-watching
A few days ago I mentioned ivy leaved toad flax, a pretty trailing plant that grows wild on walls and in odd corners, I didn't have an adequate photo at the time. Here is one to make up for the omission.
Story-telling must be an art as old as cave painting. The Panchatantra also known as the Fables of Bidpai seem to be drawn from among the oldest stories in human culture, and were first written down in sanskrit. I come across them today under the title Kalila and Dimna in a pretty book, where they are retold by Ramsay Wood. At Hall's Bookshop they tell me that this is a publisher's remainder, but how it comes to remain unsold, I find hard to understand. The book is subtitled Fables of Friendship and Betrayal, which like the stories themselves, are as old as human nature. Some of the stories are very short. Here, as a sample, is a short one picked at random:
The Cormorant and the Star
There was once a cormorant which caught sight of a star's reflection on a gentle sea. Thinking this slowly wavering patch of light was a fish, he dived underwater and tried to catch it. Of course the cormorant failed, yet stubbornly he continued to dive again and again, believing that by effort he must eventually succeed. In the end he grew so angry and frustrated that he swore never again to dive after a fish.
From then onwards, even though he suffered extreme hunger on a meagre diet of small crabs, shrimps and shells found along the shore, the cormorant refused to dive after any fish, for he assumed it was as impossible to catch as the star on the water.
While in the vegetable garden a heavy shower comes down suddenly. I retire to the greenhouse, and stand in the dry while the raindrops beat against the glass and splash up from the paving outside. With special pleasure, I note the elder at the bottom of the garden, bow down under the weight of the rain on its cream-coloured, foaming corymbs.