creativity death meditation nature storms wisdom

people are like trees, and other fables

window from sunroom April 4 2018.jpg

I woke up with a start at 4:30am and have felt off-kilter ever since.

It seems that it must have been the tree branch, which fell off our neighbor’s tree last night and landed right outside our kitchen window that made the huge THUNK I heard. It sounded like a distant bomb going off.

Staring out at the windblown snow during this morning’s meditation brought more sad thoughts to mind, of death and weakness. The trees react vividly to the wind blowing their branches and, if we could watch ourselves from without, we’d probably say the same thing about ourselves. Sometimes I feel like a cedar, other times like an oak.

window from study April 4 2018.jpg

The cedar tree bounces and sways with every fiber of its being: from bottom to top the whole tree bows and flutters nervously. The maples and oaks more stiffly sway, hold their arms up to the sky despite the wind; but their tiny red and green budlets break off and fall down.

This weather reminds me of LaFontaine’s fable, “The Wolf and the Lamb.” A harsh little story! My own version, “April, the Cruelest Month,” inspired by life in South Bend, awaits below.

The sounds of tires slushing on the street below make me feel excited, like it’s Christmas time, then bewildered when I see robins hopping in the garden. How easily our minds are fooled and confused about what is, versus what is “supposed to be”!

A proverb in closing:

En avril ne te découvre pas d’un fil. Au mois de mai, fais ce qui te plaît.

(trans. “In April, don’t take off a thread. In the month of May, do whatever comes into your head.”)!!

Hang in there!  Only 4 weeks til May!

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These pages are from Hey LaFontaine! Are You Ready for South Bend? (ten fables illustrated in a hand-made book, 2016).

Front cover

back cover

dogs French literature friendship happiness humor wisdom

home at last with Honey Girl

Honey Girl and me, January 15 2018.jpg

Snuggling with my nice warm dog on this bitter cold night, after a long time abroad, it is good to be home. It reminds me of the fable by Jean de LaFontaine about the two doves. (It is a fable starring two pigeons in the French version; go figure!)

It is a sad story in some ways, yet it rings true in my life. No matter how long I am gone, Honey Girl always forgives me.

The Fable of the Two Doves

Two doves once cherished for each other

The love that brother has for brother.

But one, of scenes domestic tiring,

To see the foreign world aspiring,

Was fool enough to undertake

A journey long, over land and lake.

“What plan is this?” the other cried;

“Would quit so soon your brother’s side?

This absence is the worst of ills;

Your heart may bear, but me it kills.

Pray, let the dangers, toil, and care,

Of which all travellers tell,

Your courage somewhat quell.

Still, if the season later were

O wait the zephyrs! hasten not

Just now the raven, on his oak,

In hoarser tones than usual spoke.

My heart forebodes the saddest lot,

The falcons, nets Alas, it rains!

My brother, are your wants supplied

Provisions, shelter, pocket guide,

And all that to health pertains?”

These words occasioned some demur

In our imprudent traveller.

But restless curiosity

Prevailed at last; and so said he,

“The matter is not worth a sigh;

Three days, at most, will satisfy,

And then, returning, I shall tell

You all the wonders that befell,

With scenes enchanting and sublime

Shall sweeten all our coming time.

Who sees nothing, has nothing to say.

My travel’s course, from day to day,

Will be the source of great delight.

A store of tales I shall relate,

Say there I lodged at such a date,

And saw there such and such a sight.

You’ll think it all occurred to you.”

On this, both, weeping, bade adieu.

Away the lonely wanderer flew.

A thunder cloud began to lower;

He sought, as shelter from the shower,

The only tree that graced the plain,

Whose leaves ill turned the pelting rain.

The sky once more serene above,

On flew our drenched and dripping dove,

And dried his plumage as he could.

Next, on the borders of a wood,

He spied some scattered grains of wheat,

Which one, he thought, might safely eat;

For there another dove he saw.

He felt the snare around him draw!

This wheat was but a treacherous bait

To lure poor pigeons to their fate.

The snare had been so long in use,

With beak and wings he struggled loose:

Some feathers perished while it stuck;

But, what was worst in point of luck,

A hawk, the cruellest of foes,

Perceived him clearly as he rose,

Off dragging, like a runaway,

A piece of string. The bird of prey

Had bound him, in a moment more,

Much faster than he was before,

But from the clouds an eagle came,

And made the hawk himself his game.

By war of robbers profiting,

The dove for safety plied the wing,

And, lighting on a ruined wall,

Believed his dangers ended all.

A roguish boy had there a sling,

(Age pitiless!

We must confess,)

And, by a most unlucky fling,

Half killed our hapless dove;

Who now, no more in love

With foreign travelling,

And lame in leg and wing,

Straight homeward urged his crippled flight,

Fatigued, but glad, arrived at night,

In truly sad and piteous plight.

The doves rejoined, I leave you all to say,

What pleasure might their pains repay.


Ah, happy lovers, would you roam?

Pray, let it not be far from home.

To each the other ought to be

A world of beauty ever new;

In each the other ought to see

The whole of what is good and true.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 9, Fable 2

Fables, 1668