09 February 2008


Only in the dance do I know how to tell the parable of the highest things....
Nietsche: Zarathustra, "The Tomb Song,"

The Rabbit limped across the blackened stubble to the patch of low Autumn sunlight underneath the old tree which spread its leafless branches thickly across the corner of the field. He stretched out his limbs gratefully on the still warm dusty earth, closed his eyes and quietly, gently, died.

Lucy and Anisha, on their way home from school to the farm cottages on the ridge above the field, found him there, looking already as if he were returning to the earth on which he lay. For a moment they gazed at him, and then hurried away. They returned with Lucy’s own small spade and a piece of fine Indian cotton, from Anisha’s treasure box, embroidered with an image of a blue skinned, four-armed dancing Shiva, a belt of skulls at his waist and a cobra, symbol of divine power, around his neck.

They took it in turns to dig a grave deep in the soft dry earth under the tree. These were country children who had little fear of death; they wrapped the stiffening body in the delicate cotton and then, carefully and reverently, lowered it into the hole they had dug. They filled in the grave with the thin brown dust and stood for a moment, solemn under the tree.

As they passed the small grave, each day the girls checked that it was undisturbed. The long Autumn rains had turned Summer’s dust into damp mud and the Rabbit lay safe beneath his loamy pall. In January the first snow fell; the frosts were hard and the blown white flakes lay blanket thick under the tree until March. As the snow melted Lucy noticed small green shoots pushing through the dark brown earth; weeds perhaps, the girls thought.

By the end of April it was obvious that what they had thought was some old weed was growing into a strong thick stemmed plant. Spring gave way to Summer and the plant pushed its way upwards in a clump of a dozen spikes, with tiny grey-green narrow leaves, bases and sheaths tinged with violet. As full Summer approached it flowered, covering one side of each spike with a mass of heads - pale green upper petals like pointed shells, brown lips tinged with pink. Nothing else grew in that patch of dried up earth, just the plant now maybe 18 or 20 inches high and shining like a cluster of far away pale stars in its drab and shaded home.

The girls were puzzled - they had never seen flowers like this before. Anisha’s father brought a local botanist to look at this miracle of new life. It was, the young man said, a rare wild orchid, a Violet Helleborine which did well in woodland and in shaded places, but in this old patch of untended barren earth, its success was quite remarkable.

“It was because of the Rabbit who died.” said Lucy, “His bones must have fed the plant.” “And the Lord Shiva.” added Anisha. “First he danced at the Rabbit’s death but now he is dancing for the birth of a new life.”

Naomi, February 2008