antler sprouts and vegetal hearts

Did you know that the potato inspired deer to grow antlers? Neither did I. But apparently potato hungry deer began sprouting their own antlers after countless years of tater munching. And certain northern European tribes that roamed in tandem with these wild deer had a trophy to bestow upon only the bravest of wanderers: the heart of the spud.

This phenomenon has also been documented in the Americas where the heart of the cactus was also bestowed as a trophy of bravery.

A Fisherman’s Catch

Once there was a fisherman who spent all his time fishing for the village. And he missed his wife as much as she missed him. But she could not bear to be in a boat so he had to fish without her. One day his wife decided that she would try and overcome her fear and visit him as a surprise in a separate boat. And she did a really courageous job even though the seas were calm for a sailor, and when the other fisherman directed her to the cove where her husband was she found him singing a song with a woman. Her long hair was as curly as the waves. And when they saw his wife, she jumped from behind a rock and into the sea. His wife saw that she had a tail!

Her husband rowed after her. Back home, he pleaded for his wife to understand the arrangement. For a duet, the mermaid would give him a bountiful catch to take home. And he had gotten used to it and stopped fishing altogether. But his wife didn’t want to hear it and told him never to see her again and to start fishing again no matter how poor the catch because she could sauce and add other ingredients to make a meal fit for a king let alone a peasant such as he. He knew that was true and agreed. Strangely enough, when she humbled him like that, it made his stomach glow warm for she grounded him in a way that made him feel wanted and needed.

But as the fisherman fished he yearned to sing the duet.  He had really enjoyed singing.  It was a better way to pass the time than staring at the sea.  So he began to sing on his own.  To his surprise he remembered the songs the mermaid taught him.  And he sang them at the top of his lungs.  Miraculously, a bountiful catch found its way on his boat.  And before he began rowing home, a vision of his wife came to him.  He saw her yelling at him.  Would she not think that he had sang a duet with the mermaid again?  He took out a few fish that would suit a meager catch commensurate with his passionless fishing and threw the rest of the catch back in the sea. 

A piercing shriek caused the sea to capsize the fisherman’s boat.  He felt his legs being pulled under.  The mermaid took him down to the bottom of the sea where she had a cave she filled with air for the fisherman to breathe.  He pleaded for her to understand the arrangement.  The mermaid was insulted that his wife would not accept the bountiful catch she provided in exchange for song. 

She took the fisherman deeper to a chamber behind the cave’s walls. Therein glowed a treasure beyond anything the fisherman could imagine. As she told him that the entire treasure could be his as long as he left his wife and spent the rest of his life with her, he noticed a skeleton encrusted in diamonds, emeralds, and rubies and it had a grin of pearls that made him feel cold inside. He also saw that the chamber was buttressed by beams of gold and knew this was no chamber at all but a cage that he had unwittingly walked into. Feeling trapped, the fisherman felt sick to his stomach and yearned for that warm humbling love that only his wife could fill to the brim of his modest cup and knew that these chalises would always be empty of the only ambrosia he could ever handle.

To his surprise, she returned him to his boat when he politely declined but she left one strand of her curly hair on his jacket as a parting gift.  And his wife took the strand of hair and he explained what had happened.  She forbade him from singing ever again out at sea.  And the fisherman quietly fished thereafter but his wife soothed him by singing after supper in a voice he had never heard before that sounded so delicate and heartfelt that it brought him to his knees and made him forget about his duets at sea.

An Arrow in the Throat

Once upon a time there was a man and a woman who hoped to have a baby boy but got a girl instead.  As she grew older, she didn’t seem to care enough about anything.  Her parents tried to make her learn how to be a seamstress but she was too lazy to be good at it.  All she wanted to do was go for long walks in the woods and over the hills.  She was always running away when she was supposed to be working.  And the village took the side of her parents and said the girl was useless.  They gave up trying to find her in the woods and just let her roam.  And when she returned they told her to eat the scraps from the garbage heap.  

This made the girl even sadder for she could not resist the urge to run away from any work her parents or the village wanted her to do.  Even when an old woman asked her to help carry some sacks of grain, she’d eventually drop it and run for the woods.  The girl became like a ghost to them.  People stopped talking to her or noticing when she was around.  This hurt her feelings even more because next to wandering in the woods, she loved talking about walking in the woods and now nobody listened to her.  

Then one day whilst walking in the woods, she saw a frightful army of invaders creeping toward the village.  So she climbed to the top of a hill overlooking the village and screamed louder than her little body ever did.  So loud it shook the needles off some trees.  So loud it made the old lady drop her sack of grain.  So loud her parents ran out of the hut as if the village were on fire.  So loud everyone in the village looked up and saw her wildly pointing down the hill where they saw dark shadows moving amongst the trees.  

Her warning gave the villagers enough time to gather their tools and weapons and fight the invaders until they killed most and captured the rest.  Then it dawned on them that if the useless girl hadn’t screamed they might all be dead.  They looked amongst them and she was not to be seen.  They searched the woods and climbed the hill and found her with an arrow stuck through her throat.  Her fragile body pinned against a tree.  Her little purple tongue dangled out the side of her mouth as if it were trying to limp away to wander in the woods.

The whole village looked at her face and wept.  They wept for weeks and not just for what the invaders had done but in far greater measure for how they had treated her.  Those who had said the most hurtful things like “she’s just another mouth to feed” and “maybe she should never come back” felt the pain as if they had an arrow in their throats that they had shot into themselves.  From then on, the villagers said, “you’ve got an arrow in your throat” if anyone talked bad about someone else without seeing that person’s bigger purpose or contribution to the entirety of their existence. 

radiate

Here’s an image I made while listening to Mediate by INXS to keep the fire burning and stay positive!

Mediate by INXS

Hallucinate
Desegregate
Mediate
Alleviate
Try not to hateLove your mate
Don’t suffocate on your own hate
Designate your love as fate
A one world state
As human freight
The number eight
A white black state
A gentle trait
The broken crate
A heavy weight
Or just too late
Like pretty Kate has sex ornate
Now devastate
Appreciate
Depreciate
Fabricate
Emulate
The truth dilate
Special date
The animal we ate
Guilt debate
The edge serrate
A better rate
The youth irate
DeliberateFascinate
Deviate
Reinstate
Liberate
To moderate
Recreate
Or detonate
Annihiliate
Atomic fateMediate
Clear the state
Activate
Now radiate
A perfect state
Food on plate
Gravitate
The Earth’s own weight
Designate your love as fate
At ninety-eight we all rotateHallucinate
Desegregate
Mediate
Alleviate
Try not to hateLove your mate
Don’t suffocate on your own hate
Designate your love as fate
A one world state
As human freight
The number eight
A white black state
A gentle trait
The broken crateA heavy weight
Or just too late
Like pretty Kate has sex ornateNow devastate
Appreciate
Depreciate
Fabricate
Emulate
The truth dilate
Special date
The animals we ate
Guilt debate
The edge serrate
A better rate
The youth irate
Deliberate
Fascinate
Deviate
Reinstate

🍄🌞🍄

Father’s Wolves

Once there was an old man who was meaner than his pack of wolves.  He never met a kid he didn’t want to kick.  He saw everyone as a mouth to feed and so kept his distance with mean words and mean behavior when needed.  Still, he had a child by accident and out of fear for her life the mother left him but he kept the child.  And since it was his, he took him in and taught him to be tough for his own good.

Whenever he caught the boy playing with the wolf cubs he whipped both the boy and the cubs.  he had a pack of wolves and needed them tough to protect his possessions and to hunt and to survive the harsh winters.  He fed his boy, the wolves, and himself only enough to survive.  To be hungry was to be alive in his mind.  If the boy made mistakes around the house, he would froth at the mouth and then punish him so that he wouldn’t make those mistakes again.  One of his favorite punishments was making his boy more the woodpile from one side of the house to the other and back again.  And the boy hated his dad when he had to move the woodpile and wished he were never alive.

As soon as the boy was old enough, he ran away to find another place to live.  And he found a village where he learned a trade.  He met the kindest person he had even known and she taught him how to love.  And he learned to make friends.  And when he lost one in a tragic death he feared not to show how helpless he felt in the face of such loss and wept in front of everyone.  This was something he knew his father could never have done.  And precisely so, his father’s inability to show sadness and accept the vulnerabilities of life hardened him from the inside out and made his misery pour into anyone who knew him.

And with his wife and kids, they made the family he never had together.  And the home was a place of love not of punishment.  A place where anyone makes mistakes sometimes and the others help out instead of using it as an opportunity to hurt one’s family.  He saw the framework of the village interlacing each person into its fabric and providing as such as it could for all while always having some problem in the process of being mended.

As he got older, he thought of his dad alone in his hut in the woods and how the mean old man had destroyed any relationship with others in order to not feel weak.  He felt sorry for him so he went to see the mean old man one more time to see if he could change his mind.  But he didn’t tell anyone in his family about it.

The wolves in the pen looked famished.  The cabin was gloomier than he remembered.  His dad bullied his way out to meet him on the steps and did not welcome him in.  Father asked what he was doing there and in that mean voice and in those cold eyes, he thought his dad did not possibly recognize him.  But he did.  And he told him that he ran away once, and once was enough for him.  

He tried to tell him about his life but his father cared not for one word nor did he ask any questions about his family.  It seemed to him that his dad could not bear the thought of any happiness that he had found.  And his father said some mean things but his son did not fear this barking old man anymore.  He knew his father was trying to scare him off.  And his father grabbed a pail of scraps and told him to get out of his way.  That pail of scraps reminded him of how hungry he was growing up here.  And it angered him that this continued with the wolves.

The father went in the pen to feed the wolves but saw that his son was still standing there like an idiot.  He heard his son tell him that he was an old fool who confused toughness for strength and he was actually pushing everyone away because at heart he was a chicken who was afraid of love.

The son saw his father froth at the mouth.  And this made him think of the many times his dad punished him for his misery.  In a fit of anger, his dad slipped in the mud and hurt his leg so bad he couldn’t get up.  The wolves snarled closer.  The mean old man looked at his son with a confused expression.  And the son knew that his dad would rather suffer the consequences than ask him for help.  Before he could help his dad, the wolves lunged onto his father.  His son opened the gate and chased the wolves off with his sword but it was too late.  

The mean old man could not ask his son for help for his heart had already been carved out by a sick pride over his toughness.  And the wolves teared him limb from limb.  One last time, he moved the woodpile to a clearing on the other side of the cabin.  And he placed what was left of his father’s body and set it afire.  Somehow the burning felt like a return to his father’s natural element that was left to catch fire to anything within his reach instead of harnessing it for a better life.  And he returned to the warmth of the family and village who loved him as much as he loved them and taught his kids to place strength over mere toughness and to balance their worries with love.

The Spoiled Brat

Once there was a prince who was the most spoiled prince of all. When the king would not give him one thing that he wanted, it would be the first and last time because the prince did not know how spoiled he was since the king had spoiled him so completely.

But somehow the prince had a gut feeling that the king might say “no,” so he asked for his wish in front of the entire kingdom. And the one time the king put his foot down, it felt like an elephant’s foot stepping on a pampered pup and the audience witnessed his little beating heart pop out of his little spoiled puppy dog chest.

All the innocent prince had wanted was to house the poor and sick in their castle in order to care for them as a member of their own family. The kingdom heard the prince’s wish and cheered for his charity and felt his love in their hearts with his spoiled request.

This made the king so irate that he called his son a spoiled brat before all of his subjects and in that moment the king looked like the most spoiled brat of all to his entire kingdom. It was as if his own son had split him in half with a sharp diamond-edged sword. One half his self-image made by him wobbled at the other image of him made by his kingdom. Caught between the betrayal of his son and his kingdom and his own betrayal of them drove the king mad. The prince thereby ascended the throne and became a king who spoiled the poor and sick until they were neither anymore.

I wrote this tale because “spoiled” is such a loaded word. Call someone spoiled and it is extremely offensive. But it also has this boomerang effect. For example, parents who spoil their children seem to be prone to calling their children spoiled. Or politically-minded people seem to thrive on the idea that their opponents are the spoiled ones, while their opponents think the same of them. Spoiled people do not think they are spoiled but are quick to point out someone who is more spoiled than they. Lastly, the word can have a pleasurable connotation. When you spoil a child or a pet rotten and they exhibit spoiled behavior at you who spoiled them, you can get this feeling where anger at being taken for granted crosses its wires with your absolute devotion for what you love and the result fills the chest and flares the nostrils with a certain joyous mischief.

The Living Canopy

Once there was a great tree whose branches served as a canopy over the village and when it had leaves everyone worshipped its protection.  But it had lost its leaves after a long drought and was thought to be dead, so the villagers cut its branches whenever they needed them until the limbless trunk was left.  The village was naked under the blazing sun and they hated the tree for having died. After they got used to the heat, they forgot about the tree.

There was one villager, though, who never stopped watering the tree everyday.  Even when water was scarce, she shared whatever she had of her own supply. And when the rains came to end the drought, the great tree came back to life and regrew its heavy limbs but they only stretched over her house.  

The other villagers regretted calling her an imbecile for watering the tree when they had given up on it.  And they begged her to make it grow back over the rest of the village. And she told them that when she was a little girl she had a dream about the tree.  Its branches covered the entire sky, all the way to the farthest horizon. The leaves floated on high like clouds. But then the entire tree flattened before her into a surface without depth and revealed its timeless form. And she became a breathless stone beside it. Never did she feel such a bond reverberate between her and the tree. When she woke up, she felt the warm sensation of peace emanating from her stomach.

The villagers scratched their heads because they had never had such a dream nor felt such things but decided to worship the tree anyways, and though their faith wasn’t as strong as the dreamer, it was consistent now. And the great tree slowly forgave them by branching out to cover their village once again.

The Smiling Warrior

Once there was a warrior who hated everybody.  This hatred made him the most formidable opponent anyone ever faced.  His bottomless hatred was sharpened by several disciplines of combat. He lived according to the rule that pain is the best teacher of all.  He bathed in ice and slept near a furnace. He shaved his hair and tattooed his entire body to intimidate others. He ate and drank anything sour and bitter to kill all pleasure.

In battle, he never showed mercy to even the weakest opponent.  He drove spears into the backs of anyone who ran away. He crushed the skulls of those who groveled for their life on all fours.  He had beaten the best in every way he could imagine.

But there was a warrior from another kingdom.  This one did not look like a warrior at all. He always had a smile on his face.  And he was fascinated by fighting. He saw battle as a game of thresholds. Endlessly fascinating to figure out the breaking point of an opponent with the least amount of effort on his part.  Strategy motivated him. He felt no shame when he lost but seldom did. Defeating an easy opponent gave him no thrill. He always wanted to compete against someone perceived as better.  

Everyone loved the smiling warrior because he loved just about anything there was to love when he wasn’t fighting.  He knew in his heart that the only reason to battle was to save what was worth fighting for and that was love. He loved his king and queen.  He loved his wife and his kids. He loved his fellow warriors. And he loved to drink and eat. But he also had a love for the less fortunate who needed his protection.

One day the hateful warrior met the smiling warrior on a battlefield.  Their kingdoms had clashed and they were the flashpoint. The hateful warrior thought nothing of the smiling warrior.  And the smiling warrior laughed in his face. In anger, the hateful warrior lifted his mace and swung it to smash that smile right off his face.  But the smiling warrior’s reflexes were much faster and he moved backward just enough to feel the wind of the mace brush his nose.  

The hateful warrior stumbled off balance but regained leverage and performed a surprisingly quick backswing that lifted the smiling warrior off his feet and on his back.  The smiling warrior rolled over and got to his fight with a spring in his step. He had gone with the blow so it did not hurt him as badly as it looked. And he blew the hateful warrior a kiss.

The hateful warrior screamed and rushed at him like a bull.  The smiling warrior unsheathed his dagger as he pirouetted beside the bull rush and mid-spin sliced the nape of his neck where he had spotted a space between armor and helmet.  The hateful warrior felt blood gushing down his back. His eyes reddened with madness.

The smiling warrior noticed a hot pain as he was pirouetting and looked down to see that a few of his fingers had been lopped off by the hateful warrior’s sharp armor.  The smiling warrior wrapped his hand in a cloth and pulled out a single needle and told the hateful warrior that if he accepted defeat he would not destroy him with this single needle.

The hateful warrior grabbed his sword and lunged forward to skewer him.  The edge of his blade sliced the smiling warrior’s armor but didn’t touch his belly flesh.  And the smiling warrior poked the hateful warrior’s left eyeball. One of the hateful warrior’s men laughed at the absurd fight and the hateful warrior beheaded him mid-laugh with one backward swing.  

The smiling warrior offered him another chance to surrender.  But the hateful warrior lunged forward again. The smiling warrior could’ve easily poked out his other eye but told him that he should do better than repeating the same move on him.  The hateful warrior swung to lop off the smiling warrior’s limbs but the smiling warrior swiftly dodged the blows and went ahead and blinded the hateful man since in his view he had insisted upon it.  

Covering his eyes, the screaming hateful warrior bent over and the smiling warrior kicked him in the ass toward his own men.  He accidentally fell on one of their swords and impaled himself.  

Many years later the smiling warrior met his match in a much younger man.  They danced in battle for what seemed an eternity. He was in combat bliss as they traded equal blows.  And when his age caught up with him and his reflexes failed him he took his defeat with much satisfaction at being dispatched by such a worthy opponent.  And in his fleeting moments, he smiled as he thought of all he had loved.