flower Two Seasonal Tales flower

by Connie Barrett

Did you ever read the story of the grasshopper and the ant? Like many fables, it has a moral message. The grasshopper, a lazy creature, spent the summer idling in the sun while the industrious ant gathered and stored food for the winter. The grasshopper laughed at the ant and continued along his carefree path, only to starve during the winter while the ant snacked on his stored food.


Latter-Day Ants


Many of us were raised in societies in which ant behavior is rewarded and grasshopper behavior punished. If you came home with homework you had to finish it before you could go outside and play. If you worked hard in college you'd get a good job, unlike the bad grasshoppers, who were too busy having fun to decide on an academic major, let alone a career.

Some of us may believe that if anything good happens without a great deal of effort preceding it, the results aren't to be trusted. If, for example, you've ever dreamed of winning a contest have you ever imagined winning and somehow mysteriously losing the money. Or, now you're rich, but get struck down by some dread disease. When I started painting a few years ago I thought that the longer I worked (and the more I suffered) the better my painting would be. If a painting happened to go easily I was sure that I must be doing it wrong&--or that my brush would slip to ruin the accidental masterpiece.

My partner, Joyce, and I were about halfway through putting together our web site when I realized that I was approaching the project in a supremely Antlike manner. I dashed to my computer first thing in the morning, and would sit there for hours, sometimes nearly forgetting meals (a virtually unheard-of condition for me).

Some of this was the joy of creativity. It was fun to learn the codes and make them work, exciting to see the difference colored backgrounds and graphics made. The element of commitment to getting the work done and my overall enthusiasm for the project also contributed to my intensity.

So, however, did anxiety. When I finally did quit for the day (which sometimes ended well into the night) I took the web site with me. As I went to sleep at night I'd worry about the photographs we needed, the next section of text to be written, whether we'd meet our self-imposed deadline. I dreamt about HTML codes and bitmaps. I'd wake up in the middle of night and realize that I'd overlooked a link.

I was working hard for virtually twenty-four hours a day (during the summer, like a good Ant) and I was very impressed with my industry.


Who Am I?


I once read an interview with Deepak Chopra in which he said we are human doings, not human beings. Rather than having our actions stem from our deepest sense of self, we allow what we do to determine who we are. I AM a web site creator (and a hard worker). Our sense of self becomes a matter of performance based on certain inflexible ideas.

We weren't born with these ideas. We come into this world as spirit clothed in a physical costume. As the need for survival becomes impressed upon us we search for those beliefs which seem most likely to help us live. Then we forget that we chose these beliefs, and view them as rules.

Lots of us decide that life is serious, and if we choose to have more conscious spirituality in our lives we may find ourselves being very serious and industrious about acquiring it. We may trudge along our path with the same singlemindedness we use to complete a job, feeling that the more we read, study, meditate, do every exercise we can find, the closer we are to where we need to be. As we inch, ant-like, towards our spiritual goals, we forget that where we need to be is where we began, as unique expressions of universal spirit.

Perhaps the greatest disservice of the fable of the grasshopper and ant is its either-or nature. I, however, have often watched an animal which plays at being both Grasshopper and Ant.

The squirrel, whose keyword in many Native traditions is Gathering, sometimes appears to be even busier than Ant. If you've ever spent time observing one, though, you get a different impression. Squirrel says, "This hour I am an industrious being who gathers nuts and seeds for the winter. Then I'm going to dash along branches and leap from tree to tree. Later I'll turn some somersaults, chase some other squirrels, then rest on a comfortable tree limb and contemplate leaves. Finally I may climb the side of this wooden nest and peek in at the being who sits in one place for hours at a time and moves her claws continuously."

Thinking about Squirrel reminds me of its smaller rodent cousin and a story I heard about a young Dutch mouse named Fritz.


Food For the Soul


Fritz, like the grasshopper, was a pleasure-loving creature who spent the summer dashing from one interesting place to the next without a care in the world. From time to time he ran into the other mice, who paid no attention to glorious beams of sunlight or the fragrant breath of a breeze, so busy were they gathering and storing crumbs of food.

"Fellow mice," Fritz said one day. "Why are you always so busy? Take a moment to look at the sky; waggle your whiskers and smell the flowers."

The other mice ignored Fritz, all except a spokesmouse, who said, "Don't you know that winter is coming"

Fritz was baffled. "What's that?"

"Cold and snow, and no food to be found anywhere. You won't be dancing and prancing around them. You'll be hungry, but we won't."

Fritz nibbled on a seed, then darted away, laughing at the morbid fantasies of creatures too busy preparing for a future which might never come to enjoy the pleasures of the moment.

Winter did come, and Fritz did get hungry. Drawn by the smell of food, he crawled into the burrow of the other mice.

"And what do you think you're doing here?" asked the spokesmouse. "Why should we share the food we worked hard to gather while you were being lazy?"

Fritz had an idea. "I'll tell you stories to while away the long winter night. I'll tell you what the bees and butterflies say to the flowers and the tales the birds tell of lands beyond the sea."

The mice began to draw closer, their eyes bright with curiosity. Even the spokesmouse looked interested. "Do you have a lot of stories?"

"Countless," Fritz said, knowing that if he ran out of real ones he could make them up.

He told them of birds' journeys to the jungles of Africa and tropical islands, about the messages of love bees carried from flower to flower, and the ancient history of the forest which was inscribed onto the bark of trees. With each story the mice drew closer, and soon they were all quite warm and cozy.

They had the most wonderful winter any mouse could remember, and when spring came each one went up to shake Fritz's paw. That spring and summer everymouse took out some time to play and sunbathe and listen to the gossip of plants and trees. The next winter they each had a story to tell, and they all passed the season in comfort and joy.


Practical Notes


In our Crystal Gardens newsletters we like to share practices, crystals, and flower essences which have assisted us in dealing with the particular issues we discusss.