Little sister grass 

Little sister grass

Little Catty was enjoying her new found freedom with a pair of wings that she had just grown. It was refreshing to flutter around in her beautiful wings after a long time trapped in the tight little cocoon that was a rite of passage for all aspiring butterflies. Her parents were proud of her, their beautiful caterpillar daughter transformed into a dazzling, fluttering display of colour.

How wonderful youth and vitality is! As Catty basked in her strength, she flew as far from home as she could, enjoying the sights and sounds. She saw other cocoons still struggling to break free, she saw older butterflies begin to fade in their colour and strength. She stopped on every other beautiful and sweet flower for a sniff, for a landing, just to say "Look at me! Look at my graceful flight, enjoy my beauty!" Her heart lept each time a passing bee, fly or beetle slowed to look at her. Sometimes a passing human child might try to scoop her up in their giant hands. But with her young, strong wings, she was too quick for them!

She flew home proud and amazed that she was turning heads and feelers. She began to stick her head up when she saw poor caterpillars crawling about waiting for their turn to metamorphorsise. "Oh dear, how slow you are going! Let me teach you how to become a beautiful butterfly like me!" As caterpilars gathered to listen to her, she impressed with accounts of how she stayed perfectly still in the cocoon so that her wings would not be scratched or marred with scratches, or how she would choose a place to hang herself, which is far from fumbling beetles and nasty grasshoppers. The young and envious caterpillars applauded her fluent speeches with their rows of legs and asked her to fly around again and again so that they could admire the beauty of her wings and set goals for their own transformation.

Meantime, her arrogance was getting a bit too much for her elders. She began to think that she was above them, superior to them and that she knew all the tricks to developing beautifully that her already fading seniors did not.

One day, Catty was flying around, showing off her wings as usual. She was so engrossed in the act that she did not see a sly spider weaving up his web right in her flying tracks. She whammed straight into the sticky web. Within moments, the veteran spider was moving in for his meal.

Seeing the pending danger, Catty felt fear arise, but her pride remained. She screamed, "Look what you have done! My wings all stuck and crumpled! Do you know who you are dealing with? I'm Catty! THE Catty! Wait till all my butterfly and caterpillar friends come and get you! You still have a chance to get me disentangled from this mess. NOW!"

Spidey grinned and rubbed his four pairs of legs in glee. "Struggle! The more you struggle, the tighter the grip! Ha! Ha! This is an invincible formula passed down through the spidey clan. Struggle! See how your mind flutters just like your silly little wings!"

Catty paralysed with fear. She felt truly now that the more she struggled, the tighter and more enmeshed her wings and flimsy tube of a body were clinging to the web. The invincible and invisible trap. Her mind went blank.

At this time, a familiar voice rang. "Oh Catty... if only I had told you the story of little sister grass earlier. Then you may have escaped today's fate."

Spidey and Catty looked up to see the branch that the web was hooked on speaking with regret and compassion.

Branch continued, "The day you grew wings, I feared for you. I have seen so many caterpillars turned butterflies become pompous, flaunting and proud. You grew too big for your head, and flew too high for your wings.... well, not just you, but every other young butterfly that had ever flown my way. They all think they are the best and the most beautiful. Look at the bottom of my foot, What do you see?"

Catty stealed a glance and saw a pile of faded broken pieces of butterfly wings at the root of the old tree. It sent a shudder through her tiny spine. She knew her time was up.

"My time is up". This thought struck her and she realised nothing mattered anymore. She calmed down and looked at Spidey in the eye. "Do you have enough compassion for me to hear a last story before you eat me?"

Spidey looked at the entwined, helpless Catty and thought, "Well, nowhere this one could run or fly anyway!" He nodded a smug nod at Branch.

Branch sighed and started. "If little sister grass were around today, she would be able to tell you her story. But since she has long since gone back to the elements, I'll relate her story to you. We were such close friends.... Sigh. Anyway....

Branch looked like he was melting away into his memory of the past.

"The first time I met little sister grass, she was young. So very young. She was a bright shade of green, a little pale and when she first broke through the soil she could not stand properly. I doted on her so I took her into our fellow branches' shade.

Soon she grew strong and stood upright so proudly. I was proud of her too! In the beginning, she would lay close to me and thank me for protecting her. When she grew taller and further off the ground, she began to see more of the outside world and she grew desirous of moving out of my shade.

She met other grasses, who told her to extend her roots further out so that she could get out of my shade, they meant out of our interference! Those devious little grasses!

She did just that. She started to be exposed to the elements. The thunder storm, the mighty blast of a wind, the whispering wind, the mid-day heat of the sun, the seasons... at first, she fought. When the thunderstorm pelted on her, she would resist the heavy drops and stood up tall while the veteran grasses relaxed and just let the drops weigh on them. She strained her veins in that way and soon stood droopped a little on her left side. But she fought on.

When the sun came and the other grasses huddled close to their stem to minimise water loss, she would spread herself out as if to challenge the sun to come and evaporate her. She withered her tips in the process and began to go flip flop in the wind instead of her previous graceful sway.

She resisted everything and tried so hard to stand up tall and strong. She liked to be the tallest amongst all her fellow grass, but that also meant she was hit the hardest in rain, dried the most in the hot sun and trampled from a higher height by human feet.

One morning, she found that she could not stand with her stems straight. She was bent and tired. Poor little sister grass. She became depressed and stopped eating and drinking. At her lowest state, she laid down on the bare earth staring at the roots of other grasses thinking why all her efforts to be the best had brought her to this state.

She looked around at her fellow grass friends. They were green, cheerful and swaying strong in the wind. She realised there must be something right in what they were doing to be able to stay green and strong for so long.

She stopped lamenting. Instead she began observing and listening to other grass. After days of observation, she smiled.

She finally understood.

She waved weakly at me, smiled and thanked me for always supporting her. In her whispering weak voice, she told me the secret to staying green and strong the longest:

'I have to let go of my ego, dear brother Branch.

I need to bow when the rain comes so that the water flows down naturally.
I need to relax myself when the wind blows so that I don't injure myself holding up against it.
I need to be humble and stay low to the ground when humans come, so that I won't be a target for trampling on.

I've been too brash, too proud and too attention seeking.

Youth comes but once and leads to maturity for the wise but the foolish ones like me pass away when youth had barely passed - burning ourselves in youthful pride. We play like we have no tomorrow and think that when tomorrow comes, we are still young!

When I stood too tall with my young bones, I looked down on the older, wiser grass. Sometimes they tried to tell me things, but I deliberately braced myself up higher so that they couldn't get to me. How silly.

It's too late now... I can feel the water draining down through my roots. I've lost too much water to ever stand again. I've spent my youth, fought too hard for the wrong reasons. Please brother Branch, do me a favour."

Drops of water appeared on the tip of Branch.

She said "Do me a favour. Tell my story to other plants, insects, people who are intoxicated with youth. Tell them so that they may go on to the next stage of life wisely, making use of their youthful energy. Tell them to be mindful of their intentions, respectful of their elders, generous in sharing their wisdom and ALWAYS be humble.

Never stand tall. The tallest one always gets hit first because he is most obvious.

Instead, be humble. Bend a little lower, stoop a little.

Or they may become like me, flat on the ground, brought down to earth not by choice but after being floored by folly....

Thank you brother branch for your friendship, good bye..."

Catty felt a violent shake beneath her and she realised that Spidey was sobbing, sending vibrations across the sticky web. She felt tears come to her too. "What great advice, but it came too late!" As she cried, her tiny tears dropped on the invincible web.

And as her good karma goes, the invincible web was not water-proof.

With Spidey's continuous shake and her dripping eyes, Catty felt the web loosen. For a moment, her mind geared into alertness. She slowly wriggled her wings - space!

She glanced quickly at the emotional Spidey absorbed in his own thoughts, and with all the strength she could summon, she heaved her wings violently away from the web.

And she was free!

Branch cheered, Spidey was stunned and Catty was transformed.

Becoming a butterfly was not the real transformation. Being released from near-death, from an ending caused by foolishness shook her entire spiritual self so much.

Now she was truly transformed.

12 June 2005

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