I’m a big fan of wonder tales, those tales collected by the Grimm brothers and all their universal variants. They abound all over the world. I adore Georgian fairy tales and those from China and Japan. I’m also a big fan of creating our own as healing tales for ourselves and for others. It’s something we playfully explore in soul support groups. Here’s one I wrote recently after seeing a late and especially fragrant rose blooming in the early morning.
The girl and the rose
Once there was a girl who longed to give herself fully to the world but she didn’t know how. She tried first sweeping because that would help to clean the world. She bought a broom and she swept the houses and she swept the streets, and she became such a good sweeper that the mayor of Basel asked her to come to sweep the streets of that clean city. But she did not want to keep sweeping and she did not want to go to Basel.
So she stayed at home and she began to make bread because she knew that would help to feed the world. She got up in the early morning and she baked lots of different loaves. For a while it felt good but then no, she knew it was not for her. Other bakers came and made better loaves and she knew their hearts were in their cobs and their sourdough, their brioches and their croissants. Her own heart was not in her baking. She made good enough loaves but she didn’t love them so she stopped making bread.
Next, she tried writing to see if that would tell her. She began to write in the early morning, she wrote all through the day, and she wrote so late into the night that she needed to light a candle to keep working. But at dawn, the candle ran out and she still didn’t know what and how she had to give herself to the world.
So the young woman went out into the garden. There in the garden was a rose that had opened its bud to the cool morning air. One shy bud was letting its petals peel open to reveal its heart.
She sniffed at the newly revealed rose. It glistened with dew and its fragrance was subtle and spicy. As she smelt the perfume, the young woman asked the rose. ‘What do I need to give the world?’
But the rose was silent.
In the house next door, there lived a woman as wizened and brown as a walnut. She worked in the garden in the early hours, snipping away what was no longer needed and assisting what was preparing to bloom and blossom to give its flowers and its fruit. She picked herbs and vegetables and flowers. She tidied and she listened; listened to what the plants needed, listened to what the birds sang, listened to what the world asked of her. As she worked, the old woman heard the voice of her young neighbour asking her question. It seemed like a cry from the heart so she paused, unable to make out exactly what had been said.
‘What did you say?’ the old woman called out.
The girl started, but of course, it wasn’t the rose that spoke. It was the old woman next door. She waved at her over the fence.
‘What do I need to give the world?’ She repeated the question loudly enough so that not just the rose could hear but the woman next door, and whomever else needed to receive her query. Then she was silent for a moment.
‘I was asking the rose,’ the young woman explained, perhaps to herself, perhaps to the old woman.
The old woman held up one gloved hand. ‘Wait there a moment, my dear. I’ll come round to you.’
The old woman took off her gloves, put down her trug and dug her spade into the garden bed. She walked around into the neighbouring garden and stood quietly beside the young woman. They both admired the rose.
‘I asked my question, but the rose hasn’t answered me.’ The girl’s voice was filled with disappointment.
The woman laughed, her voice a throaty crackle. ‘Ah, my dear, my dear! But the rose has answered already.’
‘What?’ said the young woman. ‘I didn’t hear her.’
The old one laughed again, showing all her crooked teeth.
‘My dear girl,’ she said, taking the young woman’s hand in hers. ‘She shows you.’
The younger woman frowned. ‘She shows me what?’
‘Blossom and bloom,’ the old woman muttered. ‘Blossom and bloom. Let go of all the old blooms and let the fresh ones emerge. Keep going until the world can’t help but notice.’
‘Blossom and bloom,’ the old woman repeated, as she headed back to her own garden. Her secateurs clanked against her garden fork in the capacious pocket of her apron.
From that day on, in all that she did, that was what the young woman strived to do. Wherever she could, she blossomed and bloomed, whether she was sweeping the floor, baking bread, writing her stories or discovering more and more of her own special gifts. They gradually revealed their secrets to her, like fresh buds on the rose. And she kept on doing it all her life.