Creative exercise: The Life of the Grass
Select a small portion of a lawn, and observe attentively the life of the grass and flowers. Record and sketch up all your observations. Do the same exercise in a meadow. Compare the life of the grass in a city and in a meadow.
The Mighty Blade of Grass
One day, the trees spoke to the grass:
"We are so sorry for you, grass. There is no one in the forest who would be shorter than you. They all tread on you. They take it for granted that you are so soft and pliant. As for them, they all claim a respect: people, and beasts, and birds. They say, we are proud and high. You, grass, should grow taller."
But the grass answered them proudly:
"Don't feel pity for me, dear trees. Even though I am short, I am very useful. When they tread on me, I am only too glad. I am for covering the earth; the green carpet is more pleasant to walk upon then the bare earth. If someone is caught in a rain, and paths are muddy, they can wipe their feet on me, as if I am a clean towel. I am always clear and fresh after rain. And in the morning, when I am covered with dew, they can even wash with me.
“Besides, dear trees, I only seem to be weak. Look at me closely. When they tread me under foot, I remain whole. Not only people, but a cow or a horse also walk upon me, and they are fairly heavy, maybe a thousand pounds—and still I stand. Even a heavy truck may pass over me, and still I will stay alive. A heavy weight will press down on me, but I will endure. Little by little, I draw myself up, and again I swing as before. You trees, even though you are tall, cannot sometimes stand the strong wind, but I, because I am low and humble, I don't mind any hurricane."
Silently the trees listened, and could not object. Then the grass continued:
"If I am destined to be born where people make a path, I still do not perish. They tread on me day by day, they press me into the mud, but again I stretch myself out to the light and heat of the Sun. Weeds and plantain even like to grow on a road. For all their life they seem to test their own strength, and they never surrender."
Thereupon the trees called out:
"Yeah, little grass, a great strength is concealed in you."
The mighty oak said:
"I do recall now, that the city birds told me how you break through a road pavement. I did not believe them then, and laughed. No wonder that I did: people with punchers hardly manage in this, while you are so small."
The grass joyfully exclaimed:
"Yeah, dear oak, for us a road pavement is not a problem. The newborn dandelion sprouts spring through a road pavement in the cities, breaking it into seams."
A birch, that kept silent so far, said:
"As for me, O grass, I never thought you useless. It is long since I adore your beauty. We the trees, have but one face, while you are so many-sided. There are so many faces on a glade: the sunny camomiles, and red eyes of carnations, and golden buttons of tansies, and tender bluebells, and merry rosebay. My friend forester said that there are 20 thousand herb species in our country, and only two thousand species of trees and bushes.”
At this point a doe-hare intervened, who brought her young hares to the glade:
"We, hares, also bow low before you, O grass. I did not know that you are so strong, but I always knew that you are very wholesome. You are the best dainty for us, sappy and nourishing. Many wild animals would prefer you above any other food. Even a giant elk bows his head before you. People can't live without you. They specially grow you at their fields and vegetable gardens. Wheat and rye, corn and rice, various vegetables—they too are herbs. And how rich are you in vitamins!"
Now, there was some rustle in the bushes, and the doe-hare quickly ran away with her leverets. This was very timely, because a skinny brown fox ran out into the glade. Immediately it proceeded to bite round the green blades of grass.
"Fox, you are a predator, how come that you eat grass?" the trees wondered.
"I do it not for eat, but to cure myself. Beasts always cure themselves with grass. Didn't you know?" the fox replied.
"Not only beasts, but people also use grass to cure many illnesses," the grass explained. "An old lady, an herb healer, told me that herbs are a veritable drugstore full of precious medicine."
"Yeah, grass, indeed you are able to heal, and in this you are like us," a pine-tree said.
"O pine-tree, I resemble trees not only in this respect. Since our talk took such a turn, I will tell you an ancient mystery of our origin," the grass said solemnly. "Usually we, herbs, do not disclose it to anybody. So listen to me: long time ago the herbs were tree-like, they were the mighty ones. It was millions of years ago. Since then, manifold were the ordeals to which those giants were subjected. Those who found themselves under the most difficult conditions were constantly decreasing in size, until they became a grass. Therefore, it is no wonder that I am so strong."
Now, the trees started to search for similarities between themselves and the grass. They were arguing and interrupting each other, but finally they were exhausted and quieted down. And then, the grass asked them:
"Do you think you should have a pity upon someone who does not need any pity?"
And all trees agreed with her.
Questions and exercises for the tale:
What do you think is the best place for grass to grow?
In your estimation, what is the most unusual thing about a grass?
Who else in nature has a great power?
Imagine that one day the trees, flowers and herbs engaged in competition with each other in strength and dexterity. Who do you think was the winner?
Which herbs are the friends to various trees, and why? Is there such a grass in the forest which would be a friend to everybody?
The Strength of the Grass Tale
Compose a tale about a single herb which shared its strength with a man.
Find a place in your town where a grass broke through a road pavement. Observe it closely, make a sketch or write a tale about it.
Children speak of a grass' great strength. Drawings make up an art exhibition on The Mighty Grass .
A soldier came back home after an army service. For many years he was fighting in distant lands, and his wife nearly cried her eyes out. Glad she was that her husband finally came home, but her joy was short-living. Many and severe were the wounds that the soldier sustained, and they would not heal. So the wife decided to take him to the city, and show him to a doctor. She harnessed a carriage, helped her husband to get into it, and started a long journey to the city. On the way, the bitter thoughts engulfed her, and she did not see that two snakes were warming themselves up under the sun straight in the middle of the road. One snake managed to escape quickly, while the other was slower, and a wheel of the carriage crossed her over. The woman stopped the carriage and saw that the snake who escaped now returned with the plantain leaves and folded them over the injured one, where it was wounded by a wheel. After some time, the injured snake started to move, and both crawled away to the grass.
“What a wonderful herb," the woman thought, "maybe it can help my husband as well?" She plucked a few large leaves, and dressed her husband's wounds with them. Meanwhile, her husband was asleep, being exhausted from the pain. When he awoke, he looked around and said:
"In a dream, I saw that we came to a magical doctor. He was green in colour, and instead of ointments he had leaves in his hands. He covered my wounds with those leaves, and pain disappeared. But that is strange indeed: all this I saw in a dream, but my wounds ache less in reality.”
Thereupon his wife told him what happened, and made for him the new bandages from the plantain. While they were moving towards a city, day after day she was making for her husband the new bandages from plantain, and shortly his wounds started to heal. So they decided to stop their journey, returned home, and there bowed low before the plantain:
"Thank you, dear plantain. We thought a doctor is far away, but it was near, growing at our door."
"Good that finally you have noticed me," the plantain answered. "Not only do I stop the bleeding and heal wounds, but I also cure bites and swellings. If a bee, a wasp, or even a snake bites you, I will alleviate pain and remove oedema. It is not by accident that Mother Nature has placed me near the roads, and gave me broad leaves and high, spike-shaped stems covered with seeds. By these signs, it is easy to find me.”
Questions and exercises for the tale:
• Draw a plantain which saved the life of a poor soldier.
• What do you think is the most amazing thing about a plantain?
• What other medicinal plants grow at the side of a road?
• Compose a tale about a husband and a wife who cured other people with a plantain.
• Did you ever use a plantain for cure?
LILY OF THE VALLEY
A hare was running through a forest. Suddenly, he saw the two long green ears growing in a glade. They looked exactly like hare's ears. The hare was surprised and asked:
"Did anybody ever see a green hare? If it is hare's ears, then where is a hare?"
"Hey you, the Squinting Eye, if you want to see the Green Hare, come here in a week," croaked archly the raven, flying high in the sky.
A week passed, and the hare remembered the green ears. He ran to the glade and stopped in amazement. The forest glade was so fragrant that the hare felt a twitch in his nose. Then he looked and saw that ? thin stem with white bells appeared between the two green ears. The hare was even more surprised, and asked:
"Who are you?"
A resonant voice answered:
“I am lily of the valley. Sometimes they call me Hare's Ears, because of my long green leaves. Look at my flowers. When they bloom, nightingales sing anthems in their honour. My bells are not only shining white during the day, but even through the night they lit up the forest."
The hare came closer to the lily, and gasped:
"Yeah, lily of the valley, your amazing bells will not be confused with anything. And what will happen to you when they will fade?"
The lily responded wisely:
"Then, hare, the berries will be ripening between my ears. In the autumn, they will be like red peas, but don't you ever touch them, because they are toxic."
The hair was amazed beyond description. But then lily saw that hare is so frightened that it may never come again closer to him, and quickly continued:
"Listen, hare, I am a medicine plant. Even though my berries are poisonous, and my leaves too, they are of great help for the people. They make lily drops of them, to help themselves with heart diseases. Therefore, no one complains that I'm toxic. And you, hare, do not be offended! There are so many eatable berries in the forest during autumn that you will not be left without a dainty."
Then the autumn came, and hare came to see his friend, but could not find it.
"Hey, lily of the valley, where are you?" the hare called.
And he heard an answer from under a bush:
“I am here, my dear hare. You cannot see me because people plucked almost all my leaves, to make a medicine of it. But we are not offended. Plants were helping people since long time ago. Besides, we have a whole network of roots underground. If they pluck a stem, another one will grow."
So the hare made sure that his friend is safe, and said goodbye to him until spring.
Questions and exercises for the tale:
• Which other flowers look like animals?
• Describe the lily's light.
• Why do you think a tender flower needs toxic berries? Which other plants have toxic berries, flowers, or leaves?
• What happens in the life of the forest, when lilies of the valley bloom?
• Compose a tale on how a hare met the next spring with his friend, the lily of the valley, and what they told each other of how they survived in a winter.
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