There was an old country house that was infested with rats and nothing could be secured from their depredations. The vermin scaled the walls to reach the farmer’s bacon hanging from the ceiling and hanging shelves offered no protection for the cheese and pastries. The preserves and sweetmeats were no safer in the pantry, the rats gnawed through cupboard doors, undermined floors, and ran races behind the wainscots.

The cats could not reach them, the vermin were too clever and too well fed to bother with poisoned bait, and traps only caught a few heedless stragglers. However, the farmer caught one of these stragglers and fitted him with a small bell and then let him loose.

Mouse and bell

Moral: He who is raised so much above his fellow creatures as to be the object of their terror, but suffer for it in loosing all the comforts of society. He is a solitary being in the midst of crowds. He keeps them at a distance and they equally shun him. Dread and affection cannot subsist together. Design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Overjoyed by his freedom, the rat ran into the nearest whole and searched for his companions. They heard the tinkle, tinkle at a distance and assumed it was an enemy in their midst and scattered in every-which way. The bell-bearer pursued, and soon guessing the cause of their flight, he was greatly amused. He chased his friends from hole to hole, and room to room, laughing all the while at their fears, even as he increased it by all means in his power. Soon he had the whole house to himself. He thought, “That’s right, the fewer, the better.” So he rioted alone and stuffed himself with goodies until he could hardly walk.

For two or three days, life was good. He ate and ate, until he grew tired of his lonely condition and longed for his old family and friends. The difficulty now was how to get rid of the bell. He pulled and tugged with his fore-feet until he nearly wore all of the fur from his neck, but all in vain. The bell was now his plague and torment, so the rat wandered from room to room searching for a companion, but they all stayed out of his reach At last, as he moped about in despair, he fill into a puss’s clutches and was devoured in an instant.

Source: John Aikin (1747-1822) and Anna Lætitia Barbauld (1743-1825), Evenings at home, or, The juvenile budget opened (New-York: Harper & Brothers, 82 Cliff-Street, 1839.) Barbauld was unable to publish because of her political stances, and collaborated with her brother to get this book published.

 

 

3 ravens

Nevermore and two companions followed me to work, asking, Where shall we our breakfast take? I thought about it for a moment and recommended the fried rice at our neighborhood take-away in honor of Chinese new year… they agreed and took flight. Design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Happy Chinese New Year!

February 16, 2018

 

brown dog

Welcome Earth Dog! Earth Dog humans are communicative, serious, and responsible in the workplace. Design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Earth Dog 2018 Card

 

moth heart

Some California Indian tribes consider moths to be sacred and powerful creatures that are spirit guides into mystery, darkness/light, and transformation. Design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Heart Moth Card

Lax what do

“what-do-?-love” words by Robert Lax (1915-2000) from “In the Beginning was Love: Contemplative Words of Robert Lax,” edited with an introduction by S. T. Georgiou (2015), design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

maplestream

Maple leafs floating in a stream design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

What-do-?-love card

 

 

Paisley Chain

Border featuring overlapping paisley designs by Meredith Eliassen, January 2015.

blue paisley

Cool blue paisley design by Meredith Eliassen, January 2018.

green paisley

Okay, the sun has come out green paisley design by Meredith Eliassen, February 2018.

frogs rock

Two frogs dodging rocks… design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Some boys were playing by the edge of a pond. Unaware that there was a group of frogs living there, they amused themselves by throwing stones into the pond to make them skip across the water. The stones were flying so thick and fast and the boys were enjoying themselves very much that they did not notice that the poor frogs in the pond were dodging the stones or trembling with fear amidst the grasses.

old frog

At last, the oldest and bravest of the frogs made a stand, and said: “Oh, please, dear boys, stop your cruel play! Though it may be fun for you, it means death to us!” Design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Always stop to think whether your fun may not be the cause of another’s unhappiness.

 

weathercock

The Weathercock was having a rough day… design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Weathercock Card 

“Restless life! Restless life!” moaned the Weathercock on the church tower by the seas as he felt the wind sway his direction suddenly. He creaked with dismay, “restless, toiling life, and everybody complaining of one all the time…”

An old woman hobbling towards the church lamenting: “There goes that tiresome weathercock pointing east… now I know why my rheumatism has returned!”

Then a farmer warned the old gravedigger: “Watch out Tomkins! If that rascally weathercock is to be trusted, the wind’s going to bring us rain.”

The steadfast weathercock was horrified that he was always to blame for the weather, and muttered to himself: “Am I to blame? Did I choose my lot? Do you think I would swing every which way if I had a choice?”

sundial

Gatty’s motto for this story: “They also serve who only stand and wait,” is from Milton, 1673 Poems, design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

From below, the sundial grumbled under his breath: “Oh, how he chatters away up there… he almost makes me smile.” Reflecting upon his day, “Not a ray of sunshine has fallen upon me today. I wonder what Ol’ Weathercock finds to interesting to talk about. His life is so active, no doubt. Oh, what I would not give to be like him.”

The weathercock looked down at his longtime companion the sundial with envy: “Ah, that’s the life!”

Dial heard his name whispered in the wind: Hello up there! Did you call? Is there anything fresh astir? I get so tired of the long dark useless hours. So come on now, what have you been talking about?”

“Nothing profitable,” replied the weathercock. “I am just grumpy.”

“But why?” Asked the dial. “Your life is so active and bright.”

Weathercock thought Dial was mocking him. “Look at me! Swinging with every peevish blast that crosses the sky. Turn here, turn there, turn everywhere… never a moment’s rest.”

The companions fell silent as humans started passing with their daily routines… pausing a moment to examine the sundial or the weathercock to get a sense of what was coming.

A sailor lingered near the dial and read its weathered motto: “Watch, for ye know not the hour.” He just hankered for a long afternoon to relax, and mentioned this to the gravedigger in passing. Tomkins responded: “You’ll be cured of the wish for idle afternoons when they are forced upon you… wait until you are old like me and then you will understand.” With good-natured goodbyes, the two parted ways leaving the churchyard empty of its living guests.

The sailor went home and warned his sons to keep a lookout for there have been signs of a strong gale arriving and with the high tide, there could be dangerous or even deadly conditions.

Meanwhile, the sundial observed, “Just as I thought, everything is wrong because everybody is so dissatisfied.

Soon the farmer’s wife saw the tracts of white foam, thick like snow fields, on the ocean, followed the breakers as they crashed upon the shore like claps of thunder. That night, a mighty storm – a hurricane – came and stalled over the coastal hamlet causing great fear, but the weathercock and the sundial stayed the course.

The weather eventually cleared and the sun shined brightly over the village and the sea with the brilliancy of spring. Because the villagers recognized the signs and prepared, nobody was hurt and damage was minimal, indeed, the dial and the weathercock were buffeted to the point of shining like new. Villagers look at them renewed gratitude, thinking: “What a mercy!”

Dial heard this and asked his friend: “Are you silent, Weathercock?”

“I was just thinking,” he replied. “I have a new sense of my own responsibility. I have the sensation that everything is useful in its own place and at all times, though humans may not always figure that out.”

The sundial beamed, “that was my impression as well.”

===

Source: Margaret Gatty (1809–1873) wrote about marine biology and was prolific children’s book author and editor who mentored her daughter Juliana Horatia Ewing (1841-1885) in her writing career. While Gatty’s tales were targeted for juvenile audiences, she hoped that they would influence the minds of adults as well. This story is from her Parables from Nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A haiku prayer from Issa…

January 19, 2018

We love bats because they are so important in our world and are saddened that so many died recently in the Australian heatwave.

bat haiku

Haiku by Issa: “Hot night – bats dangle at the river’s edge” with design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Rosamond’s Choice

January 18, 2018

purple jar a

Design of the purple jar, inspired by consumer parable by Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849), by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Long ago, Rosamond, a little girl about seven years old, was walking with her mother. They passed many shops and she saw a great variety of things in the windows that were unfamiliar to her. Rosamond wanted to stop and look at them but the streets were crowded and she was afraid to let go of her mother’s hand.

As they passed a toy shop, she looked up at her mother and said, “How happy I would be if I had all of these pretty things.”

What, Rosamond… all!” Her mother exclaimed: “Do you wish them all?”

“Yes, all.”

Soon they arrived at a milliner’s shop that had windows decorated with ribbons, lace, and festoons of artificial flowers.

“Mommy, what beautiful roses! Won’t you buy some of them?”

“No, my dear.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want them, my dear.”

Next, they passed a jewelry shop that caught Rosamond’s eye. There were a great many baubles arranged in drawers behind the glass.

“Mommy, will you buy some of these?”

“Which one?”

“Which? I don’t know: any of them will do; they are all pretty.”

Yes, they are all pretty, but of what use would they be to me?”

“Use! Oh I’m sure you could find a use for them if only you would buy them first.”

“But I would rather find out the use first.” Her mother said.

“Well, then Mommy, there are buckles; you know buckles are useful things.”

I have a pair of buckles and I don’t need another. Her mother said and then walked on leaving Rosamond upset that her mother did not want anything.

Soon they passed an apothecary store that had some very interesting colorful things in the window that Rosamond had never seen before, but she did not know what the store was selling. “Oh Mommy, look at that!’ She cried, “Look, look! — blue, green, red, yellow, and purple!” What beautiful things? Won’t you buy some of these these?”

“What use would they be to me, Rosamond?

Rosamond pointed at a purple jar and said, “You might put flowers in them and they would look so pretty. I wish I had one of them.”

Her mother looked at her sternly. “You have a flower pot and that is not a flower pot.”

“But I could use it as a flower pot.”

“Perhaps if you examined it closer, you might be disappointed.”

“No, I am sure I want it.” Rosamond countered, “Perhaps you have no money.”

“Yes, I have money.”

“Mommy,” she said excitedly. “If I had money, I would buy roses, and boxes, and jewelry, and purple flower pots, and everything.”

Rosamond was obliged to pause in the middle her speech. “Oh, Mommy! Can we stop, I have a stone in my shoe and it is hurting me.”

“How come there is a stone in your shoe?”

violet shoe

Rosamond pointed at a big hole in her shoe. “My shoes are quite worn out, can you get me another pair?” Design by Meredith Eliassen, 2017.

Her mother looked closer. “Rosie, I don’t have enough money to buy shoes, and flower pots, and buckles, and boxes, and everything.

This was not what Rosamond wanted to hear, especially since her foot was starting to really hurt, obliging her to hop every other step, so that she could think of nothing else. Soon her mother brought her to a shoe store, and they entered it. The shoe store was full so the two had to wait for assistance. Rosamond was not very interested in the shoes because they appeared to be very drab and the store smelled of leather. Rosamond looked around and spotted a small pair of shoes: “These will do, they will just fit me find, I’m sure.”

Her mother went up to the shoes and observed: “Perhaps, but you cannot be sure until you have tried them on…” Adding, “Any more than you can be quite sure of that you would want the purple vase, until you have examined it more closely.”

Rosamond, a bit contrary today, quipped: “Why, I don’t know about the shoes, but I am quite sure that I would want the purple jar.”

Her mother saw the opportunity for a teaching moment, responded: “Well, dear, which would you rather have: that jar or a pair of shoes?”

“Mommy, can I have both?”

“No, not both.”

“Then I would like the jar.”

“Okay, but I will not give you another pair of shoes this month. Are you sure?”

With that, Rosamond paused. A month was a long time for a seven-year-old girl. She needed the shoes, yet the purple jar beckoned her. Her shoes were not that bad, they could be worn a little longer. “I can make the shoes last until the end of the month, don’t you think?”

Oh, my dear, I want you to think for yourself.” Her mother went off to inspect some shoes for her own needs, leaving Rosamond to ponder her options.

When she returned, “Well, Rosie, what have you decided?”

“I choose the flower pot… it will make me happy.”

Her mother paused, and then said, “Very well, you shall have it. Clasp your shoe and come home.” They stopped at the apothecary shop and requested that the jar be delivered, and continued on. The walk home was long as Rosamond was obliged to stop many times to remove stones from her shoe, and soon was limping with pain. However, her thoughts of the purple jar prevailed and she defended her choice again and again.

Once they arrived home, Rosamond immediately went into the garden to look for some flowers for the jar, anticipating its arrival. Hours passed before the jar was delivered, and when it came, she asked, “May I have it now?”

“Yes, my dear; it is yours.”

Rosamond, in her excitement, dropped the flowers onto the carpet and seized the purple flower pot. She lifted the top: “Oh Mommy! There is something dark in it that smell awful. What is it? I didn’t want this dark stuff!”

“Nor do I, my dear.”

“What should I do with it?”

“I don’t know.”

“But it is no use to me!”

“That, I can’t help!”

“I will have to pour it out and fill the jar with water for the flowers.”

“As you wish.”

purple jar b

Rosamond proceeded to empty the purple vase into the sink only to discover that when the vase was empty, it was no longer a purple vase. It was just plain white glass that appeared to be the beautiful color from the liquor with which it had been filled. Design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Rosamond burst into tears.

“What’s the matter, my dear?” Her mother asked, somewhat mockingly. “It will be of as much use to you now as ever for a flower pot.”

“But it is not as pretty.”

“Didn’t I tell you to examine it more closely?”

To Rosamond’s chagrin, she was in no position to negotiate: “If I give you the flower pot will you get me the shoes, after all?”

“No Rosie, you have dumped its contents down the sink, the shop will not accept it as a return now. The best thing you can do now is to bear your disappointment with good humor.”

It was a long month, indeed.

 

Source: This story was based upon Maria Edgeworth’s parable called the “Purple Jar” (1796).

Purple Jar notecard