Astara and the Flower of Life
Once upon a time a young girl called Astara planted the seed of a flower. Each morning she went out to see if it had bloomed. Every day she watered it and begged the seed to turn into a flower.
After a week, she started to despair that her seed would never flower. She went inside and slumped on a chair next to her Grandma.
“Grandma my seed didn’t flower. Even though I watered it every day just like you said, nothing happened.”
Her grandma replied “All things take time little one. There is a perfect time for everything. Let me tell you about the Cycle of Life.” Astara snuggled into the armchair.
“Winter is when the plants look still and quiet, sometimes even dead. But deep below the surface their roots are getting stronger, shooting down deeper to look for nourishment. It’s too cold outside for many plants to venture out, so they withdraw their sap inside, staying still and waiting for the right time for them to rise up again.”
“Even in places where it is hot?”
“In hot places they don’t need to withdraw so much, but they still have a rest. We all need a rest. Winter is a bit like night time when we go to sleep. It’s when the trees sleep a little more, and the seeds lay dormant in the ground.”
“But…” she continued “at Imbolc, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox is when the first early shoots hit the surface of the earth and poke their head through into the light. This is the first hint that Spring is on its way. It’s a little bit like you poking your head out from under the covers early in the morning. What happens after that?”
“Well then I get up! And I go outside to smell the sunshine and listen to the birds.” Astara replied.
“Well, plants are the same. As the sun rises in the sky and the birds get excited and start to sing the songs of Spring, so do these little seedlings grow up. Soft and tentatively at first, but then more bravely, sprouting out leaves with which they can soak up the sunlight and taste the birdsong. And by the time it’s fully Spring and the butterflies are out, these little seedlings have lots of green leaves and are forming flower buds.”
“So I have to wait until Spring for my flower to bud?” Astara frowned.
“For this one, yes. Some plants are different, all have their own cycle, but for the most part, yes. And those Spring buds are like the maidens at Beltaine, so beautiful, soft and innocent and ready to burst into women! And then the flower bud opens into its full glory, slowly and softly. But don’t forget Astara, to get to this point takes time and patience. Flowering too early means the bloom will be short-lived and not as strong and scented as it could be if it had gone through all of its stages.
Sometimes, of course, a flower will bloom late or early because the outside conditions force it to, or because it becomes stressed, but this is not ideal. Think of the butterfly – if it is forced out of its cocoon too early, it will not have the juice in its wings to fly and so will die. Every little stage is important my dear. Patience is very important.”
“Ok Grandma, so I shouldn’t beg my seed to flower yet because it is too cold and it hasn’t had time to grow leaves and sip the sunshine?”
Grandma smiled and continued on…
“When the conditions are just right, the flower will open its petals wide for all to see and appreciate, and the butterflies will come and sip its nectar, and the bees will come to gather the pollen to make honey with, and all will revel in the beauty of the bloom in its fullness. This is a busy time for the flower as it is constantly having guests and sharing its abundance. It’s a bit like you in the middle of the day when you’re with all your friends sharing your games and food with each other. Midday, when the sun is at its height is like the fullness of Summer.”
Astara looked pensive. “But in Autumn the flower withers and its petals fall off and all the leaves die. It’s so sad and all for nothing Grandma.”
“On the contrary, Astara, the Autumn of life is where the real gifts come. As the outer beauty of the flower withers and dries, the inner beauty gets more potent. The flowers turn into fruits. Think of a rose, when the petals fall off we get the Rosehip. This is powerful medicine – in the hip of the Rose is condensed all the wisdom of the whole cycle and it can be used with great power.“
“But not all flowers get a hip Grandma”
“True, true, some go on to fruit, deepening their blessings, surrendering their beauty for something nourishing to eat. And what’s within the fruit?”
Astara thought for a little and then realized “Seeds!” she exclaimed.
“That’s right, within the fruits are the seeds of wisdom that can start the cycle all over again.”
“But the beauty is still gone Grandma” she frowned.
“Ah, you are still young my love, but one day you will come to understand that letting go of the beauty, letting your petals drop off, is the ultimate surrender into bliss. No longer does it matter what you look like for now you have formed inside you deep pearls of wisdom, seeds that will regenerate into ever more beautiful creations having had the wisdom of this cycle encoded into them.”
Astara sat thoughtfully awhile and then said “It’s a bit like you Grandma, you’re old but you’re still beautiful in a different way.”
Grandma laughed heartily.
“Okay Grandma, I will be much more patient with my flower now.” She scrambled out of the armchair and then looked back “Grandma, how do we flower?”
“That’s for another day Astara, first learn your cycles by tending your plants.”
And so she did. Through the next year Astara watched her seed grow through the seasons. She felt its growth, peak and decay. She collected the seeds and planted them for the next year. And the following year she continued watching and learning from nature, and as she did she learned to live in harmony with the seasons. She learned to be more quiet and restful in the winter, coming out of hibernation in the Spring with fresh energy and ideas waking up, and to share herself and her joyfulness in Summer, and to let go and learn from her whole year in the Autumn.
And one day when she was a little older and wiser, as she lay on the earth amongst a field of flowers, her question returned.
How do we flower?
She closed her eyes and suddenly she could feel herself growing roots from seeds in her belly. Roots that travelled deep into the earth nourishing her from the ground up. Then rising through her body like it was the soil of the earth, out of her heart burst a bud that opened and bloomed brightly. And as it did it rayed out and lit up a star in the sky. The star showered down brilliant rays of light onto her, activating her own inner light to shine even more brightly.
When she opened her eyes again she knew that humans flower whenever we are so happy that our heart bursts with joy and light. And this joy and light beams out and lights up everything and everyone around us, activating their joy and light, which returns and reactivates our own light and so forth and so forth in an endless cycle.
As she walked back towards the village, she came upon a young boy who was sad and unhappy. She smiled at him, still beaming with the joy of her experience of blooming. And low and behold she saw a little glimmer of light activated in the sad boy’s eyes and he attempted a smile back.
“People are like stars” she said softly to him “if we shine our light on each other it makes us shine brighter.”
The boy fell to the ground and burst into tears. He tried to wipe them away hastily but without much success.
“Grandma says tears are sacred” Astara said gently “they are like rain, they water the earth spirit and cleanse our soul so we can be happy again. If we don’t cry the earth dries up and our body gets unhappy.”
Slowly the boy rose again, his eyes still wet with tears. “I do feel a bit better” he said a little surprised and smiling now. “Thanks for relighting my star!” he said as he skipped away.
His happiness lit up her happiness even more as she continued home.
As she walked inside, Grandma asked “What did you learn today?”
“Oh Grandma” she gushed “today I found out we flower when we’re happy and giving all of ourselves to the world, its like we just burst with joy. Flowers are like explosions of joy! But I also learned that just like flowers need water to grow, we have to release our tears to nourish our starlight. Because when our tears get stuck our light gets dammed up.”
“You’ve learned well Astara. If we don’t move through the phases of life, if we get stuck, we get sick and unhappy and that blocks all growth everywhere.
”Do you think that we can fix that by shining our own light on someone?”
“Absolutely my dear, shining your own light can activate the stars of others and as they start twinkling again, whatever is stuck can start to release and they can come back into the natural cycle, back into harmony with nature’s rhythms again.
“Well then I’m going to make sure that every day I do what makes me happy and bursts my heart into blooms of joy so that my star gets activated and so does everyone else’s!!”
Grandma smiled quietly as she tucked Astara into bed.
“But for now, it is time to rest. Sleep soundly my sweet, so that you may bloom again tomorrow”. She winked as she blew out the candle.
© Heidi Wedd, 2017
From the upcoming book of fables Tales from a New Earth
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