My Homemade Mother's Day Gift

Sunday, April 21, 2013

As Feather's in the Wind

Once upon a time there was a quaint village of angry people whose lives were in relentless turmoil. There was so much bickering and fighting and pandemonium betwixt the citizens of the parish their infamous behavior was heralded throughout the neighboring countryside. One could not so much stroll down the street without a person busting out of a shop or home and pointing an accusatory finger toward the passerby. One could never reach their destination without encountering a dreadful disagreement with a fellow resident. Invariably, the indictments would be met with counter allegations and a fight would almost always ensue.

A young priest journeying to a nearby monastery made his way through the discontented village in route to his destination. Aghast, he glanced from one side of the cobblestone street to the other witnessing every imaginable conflict as he made his way through the town. Fatigued from his long journey, and disheartened from the utter chaos he had observed, he decided to stay at a local inn for the night. The innkeeper and his wife laid aside their differences just long enough to check him in and take his money. In his small room he took out from his knapsack a bit of bread and cheese for his evening meal. A young boy knocked on his door to bring him a towel and water for his basin. The priest opened his purse and took out a coin, but before handing it to the child, he inquired of the nature of all the tension throughout the entire community. The boy explained that an old widow woman who lived all alone went visiting from one house to the next carrying tales of scandal and gossip and any news that might be of interest to her neighbors. Because she was full of interesting stories, everyone welcomed her into their home.

Early the next morning as the priest prepared to begin his journey, he spied the old woman already hobbling from one house to the next. Weary from her morning's travel, she plopped down on a large stone to take a short rest before her next stop. The priest saw it as an opportune time to make her acquaintance.

Good woman," he said, "I perceive that you are able to retain a jovial relationship with all the townsfolk. And yet, they seem quite cross with almost everyone else they encounter. How is it that you are able to remain at peace with all these tormented souls?"

The old woman smiled pleasantly at the priest and stiffly put out her gnarled hand for an introduction. "I don't believe I have had the pleasure, good sir. My late husband was a very prominent man and we knew everyone for miles about. Since his passing I continue to visit my fellow townsfolk and deliver news of neighboring towns, alluring accounts of recent occasions and charming tales of good fortune, tragic woes and winds of affection that I pick up here and there. I provide and carry useful information. Everyone here expectantly awaits my arrival with great anticipation. I weave wonderful tapestries of fascination and imagination. People so enjoy interesting tales... hearing them… telling them… Where, sir, might I inquire, is it you are from and to where, good sir, are you going?" she asked as her eyes danced in anticipation of his response. "Might we look forward to your extended stay in our humble little hamlet?"

Though it was yet quite early, the pandemonium had already begun to stir up the small municipality. Two bellowing men crossed from opposite sides of the street ranting and raving at each other and were about to come to blows. "My good woman," the priest retorted as he watched the two whose quarrel had now degenerated to striking each other, "can you not see what your tidbits bring to this borough? You're carrying of tales hither thither and yon have brought much heartache and antagonism to the good people of this township. Observe the fruit of your labors!"

The old woman watched as the two men, brothers, thrashed about on the cobblestones, fighting like schoolboys, and, the gentle breeze carried the echo of angry voices that wafted as a quiet whisper of discontent throughout the village. A window flew open and a woman spat on a man as he passed in front of her house. The elderly woman looked around the town and a large tear rolled down her old weathered cheek. "I meant no harm, sir," she whispered.

The priest opened his knapsack and withdrew a pillow from within its contents and handed it to her. "Your intentions mean little in the face of all that you have done old woman. As penance, I want you to take this pillow, open it up and distribute the feathers hither, thither and yon as you have spread your tales, and when you are free from the contents, come back here and tell me what you have done."

Reluctantly, the tired old woman struggled to her feet and began to distribute the feathers one feather at a time as she moved in pained steps down the explosively animated avenue. The priest waited on the large stone for her return. It was afternoon before the fatigued old woman reappeared with the limp pillow casing. Slowly she reached out her arm stiffly to return it to the priest. "I have scattered the feathers as you required, good sir. I have learned my lesson."

The priest made no move to receive the empty pillow casing. "There is but one more part of your reparation yet to do, old woman. Now, I want you to go back and gather all the feathers that you have painstakingly thrown about the town and put them back in the casing.  Do not return until you have gathered back each and every one of them."

The old woman's face contorted into a twisted grimace upon hearing the demand. Astounded, she stood motionless and began to shake her head. "Good sir," she gasped, "there is no way that I can gather up all of those feathers back into this pillow casing again. Surely by this time they have been carried about on the winds and blown into the distant countryside hither, thither and yon. It cannot be done!"

"Indeed it cannot be done madam. Nor can the words you have carried from place to place be eaten back in your mouth. For by this time, they have been carried into the distant countryside as well. But unlike feathers, your words bring pain and heartache to all who suffer under the weight of their cruelty. Remember this lesson now when you go home and consider the value of speaking your words cautiously."