Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Grasshopper and the ant

Today when I am dusting I find a dead grasshopper on the windowsill. He is still perfectly green and even in death his face looks full of intellect and interest. He does not have that frowning fierceness that the praying mantis has – all hard angles and the eyes of a maniac. No this sweet fellow has the face of a country vicar - all humility and gentleness and through carelessness I have killed him. I wonder if the Buddha of household things sees this misadventure and I leave dusting him till later - still suddenly my karma seems too heavy to carry on with. I think on all the accidental deaths, on all the lives cut short through some failure of attention or care. Better the grasshopper had died in the beak of a bird, I think, more violent but a death with purpose. The thing is I had seen this small fellow come in a few days ago. The screen door was open, the afternoon sun was coming in at a slant and this perfectly jointed green creature came in too. He settled on the architrave beside the door and I got up from my desk to admire him. His sweet face looked somehow familiar and put me in mind of the grasshopper in Aesop’s fables. I’m not sure what edition I had as a child – it was a book that had belonged to my mother – a hardback, the pages roughly cut and the coloured plates interleaved with tissue. I remember that the grasshopper had spent the summer singing while the ants worked. I think in the illustration he carried a small violin while the ants shouldered a giant stalk of wheat…the text was spare, hardly a story really. Labour and frugality was rewarded and idleness condemned. How much more eloquent the picture was and how surprised I was that singing could be punished. I liked to sing.

A day later when I noticed the grasshopper again he was clinging to the cornice. I wondered at his ability to walk upside down and went back to work. I had spent the morning bottling quinces, now I was at the sewing machine stitching straight rows and unable stop – I admired his acrobat instincts in an abstract sort of way, not thinking he might be in peril – I was being an ant – I hadn't stopped to wonder that he was still in the house, did not even think to open a window for him. Perhaps he was drowning not waving. Perhaps he was not singing but calling for help. I looked without seeing the obvious, heard without listening something I am too often guilty of - and that is how I came to find him a week later, laid on his side as though in sleep, unmoving on the windowsill. 


  1. I sometimes fall short of what I'd ideally like to do too. However, I suspect that most times, you are able to catch the grasshopper, thank him for the visit, and take him out to the garden.

  2. Oh I hope so Tammy - hope to in the future anyway.

  3. All we can do is our best. I have to keep telling myself that. :)