Friday, July 20, 2012

Yes, Yershi

Yershi set to weeding the garden, and motioned that I should join him.

He planted a garden, though coin did not lack in his house and plenty of fresh provender could be found at the market in the village. The garden had quickly become a sore spot between Yershi and I. He saw to it that weeding became one of my first chores, and I saw to it that weeding was the chore I despised the most.

“You have no patience, Shadow,” Yershi said, setting his small spade aside. “Look at how you tear the weeds out of the earth.”

“They’re gone, are they not,” I asked, pointing to the weed-free patch near the carrots, where I had been working. “My spot is much bigger than yours. So who is it who is working faster?”

“Haste, yes, always haste with the young, as I recall,” Yershi said. He grabbed his spade, thrust it into the center of the patch I’d cleared and pulled out a scoopful of soil.

“See the white worms – the roots – here in your soil,” he asked.

I nodded.

“They are the weeds lurking beneath the surface. While the green seeks the sun, the root seeks the earth and water. Cut off the green and the root will grow new green, because whatever virtue the green finds in the sun is stored in the roots – this I know because you see the green wilts when it is cut, but the root will always grow back new green unless it is taken out completely.”

He thrust his spade into his smaller spot and poured the earth from it slowly.

“See here, Shadow,” he said. “There are no roots. Well, there may be tiny roots – see how there are hairs on this one. Your patch will be weedy a week or two hence, but this patch, my patch, where I have taken out the virtue of sun and water and earth, will be bare much longer.”

He left to tend the pigs, thrusting his spade into my patch of earth before he departed, giving me a look.

I took up the spade, dug about in the patch and pulled out as many roots as I could.

He was right. Though some were thick, most, near their ends and occasionally on an underground branch, the roots grew thinner and spidery, finally disappearing altogether. I held up a slender root. Therein lies the captured virtue of the sun, I thought. The sun. No wonder Yershi uses so many roots in his potion. I thought at first it was because he had nothing else to put in them. But the manuscripts I have read – I have progressed far with my reading since coming to live with Yershi – call for sun in many of the mixtures, and I never saw Yershi set a cup in a sunbeam.

What virtue lies in sun? On a hot day I can feel sunlight strong on my arms, my neck. Sometimes after too much time in the sun I feel weak and my skin turns red and hurts – too much of the sun’s virtue, I suspect?

But the plants. The plants know how to extract that virtue and store it deep in the earth, hidden in their roots. Maybe, when the fall comes and the plants wither in the cold, the roots go on living, insulated in the soil, to sprout again when they feel the earth thaw and the ice depart.
All that time, trudging through the snow, digging up frozen potatoes and yams, I was eating sunlight.

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