• Mina Semyon

Flowing Like A River

Mama Kira asked Grandma Mina, ‘Can you have Alexi on Tuesday evening because I want to go to Yoga? Oh, and Harriett said that he can play with Olivia for a while.’ Grandma said, ’Yes’ with a big smile on her face. Olivia lives across the road from Alexi’s Grandma. Alexi and Olivia have been friends since they were both just one year old, when Olivia’s Mummy Harriett and Daddy John brought her from China to live with them and to be their little girl. Alexi and Olivia have a lot of fun and games between them. But by the time Mama Kira and Alexi arrived at Grandma’s things have changed, Olivia’s Mummy Harriett phoned and said, ‘Sorry, but Olivia is tired and it’s late and time for supper, as there is school the next day.’ Alexi was disappointed and didn’t hide it, ‘So what am I going to do?’ he asked, as if there was nothing else at all possible. Grandma Mina felt sorry for Alexi’s disappointment, and didn’t know what to say, so she said, ‘I’ll tell you something’, which she found a good way to start when she didn’t know what to say. ‘You know what?’ she continued, ‘things are always changing; one minute it’s cloudy the next minute it’s sunny, nothing ever stays the same, like a river that’s always flowing. And when you let go and flow with the change, something different might happen that’s even better than what you were expecting.’ To her surprise Alexi said, ‘That’s cool, going with change is cool.’ Mama Kira, who was in the bathroom and didn’t hear their conversation, came in and said, ‘Let’s all take an angel card’, which Grandma keeps in a little bowl on the table. Mama took one and got ‘clarity’, Grandma took one and got ‘play’ and Alexis took one and got ‘surrender’, Mama Kira smiled at Alexi, ‘My clarity tells me that you have to surrender to change.’ And Alexi said, ‘I already have.’ And they all laughed and did a little ‘surrender jig’ together and Alexi did a few of his Michael Jackson dance moves. And Mama Kira happily went off to her Yoga class. Grandma said, ‘I’m going to make you some fish, broccoli and carrots.’ ‘I don’t want fish; I only eat fish on Wednesdays,’ said Alexi with a very serious face. ‘What do you mean you eat fish only on Wednesdays?’ ‘Yes’, he said, trying hard to hide that he was bluffing. Grandma thought to herself, ’Ok, let’s see.’ While she prepared their dinner Alexi watched the video ‘The Sword in the Stone’. Grandma didn’t know what the film was about but she liked the sounds and the music that was coming from the bedroom where Alexi lay on his tummy watching the film. And no wonder she liked the music, it was Tchaikovsky, her favourite Russian composer, from his ballet ‘The Sleeping Beauty’. The film was about a young scullery boy named Wart who meets the magician Merlin who teaches him amazing lessons by turning him into a fish, a bird and a squirrel so that he might understand the mysteries of life. The golden sword is magically embedded in the stone so that only the future true-born King of England would be able to pull it out. Magician Merlin prepared the boy to pull out the sword by magic. By the time Grandma came into the bedroom with the tray of food the boy Wart pulled out the sword from the stone and everybody was amazed and shouted, ‘This is our King Arthur!’ Grandma said, ‘You know your Grandpa was called Arthur.’ ‘Yes and my other Grandpa is called Solomon. I have two Grandpas who are called after Kings, except one is alive and the other one isn’t.’ Grandma Mina put down the tray with the fish, which was golden brown, specially made to look very appetising, and a bake of broccoli and pasta with cheese on top. Alexi had a quick look and said, ‘I don’t want pasta, just broccoli’. And no amount of persuasion from Grandma that the pasta and broccoli were baked together with cheese in the oven made any difference. So she had to pick out the broccoli. But, surprise, surprise, Alexi glanced at the fish and said, ‘Yam!’ and finished most of it. Grandma said, ‘You know The Sword in the Stone story reminds me of a fable ‘The Crow and the Pitcher’ by a famous fable writer Aesop, ‘What’s a fable?’ asked Alexi. ‘A fable is a story which has animals in it who act and speak like human beings, and it usually has a good lesson to teach about life.’ ‘Tell me the story’, asked Alexi. ‘The crow saw a pitcher, which had water at the bottom of it, but the crow’s beak was too short to reach. The crow was very thirsty, so she thought ‘I’ll break the pitcher and drink the water’, but then she thought a little harder and decided ‘no, that won’t work, the water will spill and get soaked into the ground.’ And as she was about to give up she thought of a brilliant plan, I’ll drop stones into the pitcher one by one, and that will raise the water up and I’ll be able to drink it.’ And she did. ‘So what is the lesson?’ ‘The lesson is that ingenuity is better than brute force. Like in the sword story the other people tried to pull the sword out by force and it didn’t work but the boy pulled it out by magic.’ ‘What is ingenuity?’ ‘Ingenuity is inventing a way of doing something that at first seems impossible, that’s magic.’ ‘What shall we do now?’ asked Alexi. I’m going to clean up the dishes and then we’ll have desert. ‘What’s for desert?’ ‘Vanilla ice cream with sprinkles of chocolate.’ ‘Hmmm! Yam!’ After desert Alexi went to find the basket with semi-precious stones which Grandma collected years ago in Cape Town. They’ve been playing with the stones ever since Alexi was a little toddler. He brought the stones into the living room and started making designs on a round low table which Grandma bought in Thailand. The stones were tiger’s eye, turquoise, rose quarts and others, which they found on the beach. Alexi and Grandma made a design that covered the whole table. Alexi said, ’But it will get all messed up again when you move the table.’ ‘Ah, here I can tell you another story about Tibetan monks. They make the complex, beautiful mandalas out of coloured sand.’ ‘What’s a man-da-la?’ ‘It’s a circle representing the whole Universe, it can be a special design to help people to meditate. And you know they can spend a whole week on one of those and after it’s done they smooth out the sand and take it to the river, back to nature.’ ‘Why?’ ‘As a reminder of the impermanence of life and that life and death are part of the constant cycle.’ ‘But can we keep our design till Mummy comes back?’ ‘Of course’ said Grandma, giving Alexi a big hug and a little tickle. When Mama Kira came back Alexi showed her the design and told her the story about Tibetan monks making man-da-las and breaking them up again to remember about impermanence and together they swooshed the stones around the table and put them back in the basket. They said goodbye and Grandma heard Alexi say to his Mummy as they were going up the stairs, ‘Grandma said we can make another design next time.’

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