The Grass Sign

Once upon a time … The Witch Moon finished bordering the kitchen curtains with pieces of intricate lace crocheted by herself during the long day hours when she couldn't sleep; she finished putting the preserves in jars – the stars' favorite preserves, the ones they tasted as a reward when they had a cold and took bitter medicine – and sat down by her huge bedroom window, to look at the Earth. She hadn't done that in a long time. When she felt rested, when her eyes were not tired of too much reading, crocheting or mending one-thousand-pairs-of-socks-for-the-stars, the Moon used her regular glasses to look at the Earth. But when her eyesight was failing, she used the mother-of-pearl field glass from the field glass drawer, specially made for her to be able to see even to great distances, even in the most far-off corners of the Earth, and even underneath its waters. The Moon was very curious, as you can see!(The Moon also had a smaller, thinner field glass, made of silver, with which she could see inside people's souls at night, when they felt loneliest, most fragile, and were most afraid of darkness and when somber thoughts surrounded them like big, silent, ugly ravens. The Moon didn't use this field glass too much. Looking through it, she had often found out many unpleasant things…).The Moon watched the Earth just like children watch television, or a movie at the cinema: that is, you look at something which is far away and very near at the same time, something at the back of beyond which seems to be in your own room, as well. She enjoyed looking at him – she considered him a sort of good friend who lived just over the hill and to whom all kinds of things happened all the time. The Moon watched him as often as she could, just like you follow a story when you don't know what happens next. The Earth was indeed ever-changing in his beauty, either gilded by the sun, or white under the snow, or wet and shiny because of the rain, or enveloped by the wind. Just now, as she sat by the window hoping to cheer up a bit and chase her boredom away, which had surrounded her like a tide of lukewarm, dull water, the Moon noticed there was a big quarrel on Earth. Embittered by who knows what reasons, the people had started a war. The Moon rubbed her eyes. She could not believe something like that could happen. In her mind, she always thought people had all the reasons to be content and happy with their life on Earth. The Earth offered them all his riches. And he asked for nothing in return, just for them to leave him alone, and to show some respect for his woods and animals. And flowers. And grass. And also to keep his waters clean. Yet in all this meaningless disorder, which brought nothing but death and pain to the people, the Earth was deeply wounded, too. The small waves of grass, strewn with wild flowers, were shred by the hoofs of the thousands of horses frightened by the spears or even killed; the field was turned upside down with the shovel or hoe, in order to place thousands and thousands of traps, or to dig thousands and thousands of graves. The Earth's once majestic head became barren, and big black holes started to appear in the green coat of woods, just like the holes in a coat pierced by bullets. All frightened and screaming, the birds flew away from his eyebrows, once bushy, made up of small trees. The seas and the oceans became muddy from all the shipwrecks and people who had drowned. The Earth frowned, moaning in pain and revolt. His smile disappeared. Then – as if life had left him suddenly – the Earth became stiff as a dead body. The Witch Moon was scared, fearing that her friend might fall sick with grief. "There would be no cure for it," she thought. So, for a while, she left the housework to the stars and, taking her mother-of-pearl field glass from the drawer, she began to watch the Earth carefully. Days and nights passed by in complete silence, the kind of silence that usually surrounds sick people sleeping their last sleep. The Moon was getting more and more frightened. She was waiting, all tensed up, for a sign, a small one, to tell her that her friend, the Earth, was going to be all right. But the good sign did not show up. The Moon worried ceaselessly. She would have very much liked to help him. But she could not. Her spells were completely useless for such a serious disease. A disease she had never heard of before. Leaving everything, even the lighting of the sky, to her daughters, the stars, the Moon looked at the Earth, holding her breath, as if watching over an ill person whom Hope had left long before. Finally – in a cold, overcast morning – the Moon saw him wake up. Indeed, the Earth opened his eyes. Then the Moon heard him sigh deeply and saw him shaking as if recovering after a period of numbness. After a while, meticulously, the Earth started to count his wounds. There were so many…The Earth stopped, as if having completed a difficult and tiring job. He rested for a while, wanting to recover some of his strength. Then, the Moon noticed the Earth started to look after his wounds, like an old woman, with his only available remedies: the Rain and the Sun. But his wounds healed slowly. Where there used to be woods, now you could barely see – among the burnt fragments of trunks – a cluster of beech or spruce saplings, scarcely sprouting from the seeds carried over by the wind and beaten by the rain. The waves of the seas and oceans were still muddy from the shipwrecks. Only here and there could you see a patch of clear, blue waters. There were no flowers in the shell-burnt fields; just some lifeless weeds, which dried out in a moment, in the scorching heat coming from the careless sun. Things were like that for a while. A long while, a year, a hundred, or maybe a thousand years.But one morning, as she went to the window to draw the curtains, the Moon – with great joy – noticed a change: a leaf of grass had come out on the Earth's forehead!And then, after a day or two, the Earth regained his old look. It looked as if he had become younger under the mantle of thick, green, and fresh grass. His head was once again covered with woods, all rustling with birds. His eyebrows were bushy again, made up of small trees. Sparrows chirruped happily between his green eyelashes. In the sweet light of spring, wild, healthy horses roamed again in the wide fields. The Earth smiled …"Yes, that's it," cried the Moon happily, clapping her hands. "He healed his wounds and his heart! He forgot! Or he is pretending to forget the bad things caused by the people. So, he forgave them!"The grass is the sign of forgiveness! – the Moon thought, nodding slightly. It's been a long, very long time since this event. And during all this time, people have quarreled thousands of times, hurting the face of the Earth each time, mudding his waters, killing his woods and animals. Each time, barren, the Earth looked after his wounds, carefully, using the rain and the sun as remedies. Each time, after long days and longer nights, the grass returned to its place, rustling, just like swallows return at the end of a long winter. Yes, yes, the Moon said to herself every once in a while, looking at the forgotten graves in the Earth's graveyards: The grass is the sign of forgiveness. But, although she promised herself to find the answer to this mystery too, the Moon still hasn't managed to find out what the grass sign, The sign of forgiveness, is in people's hearts…  Silvia KERIM is one of the best-known authors and translators of children's literature. She also wrote cartoon and TV scripts and musicals, and was awarded major prizes. One of her most successful books, A View from the Perfumery, deals with dictator Ceausescu's demolition frenzy of the 1980s, which destroyed a huge portion of the old city of Bucharest.

by Silvia Kerim (b. 1935)