Natural History


A fable by Madhuri.

Monster enjoying far horizon

Once upon a time there was a being, a sort of Uber-Gryphon, if you will, who had the nose of a hunting dog. Oh, what an acute nose he had, which knew everything important about anything it hied itself towards; and everything unimportant too. If he just got a whiff of your hair from fifty paces, he knew what you had had for supper last night, and that you had put hot sauce on it, and ketchup too. He knew if your girlfriend was kind to you, and if you were cross at your Dad. He knew if you were cooking an ailment, and what your secret, shamefullest desires were, and how you’d lied to a neighbour; and if you were a good man or a bad.

This Uber-Gryphon had the flexibility of a cat, so that if he chose, he could disport himself into twisty-turny acrobatics, night or day. He had the sonar gifts of a dolphin – so that he could see right through you, and no mistake – and he had the eyes of a special kind of deep-North-Sea squid, so incredibly acute that they could detect what electron microscopes do, and then some.

This Gryphon sat finally up on the very top of a mountain – for he could run like a cheetah, and hover like a bumblebee, and getting to the top of any mountain you please was as nothing to him – just a stroll in the park, just a lift of his green and leathery wings, and he was there, sunning himself in the rarified air.

But other than that he did nothing – just sat – because his nose was dragging him off to root in a burrow, and his eyes were lost into the molecular structure of a granite boulder far away. His flexible spine thus felt pulled in two different directions, and his sonar was reading a nearby capybara, that had a stomach-ache. The Gryphon was a bit tired of hovering, and there was no reason to run unless it was clear in which direction he wanted to go.

And so he sat, with all his giftedness… and gently by-and-by became extinct.

And then there was another kind of being – a sort of Under-Gryphon – which had lousy eyesight, blunt as an old butter-knife. Its sense of smell was nothing to brag about – it kept gallons of poison under its kitchen sink, and never paid them any attention at all; it ate things that made it fat and slovenly and itchy, and yet before the eating thought that they smelt just fine. It slept with the wrong other Under-Gryphons, and didn’t even know how to smell a user or a loser, a fabulist, or a cheat. Its limberness was dreadful – it couldn’t even swing down from a rooftop, like the humblest monkey – it often couldn’t even climb the nearest little hill. As to flying, it was completely useless – for it had no wings. And as to sonar… it would have scoffed at you had you even raised the question of that.

And yet these Under-Gryphons persisted – and lived upon their home planet for a long, long time – at least, long in the imperfect reckoning of their own kind.

How did they do this?

It was because they were stupid; and kept hoping for something better – and got a momentum about themselves, to that end; and kept hustling forward, blind, muffled, clumsy, dull – but burning with some inner fire of helpless greed and urgency. You could not slow them down. And whatever got better or got worse, or if nothing did, they kept right on. They were kinetic, like wolverines, but much more dull.

These Under-Gryphons loved light – sunlight, rhinestones, heart-light, campfires, phones, the moon – and stared at these things as if they might offer them salvation. And perhaps, once every hundred or thousand years, one of these lights conferred some of itself to a budding star; and for a moment, a year, a small aeon, a great stream of light, whhhsssshhhing with joy, flew back and forth between earth and the far night sky – and the Under-Gryphons stopped what they were snorting about doing, and stared up in wonder. And after that they would fall to quarrelling about what they had seen; and soon set about each other with swords and knives, until the green blood ran upon the stones.

They thought that the planet they ran about on belonged to them – and so they pillaged an grabbed, and stored things away like chipmunks, and stole things that other Gryphons had – or other creatures. They stole fish from the sea and birds from the air and metals and crystals from the ground, and they stole lady Under-Gryphons from each other. But just when it would seem that they would use up everything there was, and ruin all of it like a child spitting into his glass of milk – the Earth would shake herself like an irritated dog, or cook up a great storm all swirling round like a Dervish 300 miles wide; or send a Pestilence – and so many Under-Gryphons would perish that the depredations perpetrated by their kind would lessen for a time – and in this way Earth kept her dignity.

But plenty of the Under-Gryphons survived, and they multiplied again like cats – that was a solid gift they had – although in the joining, they argued and spat as much as cats do. But they survived, and in that way we can say they succeeded – not because of their sensory gifts but because of their lacks; that they were never satisfied. And thus the door to Existence was left propped open, all the time.

This is not to say that this was good or bad.

It simply was.

Luddendenfoot, Feb. ’21

Illustration by the author: Monster enjoying far horizon


Madhuri is a healer, artist, poet and author of several books, Mistakes on the Path being her latest memoir.

Comments are closed.