I am young, fresh and tender. I am succulently, greenly beautiful.
Ah, but so, once, was I.
You? You are old. Dry and brittle. You are past your prime. I, I am sought after. People seek me out, they play on me, delicately taste me. They like to hold me between two thumbs, blow on me until I vibrate like a spider’s web in the wind and hear me squeal with pleasure. What use have they for you?
I am the rustling couch which is the receiver of sighs and whispers. I am the receptacle of secrets. I am the wistful melancholy of summer sadness mingled with the promise of mellow autumn.
Then I am the reality of summer happiness. It is I that sees the anticipation of spring become the green of cricket pitches, bowling greens and parks. I am the one that cools hot feet and fills the air with sweet scents. I am the daisy-speckled one that gathers the people together.
I do not deny you your attractions; would you deny me mine? If you will but look, you will see that I too am adorned – by the cornflower and wild scarlet poppy. Beware arrogance, young blade; age reaches us all.
Not I. I am needed as provender for the animals. Why even the domestic cat comes to me for medication.
And what am I if not fodder for those same beasts during winter when you have shrivelled and died or lie hidden and shivering beneath winter’s chill? Should I envy you then, when I am warm in the barn?
Tell me, do artists draw you, old one? Do they sit for hour upon hour pondering over your shades, textures and shape, as indeed I am pondered over?
Were it true that no artist finds in me what is found in you – and it is not – that boast would still cause me no pain for I am more than a mere passive subject. I help to create nests and hides – living art. Not only do I provide the material for the country mouse’s nest but am the very foundation of her home. I am sanctuary also for snipe, quail and partridge. What could find protection in you?
Look to my roots and you will see. I harbour a score and more of insects. I, too, am a protector.
You will see, then, that there is no need for arrogance or pride; that we both have a place and serve a purpose?
Yes. Yes, I understand that now.
Julia Wassall. Written as a GCE ‘O’ Level English homework in 1977, rediscovered 42 years later!