草餐 Dining on the grass

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  "EVEN a prairie fire it survives; at a zephyr's breath it revives" -- such is the resilience of life in grass that I came to appreciate when reading poetry in my youth.

  Now, I enjoy a scene of little children in the twilight chasing and romping around on a neat and smooth lawn like a super-size carpet. Soft, supple and genial, it supports the kids' lively movements and cushions their falls. Our happy children do belong to an era of tender grass.

  Only decades ago, their fathers had to live amid weeds and thistles. The wild, prickly bushes they moved about and through made them itch all over. The sharp grass blades would leave scars on their hands, feet and face if they scratched themselves. Yet nothing mattered in those days when people weeded their fields with a hoe or by bare hand before planting cassava. Incidentally, some of the unwanted grass went to the kitchen to make drinks in the hot weather.

  It was on a farm in the United States later that I enjoyed for the first time a picnic on the grass in the setting sun and then a concert in the moonlight. Some of the audience -- lovers of propriety -- had booked regular seats. Others who preferred to move about during the performance had paid for places on the grassy slope. We dined on the grass.

  Dine while you can, I told myself, for the grass would be dining on you some day instead! The musical on the stage was too far-off for my sight or hearing. Among people covering the large slope, either reclining, sitting, or squatting on the grass in twos and threes, I intoned lines by Jacques Prevert the French poet.

  My homeland came to mind. Given that land-scarce island, I doubt whether we can ever possibly repay Nature's kindness by allowing the grass to dine on us buried beneath. (Translated by Allen Zhuang)

  草餐

  金雨田

  野火烧不尽,春风吹又生

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