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For Times Like These

For Times Like These

The University of Edinburgh Chaplaincy Blog

A Spring Tale 

This weeks blog by Associate Chaplain Urzula Glieneke:


Allow me to share one of my favourite tales from my childhood by Imants Ziedonis – the Gray Tale. It is profoundly spiritual to me.


“I am the grey one…”

But let me write the first sentences in Latvian – it’s so beautiful to me: Es esmu Pelēkais. Es esmu pelēks kā pelēns. Es esmu pelēks kā putns, kā puteklis, kā pelni. Es esmu Pelēkais.

I am the grey one. Grey as a tiny mouse. Grey as a bird, as a speck of dust, as ashes. Only because I am can other colours come forth.


Where am I?

Where can you see me?



But let us begin with the spring. In the grey spring all is grey, the snow has melted, the earth is grey and the buds are grey. But a grey bud bursts (and it’s my grey bud) and forth comes the white fluff of the pussywillow!

Would it be so beautiful and white if I, the grey one, wouldn’t be so grey in spring?


In the grey spring in grey earth a green tulip comes out, in grey soil red rhubarb creeps out like the horns of a devil.


Or let us start with the morning. In grey twilight white swaths of mist drift in the meadow.


Would the mist seem so white if the morning wouldn’t be so grey?


In the grey sky the red Sun of the morning rises and all see how beautiful she is.

In the grey sky swims the golden Moon and all now realise – oh he is so beautiful [in case you are wondering about she and he – that’s what they are in Latvian. But J. R. R. Tolkien would also agree 😊 ]

But so beautiful, because the sky was so grey.


I am before all colours. I am before all colours for which the people long. They long for the Sun in the grey morning, for the Moon in the grey night. They long for colourful flowers in the grey spring, for the white snow in the grey autumn.

I am the grey and because of me people seek the other colours.


I am almost the most important colour. All becomes truly beautiful only then when I am beside it.

The white Turkish Angora cat is beautiful, because I, the grey am beside it. If there wouldn’t be the grey sparrows there would be nothing to compare the canaries to.

The colourful birds are so beautiful, because there are grey birds. The white mice are so nice, because there are grey mice, the white sand, because there is grey.


I am the Grey One.

I help all colours.

If they don’t know how to do it themselves I move them to the surface, so that all can see them.

From my grey rain cloud I move forth the colourful rainbow. I am not grudging, I am not sorry if I stay in the background.

I blow colours out of myself like the grey soap water blows out a colourful soap bubble. Have you tried that? Then you know that I am the one who helps you, I the grey one.


How do I look?

I said already: look at the dust, at the tiny grey mice, look at the ashes. And then throw a colourful button in the ashes.


Do you see now?


There is a beautiful, colourful button, isn’t there? And behind it? What is behind it? Below it? I am – the Grey One.


Imants Ziedonis, Krāsainās pasakas. R.: Liesma (1973)

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