I was recently reminded of the short parable of the Fisherwomen and the Flowers, as told by the great Indian mystic, Swami Vivekananda.
It goes like this:
In a remote village, the local fisherwomen had to walk through the nearby forest to get to the ocean. Here, they would await the fishermen to return with the catch, whereupon the women would put the fish into the baskets on their heads and return to the village through the forest.
As the women were making their way back to the village through the forest one day, their baskets laden with fish, lightning flashed through the skies and loud thunder shook the earth, heralding in the monsoon. The winds howled and shrieked, shaking the trees violently and the rain began to pelt down painfully, making it hard to see. As it was approaching dusk, the women were naturally afraid to continue on through the forest in these unfriendly conditions.
Soon, they came upon a little house that belonged to a florist, which also served as her flower shop. The women made their way towards the house. The florist, seeing them approaching, ran outside and ushered them inside, offering them shelter in her home for the night. The women gladly accepted. Leaving their baskets of fish outside on the covered veranda at the florist’s request, they went inside to wait out the storm. They knew the fish would stay fresh in the damp and cold air.
The florist showed them into her parlour which was filled with beautiful, fresh, fragrant flowers: lavender, jasmine, roses, and many others.
She told the fisherwomen that they could sleep in there and make their way back in the morning when it was light.
So the fisherwomen settled down for the night in the florist’s parlour, filled with the fragrance of fresh flowers.
They were restless, and it wasn’t because of the sound of rain and wind outside. Eventually, the eldest of the women said: “I can’t sleep a wink — it smells terrible in here!”