Karen Blixen, late 1950s The Roads of Life

Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen)
from Out of Africa

When I was a child I was shown a picture, -- a kind of moving picture inasmuch as it was created before your eyes and while the artist was telling the story of it. This story was told, every time, in the same words. stork-1.gif (1560 bytes)

In a little round house with a round window and a little triangular garden in front there lived a man.

Not far from the house there was a pond with a lot of fish in it. stork-2.gif (3193 bytes)

One night the man was woken up by a terrible noise, and set out in the dark to find the cause of it. He took the road to the pond. Here the story-teller began to draw, as upon a map of the movements of an army, a plan of the roads taken by the man.

stork-3.gif (2384 bytes)He first ran to the South. Here he stumbled over a big stone in the middle of the road, and a little farther he fell into a ditch, got up, fell into a ditch, got up, fell into a third ditch and got out of that.

Then he saw that he had been mistaken, and ran back to the North. But here again the noise seemed to him to come from the South, and he again ran back therestork-4.gif (2353 bytes) He first stumbled over a big stone in the middle of the road, then a little later he fell into a ditch, got up, fell into another ditch, got up, fell into a third ditch, and got out of that.


stork-5.gif (3475 bytes)He now distinctly hear that the noise came from the end of the pond. He rushed to the place, and say that a big leakage had been made in the dam, and the water was running out with all the fish in it. He set to work and stopped the hole, and only when this had been done did he go back to bed.

When now the next morning the man looked out of his little round window, -- thus the take was finished, as dramatically as possible,-- what did he see?--

A stork! stork-6.gif (9145 bytes)

I am glad that I have been told this story and I shall remember it in the hour of need. The man in the story was cruelly deceived, and had obstacles put in his way. He must have thought: "What ups and downs! What a run of bad luck!" He must have wondered what was the idea of all his trials, he could not know that it was a stork. But through them all he kept his purpose in view, nothing made him turn round and go home, he finished his course, he kept his faith. That man had his reward. In the morning he saw the stork. He must have laughed out loud then.

The tight place, the dark pit in which I am now lying, of what bird is it the talon? When the design of my life is complete, shall I, shall other people see a stork?

Infandum, Regina, jubes renovare dolarem. Troy in flames, seven years of exile, thirteen good ships lost. What is to come out of it? "Unsurpassed elegance, majestic stateliness, and sweet tenderness."

from Out of Africa (From an Immigrant's Notebook)
First published by Random House in 1937