the art of description
And so, the parable tells us, the blind sage was led through the gardens of the island by the fallen prince of fire. At first their way was easy, but then their path took them through the leaves of the forest.
"My way is difficult," said the sage, "for the leaves encumber my feet and lie hard upon my vision."
"Fear not," said the prince of fire, "but recognise that in life, the cast-aside hopes of others entangle our steps, and we must be careful as we tread upon them.
And she realised that he spoke of her parents and their wishes for her, and she was enlightened.
They came down to the beach, where the waves broke upon the shifting sand. Their sound was loud against the sage's ears, and each separate grain of sand spoke to her with the voice of a living thing. "How can I travel here," she asked, "amid such turmoil?"
"Such things are part of life," said the prince of fire. "Each voice of humanity cries out to us, and we must be mindful of each separate plea while at the same time pursuing our own path."
And she realised that he spoke of her companions, and she was enlightened.
Then they turned back towards their home, and the sage was troubled by the shortness of their journey. "How can my life be changed by a path as small as this?" she asked. "For by the heat upon my face, the sun is still high in the sky, and we have barely walked a half-mile."
"Know that each journey, however small or long, is indeed both part and whole of the great journey that we all must make," said the prince of fire.
And she realised that he spoke of her life, and she was enlightened.
"It was boring and Zuko walks too fast," Toph said afterwards, when Sokka asked her if they'd seen anything useful.
We can only assume that Prince Zuko's private conversation with Sage Toph was related to the later political withdrawal of the Fire Nation from the Earth Kingdom. Other scholars have studied the Bei Toph Clan and their role in these events, in far more detail, and we can only say that it seems most improbable to assume that there was no correlation at all. Was it mere coincidence that the Bei Toph Clan was involved in the later construction boom and the joint colonisation ventures? While there are those who claim that Sage Toph was constantly uninvolved in politics and never showed any signs of overt interference with the monarchy, we can only point out the word overt. Indeed, consider this in the light of the restructuring of the Dai Li and the integration of a Fire Nation agent among the ranks of the Kyoshi Warriors, and we reach a truly disturbing picture . . .
When Katara complained that she didn't know why Zuko and Toph had taken so long, and couldn't they have come back faster, and why didn't they find anything useful, Toph charitably forgave her, because Katara was so obviously worried about Aang that she wasn't thinking about what she was saying.
She decided to get her own back later. After things were sorted out. Maybe with melons.
"Everything is life-changing," Iroh said, and made some tea.