Friday, February 4, 2011

(For a Friend)

Once Upon a Time,

in a little village by the Great River, a little girl was born. She had the brightest eyes anyone had ever seen, from the moment she first opened them, and a spirit very like the Great River itself. She grew up with the Great River a part of her and she part of it. People talked about the hill above the Great River, where people lived in grand houses and had many more luxuries, and just like all the other girls and boys who grew up along the Great River, the girl was as curious as anyone else about such a life.

When the girl grew up she married a man who lived on the hill and together they built a beautiful house on the hill above the river. The girl, now a woman, soon realized that living so far from the Great River was like being separated from part of her own spirit and that no amount of fine things would make this not so. She tried to be at home in the house up on the hill by bringing water to her house. She put buckets of water all around her, embroidered pictures of the Great River on her dresses and painted the Great River on the walls of her house. She named her children after her favorite spots on her beloved river. She told her children stories of the Great River each night when she tucked them into bed. But it was not enough.

She began making trips down to the Great River, sometimes going alone and sometimes taking her children along. On these trips she visited old friends and made new ones; together they danced in the water and she was filled with a joy she realized she'd been missing all those years in the house on the hill. The more she went down the hill, the more she longed to go again, so the trips to the Great River became more and more frequent. She could not help but go as often as she could manage.

Each time she went down to the Great River, she fairly ran down the hill, and as soon as the glistening water was in sight, her whole body seemed to come to life and her spirit lifted. At the end of each visit, when it was time to back to her house on the hill, she felt a deep, heavy sadness. It felt as though her heart was being ripped from her chest, but she knew the house on the hill was her home and she must learn to live there and try her best to be happy there.

Then one day the woman realized that she could no longer go back up the hill to the little house; she couldn't bear it anymore. Every time she made that awful trip up the hill, a piece of her died. She suddenly understood that if too many pieces of her died, the person she really was wouldn't survive. She would become a shell of herself. She must save herself, if for no other reason than that her children needed that real, alive version of their mother. She felt her real self drowning and nothing but air would bring her back to life.

One summer evening as she watched the sun begin its slow descent, she made a hard choice that she'd been avoiding for years. Once she made it, she knew it was the right one. She felt sad; she knew her husband and the rest of the people she knew and loved on the hill would not go with her; they'd made it plain that they expected her to change. So she fetched her children and her belongings from the house up the hill and made the trip down the hill to the River for the last time. With each step it was as though a black-and-white version of her was slowly but surely popping into vivid color.

When she arrived at the Great River's edge, tired from her journey, she sat down and looked around her for a moment. She knew what to do next. She filled her lungs with a big gulp of air and then plunged into the water.

When she stepped out of the river, what she saw was HOME. She was finally home. She laid down and rested for the first time in as long as she could remember and when she awoke she set about making a lovely little home by the River's edge.

She sometimes thought about the house on the hill that she'd left...the people and things she'd left behind. But she knew, deep down inside, that the time she spent on the hill was over and that it had served its purpose: it helped her see who she really was and what she really wanted. Now she knew where Home really was and she would live there all her days.

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