Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Dream in the Desert ... Olive Schreiner (1920)

I saw a desert and I saw a woman coming out of it. And she came to the bank of a dark river; and the bank was steep and high. And on it an old man met her who had a long white beard; and a stick that curled was in his hand, and on it was written Reason. And he asked her what she wanted; and she said, "I am Woman and I am seeking for the Land of Freedom."

And he said, "It is before you."

And she said, "I see nothing before me but a dark flowing river and bank steep and high, and cuttings here and there with heavy sand in them."

And he said, "And beyond that?"

She said, "I see nothing, but sometimes, when I shade my eyes with my hand, I think I see on the further bank trees and hills, and the sun shining on them!"

He said, "That is the Land of Freedom"

She said, "How am I to get there?"

He said, 'There is one way, and one only. Down the banks of Labour and through the water of Suffering. There is no other."

She said, "Is there no bridge?"

He answered, "None."

She said, Is the water deep?"

He said, "Deep."

She said, "Is the door worn?"

He said, "It is. Your foot may slip at any time, and you may be lost."

She said, "Have any crossed already?"

He said, "Some have tried!"

She said, "Is there a track to show where the best fording is?"

He said, "It has to be made."

She shaded her eyes with her hand; and she said, "I will go."

And he said, "You must take off the clothes you wore in the desert: they are dragged down by them who go into the water so clothed." And she threw from her gladly the mantle of Ancient-received opinions she wore, for it was worn full of holes. And she took the girdle from her waist that she had treasured so long, and the moths flew out of it in a cloud. And he said, "Take the shoes of dependence off your feet."

And she stood there naked, but for one white garment that clung close to her.

And he said, "That you may keep. They wear clothes in the Land Freedom. In the water it buoys; it always swims."

And I saw on its breast was written Truth; and it was white; the sun had not often shone on it; the other clothes had covered it up. And he said, "Take this stick; hold it fast. In that day when it slips from your hand you are lost. Put it down before you; feel your way: where it cannot find a bottom do not set your foot"

And she said, "I am ready; let me go."

And he said, "No--but stay; what is that at your breast?"

She was silent.

He said, "Open it, and let me see."

And she opened her garment. And against her breast was a tiny thing, who drink from it, and the yellow curls above his forehead pressed against it; and his knees were drawn up to her, and he held her breast fast his hands.

And Reason said, "Who is he and what is he doing here?"

And she said, "See his little wings . . "

And Reason said, "Put him down."

And she said, "He is asleep, and he is drinking! I will carry him to the Land of Freedom. He has been a child so long, so long, I have carried him. In the Land of Freedom he will be a man. We will walk together there, and his great white wings will overshadow me. He has lisped one word only to me in the desert -- "Passion!" I have dreamed he might learn to say 'friendship' in that land."

And Reason said, "Put him down!"

And she said, "I will carry him so-with one arm, and with the other I fight the water."

He said, "Lay him down on the ground. When you are in the water you forget to fight, you will think only of him. Lay him down." He said, "He will not die. When he finds you have left him alone he will open his wings and fly. He will be in the Land of Freedom before you. Those who reach the Land of Freedom, the first hand they see stretching down the bank to them shall be Love's. He will be a man then, not a child.

At your breast he cannot move; put him down that he may grow."

And she took her bosom from his mouth, and he bit her so that the blood ran down onto the ground. And she laid him down on the earth; she covered her wound. And she bent and stroked his wings. And I saw the hair on her forehead turned white as snow, and she had changed from youth to age.

And she stood far off on the bank of the river. And she said, "For what do I go to this far land which no one has ever reached? Oh, I am alone! I am utterly alone!"

And Reason, that old man, said to her, "Silence! What do you hear?"

And she listened intently, and she said, "I hear a sound of feet, a thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands, and they beat this way!"

He said, "They are the feet of those that shall follow you. Lead on! Make a track to the water's edge! Where you stand now, the ground shall be beaten flat by ten thousand times ten thousand feet." And he said, "Have you seen the locusts how they cross a stream? First one comes down to the water's edge, and it is swept away, and then another comes and then another, and then another and at last with their bodies piled up a bridge is built and the rest pass over."

She said, "And of those that come first, some are swept away, and are heard of no more; their bodies do not even build the bridge?"

"And are swept away, and are heard of no more -- and what of that?" he said. "And what of that . . . " she said.

"They make a track to the water's edge"

"They make a track to the waters edge . . . " And she said, "Over that bridge which shall be built with our bodies, who will pass?"

He said, 'the entire human race."

And the woman grasped her staff.

And I saw her turn down that dark path to the river . . .

And I dreamed a dream.

I dreamed I saw a land. And on the hills walked brave women and brave men, hand in hand. And the looked into each other's eyes, and they were not afraid. And I saw the women also hold each other's hands. And I said to him beside me, "What place is this?"

And he said, "This is heaven."

And I said, "Where is it?"

And he answered, "On earth."

And I said, "When shall these things be?"

And he answered, "In the Future."

Note from a friend
This is an excerpt from the book, "Lost in the land of Oz," (or something to that effect.) The book includes this story, by Olive Schreiner, who wrote it in the 1920's. (So I should be OK re: copyright, eh?)

When I read earlier messages from Neil, I was reminded what it was like for me as the wife of an alcoholic. My (now ex-) husband told me that I was the problem, that I should get help. Essentially, "Get thee to a counselor!" So, to be compliant (nothing more) with his wishes, I decided to go ONE time.

After the relief of truly being heard during that session, I asked if the therapist had any more openings that day! I saw her for 3 1/2 years, then the therapist from hell for 6 years, and have seen that same original therapist again now for.... 5 years almost? I think. I have lost count.

Anyway, I am still coming to terms with the many ways in which, yes, I have a problem. But my therapist shared this story with me, and it resonates on so many levels that I wanted to share it with you.


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