a parable of Gaia
The young woman was unsure of herself, as young women often are. She tried to cover her insecurity with a brusque manner and brisk speech -- as young women often do. The old priestess smiled to herself, but did not allow the smile to reach her lips. She listened, silent and still, as the young woman spoke.
“I am the eldest daughter of my mother. I have never wanted to do anything more than care for my Homestead. We have a spread of elderberries and two of breem trees and a flock of perilal cows.” She looked to see if the priestess was impressed. The priestess listened, her head tilted respectfully, her short, white hair like the fluff of a derry chick around her head. The young woman plowed on, unnerved by the priestess’ extravagant listening.
“We produce many barrels of milk, mead, perfumed nectar and spices every harvestfall. We have plans to plant great laverbas and begin producing soap.” Her hands spread wide, supplicating. “This is what I know. This is all I want to do.”
They had met in the grove, as was meet. They were surrounded by the Great Trees and sat on a bench made of Great Tree stormfall. The breeze whispered secrets which could not quite be understood.
The priestess nodded, waiting. She could, perhaps, have made this easier for the young woman. She could have put her hands on the other’s and centered her, could have spoken the words of reassurance. But if the young woman was to grow to be what she must be, she would have to learn to find her center before beginning difficult tasks. She would have to learn to speak the essence. This frenzied outpouring was not the Way. The young woman must See for herself and find the Way. The priestess permitted herself a tiny, internal sigh. This young woman had many, many difficult tasks ahead of her. The priestess knew this because she knew what was coming, knew what the young woman was nerving herself to say.
The young woman stared at the priestess. All she had said seemed to have slipped away into a deep well, leaving no ripple to mark its passing. The priestess waited, in that still silence which told the young woman the priestess was aware that the important words had yet to be spoken. The young woman clasped her hands and took a deep breath. She had to say what she had come to say. “I have had a dream.” She stopped. These words did not slip away; these words left a mark. The young woman was afraid. She feared that the mark these words left on her life would be permanent. “I -- I think it may have been a True Dream.”
The priestess bestirred herself. She was pleased the young woman had finally stopped and centered herself and spoken the words she had come to speak. The old woman reached out her hand at last and took that of the other. “This is a dismay to you, I can see. You fear the disruption to your life. And so you should. For it will be a very great disruption.”
The young woman looked at her with such lonely longing that the priestess nearly felt her own centeredness slip. She paused to know the earth beneath her feet, to listen to the breeze, to taste the scent of the trees on her tongue. Then she focused on the young woman again. “True Dreams are like childbirth. Once they have begun, there is no halting, no returning to what was before. The only way to get through is to get through. There is pain. There is great pain. There is frustration. The time can seem endless.” She stroked the young woman’s pulse point and felt peace into her veins. “But the new life comes. It brings great challenges, but also great joys. As with parenting, your life is forever altered.”
The young woman’s eyes were holes of need. The old woman paused and looked at the trees which surrounded them. “You are being given a great responsibility. The Earth has called you to serve Her. The Earth would not have done this had She not deemed you worthy and strong enough for the task.” The old woman looked back at the young woman and smiled. “You can do this well.”
“What--” The young woman licked her lips. “What will happen to me?”
The old woman laughed, an old woman’s throaty chuckle. “My dear, that is for you to say. You have had a Dream, a Dream of the past, no doubt.” The young woman nodded. “Next you will have a Dream of the present, then the Dreams of the future will begin.” The other shook her head in silent protest. “The Earth is preparing you,” explained the priestess, unheeding. “This is the birth process of becoming a Dreamer. We of the Well can help you through this process. We are like the midwife, supporting and encouraging you. But you must choose your Way. As with any new mother, you can decide to give birth here or in your home, you can choose to have many present or few, you can choose to continue your usual activities or to redirect your energies. You have not lost your life. It is only that it will be different from that which you have thus far imagined. But--” She smiled sweetly and sadly. “... believe me, young one, no woman has ever lived the life she imagined she would when she was young.”
“The Dreams of the future...”
“Yes. These are the most difficult. Always there is the question of why the Earth sends us these messages. The future cannot be changed. To what purpose does the Earth let us know of the good and the bad to come?”
“Yes. Yes. Why?”
The old woman released the young woman’s wrist and reached out to the tree beside her. “Do we know that this tree will produce cones and so continue to grow more trees for the Earth?”
“And yet we watch and try to help that process. At your Homestead, there are things you know will happen in the cycle of your breem trees and your perilal cows. Things which will happen whether you are there or not, yes? And yet... you also know what you do makes a difference to your trees and your berries and your cows. You help them to become what they should be. So does a parent with a child. So do we priestesses with our people. I believe this is what the Earth does for us. She sends us messages to help us become what we should be. We must take her help and prepare ourselves for what is to come. We must shape ourselves to the vision which our Earth sees for us. Because She is so much wiser than we, just as a parent is wiser than her offspring, and you are wiser than your perilal cow.”
The young woman smiled faintly. “Not always. Sometimes the cows seem to know better than I the weather to come, or the way to the barn.”
The old woman laughed again. “So it is with all caretakers, believe me. With we of the Well, with parents, perhaps even with the Earth. Yet in most cases, you do know more than the cow. You know she should not eat to excess of the new Screel grass. You know she should not walk too quickly through the far field where the grik dogs have made their holes. You can make judgments about the near future which the cow could never comprehend. So does the Earth for us. You must trust her on this matter.”
The old woman looked deep into the young eyes before her, and knew that her own life was changing as well. You are being given a great responsibility, she told herself. The Earth has called you to serve Her through this new Talent. The Earth would not have done this had She not deemed you worthy and strong enough for the task. Responsibility was a cloak she drew around her: too warm and too heavy for the day. Yet, it was hers to wear. “I make this pledge to you: if you will allow me to guide you through this birth, you will one day thank the Earth for the blessing of your Dreams.”
The young woman gripped the priestess’ hands, took a deep, cleansing breath, and made the leap: “I will.”