Once upon a time, there was a girl child and she woke up very early in a dream forest. Some people wake up rather late in their own dream forests, but her awakening was at the dawn of her journey. She could identify the landscape early on; she could locate her place easily within the forest; and she could see her fellow travellers.
Some of the travellers were scary, some of them were not, and some were her companions in the journey. Loved, as family tends to be.
She could map her journey, look back on her past, look forward to her future, and examine her present. As is natural, people come and go when you inhabit a dream forest—some partings are easy, others hard, but each is a step in time. Dream forests always have good and bad places so that people can grow and be strong—fierce against predators and villains.
Her dream forest had given her the gift of creativity, an ability to express herself in words and pictures. Oft times, she would gather fellow dream-forest children around and regale them with impossible tales that would have everyone giggling or crying—depending on the story. Other times, she would draw and paint and visualize the dream-forest world, certain of what lay before.
One day, as she skirted the edge of the forest, looking out at the wider world beyond, a man approached from outside of the forest, beckoning to her. She went to him and he invited her to follow him out onto the plains. She had never explored the plains, the forest had always been her sanctuary, but she knew that everyone eventually ventures out onto the plains—it is simply a matter of when and how, and if they stay or go forever.
He told her that he was an inhabitant of the plains, he knew their landscape, and she should join him there—which she did. He became her guide to the plains because she didn’t know the terrain. He drew her further and further away from the forest into his world, until she could no longer see it, and her dream forest was but a distant memory. Sometimes she would hear the call, from far away, but he would turn her around to face the plains again.
Together, they wandered the plains. She was his helpmeet, and handservant. He fought battles to establish his place on the plains, they had two children, who knew only the plains. And she could no longer remember the beauty of the forest, although in her dreams at night the images came to wave a ghostly hand across her mind.
At times, she would rebel and make a move to go back to the dream forest, but he would drag her back to the sun-seared plains, where water was as scarce as a loving touch.
Decades passed. She could feel the bindings of the plains around her body growing ever tighter, as they lost their suppleness and bit into her flesh. In their travels as a family, she would often stare with longing as they would edge close to the dream forest, but as much as she could see its shape and outline, she could not reach its nurturing shade.
One night, as she stood with a friend, she lifted her eyes to the sky and stars above the plains and asked, “Is this all there is? Nothing more?” Her friend knew, because her friend was also a reluctant plains traveller. But her friend did not know how to console her.
The bindings grew tighter. She realized that one day they would cut flesh. And one day they did. A small cut, easily patched over.
But then another cut, and another, a bit deeper this time, like word swords. This one was harder to heal, but it eventually did. The journey continued, but now she was beginning to tire. Every step became an effort. Every move drained her soul. She kept a smile stuck on her face, but the glue was not holding very well.
One day, the dryness of the landscape, the lack of care on the bindings, caused them to cut really deep, in many places. The word swords danced like evil gremlins. The symbols of connection were discarded, and she said to herself, “No more! I am not a dweller of these plains! There is no water of life here!”
She cut the painful bindings, and they flew off her like the skin of a snake that sheds. The man laughed and said she would never survive the plains on her own, that she lacked the skills and ability to negotiate the dry, barren landscape.
She turned to him and said, “This is not my land, it does not nourish. I am going to the dream forest.” And she turned her head to the horizon, knowing that the journey would be arduous before she would find the mountains and trees that were the landscape of her youthful mind. His laughter echoed behind her, but she stayed the course, until she could no longer hear his mirth.
Just as the journey away from the forest took so long, so too did the journey to reach the landscape that birthed her. But small signs along the way showed her that she was nearing her goal.
A rare flower here, a soft stream there. Beauty and abundance beckoned. She resurrected the skills she had forgotten, she exercised her mind and her spirit, she grew stronger and more certain.
Until one day, there it was: the dream forest at the far edge of the horizon. She hurried on now. She could smell the moisture and life of the forest. And best of all, it was not the very same forest of her youth, but a more mature, richer, deeper place. Just as she had changed in her absence, so too had it, promising more reward and greater happiness.
And so she returned a richer person to the world she had left behind: artist, mother, writer, creator, lover, life-giver.
Fiona Tipping is a Designer • Artist • Writer • Human Being • Mom • Sister • Friend • Networker. She resides in Great Brak River, Western Cape, South Africa