There was a young farmer who spent his young adulthood tending a small farm with his wife and children, one son and one daughter. They did not have much to boast about- one donkey, one cow, 3 chickens, and a humble garden- but they were content. The farmer spent the days of rain and no work whittling trinkets and toys. His eldest son, soon to come of age, was developing into an impressive craftsman. After learning the basics of whittling from his father, the boy was slowly mastering the art, and together, father and son, they created and sold many toys in the town for a little extra income.
As fortune would have it, the farm began to do very badly. There was too little rain, and then too much rain; and it was too hot, and then too cold, and the crops failed. The chickens stopped laying, and the cow was reluctantly producing milk. The donkey would have been happier, with very little work to get on with, but he was also missing meals.
With the combination of crop failures and a war looming on the country’s borders, the townsfolk were less and less keen to buy the Farmer’s toys and trinkets. Thus he slowly spent through what they had saved, and was on the verge of destitution.
The farmer and his wife decided it would be best to take one of the ships leaving for a foreign land, to see what they could make of a different country. They went to town and sold their livestock, gave their toys and trinkets away, and said fond farewells.
After purchasing passage to the foreign land, they boarded the ship, looking ahead optimistically. Despite their circumstances, the young farmer felt he was fulfilling his duty – to care for his family. This was the foundation of his sense of purpose, an dhis tether to the world. Thus, he remained stoically determined to make the best out of all things.
Their journey was rather smooth in the beginning. The wind and currents were good, and the sailors were pleasant company. They told many stories, and sang songs (though, admittedly, the content was at times vulgar). The other passengers were all equally optimistic, and it was a happy time for awhile.
Then it began to rain. At first there were small showers, but then the wind picked up and the ship began to steer off course. In the span of time it would take to doze off and awake from a brief nap, the storm had escalated into unmanageable chaos. Sailors were flung overboard, sails ripped, and lighting struck the mast causing a small fire which was quickly snuffed out by the torrential rainfall.
The farmer and his family huddled in the hold of the ship with other passengers and a few injured sailors, listening to the boat rock and creak ominously.
The farmer survived the shipwreck and washed ashore a beach of soft, golden sands, and cheerful sounding birds.
But, he was the only one to survive.
You might consider the farmer lucky, but it was not so. The man watched his life, his purpose, and his love all disappear into the incomprehensibly vast sea. He had lost his tether to the world and nothing appeared quite the same – all the opportunities he once dreamed of felt empty without the gentle touch of his wife, or the playful banter of his children. His craft and work- reminders of what he had loved and lost- tormented him. It stung him to breathe.
It was in this state of melancholy, sprawled out on the foreign beach, that she found him. What was she? She was not a woman, nor was she an animal, or a sprite, or a dream. She was as gentle as a little bird, as powerful as a song, and as curious as a child. But she was wise as well. As such, she approached the downtrodden farmer and touched his limp hand.
Stirred by the warmth of her fingers, the farmer sat up to face a most glorious creature. She was half here and half there, half clothed and half bare, half bright and half obscure.
Her copper hair flowed around her frame, as if caught in water, and her smile was both revealing intense delight, as well as deep sorrowful knowing. Entranced by her peculiar features, the man searched her gaze and felt something touch the tiniest piece of his broken heart. Through her eyes he was drawn into visions of possibilities- he saw pictures of his family, living, but in a hundred different manners, doing a hundred different things.
They were back at the farm, which was thriving, and his son was preparing to apprentice a master craftsman. But, no, they were on a ship that just reached its destination, the promised land of opportunity. Not so- his family was doing well at the farm, but his son was being enlisted to fight a desperate war. Or, was it that they remained at a failing farm and were slowly wasting away? Ah, but they left, and migrated on foot over land to a neighboring country where they were resting in the streets. But could it be they were singing merrily with a group of sailors at a pub in another, strange foreign land?
The farmer got lost in the possibilities of her gaze and could no longer tell which was his reality and which was mere fancy.
For reasons that only the wise can fathom, this experience was liberating to him. While he saw his family and life in a million differing states, he began to see himself in one. Thus, a feeling of wholeness creeped into his heart, pulling the broken pieces back together as if magnetically.
At last he closed his eyes and disappeared.