I am trying to cultivate a garden on my bank of the river. I have laid down rich soils and fenced off the rows, but the hot wind off the plain keeps leaching all the moisture out.
I stand with Urs looking out over the rocky plain. “We need some kind of a wind break that won’t block the sun as well. A wall or something. If only there were some trees out there.”
“Or maybe,” Urs suggests, “we should go find out where this wind is coming from and see if we can do anything about it.”
There is nothing I like better than realizing a thing has a cause and going about seeking it out. We set off straight away, heads down, into the teeth of the hot wind. I begin to speculate on the source of the wind. Maybe the sun and the wind are having a wrestling match. Or maybe it’s a dragon with his foot caught in a fissure, bellowing out his distress. But it isn’t anything like that at all.
It is a small girl, not hip high, in a red dress with a white bib apron and shiny black mary janes. She stands with her fists clenched, her face red and her mouth wide, crying: “It’s not safe. It’s not safe. It’s not safe.” The heat of her cry scorches the ground from where she stands all the way to the river. She stops though, when she sees us coming.
“Hello,” I say.
“How did you find me?”
“It wasn’t hard, we just followed the path of destruction.” She grimaces a little at that and takes a deep breath to commence crying again, so I jump in quick with a question. “What’s not safe?”
She is glad for the chance to explain. “All that complicated greenery, all those trees and roots and grasses. When it grows all up like that you can’t see where you’re going. It’s easy to get lost. It’s easy to get tangled. You can’t tell where to put your feet. You make mistakes.” She shudders at that and draws another breath.
“What do you need,” Urs asks her, “to make you feel safe?”
“Forgiveness,” she says, pure and simple.
And oh, we are flooded with empathy and compassion. How frightened she is of making mistakes. We bathe her in forgiveness. Urs cups a golden light in his hands, a tender ointment we spread over the girl’s parched and blistered skin. I lift her into my lap and rock her gently. “It’s alright,” I croon, “you are forgiven, my sweet, you are forgiven. Everybody makes mistakes.”
“You know,” Urs says, ”mistakes are funny actually. There would be little comedy without mistakes. They catch you by surprise and make you laugh. And laughter is a good thing.”
“But,” the girl protests, “what if someone is hurt by your mistake? You can’t laugh then!”
“If someone is hurt, you apologize and ask forgiveness. Then you move on. That’s all.”
I look back across the rocky plain and see it has bloomed into prairie. “Not everything is forest,” I point out. “Look how open and expansive this place is, but still fertile.”
And then the buffalo arrive. A thundering herd that takes my breath away. Buffalo Man is among them. He takes my hand.
I recognize the place now. “This is the desolate plain you wanted me to build on?”
“This is where the herd of stories roam.”
I am so glad of all of this, to see the life come in to all of this.
Back at the river my garden is flourishing. The wind that comes off the plain now is sweet and playful. People are coming over the river to buy fruit from the garden. The ferryman handles the commerce. I sit in the shade of the willows and weave. I am making blankets. They are story blankets. Everything the world tells me is woven into them — the river’s song, the prairie wind, the herd’s thunder. It’s all in the weaving.
The ferryman himself is wrapped in one of my blankets.
I thank you all for this blessing.