The Story of the Stream and The Desert
“I understood myself only after I destroyed myself. And only in the process of fixing myself, did I know who I really was.” ~ Sade Andria Zabala
In the distance, high at the top of an ancient mountain range, a stream sprang from its hidden source and made its way down the mountainside. No obstacle could keep it from moving. On top, underneath, around and through it travelled, sometimes flowing furiously, other times drifting lazily, but never once stopping its forward motion.
When it reached the earth, it didn’t slow down. It travelled merrily for time out of mind, bubbling and burbling and babbling as only a brook can. Many creatures refreshed themselves in its waters and it renewed the earth and washed the stones clean. As it journeyed along, it felt as though its quest would never end, just as it had seemingly never begun.
Eventually, however, the strength of the stream lessened. Its flow began to slow, and its cleansing power and attraction to the animals began to diminish. Gone were the trees and the mountains that had long been its companion, and even the earth it travelled on seemed to have become drier and less dense. It could feel a great, stagnant heat burning its back and stealing its essence, ounce by ounce, as it tried in vain to move forward.
“What is happening?” it asked. “What is this vast sea of dry death? Why can I not cross you? I must move forward or I too will die! Movement is both my function and purpose in life.”
“Just as the Sky has the Earth, so too do you have your opposite,” came the answer. “You are water. I am the desert. We cannot co-exist.”
The stream was distraught, but it refused to give up. Conjuring its strength it surged forward from behind, lurching further out on to the desert floor than it ever had before.
But the desert was vast, and far more powerful. Between the sun and itself, it wasn’t long before it had eaten all up all of the stream’s new waters, sighing with a dry, deep laugh as it did so.
“The ways of the mountain will not work here,” it said. “I am an obstacle of a different caste, far more ancient than any you’ve encountered before. It will take much more than that to cross me.”
For days things continued in this manner, with the stream attempting endless iterations of its old maneuvers, yet being rebuked and broken down by the desert with each attempt. It could see no way out. It couldn’t go backwards, and there was no sign of anything on the horizon that might be of help — it was vast and motionless in all directions. Yet the flow from the mountain range continued, crawling endlessly forward to the same dry death here, over and over. There was no way out. This indeed was hell.
Just as it had given up, however, something caught its awareness. The winds were stronger today than they had been for weeks, and there was a dune in the distance that was losing some of its sands to them. The stream watched as the dust swirled into the sky, relinquishing itself to an invisible force that was as powerful as it was deceptive. As it looked on, a whisper began to stir the earth and air around it, speaking in a tongue that was both foreign and intimately familiar.
“…surrender…” came the voice, and with this revelation, the stream could sense the desert stir in an uncomfortable, yet acknowledging, manner.
But the tiny stream was afraid. Pushing forward was all it knew. Gravity was its keepsake and oldest friend. The ways of the wind could not be trusted. Though it surely died a thousand deaths at the foot of the desert, at least it continued to live. The wind could mean its end forever.
“This is the risk…” the desert laughed. “Do you trust enough, little stream?”
The wind picked up. The stream could feel its cooling presence on its back, its promise of lightness and release in the skies above — such a difference from the stagnant hell of the desert! — and a longing began inside of it to let go, but it was terrified. It could not bear the thought of non-existence.
The desert stirred restlessly, laughing its dry laugh, and the wind continued its seduction, beginning to take droplets of the stream’s water to the sky, despite its resistance. And, as these parts of it flew away and evaporated with the wind, the dance of seduction deepened.
“There are lands far across the desert where I will drop you once again, if only you come with me… There you will be a stream and flow once more…“
“But what if I am not the same stream? How can I be sure…?”
The wind said nothing. It continued only to coax more of the stream into its embrace, imparting its images therein. The stream trembled and shook, but it could hold on no longer. Finally, it gave the fullness of its body to the sky, and upon doing so was flooded with a distant memory-dream of a stream it may once have been, and a wind that could be trusted, and lands so distant they could not possibly be real, but that somehow it seemed to know. . .
And as it evaporated, soaring high above the hot white sands, it could sense the desert smile, as it had so many times before, and eventually it came to be released, softly, on the top a distant mountain, where once again it began its flow.
And here, in this new land, the stream finally began to understand what it really was.