Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Story: The Old Woman and the Dream

Once upon a time there was a woman in the last half of her active life who decided to move to the country. When she was a little girl, this woman had a vivid dream one night, a dream that stayed with her for many years. In this dream, an old woman lived alone in a little cottage surrounded by a picket fence right at the edge of a forest. The dream woman was a peaceful sort, busy but contented. She had flowers and herbs growing all around the cottage, and she knew how to use these for healing. The forest animals were not afraid of her. In fact, they came to her when they needed help with a broken wing or a cut that would not heal.

When our real-life woman moved to the country, she was not thinking of the dream. But as sometimes happens, this dream was hanging out on a back shelf of her mind, giving her nudges. And in a few years, the real woman began to resemble the dream woman in some ways. Healing was a theme in both their lives, and they both lived connected to the earth and the natural world. At first, the real-life woman studied books about growing things in her garden and looked for advice from other gardeners. She had good success with some plants and less with others, yet caring for and learning about her plant friends filled her heart with happiness.

Gradually her attitude about her work began to shift. Rather than growing her plants to make a living, she started thinking about her work as a labor of love. This freed her from worrying about making a profit, and allowed her to experiment and think more broadly. She also began to expand her methods for making decisions. Rather than relying altogether on books or advice from other people, she began to sit quietly in the garden sometimes, when she had a plant problem to solve. She would let herself become familiar with the plant as best she could, get a feel for what the plant's experience was, and often a solution would suggest itself to her.

Then one day this evolving gardener was sitting quietly in Quaker Meeting, as was her habit on Sunday mornings, when she had an epiphany. She had been thinking about the nature of life, about the awesome and beautiful intricacy of the world, of the soaring realms of the spirit, of the invisible interconnections between all living things, and of the mystery and meaning of it all. And then her thoughts moved to her garden and the promise of spring. And as she lightly held the image of her garden, surrounded and sharpened by the wider thoughts she'd been thinking before, the sun came out in her mind like a giant smile or peals of happy laughter. She felt herself become the comfortable and fearless woman of her childhood dream, standing among her plants with arms outstretched, and a tangle of earth sprites at her feet smiling up at her and reaching out to connect. The vast world was around her, full of mystery and meaning, and it was whole and right, and she and everything else were a part of it, were connected through it. At any instant, we can be at the center of the world, she thought. We only have to pay attention. We only need to let ourselves see and feel what is right in front of us.

This is not the end of the story of the woman who moved to the country. As it is with all our stories,  we keep moving into another and yet another present moment. Each of those moments will be informed by the past, and if we're lucky, will also be open to new discoveries. May your own stories continue with adventure and sun-warmed inspiration.


  1. You're a great writer, Nan! I, too had some sort of epiphany this weekend that I'd had it with the stories of my life, and was ready to move forward into the present moment, into love itself, each and every day. I was so pleased and comforted by this post. Keep it up!

  2. Thanks, Deb! It was fun writing this.

  3. Oh, Nan! THIS is what you meant the other day. How wonderful to have become the embodiment of your dream. My friend Amanda dreamed, too, about what she would become. I'll send you the link via email.