The sand was between my toes. I had stumbled and slid down the dune, and now as I climbed back to the ridge my toes dug in for traction. A few moments to reflect as I climbed allowed me to consider again the folly of this journey. With a more lucid and clearer mind I would lapse into ironic laughter at the proposition, but that was yet to come. Right now, I climbed. Thirst was a given. Blowing sand from the mild breeze slithered over the dune, mocking my slow ascent. How had I come to this place? Why this journey?
The fallen will know. The wounded will understand. The safe will have no idea but will have opinions. I know that because I am that. Safe with opinions…. It has become clear that my opinions were simply the musings of the ill-informed. Word salads, with witty quips as the crunchy croutons and the dressing on the side. You know this. You have listened with bemusement as I prattle on with no substance. Word salad. Empty of calories and of no value except as a prelude to someone else that has been through the fire of the thing. That knows. That is where I begin. Facing the fire. Stepping onto the dune. Let me explain.
The dune is at the edge of discomfort. It has been there for some time and your awareness brought questions. The ones that spoke of the answers were only guesses flamed by the imagination. No one that had climbed the dune had returned. All that was there were stories. Stories of a place on the other edge of the dunes. Stories of bitter hopes not achieved. Of animals that poison or consume. Of an oasis, if you can find it, with a short reprieve in the shade. We listened to the tales and filled our imaginations with the details of the thing. The leaving.
There was the land though. Promised land, we are told. The place of milk and honey, of abundance. “Come” was the call. Step onto the dune and begin. Leave the tyranny of your today and look for the tomorrow, of hope and peace. The tyranny of the today was grinding, but the fear of the dune was just as real. And there is death.
There is an interesting part of life that is like turning the corner. Once the choice is made and the step taken the corner is past and the view is blocked, and the return is as well. To step onto the dune was to step into the unknown on the way to the unknown. When Bilbo Baggins went on his grand adventure, the one that left was not the one that returned. How could he be the same. The calling to try is from one that believes that you can succeed. We do this with small children learning to walk, and then they never return without the walking. There is a part of this that we overlook easily as a “but of course”, but the falling and bumping and trying again is as much a part of walking as the destination that is the goal. The toy across the room, the bottle on the table, the cat sleeping in the sun… motivation to begin and to fall and to try again.
I am on the dune. With the sand under foot and the wiggly things nearby. The oasis is long past and I can only hope for the next one, or the end. The call to the land of promise was not the short journey. It was the hope and the motivation that brought me to the dune. It is the dune that is next after the tyranny, not the prize. Seemingly out of the frying pan into the fire. Why would learning to walk be different than learning to walk in the dune, on the way to the vision of the hope that spurred us forward. The calling to try is from one that believes we can succeed. Returning as one that is not the one that began. The dune for me is not the same as yours, of course. The yellow brick road would cover terrain that varied, as would the dangers and the joys. The Emerald City was real, but the dune was just as real. Recovery after the passing of a friend that was seemingly the balancing force of nature. The mentor, the security, the witty sidekick that brought both the comic relief and the serious level of truth. The business failure and the divorce. The child that passed before you expected. The reality of the miscarriage that was not the first but would be the last…. The dune is ever there. The wilderness, before the goal.
The hope that you hold is that life is still worth the cost of the change. That the pain of the endurance is the price for the transformation. The story of the adventure, for those that survive, will be told when the fire is but embers and the shallow and uninterested have gone to bed. Then the story of the scar can be explained. The one that lived in a tree for a while, until it was safe to come down. The limp that was never discussed, but always there. Well, always there after the journey in the dune. These are sometimes simple but always genuine. No word salads here. This is the time for the jerky and the hard chewing. Dry biscuits are the medium of the telling and the dark ale is to wash down the memories. The tears are for the cleansing of the soul. And then the sigh. Relief. Completion. The bucket is empty now and the next phase of the journey can begin.
The end is ever next to the beginning here. You lost a spouse and the dune is to survive a while. Now that that is done, the dune is to consider a new friend. A companion for the next dune, trust. The wound of the trust broken heals hard. Slow and with much effort. The dune of the next attempt may include a long journey in many circles before you get to the place of acceptance. Keep walking. The next goal is to run with abandon. The freedom of the soul like a child in the park. Wind in the hair and a balloon in their hand… Their dune will come in due course. But for today, be free.
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