One day the waters shall all come into one place, and we shall all sail it together; my brothers, my neighbors, my tribesmen, the villagers along the shore, the farmers, the dusty strangers like yourself who come from afar, those who journey into the desert to deliver small drinks of water, even some of my cousins who come from the other side of the hills, beyond the canals, people you would not expect. We will see people who lived in the hills and canyons, living with us there on the ocean. We will understand the mystery of the rapids together. We will drink the waters of the ocean and find they are fresh water – not salty and unpalatable at all.
Each one will dip his cup into the water and drink, tasting the flavors he or she needs and desires the most in that moment. The ocean will fill us, surround us, complete us.
It will be a reunion unlike any we’ve ever seen, and the music! Oh! The waves themselves will splash against the boats with the heartbeat of the ocean. The gulls overhead will cry and wail. All manner of fish will leap, the dogs on our decks will bark, even the stowaway rats will squeal with joy, a cacophony of love.
I hope for this day.
I have faith for this day.
I will take joy in this day.
You will be there, too.
You will drink whenever you want though you’ll always be satisfied.
The water will be alive. The water will be free.
We will not have to travel anymore to scoop water from here and there, to mix them; along the shores mangroves will spring up,
Islands will form where we’ll dance,
And the songs will become one mighty note.
The paintings will fill the sky.
What is written in solitude will become a communal shout.
Everyone will have a place in our tribe, for each one will find that they’ve some of our nomadic blood, and they’ll join in creating all that happens upon the ocean.
That will be the day … the day that never ends. No dreaming will be needed to see another place. The light will show all there is to all who are present.
For the moment we drink this water together, she thought, as he poured from his vials and vessels. There was water from the spring and canyon, the canal and the well and the delta.
Finally, he dipped a large jar into the dark water beside their boat.
It is the freshest water we have, this water where we live.
She nods. She drinks.
They sing together, and now she knows the song by heart. She drank their water, sang their songs. She is one of them.
She goes on her way as the sun rises high. The dust quickly rises from her toes to her knees, fills her hair, and it cakes even her eyelids.
She has forgotten her heavy bag. Whatever was in it, the children can toss into the river, for all she cares. It had seemed that something in it served to protect her from getting too dirty along the way, or from getting lost, perhaps, but it only made her more tired. She cannot remember what exactly was in it or why she bothered. Instead she now carries a canteen.
She is not afraid of being dusty anymore. She knows that all the water flows towards the fresh sea, and she will be back again to drink.
The boatswain and his family will be sailing upon the ocean to welcome her.
The Houseboat-warming Gift
It is noon. The eldest daughter on the houseboat notices something.
Father, the Stranger forgot her bag, she says.
Open the bag, he says, tell me what it contains.
Father, they are nothing but rocks. She holds them up to the light. They give off a dull glow, as of polished obsidian. Are they diamonds? Or coal?
They are something in between, my little moth, harder than coal, but still flammable. Softer than diamond, yet glowing with an inner light, he says. Water cannot soak them beyond usefulness. They will burn for a year without ceasing.
Must I chase her into the desert to catch her and return them? They sound precious!
No, my tadpole, they are a gift to us. She has no need of them; for her they are plentiful. But for us they are wealth beyond counting. She does not know it, but she has given us the better end of the deal in exchange for our hospitality.
The next evening, as he prepares bread for his children, the regular coals in the man’s brazier die out. He sends a boy to look in the hold for more coal, but the boy returns empty handed, tears running down his cheeks.
Father, the charcoal is gone! Mama says we don’t have money for more. What will we do?
The man smiles. Open the bag, here, my little turtle: the satchel I would not allow you to poke last night. I will show you something new. It is a more excellent way. Perhaps someday you or your sister will wander into the desert to find this, too, for the ways of the stranger and the wanderer are sacred.
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