The Prophet’s Sister

By Elizabeth Argall

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Oh people of my heart, people of my dreaming. You who have taught me so much and made my heart bleed. It is time for me to leave. My time with you has not been long, although it has seemed like an eternity wrapped in a second, my time with you has come to an end.

You people of the city, of the noise and bustle, you people of the quiet and of the land, you have taught me much. You have taught me of the ways of the world, for I was an ignorant child when I came to this place. You taught me of joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, love and lust, honour and deceit; and you have taught me fear. You have spat on me and hurt me and used your words as swords upon my flesh; you have burned me and mocked me and told me I was alone. You have held me and loved me and wiped away my tears, you have combed the long dark tangles from my hair and raised my head to the sun. You have taught and shown me this and more, you who for a time were mine - my people, my life, my love and hate. I came to you a stranger child, Gypsy girl, wide eyed and unknowing. I leave you a woman, still wide and wild eyed, gypsy and stranger still, but richer and wiser from the lives and dreams you have shared with me.

It is my time to leave, the far off hills beckon. I cannot resist, I will remember you in my heart but I will be gone.

And the people cried out with one voice: “Please do not leave, you speak of us teaching much, we do not understand, it is you that has shown us doorways to wisdoms undreamed of.”

And the gypsy womanchild said “I have shown you to doorways yes, but it was always you that opened them. I have gestured at possibilities and seen the innate goodness in your souls, but it is you that has taken them and made them flourish. People of my heart, you are already wise beyond knowing, it is simply that I see in you what you can not yet see in yourselves. People of my heart it has been your action, speech and words that have lent me a mirror to my own heart and allowed me to see what otherwise would have remained hidden. You fear to see that in yourselves, but I am not afraid.”

And so the Gypsy woman, wide eyed and wise of face, turned and moved once more towards the far distant blue hills shrouded in cloud.

“Stay” cried the people “stay!”

But she shook her head and said “No, people of my bones. The blue hills call and I must follow; what need you of my wisdom when already it stirs within you?”

“Stay for a moment. Give us this day, tell us of your wisdoms so when we find these doorways we may recognise them for what they are and not walk blindly on, oblivious to the wonders that lie beyond. Stay for a moment and give us this.”

So the Gypsy woman, freckled by the sun, dusty and bare footed, put down her travelling bag and sat down under the shade of the tree and bade them come closer to ask what questions they would. The people gathered round and sat by her dusty bare feet silent and sad, knowing her passing would be soon. They knew not what to speak, until a child, small and skinny said:

“Tell us of the mountains, those hills that call and take you from us.”

And the gypsy woman said “Alas I can not, never can I, no matter how I try. The hills cannot be mapped by words or image, they are that which lies beyond. The hills that call are mine, I am ready and I will go to them, the hills of my heart where I shall find the secret silent spring from which my life wells. Your hills are not my hills, and never shall they be, it is a journey made alone and the seeking shapes that which you find. My heart is not your heart, no matter how entwined and thus my hills are not yours. Each of us have our mountains, our hill or forest or sea - some never reach theirs and some always strive beyond. I cannot tell you of the shape of my hills and mountains, I can tell you of my dreams and my spirits desire in those hills, but not of the shape. That I shall discover when I find it... if finding is what I desire.”

One whose face had seen into the darkness of the night more times than could be counted and yea been the instrument of that darkness spoke in a voice of sadness as she asked:

“What of innocence lost?”

“It cannot be lost, it cannot be destroyed. These are traps of the mind that the unwary fall into, we forget how to maintain our state of innocence and finding that it has faded to a slip of nothing assume it has been destroyed forever. Innocence cannot be destroyed - it can be injured, forgotten, suppressed and hindered in every way possible, but the potential for innocence will always remain. It is like a seed that waits inside every person, waiting for the nurturing that will allow itself to grow once more and express its glorious, bounteous, giving self.

Innocence can be an act of rebellion; this world of ours can seem so harsh, so unremitting, so destined for catastrophe and failure. To face all this - to see every pain, every hurt, everything that is corrupt and full of despair and still be able to love the world, still look at the sky, see leaves and flowers and marvel at their complexity, to get lost in the texture of a fabric and glory in the dance of life. This is innocence, this is rebellion. Innocence has nothing to do with actions done or knowledge attained, it is an attitude, a spark, a flame that skips and sings and dances simply for the joy of it.

It is easy to assume it dies with knowledge and interaction with the world, but it does not. It makes it harder to maintain the state of innocence, makes it easier to forget what innocence is, but it does not make innocence die. Innocence that is lost can be reclaimed, as a fundamental right, as something to demand from the world. Innocence is not closed eyes and fear of the dark, innocence is freedom from the fear of passion, innocence is allowing oneself to feel emotions in the full, innocence is yours if you desire to claim it.”

An old man, bent of back and balding gazed at her and said:

“What of lost hope?”

“Hope is a thing that blinds, a thing that sets us free of the chains of today and lets us fly on the wings of tomorrows that may be. Hope can create a gnawing burning pain of wants and desires, hope can make us cry for things that might have been. Hope is not an easy thing, without hope we can accept things as they are, never be moved, never shake off our shackles. With hope we are no longer satisfied with simple small circles, hope makes us start to walk the spiral, makes us journey, search for more - we travel the outer spiral to greater achievements and the inner spiral to greater self knowledge.

Despair is a comfortable thing, like melancholy and cynicism. It allows us to stay still and safe, never venturing from our home, never venturing from ourselves. Hope, like innocence can never be lost, but it must be seized, must be fought for and won on a daily basis. We bury our hopes with our fears, but never truly are those hopes gone, they are just suppressed and whimpering for _expression.”

And a man built like a great tree of iron asked of the gypsy “What of courage? What of strength?”

“Courage is not a thing of the body, nor strength. Courage and strength are of the mind, the soul and spirit - sometimes the body follows suit, but this is of no matter except where heavy boxes are concerned. Courage, strength: it is with these that we hold onto our dreams, our innocence, our hope, it is with these that we dare to push forwards in our journey in life. Courage to take the first step and the ones after, strength as the force to drive us on when the centre seems to crumble and all begins to fall.

There are many people who are brave, courageous and strong but do not realise it. This is because true courage and strength is not about noise, it is not something to boast and brag about - although it is something to be proud of. Often the greatest acts of strength and courage come from those who are never noticed, sometimes not even by themselves, those who doggedly strive against odds that may not seem that large on the outside, but are nightmare labyrinths on the inside.

Courage and strength with integrity, insight and openness to new forms of understanding, this is what is required to truly exist, truly be in the world. The courage to take on a full role in the world, to care about what happens, care about your actions and play an active part in the the world, in the events that unfold. And not just taking any part, taking a part that you choose, a part that you love and can feel passion for, not a part that has been decided for you. Cutting away your strings from the puppet master. Expressing the self, discovering the self, evolving the self, these are three of the greatest tasks a soul can face, it takes a lot of guts ‘cause that is one hell of a can of worms to open.”

A farmer, simple of countenance asked “and what of the earth?” which made others laugh until their eyes fell upon the serious dark eyes of the gypsy woman.

“The earth is our mother and father. Wherever we are, whatever we do and whatever we become it will not leave us. It runs in our veins, fills our stomachs and nurtures our dreams. The earth is our foundation. A fertile safe place from where all grow. The earth is not always kind, nor always fair, at times its rules are harsh and unforgiving, but the earth also has great powers of forgiveness and will love us if we let it.

Some think they have lost their connection with the earth, but they have not, it is not a thing that can be lost, although it is eternally being rediscovered. We are of the earth. No matter how lost we get in our urban jungle, the grass will crack the concrete in its search for light, and we like the plant with out feet firmly in the earth shall reach the sky even in the darkest place.”

A blacksmith, his hands, arms and shoulders scarred from the practice of his craft asked “What of fire?”

“Fire consumes and is consumed, it is eternally hungry, it is the spark inside our selves that constantly search for the new, hungers for warmth, hungers for love, hungers to be satisfied although it will never be full. It is fire that adds the edge to desperation, it is the fire that frees the phoenix from the old and bursts it into the new. It is fire that burns and turns back the unwary and inexperienced. Like the earth it is a harsh mistress and demands respect. She constantly burns and seeks more and yet more to consume for a momentary sensation of fullness, she is in agony as she consumes and is consumed. She is the spark of life, but a spark that drives mercilessly onwards, never stopping, never slowing, always burning until death claims her and the spark goes out.

The fire creates and destroys, wraps, engulfs and overwhelms. The fire adds strength to standing firm and defiant against overwhelming odds. It is fire that hardens the point of a wooden spear, and fire that brings forth the icy cool logic of steel. Fire is the warrior within us all, be that flame a burning towering inferno or a constant glowing ember which will never die. Fire must be treated with care, she is a volatile and dangerous mistress despite her comforting warmth. She walks the edge and is the edge, she consumes and is consumed. Fire is the spark of life, treat it with care lest it dwindle and die or burn too fiercely and destroy all it touches.”

Then a butcher, round cheeked and thick fingered his apron almost clean although stained in gentle pinks asked “What of compassion?”

“What would we be without it? To truly care. To forgive others and ourselves. Without compassion we are cut off from the world. We are empty husks cut off not only from the world but from ourselves. Compassion recognises the sacredness of all things, ties us to the world as a living breathing entity. By caring, by giving of ourselves to the world we make ourselves larger in the process. Compassion is the path through which our sacred earth is watered so the secret seeds of life that lie hidden in our hearts may grow.”

A woman, her eyes pale and gaunt, cradling in her arms the empty ghost of her newly born child asked in a voice aching of sleepless nights and harrowing days asked “What of pain?”

“Pain like any other emotion in life leads us towards growth and greater knowledge of the self. It is more vivid and harder to ignore than the gentler lessons of life and can act as a catalyst pushing us into new realms of awareness. It is a two edged sword. It can give us the necessary jolt, wake us from a delusional world or it can do the opposite. It can make us numb, cut us off alone and adrift as we run from ourselves. Respect your pain. Look deep into its eyes and learn from it, take all the time you need. But always remember to let it go and learn from the gentler teachers of this world. To hold on to tightly to that pain is to run away from the world and make the pain you have suffered have no meaning.”

The bronzed strong man who travelled with a circus and a professor pale from the depths of the university spoke at once, one interrupting the other: “What of the body?” “What of the mind?”

“It is foolish to think of these things as separate entities, they are one and the same, they cannot be divided. To pay undue attention to one is to starve the other. Mind, body, spirit, not a trinity but a whole. Imagine yourself as a plant. A plant needs its roots to draw nutrition from the earth, it needs its leaves to catch the sunlight to provide energy and it requires flowers and seeds to make part of itself endure long after it is gone. Neglect one part of the plant you neglect the plant as a whole - roots and leaves needs space and nurturing to grow.”

And then one whose face had seen the passing of many seasons and whose voice spoke of wisdom and lessons hard won said: “What of balance?”

“We walk a narrow tightrope, many are not aware of the precariousness of our situation, they have not yet looked down. We weave a safety net for ourselves by weaving patterns out of the things around us, seeking - looking for the patterns that will give meaning and sense to what we experience. We try to create a sense of permanence only to have that permanence stripped away . We are stripped down to our bare bones and plunged into the fire to be reborn and find a new balance. To our surprise it would seem most people eventually learn how to bounce.

Life is a negotiated experience, seeking to find that balance where everything fits and is where it should be. A life can be spent seeking that balance, to find balance to achieve harmony with oneself, others and the world at large at all levels. Most of us are not wise in the ways of balance, we topple from one extreme to the other, looking striving burnt by fire and then smothered by earth yet balance can be found. As a gymnast who tones her body, balance is an art which can be practised and with time become a state which can be maintained.”

Then a cacophony of voices cried out, anxious to be heard: “what of need?” “what of want?” “what of desire?” “what of anger?” “what of love?” “what of death?”

“Oh my people I have no answers for you, no definitive truths, it is not my place to give you such things. These are but snippets, fragments of my thoughts and in time those very thoughts may change, but that does not matter as these thoughts are but a starting point. My people, think of the questions you ask, why do you need these answers? Why does one person seek to know why there is love while another wishes to understand death? In the choosing and framing of your own questions you have taken a step towards finding your own answers. Look, strive, find and love and never forget to question. Find your own meanings, your own truths and perhaps with that you will be satisfied.”

“The time grows late, but let us not speak of endings, let us speak of beginnings. We all walk paths my friends and mine leads to further fields, my journey will never end. I give you my love people of my heart and I thank you for the multitude of experience you have given me.”

With that she was gone, bare feet tracing the dusty half hidden path, her face to the mountains beyond.


I wrote this when I was 19 :)

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© Elizabeth Argall 2003-2004
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