Being friends with a dragon takes some getting used to. For one thing their digestive systems are always rumbling like an old car. When they burp, which is often, foul smelling smoke comes out of both ends, and little spurts of fire sometimes ignite nearby curtains or sofas. Another thing is that they sometimes eat people which is hard to explain to the authorities when they come looking for said eaten person.
However there are many benefits of being friends with a dragon. For example, they eat people—people who are bullying you or harassing you, which really cuts down on being bullied when word spreads that people who pick on you end up disappearing, leaving only a few bits of hair and sneakers behind. Another benefit is that they burp, and foul-smelling smoke comes out of both ends—which is another good deterrent for bullies—as are the little spurts of flames aimed at particularly sensitive areas on bullies.
You might be wondering why I have so many bullies flocking around me. You see, I am trans—transgender. And I’m a kid. I was born nine years ago and everyone thought I was a boy. And even though I was born with the parts that would make some people assume I was a boy, I am a girl, and I know I’m a girl. My parents know now as well—after years of me insisting on wearing dresses they finally got it. Not that dresses defines being a girl, but my folks are old-fashioned.
I am one of the lucky ones. My parents both accept me. I also have friends who do as well. It wasn’t always that way though, and when I first came out things, shall we say, got ugly. And that’s where being friends with Harbor came in handy. Yes, Harbor is my friend dragon, and he does by ‘he.’ My name is well, we’ll get to that, and this is the beginning of many beginnings and the end of many endings and the beginning of many endings and well, you get the idea.
Zimzir and the Dragon.
As I said, my parents were told I was a boy when I popped out on a cold winter morning in January. My parents named me, “Joseph.” It was an OK name, except it didn’t fit. At first, I didn’t understand why it didn’t fit. It just didn’t. Sort of like accidentally putting both legs into a pair of pants.
My parents were pretty OK though, and so I began to grow up, or, well, as I like to think of it—grow down. You see, I always felt like I was an alien or something. Like I came from up there in space somewhere. I just felt different from the earthlings around me. And so, it took me a few years to come down, so to speak into this body I didn’t want or ask for.
When I was a toddler (which is a really funny word if you think about it) I used to toddle to the laundry basket (my family did do laundry, but always left the clean laundry in a basket in my parent’s room, and I knew this, so I would, as I said, toddle to it, and then, with some effort, toddle over and into it, sort of like a misguided cat). Once in the basket I would do an artistic little dance as I sat there on the clean laundry with quite possibly a stinky diaper, which consisted of me throwing clothes around the room while I sang (the artistic little dance, that is, not my diaper). “Sang” isn’t quite the right description of the vocalizations that came out of my mouth. My singing was more like cows yodeling.
While in the laundry basket I used to fish out the “women’s” clothes and wrap them around my head. Then I would giggle and slobber into them.
And here I want to say that, of course, clothes (and toys, for that matter) (and well, anything for that matter, especially kids) (unless they want to be) should not be gendered. So, I put “women’s” clothes in those little quotation mark thingies just to let you know I think it’s absurd that people think there is such a thing as “women’s” clothing. For the rest of this story, however, I am not going to use quotation marks, mainly because they are annoying. Trust though, whenever I mention women’s clothes or boy’s clothes, I mean (with a big roll of my eyeballs) (eyeballs is also a funny word) that I mean “women’s” clothes and “boy’s” clothes.
As I grew down some more, I used to go into my parent’s room and not only fish out my mom’s clothes, but I try it on and parade around the house. This made my mother laugh and my dad yell.
“Take those off, Joseph. Those are girl’s clothes. You’re a boy,” he would say.
To which mom would say: “Oh, honey he’s just pretending.”
To which I would say to myself: “No, I’m not. These clothes might be too big for me now, but they are the kind of clothes I want to wear forever.” And then I would take them off and treat them as if they were threaded with gold, and fold them up neatly and put them back in the laundry basket.
One day, when I was around seven, I was at my cousin, Annabelle’s house, and I stole one of her dresses and wore it to school the next day. I felt so proud and happy. It felt like I was wearing cool, refreshing sunshine.
Sitting in the principal’s office after getting sent there by my teacher for causing a ruckus in class just because I was wearing a dress, was the first time I remember wishing I had never been born. “This sucks,” I thought, “I just want to be myself and everyone either gets mad or thinks I’m a joke.”
And while waiting for my mom to come bring me a change of clothes, I heard Harbor for the first time.
I say, “heard,” because the first thing I heard was a fart. I looked around the office. No one else was there but me. Upon sniffing however, I knew someone, or something—judging by the intensity of the fart-smell—was with me.
Then I heard a burp and saw a little burst of smoke and flame appear in the middle of the room near the ceiling. I jumped and let out a little scream.
“It’s alright,” said a voice that sounded like gentle thunder. It was a sound that soothed me and resonated through my lungs, “It’s just me, Harbor.”
“Hhh-Hhh,” was all I could manage to say. I sort of sounded like I was practicing dramatic exhales.
“Harbor,” the voice said again, causing a little storm to wave pleasantly through my heart.
“Harbor?” I said, “But, where are you?”
“Right here,” came the voice. And then, there—right there—in Principal-Poopy-Pant’s office (not his real name) (unfortunately), the air in front of me began to shimmer and quiver and take form and color and weight, and as it did, a dragon appeared before me—large, aqua green with purplish markings and wings folded neatly against the ceiling.
“You’re a dragon,” I sputtered, and my mouth, if it could have, would have opened down enough to hit the floor.
“Yup,” he said, “so I am.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I am here for you.”
“For me?” I gulped. “Like, here to eat me?”
“Oh no,” said the dragon. “I am here to be your companion. If you will allow me, that is.”
“Why do you want to be my companion? Do I need one?”
“Because I want to be. I know what it’s like to not be accepted for who you know you really are.”
“Yes. And ‘yes’ to your other question. We all need companions sometimes, and you have an especially challenging journey ahead, and I am offering my services.”
“Services?” I asked.
“I will be your protector; guardian angel, if you will.”
“I see,” I said, “I’m not sure what to say. I mean, here I am, in trouble again, talking to a dragon. I’m not sure how I feel about that or having a protector—let alone a dragon protector. I’ve always had to protect myself. I’m used to it, even when I do a crumby job at it.”
“I see,” said the dragon, “are you saying you would rather me go?”
I hesitated a moment, and then said, “Yes. I have always felt alone and that’s sort of how I like it—or at least, sort of like how I’m used to it.”
“That’s fair,” Harbor said, “I’ll just be going then.” And the dragon began to dissolve into the air.
“Wait,” I said, standing up for the first time since this encounter began, “can I change my mind? You know, if I decide later I want a companion, can you, I mean, will you, still be there?”
“I’m sorry,” the dragon said, pausing in mid-disappearing into thin air, “I may not be here for you. There are many like you who need protecting. However, someone will always be there for you, even it isn’t me.”
And as I stared hard into Harbor’s eyes and saw nothing but oceanic light, and kindness, and wisdom, and a sly sense of humor, I found myself saying: “Wait, please. Stay. Actually, being alone kind of sucks. Well, not all the time. Sometimes I love being alone and need to be alone and wish I could be alone forever, but in general, I have no one who accepts me as me, and you seem to. So, will you stay?”
With that Harbor fully materialized into the office again and lowered its great head down to eye level and said: “It would be an honor. And now, what shall I call you?”
I looked at the ground and shuffled my feet. “Well, my given name is ‘Joseph,’ but that’s not the name I want or call myself.”
“Well,” Little One in the Beautiful Dress, what would you like to be called?”
I looked up at Harbor and couldn’t believe I was about to tell someone the name I had always treasured secretly in my heart.
“It’s OK,” Harbor said, “you can tell me later. On your time. Always on your time.”
His voice rumbled gently through me.
“Besides,” he said, “we have work to do here. We need to get you out of this pickle the limited minds of the grown-ups around you have put you.”
“How?” I said.
“Watch,” Harbor said and winked, and then, shimmered into invisibility, but not before breathing a little puff of fire and placing it on my head where it disappeared into me like warm apple cider. And before I could say a thing, Principal Poopy Pants came out of his office.
“Your dad is here,” he said, “and he’s not happy.”
Just then, the office door opened and in stormed my father, jeans and a t-shirt in hand.
“What were you thinking, young man?” he said, lifting me from the chair by my arm. “Why do you do this? I don’t get it. It’s infuriating. Why do you want to dress like a girl?”
“Because I am a girl,” I found myself shouting, my whole body feeling as if it was filled with some kind of strange, warm power.
“You are not a girl!” my dad and the principal shouted together.
“Yes, she is,” said Harbor appearing suddenly in the room, smoke and ribbons of flame streaming from his flaring nostrils, his voice thundering.
My dad and Principal Poopy Pants leapt into each other’s arms and turned around to look at Harbor. They screamed like frightened sheep.
“Get this into your heads,” Harbor said, lowering his own to meet their terrified eyes, “If you still want to keep your heads. She is a girl. She feels better in dresses. Accept her for the truth of who she knows herself to be, or else.” And he puffed a burst of smoke around their heads. They coughed and tried to wave the smoke aside.
“But,” my dad began.
“But nothing,” Harbor growled.
“But…that’s my son, my son Joseph.”
“That’s not my name!” I shouted, and I felt like my words were smoke and fire.
Harbor puffed out a little flame that came inches from my dad’s nose. “Don’t,” said Harbor, pausing before growling the rest of his sentence, “Ever. Call. Her. That. Again.”
“But,” my dad attempted.
And then Harbor roared a roar that shook the furniture in the room. “No buts!” He bellowed.
“OK…OK,” my dad said. And then he looked at me, “This is going to take some getting used to.”
“Then get used to it,” Harbor said.
“Yeah,” I said, “Get used to it.”
I had never sassed my dad before, but instead of getting mad, he bent down and looked at me, gently putting his hands on my shoulders. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I think somehow I’ve always known, but I was afraid of what others would think, what people at church would say, what your friends or grandparents would say. But, if this is who you are, then I accept you, and will do everything I can to help you feel accepted. I never want you to feel wrong about being who you are. I’m so sorry.”
It was the first time I ever saw tears in my father’s eyes. I teared up too, and so did Harbor, who sniffled out a little fart scenting the room with, well, dragon fart smell, which was a lot like burnt toast, not altogether unpleasant, like the smell of horse poop that smells like mowed grass and straw.
“Now,” my father said, still holding my shoulders and wiping a tear from my eye, “what would you like to be called?”
I bowed my head and then lifted it up proudly and looked first at Harbor and then at my father. “My name,” I said, with all the power of a phoenix rising from the flames, “is Zimzir.”
My dad smiled and stood up and turned to Principal Poopy-Pants. “Mr. Poopy Pants,” he said (and I burst out laughing), “This is my daughter Zimzir. She likes this dress and she is going to stay in it and you and your school are going to everything in your power to help her feel accepted. Educate the students, teachers, parents. That’s your job. So, do it.”
“Yes,” added Harbor, breathing fire tinged smoke around the principal’s head, “Do it.”
Principal Poopy Pants shook his head like a bobble head in a car on a bumpy road.
And so, my father walked me back to my classroom, opened the door, looked at the teacher and then the other students seated at their desks.
“People,” he said like a warrior announcing the arrival of a princess, “this is may daughter, Zimzir. Whatever you may have thought of her before, this is who she is and if any of you have a problem with that you will have to deal with me.”
“And me,” said Harbor snaking his great, scaly head into the room.
The class and teacher screamed and Harbor winked at me and then disappeared.
The other kids shook their heads not knowing if what they just saw or heard was real.
My dad looked down at me and said: “You want to stay here…Zimzir, or would you like to go for some ice cream?”
“I want to stay,” I said, looking up at him and smiling, “let’s get ice cream after school.”
“You got it,” he said and turned to go pointing his finger at the teacher and class. “Remember what I said,” he warned.
And as I walked proudly to my desk, I looked out the window and saw Harbor. He looked like he was about to fart. The classroom windows were open. He got up real close to the window and winked at me. I plugged my nose. I knew what was coming. I sat down, smiled at him and knew I was me. Zimzir. And I, Princess Zimzir had a protector forever.
We may not all have a dragon as a friend, or parents who accept us. We can dream though, and we can do our best to be ourselves in however form that takes, and in however time that takes—even if it takes a lifetime. We need to do what is best and safest for us. And since not all of us have dragons, may we all be Harbors for one another—safe places we can go when we need understanding, support, love, laughter, and a place we can burp and fart with wild abandon. May we all be dragons and protectors for one another. May we lift each other up and take care of one another. And if you’re reading this and you’re not trans, then accept your kid, accept your friend, accept your relative. Or else. I know someone hungry just waiting for you to make the wrong move. Live your faith. Be a parent. Be a friend. Be an ally. Be a Harbor and breathe fire for the sake of people like me.
All donations for this post will be given to TransLifeLine.
No One was there when I opened the door after being awoken by a frantic knocking. I stood there, afraid, and yet, by some miracle, invited No One in. I cleared off a chair and invited No One to sit down. I asked if they needed a drink of water. They nodded yes. I turned to get some water and No One started weeping. I stopped, knelt at No One’s side, and took their hand. No One wept like a torrent of rain. They collapsed off the chair and into my arms. They started to try to speak through the sobs. I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I caught pieces of words and phrases: Lonely, please, it’s chasing me, afraid, tired. I rocked No One in my arms and they wept for a long time. In fact, Time stepped aside and let us be together for as long as No One needed. I was grateful for Time for letting go of control and allowing No One’s pain to be witnessed in the kind of timelessness they reserve for dreams.
No One gradually wept into a deep sleep. I stayed there, holding them in my arms on the floor. My legs started tingling and falling asleep. I got up slowly and lifted No One into bed. I stroked their hair and pulled the blanket up over their deeply breathing body. I sat down in the chair and wondered why No One had come to me. Who, or what was chasing them? What could I do to help? And with those thoughts drifting through my heart like wisps of mist, I too fell into a deep sleep.
Inside (or outside?) my dream, No One had risen from the bed and stood radiant and strong, alive. I watched in awe as No One began to change their form. Their body shifted and fluttered, lighting up like a million fireflies, taking on other shapes and forms, until, at last, No One had transformed into Everyone, and it was then I understood why they had come. But then, Everyone too began changing shape. Their illumination settled a bit, and their form, a moment ago like a sun that somehow fit into the space of my apartment, began to shrink in size. As Everyone continued to distill in form and intensity, their light became focused and channeled to a specific spot in the room. It was then I understood why Everyone had changed. They had changed, wonder of wonders, into myself. And yet somehow, Everyone was still there. We were one being, one light, one heart. And No One suddenly flickered into the room, never to be alone again. And I let myself, wonder of wonders, be embraced by Everyone, as they rocked me in their arms, for I had collapsed from the chair weeping like the rain.
One day, an acorn and a cicada nymph were talking underground, when a beam of light suddenly appeared shining down on the acorn.
“What is that?” asked the acorn.
“It’s light,” said the cicada.
“Why is it tugging at me?”
“That’s what light does.”
“What if I don’t want to move?”
“Dunno,” said the cicada, “I’ve been under here for 17 years. I like the dark.”
“I haven’t been under here for nearly as long,” said the acorn, “but it sure is comfortable.”
“And cool,” said the cicada, “and snug, and yeah, so cool—wonderfully cool.”
“What do I do?” asked the acorn.
“The pull. I mean, my heart feels like it’s breaking, and something inside wants out.”
“Go with it,” said the cicada. “So part of you moves into the light? Your roots will always be in darkness.”
“And what about you?”
“Me?” Said the cicada, “Well, when the light draws me out, and I climb a tree and wait for my wings to spill out, then my roots will be in the sky.”
“Should I try to fight the light?” asked the acorn.
“Good luck,” said the cicada. “Funny thing is, once during late summer, you fell to the ground and the darkness pulled you under and you loved it. You didn’t resist. You couldn’t resist. I heard you sinking down. You were weeping and laughing all at the same time because it was so nourishing and safe-feeling to be under here. Now you want to fight the light. Try this, just try breathing in the light, and see what happens.”
The acorn did as the cicada suggested and she suddenly felt the light breathing her and she found herself unfurling into the bright, blue sky, and the light–she was eating the light.
“There ya go,” said the cicada.
“Aren’t you coming?” asked the acorn as she turned away.
“When I have suckled the roots of the mother tree long enough,” said the cicada, “then I will come. For now I am still nursing the dark.”
Yesterday a moment passed me by at the flea market.
She moved through the bangles, baubles, silks, bric-a-brac, knives, and rings.
I saw her and she me. In fact she turned to look at me full in the face,
And I know she was just about to tell me that every wonderful thing
Anyone has ever said about me is true—that I am a powerful force for good in this world.
We looked at each other as people passed by eating funnel cakes, ignoring us.
And just as I moved towards to her to ask her for a single, simple embrace,
She suddenly began to pull away—as if reeled backwards by some cruel fisherman,
And as she vanished, and as I began to push through people to chase after her,
She called out–I swear I heard her call out over the sounds of the many angry voices:
“Remember,” she called, “remember just how important you are. It’s all true.”
And at the last second, as I nearly caught her to pull her off whatever terrible hook that was in her,
She stretched out her hand, and I fell forwards trying to grasp it, missing it by inches.
Then she was gone–swallowed up into nothing, never to be seen again.
As I sat down right there, with people having to suddenly navigate a person sitting in the middle of the floor, I began to weep. After a few minutes, out of nowhere, a little girl, holding her mother’s hand, stopped and said to her mother, “Mommy look, someone is sitting on the floor crying.”
“Ignore her,” her mother said trying to pull her along, but the girl stood stock still, forcing her mother to stop. And then, the little girl let go of her mother’s hand, and leaned in close to me and said, “Lady, what’s the matter? Why are you crying?”
I looked up at her. Her face was full and wise, and powdered with sugar from eating some treat—probably a funnel cake, I thought. And then I said: “Sweet one, I almost touched a moment I’ve always wanted to touch—or that I’ve always wanted to have touch me. She was just here, little girl, and we got close—so close, but then she got dragged away and disappeared, and I am afraid I will never find her ever again, nor she me. That, little sweet one, is why I am sitting here in the middle of the floor crying, like a baby.”
“Oh,” said the girl.
“Come ON,” said the mother, reaching down trying to grab her by the arm.
“In a minute,” she said, shrugging her mother away.
“It’s OK,” I said to her, you can go with your mother. I’ll be alright.”
“What did she look like?” she asked.
“Oh,” I said, “she was beautiful. More beautiful than anyone or anything I have ever seen.”
“What was she wearing?”
“Oh,” I said, “she was wearing this flowing shift of white light that made her look like she was wearing heaven.”
“I see,” she said, and then stood up, for she had sat down across from me on the floor to conduct her little interview, much to her mother’s displeasure.
“Well,” she said, reaching up for her mother’s hand, “I hope you find her again.”
“Thank you,” I laughed, “you’re very kind.”
“Let’s go,” said her mother, and then to me, “Get up lady. Look around you. Do you see anyone else sitting around crying in the middle of the floor because they missed their moment? Get up. You’re in the way.”
And as they walked into the crowd, I looked after them and, to my amazement they were both wearing flowing shifts of white light that made them look like they were wearing heaven. How had I not noticed that before? I wondered. And as I stood, I staggered, and saw everyone was wearing flowing shifts of white light, and as I braced myself against my fears, I righted my back, stood tall, and began walking again full of wonder, my own shift of white light trailing behind me, like the train of a bridal gown. It was everything I could do to refrain my hands from touching every face I saw. It was everything I could to not ask each and every person if I could hug them. It was everything I could do not to sing. And then, as I continued moving through the sea of white light, there, right next to me, holding my hand, was my moment. She was laughing, beckoning me to look around us, and as I did, I laughed too, and knew in my heart that everything wonderful anyone ever said about me was true.
Once inside a time, a child descended the rainbow spiral and slipped into the life of a troubled young couple. The child floated in its embryonic wonder, dreaming of eternity, dreaming of worlds within worlds, dreaming of creating the universe, as her little body formed–clothing those dreams in flesh and bone.
At long last she was born again and when she first focused her grey, oceanic eyes on her mother, she took the image of her mother, saw it form into a mask, and drop down onto her little face as lightly as a breeze. After a moment the mask took on the shape and contour her own face, and disappeared, leaving her seemingly unaffected. The same thing happened when she first saw her father. A mask lifted from his face, imprinted with his features, drifted down upon her face, and disappeared just below the surface.
One day, years later, her father lost his temper for the hundredth time, something about money and bills, and the image of his face changed, distorted, and another mask lifted and wafted through the room until it landed on her face where, like the other masks, it took the shape and form of her face and then disappeared.
One day her mother flew into a rage and slapped her around the room, because she had broken her cellphone, and the child took on the mask that lifted from her mother’s wild, anger-blinded face. Her tears acted like an extra strong adhesive as that mask stuck itself down to stay.
Another day she was assaulted by an uncle in the basement of his house on Easter Sunday. His mask burned as it grafted to her face. As did the faces of everyone upstairs when she was finally able to move and go upstairs, in shock, somehow their gazes told her they all knew what a horrible, ugly person she had suddenly become. And they looked away but their masks hung in the room and followed her as if suspended on invisible strings, to where she sat rocking on the floor in front of the TV, her arms wrapped around her knees, like stunted wings.
Still another day she was humiliated in front of the entire school when she forgot the words to the song she was singing at the Christmas assembly. It was quite a feat, but she managed to assimilate the masks of everyone staring at her; everyone who laughed and pointed their fingers.
Over time and over years, she took on mask after mask from those around her. She would watch other children get praised for something they did or said and she took on their masks as well. She took on masks of bullies, victims, the wall flowers in the corner; heroes, heroines, pop stars, movie stars, lovers, therapists, friends, and even imaginary people she made up in her mind. And with every mask she forgot who she was. Sure she knew the name her parents gave her; sure she knew things about herself. But her real name; her true identity, that became increasingly hidden under layers and layers of micro thin, but nonetheless nearly unbreakable masks.
Until one day, in her late thirties, she broke down while looking in the mirror. She no longer knew who she was. She didn’t know what to do with her life. She didn’t have a purpose, a direction. She didn’t know anything except that she hated herself, that she felt ashamed with every step she took. And as she stood, hunched over the sink, sobbing into her hands, a raven slammed into the bathroom window with a horrible thud. Broken from her trance, she ran downstairs to see if the bird was still alive. Outside her door, flapping miserably, but looking a bit embarrassed, was a raven. Its eyes looked dazed, one of its wings was bent in a way it shouldn’t be, but otherwise it seemed OK. She bent down to see if there was something she could do when she fell backwards screaming because the raven, as a-matter-of-factly-as the rising sun said: “It was worth it.”
After shaking her head and staring at the raven for quite some time, she stood up, trembling.
“You heard me,” said the raven, “now pick me up and take me inside, I won’t bite. Yet.”
The woman gingerly scooped the raven into her arms, surprised at the size and weight of this night-colored creature.
“What do mean, it was worth it.”
“I had to get your attention somehow. I didn’t mean to hit the window so hard, but at least it broke you out of your trance.”
“You-you smacked into the window for me?”
“Yes, a few more minutes and you’da been lost forever.”
“In the swamps of pity. Once people get lost in there, they almost never make it out alive. But you’re OK now,” he said as she gently placed him on the couch.
“What do you need,” she asked, “What can I do for you?”
“I just need a few minutes to rest before I ask you to stick my wing back into its socket. It’s just a bit dislocated.”
She cringed at the thought. “It’s the least I can do after you saved me from the swamps of self-pity.”
“I suppose,” said the raven, “but first we need to work on you.”
“Me? What do you mean?”
“I was sent here to help you remember.”
“Who you really are.”
“But I know who I…” and then she stopped and remembered the mirror.
“Right,” said the raven as he tried lifting his hurt wing. He winced.
“What do I need to do?”
“Remove the masks.”
“The ones you’ve been collecting since before you were born.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“You do not know who you are,” said the raven. “You don’t recognize yourself. And the person you see in the mirror you hate. You do not like who you have become.
“Yes,” she said starring at the floor.
“It’s the masks,” he said.
“I don’t remember wearing any masks.”
“I believe you,” said the raven, “now please, let’s actually do this to my wing first, I’ll be able to concentrate better on you. Pull my wing gently from right here near the shoulder and lift it ever so slightly and then gently, gently, press it in and towards my body.”
With a deep gulp she slowly did as he requested. He screeched sending her tumbling backwards.
And then he was flapping around the room, strutting with great glee.
“It worked!” he shouted, “Nicely done! So much better!” And for a few moments he preened his feathers starring at her with eyes the color of black blood.
“Now,” he said, “let’s begin.”
She tried to speak but he interrupted her.
“Just listen,” said the raven, “this is only a beginning, and there isn’t a finish line. This work is eternal. We are just going to make it so you at least remember your real name. That’s a great start. Most people don’t get to that point. Once you do that though, the other masks will lift off almost of their own power and you will become lighter and lighter, more you than ever.” And as he spoke, he guided her on a journey within herself, where she began lifting off the masks of the people in her life. As some of the masks were removed, she wept; with others she raged; with others she threw up into the trash can; with others she shook for hours. Mask by mask, she uncovered who she really was. She got in touch with her body, with some of the memories she had long ago hidden. She slowly began accepting herself as herself. She would look in the mirror and catch glimpses of the person she always wanted to be; the person she really was underneath all the masks. The person she loved.
The raven stayed by her side for the rest of her life. And wonder of wonders, with every mask she removed, he shifted his shape. First he became a horse, then a black bear. Then he became an owl, and then a panther. And one day, after she had removed a particularly old and worn out mask, one that crimped her skin with its brittleness, she looked towards her shape-shifting friend, and he was an angel—winged, dark as night, and yet somehow radiant as the stars.
“Now,” he said, “are you beginning to remember your real name?”
“I think so,” she said, “but if I’m right, won’t that be the end? I mean you said there wasn’t a finish line, but if I remember my real name and who I really am, won’t that be it? Game over?”
“Not at all,” said the angel smiling like a crescent moon, “it only means you can begin doing everything you always wanted to do. It only means you will begin looking at this unmasking work as a grace-filled, wonderful adventure and privilege. It simply means you will shine like you were meant to shine. It simply means those around you will begin to look at you with awe and reverence, for so few people know who they are, and when they get into the presence of someone who knows their real name, they will seek out your wisdom. So tell me,” he whispered as he stopped to look her in the eyes, “what is your name?”
After a few moments of luminous chills coursing through her body, and tears of gratitude streaming down her face, she said, “Freedom. My name is Freedom.”
A cool, spring breeze draped the dew-dappled dawn. The little girl and the Angel sat in a meadow on a blanket talking and weaving garlands of flowers in each other’s hair. A deep sense of rebirth and drowsy awakenings filled the bright blue sky. The Sun spread beams of light carrying fairies and sprites up and down their radiant columns. The Moon listened distantly to the conversation of the little girl and the Angel. Along with the bees and newly hatched butterflies, flowers unfurled their curtains and called out with their sweet fragrances for all to come and partake of their honeyed nectar. The song the Singer sang that morning thrummed through all things leaving everything polished and luminous. The song was particularly alive in the little girl. It swirled around her like daytime fireflies. It roused a desire she had been holding within her and lifted it to the surface. The Moon leaned in closer. The Sun took notice and turned his face upon them.
“I think I’m ready,” said the little girl.
“Come,” said the Moon to the little girl.
The little girl left the Angel (yet the Angel, magically did not leave the little girl) and scrambled up into the lap of the Moon. The Angel stood in their midst, eyes slightly closed, yet keenly interested in what they were saying.
“You want to go learn from there?” asked the Moon, pointing to the earth.
“Yes,” said the little girl.
“And what do you want to learn?”
“I see,” said the Moon, “and you also want to grow?”
“Tall enough to be a grown up.”
The Moon laughed a little, as did the Angel, and then all three were silent for a long, deep moment.
“You know,” began the Moon, “You will suffer.”
“I know,” said the little girl bowing her head.
“Do you?” asked the Moon.
“I, I think so.”
“You will know pain,” continued the Moon, “and longing, hunger, thirst, loneliness, boredom, fear, and shame. Youwill taste death and decay. You will also, of course, know exquisite pleasure, sheer delight, wonder, union, bliss, creativity, and vast amounts of fun. You will also lose your way (and as the Moon spoke tears formed in the Angel’s eyes. She looked away). You will also do things unimaginable to you now which you will regret and not be able to reconcile for a very long time. You will also do things of remarkable grace. Are you sure you’re ready for all of that?”
The little girl kept her head low, but she mumbled just loud enough for all of them to hear: “Yes, I am.”
“You will forget me,” said the Moon looking up into the sky.
“Never!” cried the little girl.
“You will,” said the Moon, “but not completely. I will always be with you in your dreams and creativities. Once you go however, you will turn your attention to the Sun, for I will take you as far as the gates of birth and leave you with Angel at the shore. Angel will go with you across the ocean to an even further shore where you will live out your time there; then, when the time is right, the Sun will take you to the gates of death and from there Angel will carry you home, and we will all be waiting for you once you return.”
The truths of the Moons words stung the little girl’s heart, yet, at the same time, the pain was somehow full of light and a strange, dizzying expectancy.
“Will you stay with me while I’m in the other world?” she asked the Angel.
“Of course,” replied the Angel. “I have been with you since before the beginning and I will be with you beyond the end.”
“Thank you!” said the little girl leaping into the Angel’s arms.
“You’re welcome,” said the Angel, “but you will forget me too.”
“And me,” interjected the Sun.
The little girl stepped back from the three gathered there and stared at them. “Why will I forget you?” she said, unable to hold back her tears. “You are my Mother, Father, and closest friend. Why must I forget you?”
“If you truly want to grow,” said the Moon, “and learn to be free, you will need to cultivate your own remembrances. You will need to awaken us within yourself, and once you do, we will be closer to you then than we are right now. Angel will help you through all of this. She will be your constant companion. She will do her very best to keep you on a good road and inspire thoughts and feelings within you to help you remember us and where you have come from. But it will not only be your angel that will help you remember. There is another teacher as well.”
“Who is that?” asked the little girl.
“It’s not a ‘who’,” said the Moon, “It is a what—pain. Pain will help guide you to us, so will your dream and desires, teachers and so too, will nature and the holy books written by inspired people. And of course, the song from the Singer Who Loves Us will guide you too. It’s just that sometimes we cover our ears to is music.”
“I’m afraid,” said the little girl.
“This is only the beginning of fear,” said the Moon, “the fear you will come to know will be great, right from the very beginning. Fear will fill your first gasping breaths. Angel will be with you though, guiding, supporting, and giving you just enough courage to make it through. You needn’t fear your fear or let it stop you from doing what you truly want or need to do. But be aware, many people there worship feelings like gods, yet they fail to realize that feelings are as transient as the wind. The fear you will feel will leave and return throughout your time there, just like happiness and joy. All of the feelings come and go. Angel will help you know what to do with your feelings.Angel will be teaching you the entire journey.”
“You’ll do that for me?” the little girl asked the Angel.
“I will do that with you,” corrected the Angel, “we go together. I am not your lord, I am your companion, and I will be with you always.”
The little girl took a deep breath.
“Keep doing that,” said the Moon, “You will need to learn how to breathe a whole new way. The more you practice and the more you learn to remember to breathe with your whole body the easier the journey will be, and the more you will be able to remember us.”
“When can we go?” asked the little girl, practicing taking another deep breath.
“As soon as we’ve gathered the provisions for your journey,” said the Moon.
“Here,” said the Sun, “You’ll need this.” And he took a piece of light from a little box that appeared in his hands.
“Open wide,” he said, and placed the piece of light onto her tongue. She beamed, relishing the sweetness spreading through her, sharp, alive, quick. She held it in her mouth like candy, allowing it to slowly dissolve.
“That will live in you,” said the Sun, “and serve as a homing beacon when you begin your search for me.”
“Thank you,” said the little girl, “it tastes like honey.”
“Good,” said the Sun, “remember that sweetness.”
“May I have another piece?”
“Yes,” the Sun smiled and dropped another piece into her waiting mouth, like a mother bird feeding her young.
“Each piece makes me want more,” she said.
“When you feast on my light, it will always leave you wanting more. And the more light you share with others, the more you will have, and the more you will want. So use it, cherish it, eat–the supply is endless.”
“And you’ll need this,” said the Moon, draping a garland of fragrant, delicate white flowers around her shoulders.
“Thank you,” said the little girl, carefully touching the blossoms.
“When you cross over it will merge into you,” said the Moon, “it will become you. Then you will have the Sun’s light and mine living within you. My flowers will be your connection with me. They will grow into my servant, the Muse, who will help you author your life.”
“It’s beautiful,” said the little girl.
“And so will be the story of your life,” smiled the Moon with a tear in her eye.
“Don’t cry,” said the little girl, reaching up and touching the Moon’s face.
“Why not?” asked the Moon, “tears are another gift each one of us gives to you, they will help water the garden that the Singer has planted in you. The garden Angel will help you tend.”
“Garden?” asked the little girl.
“Yes,” said the Moon, “The Singer Who Loves Us plants a garden in every living thing. “
“Even me,” laughed the Moon.
“We all have gardens,” said the Sun and the Angel.
“My garden looks like a field of lilies,” said the Moon.
“My garden looks well, like a field of sunflowers,” laughed the Sun.
“And yours?” the little girl asked the Angel.
“Mine is still growing, but I suspect it will look a lot like yours.”
“What does mine look like?” asked the little girl.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” said the Angel, “here, take these.” The Angel handed the little girl a pouch of seeds.
“These are your destiny,” said the Angel. “You get to plant them whenever, however, and wherever you please in your garden.”
The little girl slowly took the pouch into her hands, felt its gentle, unassuming weight, and felt suddenly worried.
“What if I plant them wrong?” she asked, “What if I lose them, or plant them and forget about them?”
“That’s why I go with you,” said the Angel placing her hand on the little girl’s shoulder. “I will guide you and be with you, I will protect, inspire, and enliven you. However, you will be in complete freedom when it comes to how, when, and where you sow your seeds.”
“But what if I waste them? What if I do it all wrong?” The little girl was crying, and for the first time since this moment began, she felt unsure of wanting to take this journey.
“It is not a question of wrong, or of wasting,” said the Angel, “These seeds are eternal, gifts from the Singer Who Loves Us. So they are always right. It is only a matter of time as to whether they bear fruit or not. They all bear fruit, dear one. You may make mistakes here and there and need to rearrange the garden, pull a few weeds; but do it without shame, for we have all done so, every one of us. In fact, tending the garden of your heart, learning how and when and what to plant, is all part of the adventure and the fun.”
“The light I gave will help you,” said the Sun.
“Mine too,” said the Moon, “In fact, with the power of the Muse you will even be able to garden at night.”
The little girl smiled, comforted.
“There’s one more thing,” said the Moon, and she opened her arms, gathering Sun, the Angel, and the little girl into the silvery drapery of her embrace. They held one another, and each one in turn, the Sun, the Moon, and the Angel, showered the little girl with kisses, tears, blessings, and prayers. And as they did they heard a song rise from the horizon. It rolled towards them, unfolding its wings, and it flooded them, came upon them with the force of a river, and filled them with hope and joy; and within its music, the most tender, yet fiercest love wove through their embrace. It spiraled around and through them, above and below them.
And when they finally let go, the Moon gathered the little girl into her arms. The song unfurled into a rainbow-dappled road, and the Moon began walking slowly upon it. The Angel followed close behind, and the Sun ran ahead deep into the distance, until he was no longer visible. The Moon carried the little girl to the gates of birth which opened into an ocean lit with a million lanterns and lotus flowers. A basket made of flowers waited at the shore, and with one last kiss, the Moon placed the little girl into the basket and nudged it gently away, tears streaming down her face. The Angel slipped into the water like a ribbon of gold and took the basket in her arms and carried it through the water. They traveled across the ocean to another shore that opened surrounded by hills and mountains, and pulsed with wild, quickening drumbeats unlike anything the little girl had ever heard. They were hypnotic, mesmerizing, and yet soothing, like a gentle storm. They were strangely familiar and seemed as close to her as her own breath.
“Here,” said the little girl, “this is good.”
And with these words, the basket touched the shore and as it did, the gates of the other world parted. For a split second she thought she saw the Sun racing ahead. She thought she saw the Moon leaning in from the sky. She turned and realized the Angel had disappeared and moved to the other side of the gates. She heard moans of ecstasy and pleasure. She felt something shimmer through her, thrilling her with something like sparks and a slow, gradual explosion of wonder and of unfolding into time and space. And the song–the song the Singer Who Loves Us sang, threaded through the drumbeats of this new world with the drumbeat of the little girl’s. Little by little the drumbeats slowed and separated, and she suddenly found herself lulled to sleep. She slept for what seemed like forever. Somehow she sensed the Angel rocking her. Somehow she felt connected and protected by the one drumbeat that now enveloped her with its steady, caressing light. Somehow she knew other drumbeats were near and ready to meet her. Somehow the song of the Singer Who Loves Us thrummed through her newly forming fingers and toes, making her do little, fluttering dances.
And then one morning, she found herself being pushed, lifted, and born into the waiting, tender arms of the world.
Once upon a
time a golden bird wandered the heavens in search for a place to sing. Seeing a tree that stood alone in the valley
of the mountains, she flew in for a closer look. The tree was young, a mere sapling, and since
it was winter, the sapling was sleeping, so it did not notice when the golden bird
alighted in its humble branches pleased to find a home.
As it slept,
the little tree dreamt, and in its dream, a golden bird descended and made its
home among its branches.
you choose me?” the tree asked the golden bird.
each other,” said the golden bird, “and together we will make a bridge between
heaven and earth.”
shimmered gently and continued sleeping, dreaming it was listening to some
mysterious and radiant singing.
In reality, while
the golden bird had been searching for an earthly place to call home, it had
intended that home to be temporary—a stop along its journey of singing its song
through time and space. However, the
golden bird decided to make its home among the branches of the tree because it
had, in fact, gotten one of its delicate feet stuck in a tight spot among the
branches, and couldn’t move. But since it
liked the tree and felt at home there, it decided it would do what it was born
to do: sing. And it would remain there
until it was no longer tangled with the tree.
bird sang a tree-song, a song of tree-energy, tree vibrations, tree leanings,
and it enjoyed very much how its voice was informed by the being of the
tree. Sure it had its own song, but its
song had no overtones or harmonies, it was just pure tones issuing from a most
exquisitely fragile voice. Now that it
was stuck in the tree, its singing made vibrations in the branches and these
vibrations created echoes, harmonies, and drones of endless variety and timber,
and so it kept singing this new and wonderful song, and felt it had discovered
sides of itself it never knew before.
bird grew to love that little sleeping tree.
It appreciated the shelter, the experience of form and boundaries. It loved the way the tree’s being made her
own song more resonant and deep. And it
decided it would do whatever it could to protect that little tree and help it
grow to reach its fullest height.
the tree slept. It slept and dreamt it
had a golden bird living in its branches and that they had fallen madly in love
with one another.
spring, the tree began to awaken, born into a blue sky dappled with clouds the
shapes of castles. As the tree grew more
and more awake, it began to enjoy being a tree very much. It reached and it stretched, it swayed and
it leaned. It grew green leaves and soft
blossoms and sent deeper and deeper roots rivering through the surrounding
it slept and it dreamt about the singing, and as it grew, it realized it could
do so many more things than when it was a seed or a sapling. It was delighted to discover it could cast
its seeds far into the world and that the world would accept them and nestle
them deep into her womb.
As it grew
even larger and its branches stretched even further, it could touch places even
further away. It began to want more
light, more space, more sky, and somehow when it dreamt, the song it heard
seemed to tell it that all of its wantings were good—holy, wonderful, meant to
be. So it wanted more and the
surrounding world gave it more, pouring down rain, sun, and soothing winds.
The tree, in
turn, gave oxygen to the world. It loved
making this mysterious force, loved how it became one with the wind and felt it
breathe into the sky and how all the creatures around the tree enlivened and
quickened with enthusiasm when new oxygen was produced.
One night, in
a quiet moment in the light of the moon, the tree was not quite asleep and not
quite awake when it heard singing—the same singing it had been hearing in its
dreams. The tree shimmered. The sound filled its branches with light. Every branch and budding leaf quivered with
joy. The tree listened and listened all
through the night. It stood there awake,
swaying to the song. And as the dawn
kissed the night sky and made it blush with the deep presence of its
honey-scented kiss, the tree suddenly realized a golden bird really did live in
its branches, and a shimmering thrill quivered through it from the tips of its
branches down to its gnarled roots.
bird sang its song of light and as it sang the tree decided its primary reason
for living was to protect that golden bird.
Little did it know that the golden bird had the same idea.
however, in the tree’s goodness and curiosity of heart, it became a harbor for
many types of chattering creatures, each competing for the best spot in the
tree. At first the tree didn’t mind all
the noise and activity, but after while all the hustle and bustle began to
distract the tree from its primary purpose, and what was worse, it couldn’t
hear the golden bird as well.
And as much
as the tree loved the golden bird and wanted it to stay forever, it knew it
must have a home somewhere else.
Perhaps, the tree thought, she had come from a faraway shore or perhaps she
came from another tree, a universal tree crowned with the heavens, one that
draped a canopy of verdant green over all things. Wherever it came from, it was determined to
not only find the golden bird’s home, but to help it return there.
whirled its branches in a wild frenzy, hoping to loosen the bird, but its efforts
had the opposite effect, and the golden bird’s leg only stuck faster in its
spot. The tree talked incessantly all
day and sometimes all night, creating all sorts of dramas and stories hoping to
help inspire the bird to think up an idea to help free itself. The tree wanted more and more space with
which to spread its branches further and further hoping if it did the growth
would open the stuck spot and loosen the leg of the golden bird.
the tree know that if it really had wanted to, the golden bird could have
lifted, leaving its leg behind only to sprout a new one as it flew away, but
the golden bird was so very moved by the tree’s devotion that it stayed. It stayed and it sang.
years the tree kept trying to free the bird, but still it could not. It went
mad for the trying and the failing. It
swooned into a stupor of depression so much so that it began to only focus on
the frenzies of its own talking, and of its own swirling wanting. It tried so hard to free that golden bird that
it forgot to listen to the her song. Over
time, it somehow managed, as strange as it seemed, to forget the golden bird
was there, even though it loved her dearly.
looking from a distance, it would appear the tree hated the golden bird, that
it was somehow an opposing force trying to harm the golden bird or at very
least drown out its song. In actuality,
the tree stood in deep devotion to that golden bird, and all of its activities,
as misguided as they appeared to be, were in service of the one who dwelled in
its branches. Its efforts were, in a
bird used the magic of its song to transform the efforts of the tree into the
very growth and expansion of the tree.
The tree grew and learned so many things as it sought to free the bird. It became a strong and deeply rooted tree,
one whose boughs became a favorite climbing place for the children of the
nearby village. And the golden bird
looked upon all of the tree’s efforts as those of a highly active and creative
child. She forgave its every forgetting
and knew that running through its trunk was the thickest blood of the deepest
summer afternoon the sky darkened. An
ominous shiver swept through the leaves of the tree, thunder roiled through the
valley like an invisible wave from an invisible sea. Within minutes a storm careened off the
surrounding mountains, echoing through the tree sending it spinning in place
like a top, and had it not been for its roots, it would have twisted out of the
ground and tumbled away.
In the midst
of the storm the tree suddenly heard and remembered the singing of the golden
bird, and it stood up as tall as it could reach, stretching and unfolding its
branches as high as they could go hoping to simply hoist that bird back into
heaven. The tree wept its leaves into
the wind as the rain pelted down. It
tried to heave itself upwards, lifting itself from the earth, but its roots
were attached too deeply in earth.
the storm raged. And still the bird
sang. And through the wind and rain, the
thunder and the cooling air, the tree loved that singing with such a love that
the world could not, and indeed would never fully understand. How could it be that such an unlikely pair
could create such a partnership of such breadth and such harmony.
time together they had done just as the golden bird told the tree they would in
its dream from long ago: they had created
a bridge between heaven and earth. The
golden bird wanted a place to settle and sing, and that she got. The tree wanted to grow and to delight in
the world, and that it got. And the
golden bird grew to love the tree, and the tree grew to love the golden bird
and they both desired to protect the other. However, only the golden bird knew
the truth of the inevitable.
And in the
distance, the golden bird saw the lightning.
She saw it splitting the sky and lighting up the village and the
valley. She tried to warn the tree, tell
it to look out and be careful, to bend out of the way, to stop reaching so
high, but she knew the tree was rooted to its own personal earth, and that
ultimately she could do nothing to save it.
So she did what the tree loved most: she sang.
She sang a song
of sky and of blossoming horizons. With
every note the golden bird draped shawls of light over the branches of the
tree. It garlanded the tree with
dazzling strings of musical fireflies that bobbed and danced in the storm
lashed branches. She sang hoping to
guide that tree safely through another season.
She sang even though she felt her foot loosening from the spot that had
held her there for so long. She sang as
the storm trampled through the sky and gathered directly over the tree.
before the lightning touched the tree with its terrible, sudden stroke, tearing
it asunder and blasting it to pieces, the tree knew the way to free the golden
bird. Instead of doing all of the things
it had been trying to do—all of those things that actually created tension and
more tightness within itself, it suddenly knew to pause, to breathe, and to be
still. And as it relaxed, a song began
to rise like a river up through its roots, and up through its entire
being. As the song rose, it gathered
earth and moisture, and these flowed into its song, giving it strength and
power. And when the song reached the
branch of the golden bird, it struck the bird with such joy, such sweet and
undying devotion that the bird wept, it wept into the sky with tears that
rained down upon the tree in a baptism of the most fierce and tender love. And their songs merged becoming one song,
rising and streaming into the heavens directly up through the lightning bolt
that struck the tree, and into the very heart of the Divine Itself, and together,
for a moment that held the entirety of eternity, that tree and that golden bird
sang, not as opposites on some mysterious, little known scale of misunderstood music,
but as one—one song of All Life, All Love, and of All Unending Joy.
Thank you for your kind contributions to the continuing work
They walked all day. Miles
they came taking turns carrying the child. As the mother and father moved
cautiously through the darkening woods they ached with fatigue. And when their
plodding steps slowed to a halt they couldn’t help it, they sat down to rest right
there in the middle of the road. The mother handed the child to the father so
she could stretch out. The father held the child on his chest and joined her on
the cool, dusty road.
silently, from the darkness, yellow eyes appeared. The father grabbed the child
and sat upright. Suddenly animals stepped from the shadows towards them. He
roused his wife. They huddled there together, shaking—turning every which way
only to see animals forming a circle around them. The child began to giggle.
The father moved to cover his face, but the child brushed his hands away. His
eyes widened with glee as the animals moved closer.
first to reach them was the mountain lion. She carried something in her mouth.
It was a rabbit. She laid it at their feet and turned away, yellow eyes
flashing. The bear lumbered towards them next. In his mouth were two rainbow
trout. He laid them before the trembling couple, snorted and sniffled, and then
turned back to the shadows. Then came the heron, looking for all intensive
purposes like a tall, skinny butler. He stepped his long, remarkable strides,
and in his outstretched wings was held a bowl of pure, cold water. He offered
it without spilling a drop. And so, one by one the animals came bearing gifts
of wild berries, salads of dandelion greens and edible flowers, and even
freshly baked bread from—from—the couple never found out where from. And lastly
came the reindeer and the wolf. The reindeer carried a wreath of glowing
candles in her antlers. With the utmost care she laid it before them. It
illuminated their tear-stained faces. The wolf took his place beside the family
and stood guard as they began to eat.
that night they feasted on a meal lovingly prepared by the animals. They had
never had such a nourishing meal.
they had eaten and drank their fill, the wolf disappeared into the cave of the
night. And the couple laid back in the road to sleep. The darkness was almost
complete as they stared exhausted into the tree-branch laced sky. Then all at
once the trees leaned forward and down with their branches. The couple
screamed, but then realized the trees were opening their arms in offering—they
were giving them a place to nestle for the night.
couple looked at each other and then carefully stood and stepped into the
waiting branches. The trees lifted them instantly high off the ground. The air
caressed the little trinity of humanity as it rose, higher into the night sky.
That night, they slept like baby birds in the gently swaying trees.
the child who awoke when he heard the earth singing the sweetest of lullabies.
It was a song of crickets and of night birds and frogs, it was the song of the
padded steps of animals, it was the song of the river flowing somewhere in the
darkness. As he listened, he felt the earth holding the roots of their tree
with all of the love and tenacity of a mother swaddling her baby.
it was the child who felt the arms of the moon reaching down and lifting them
embrace was like refreshing silver water pouring slowly over them. And as the
moon cradled the little family, the child laughed as he watched the Milky Way
swooping her star-fringed arms and gathering them all—the mother and father, the
babe, the animals, the trees, the earth, and the moon into her gently dancing
the baby reached up and brushed her face, tracing his fingers through her
star-dappled hair. And as he did, his eyes caught site of the universe turning
towards them, carrying them along in the perfect folds of his cloak of shadows
the child laughed. He laughed as he saw the Creator of All holding them
tenderly in cupped hands. And as he took in this marvelous vision, he sank into
the cradle of his parents arms and knew all of this was within himself. He held
it all—the animals, the trees, the earth, the moon, the Milky Way, the
universe, and the Creator–in his heart. Within him was one elaborate tapestry
of wonder and perfection. He knew he treasured it all inside, and with that
thought, he went to sleep in the dear, innocent arms of his mother and father.