There Was or There Was Not (that’s a version of Once Upon a Time) a town that was threatened by an invading enemy. Because the enemy had an army of sleepwalkers, though they fought fiercely and believed themselves awake, there was no possibility of making friends with them. The people of the town could not run away, and they could not fight back. Never mind why. (And don’t assume you know exactly what this is about.) At this particular time and place, they had only two choices, with (perhaps) an intermediate, wishy-washy choice in the middle.

They had been told by a Wise Being that they could survive if they fortified their town and waited out the coming attack. There was plenty of food within the town, as the people had been preserving and storing part of their harvest for many years, but there was a problem about water – it was running out. They had a Very Special Water Tank, light as a feather and perhaps with magical properties, that could store what they needed if only they had the water in the first place. But someone had to go and get it from the Huge Deep Lake.

The tasks that needed doing in preparation for the siege were few and specific: to build higher the mud brick wall around the town, and to go for water. Building the wall higher meant first gathering reeds and mud from the little pond just outside the city gates, which had enough water to make the mud, but not enough for thirsty people under siege, then molding and forming the bricks, then stacking them higher. All these tasks were done in groups, working with family and friends, staying close within the community.

But going for the water had to be done alone. The Very Special Water Tank only worked in the presence of one person. With two, it was heavy as lead. One villager – we’ll call her Shayda, which might not mean anything – had been trained from birth in the intricate ways of reaching the Huge Deep Lake, coaxing the water into the tank, and returning safely. Specific knowledge was needed for this, as the Lake was difficult to find, being down a winding path and sometimes invisible. A certain frame of mind was needed to access the water, and the ways both forward and back were filled with distractions.

Shayda’s problem was that she knew how to reach the water (sometimes) and bring it back (God willing!) but she didn’t want to leave the people. She felt that they needed her, that every pair of hands should work to make the bricks, and that the path to the Huge Deep Lake was lonely. And boring! And that thinking she should forget the bricks and concentrate on the water might be escapist, or elitist, or some kind of “ist,” anyway. Only the first part of the path was lonely – the rest was filled with delightful sights, sounds, adventures and companionships, but she could never remember this. She wanted to stay with the people, and help, and be two hands among the many, working in harmony.

She wasn’t the only one trained in the water-fetching. In fact, some souls further along in their training lived out in the wilderness beside the path and sometimes delivered water to the village by their own methods. Still, not too many were trained and tested in the water gathering, and she was one. She had had an Excellent Teacher.

So we leave this story, perhaps to return to it sometime, perhaps not. There were only two choices, with (perhaps) an intermediate, wishy-washy choice in the middle. The intermediate, wishy-washy choice was gathering just a little water from the pools that lined the near part of the path and bringing them back: a journey less lonely and more quickly accomplished. And each villager must make this choice, and make it again and again every day. Some live in solitude far along the Waterward Path, while others are experts in brick making and wall building, and for them the choice is easier than for those who fall in the middle.  And on this day, Shayda made the the wishy-washy choice, which is why she is bringing you this story.

The End