Once upon a time – for there was always a sense of time crushing our dreams with some kind of commitment to be doing the bidding of priorities other than those our heart might cling to for salvation amidst the turmoil and injustice we perceived our lives to be embroiled in – once upon a time there lived a man named Tim and his daughter, Melanie. Now Tim was a simple man brought up with the fear of God and a healthy dose of class based humility. A cobbler, of all things, who loved to dance.
Tim the cobbler who loved to dance was chastising his daughter one day for not moving. “Melanie” said Tim, “’tis not safe to be idle in these dark times. You must learn to dance and sing and be more active lest the Devil take hold in the spaces you leave still!” Of course Melanie loved her father and wanted to do as he bid but there was something else inside of her, something that longed for her to be still and quiet and listen with the greatest strain in case it say something to her in the few precious moments her life allowed time alone.
Her love for her father pushed her to want what he asked, to make him happy – to see him smile. This pushing made the will to be still a bad thing in her life. She began to see it as a curse, as a door for the evil of the world to get inside her head and act through her on the people she cared about. Melanie was torn. In order to be a good person she had to deny the one thing her heart desired, the one place her soul wished to speak to and this was enough to make her crazy.
At first it was just a small voice, a reminder to keep moving, keep from the silence and stillness of life. But as time went on, Melanie began to receive louder and louder messages to keep safe until eventually she couldn’t keep from twitching and pacing and panting and flailing and grunting and moving everything all day long in a fit of desperate activity. Meanwhile, her father was driven to madness worrying what had befallen his beautiful daughter. Tim thought for sure the Devil had gotten hold of her soul and was now in the process of devouring her very essence.
Unable to work or think about anything else, Tim set out to find the medicine that would cure his precious daughter of her torment. He travelled through his country and far into foreign lands seeking a holy man or blessed potion to ease her suffering, to no avail. Each exorcist and priest he came across told him his Melanie was beyond their help. Gripped with love and fear Tim could not give up and refused to leave his daughter in the Devil’s hands.
Tired, wrinkled, old and through habit more than passion Tim walked long roads between cities in search of a medicine for his almost unrecognisable Melanie who now lived in a wooden cage he wheeled behind him. Together they travelled hot, dusty paths to towns where people seemed invisible to Tim now that his life was committed to casting out the Devil from his life, and these same townsfolk were more and more intolerable to Melanie as she became more and more sensitive to the voices plaguing her every waking moment.
One day, at the edge of a place Tim had hoped to find shelter they were stopped by a herd of goats. It was festival time and no-one was getting in or out of town tonight but the shepherd directed Tim to a house on the far side of town, the home of a poet. Grateful for the chance to rest, Tim dragged Melanie through the paddocks churning up mud and clay, powered by pure determination to survive to see just one more day.
As they came upon the house a woman ran to greet them both with the warmth and joy of an old friend. “Tim! I’ve been waiting so long, it’s fabulous to see you both. Come in! Come in!” Tim stopped to examine the woman closely in case he had failed to recognise her face, but it was not a face he knew. “Do I know you?” he asked suspicious and uncertain for perhaps this woman was a witch. And everyone knows you have to beware of witches, well at least all the God fearing people in Tim’s way of seeing do. Witches are hands of the Devil.
The poet smiled as she unlocked Melanie’s cage and ushered them inside without another word.
Once inside Melanie was sat in the corner among a collection of cacti that prickled and itched if she wriggled too much. They were both given a bowl of soup by the fire as the poet sang gentle music that caressed their tired bones. Finally Tim could hold himself up no longer and accepted the poet’s offer of a hammock swinging on the porch by a copse that trees swiftly singing him to sleep. That night Tim and Melanie were in the same dream – a dragon flew down from the mountains into a small town terrorising them day and night without warning. A dragon that blew fire on Melanie and icy bone chilling breath on Tim. For ten long years the two were singled out by this unrelenting beast as all else in the town were left in peace to do as they wished somehow unawares of the torture the two endured.
When Tim tried to tell people about the dragon’s chill the townsfolk would shake their heads and walk away. How could they be so cold? How could they not see that their lives were made miserable by a monster in the mountain? In the dream Tim and Melanie were summoned to head of state for a ceremonial banishment. “Ten years we have waited for you to see, and for ten years you have chosen to ignore the wisdom of the Earth dragon. Go now to the mountain and meet your soul.”
Tim could not believe people were capable of such cruelty. Surely they could see it was through no fault of their own that this monster tormented them? How could the town resign these two innocent victims to such a harrowing fate? He though about escape but they were never alone and there was only one way out of town left unguarded – toward the mountain. Still hoping for a way to avoid certain death, Tim decided to take his daughter into the mountain and find a way around. As long as they were together he would do everything in his power to keep her safe.
Banished without supplies they were forced to take the roads open to those who needed water and shelter to survive. They found little to eat but enough seemed to make itself apparent as they trudged up the slope. After eleven days of climbing they came upon a clearing and decided to rest. Just as they sank to the ground their dragon slipped from behind a rock face to pin them down. “Take me, take me!” pleaded Tim. “Just leave my daughter she has done nothing to deserve such a violent death. I will gladly give my life to save hers.”
The dragon roared so ferociously it shook the world and all around them began to crumble. As Tim prepared to be devoured he clenched his eyes shut and began to pray. But nothing happened. Slowly, cautiously he peeked through one eye and found the dragon weeping. Perhaps he should have taken the opportunity to run but something inside him urged him to stay. “Why do you weep dragon?” asked Tim. “Because you blame me for your suffering when all I have ever done is call you home” the dragon wailed.
The dragon continued, “why do you ignore the very essence of who you are? It pains me to see you live a life of distrust and self-imposed misery. All I ever needed was for you to follow your heart…” At that moment the belly of the dragon began to glow and Tim felt his own love of God stir inside himself filling him with calm and loving kindness.
“But who are you?” Tim whispered. “And why have you been tormenting us all these years?”
“I am your soul” the dragon answered, “and I have been trying to give you a sense of what it is to be you! I have been trying to help you understand what it is like when you ask your daughter to be something she is not, when you ask her to disconnect from her own soul’s message! I have been sending you experiences of great empathy and self-awareness trying so hard to get you to listen to your own sense of life’s miracle but you keep pushing me away. So I get louder and bigger and more unbearable in the hope that I become the only important thing your life so I can save you from all the pain and suffering you put yourself through.”
The two sat in silence for longer than Tim had ever dared to be still. Finally, the dragon reached into his belly and gave Tim a piece of his core, asking without words to share this sacred aspect with his daughter. Tim had completely forgotten about Melanie for the moment, and suddenly became aware that she was busy having her own conversation with the dragon of fire who told Melanie of all the unnecessary rules she was following in the hope of gaining her father’s love. A love that was not about making people happy or doing what you were told, but instead a love that asked her to stand up for herself and be who she was Divinely designed to be. Not about rules that were taking her further and further away from the ability to love and celebrate herself, but rather about rules that gave her a clearer sense of what her soul was speaking into life.
As each of them were given a piece of their soul-dragon to share with one another, the dream vanished and they were comfortable in their beds at the poet’s house. The poet was gone leaving them a note, porridge and enough supplies for the season. The note read as follows:
Dear Ones who travel with love in their heart there is one obligation your soul asks to live
To be who you are right now as you start wherever you are with nought to forgive
Simply a reason to be on this day a beautiful being, the Divine’s human eyes
Asking only to feel, rest and play. Loving you whole as healthy and wise
So drop all your rules and stories and fear, sing out your soul’s uniqueness and glow
For God is within you, holding you dear, trusting that life is a child’s “I don’t know”