There was once a wise old man who lived on his own in the thickest part of the woods. Everyone could tell he was extremely wise because he had such a very long beard. And besides you have to be wise to be able to live on your own and survive in the middle of the woods. We’ll be back to see him soon.
Our story opens on the morning of a long summer day, the sort of day that makes one skip and jump just to be. A very blithe summer morning indeed. But what do we see but a young girl sitting weeping. This is not the skipping and jumping we would expect from someone so young and so beautiful on such a day.
We approach and see that her mother has come to comfort her.
“Come on Angela cut that out will you? We’ve got to be off very soon you know.”
“But Mum! Can’t you see I’m shaking in my boots.” (She isn’t wearing boots of course, this is a lovely summer morning). “I had that dreadful dream again last night and I am so frightened that its going to come true. Do let me stay home today.”
“Don’t be absurd. Whoever heard of such a thing?” (This woman clearly has no idea what sort of story she is in!)
“Mum, you know that Violet had the very same dream and after the third time she disappeared.”
“What I know is that Violet was a very silly girl and ran away because she was frightened of a dream. That doesn’t mean the dream itself came true!” (Ah but cause and effect are so hard to tell, especially in stories... and life).
“Could we go to see Uncle Benjamin, Mum? You know he is very wise and if he tells me the dream won’t come true I’ll believe him.” (Young woman you are on dangerous territory - you do realise you are implying that your mother is not wise... and that you will believe anything that someone with a very long beard tells you!)
Her mother looks at her and for once allows some compassion to come through instead of all her rush and hurry. She smiles at this young woman, so recently just a girl and quite often still as vulnerable. She also realises that this might be the only way to get Angela to move.
“Okay, we’ll call in on him on our way back. You know we’ve got to be in Mirthton by ten this morning.”
Their trip to the town is successful, their shopping satisfying and as their purchases are all being sent on by carrier they are free to find their own way home through the thick woods, instead of along the well-trodden, well-populated roads. It is twilight by the time they reach the thickest part of the woods. (This is where the background music ought to be ever so slightly chilling.)
“Is this where Uncle Benjamin lives?” (Are we there yet?)
“I’m not sure, its such a very long time since I came to see him. And you do know he’s not really your uncle don’t you? I meant to mention it before - you are quite old enough now not to call him that.” (Indeed, most middle-aged or even old men are going to prefer to think themselves only a year or two older than such a beautiful young woman, its only little girls that charm by calling them uncle!)
There is a slow deep rumbling, like thunder only more continuous and with no flashes of light. It is now very dark and gloomy in this the thickest part of the woods.
Angela and her mother prudently hold each others hands, not of course because either is actually frightened herself but knowing it will give comfort to the other, and may avoid their becoming separated in such deep, dark woods. (Scaredy cats!)
All of a sudden they are in a clearing by an old shanty. There is Benjamin the wise old man sitting on a rocking chair snoring away. On his lap is a big fluffy marmalade cat. It opens its eyes just to let them know its not really asleep but closes them again to let them know it’s not such a scaredy cat as they are. Somewhat hastily they drop each other's hands.
Angela gets a sudden fit of shyness and her mother realises that she’ll have to wake the old man herself. (Good idea, we’ve no idea that he’s really wise enough to know whether he is properly awake or still dreaming and we wouldn’t want to narrate what might happen if he thinks he’s dreaming about such a beautiful, even nubile, young woman as Angela!)
“Hello, Benjamin. Good evening, sir.” she says.
There is no response.
A little louder.
“Ahem. Cooeee! Benjamin! Helloooo! Wakey wakey!”
The old man stirs. “Just two pints today please” he says and goes straight back to sleep.
Angela looks at her mother. Her mother looks back at her. They think this rather odd. Angela goes up to the shanty and knocks loudly on the door.
“Oh, erm... is it Friday? So sorry my good man. The milk money is on the ledge.”
He says all this but is still not really awake. No-one could mistake Angela for the milkman at this stage in her life. Later maybe.... but that would take a very wise man indeed to guess... not that she’s going to have a sex change, but she will, in 20 years or so, be working delivering milk. That however is a completely different story and it seems very, very unlikely that this snoring old man is being truly prescient.
Angela draws her mother away. And whispers:
“I thought this was the thickest, darkest part of the woods - how on earth does he get milk delivered here? And where does he get money from?” (A very good point, I’m glad she noticed before I had to make it even more obvious.)
Angela walks around the shanty and discovers that on the other side is a neat little path that goes straight up to the road. Her mother is all amazement. They decide to go home and leave wisdom to sleep its sound and well-deserved sleep.
After they have gone, still in his sleep the old man says:
“I’m sorry to say your dream does indeed mean ill-fortune. And the only way to avert it is...” But I stopped listening here as Angela has gone and it was only relevant to her.
I hope you enjoyed this little story with added observations. For different interpretations of this theme go to Sunday Scribblings - Observations.
I'm on day 4 of the No Diet Diet and finding it extraordinary. Yesterday I avoided all hot drinks and noticed a tremendous urge to put the kettle on, even though I was quite happily drinking cold water, my habit of drinking hot water kept on attempting to reassert itself. And today I've been much more aware as I switch on the kettle. Its fine to have a hot drink, its the habit and the knock-on habits that are the problem.
Things I have done differently so far:
- Swapped sides of the bed, in fact we've alternated since buying the book on Tuesday
- Sat in a different chair to eat
- Had a neighbour round for a meal for the first time - we'd kept on saying sometime but never fixing a date, now its actually happened. (Thanks to Jim for all the cooking xxx)
- Tried a new treatment - Hopi Ear Candling - I didn't especially like or dislike it but it was something different. My neighbour has also tried this in the past and loves it, says she finds it very relaxing. and that she finds it especially useful before long-haul flights.
- My computer is in yet another place in the house.
- As well as all the daily challenges so far.
The oddest thing in some ways is that I've had plenty of days in the past when I've done different things or abstained from doing things I otherwise do habitually. The big difference here is being so aware that I'm on the look out for habits and their knock-on habits; noticing the stirrings of the whole habitweb. Its having the awareness at this level, not that of a single habit, but the whole network of habits that is the important difference for me. And of course the continually doing different things, not just substituting one habit for another...
It makes me feel much lighter.