She woke up distressed. She remembered the dream, and what she remembered she wrote down, and she puzzled ‘Why was the vinegar the thing that would save her?’
She was in some kind of clinic, her and someone else in the room, both wearing hospital gowns, ribboned closed at the back. She was sitting on the edge of the bed and the two attendants told her that she had to drink the liquid. She picked up a big container and started to glug down the liquid. She knew she was in a cryogenic clinic and that her life would be suspended until some future time. She was starting to get woozy. She could see in the reflection what effect it was having – she could see the back of the other person and through the skin she could see different organs starting to light up, yellow, purple – they were glowing. Then she heard the attendants say ‘I want her corneas. What parts do you want?’ Suddenly she knew that they were awaiting her death. She knew that she had to muster every ounce of her strength to fight and live. She could see on the table by the bed, a bottle of vinegar, and she knew that it would give her her life back. She stretched out and – as hard as it was – she opened the lid and started drinking, drinking, drinking down the vinegar.
She remembered a painting she had come across of three men standing around a big container of vinegar, and each of them had dipped a finger into the vinegar and had tasted it – and their faces showed their reactions. One scrunched up his face – how sour. The second, his face seemed to say ‘How bitter’. But the third man, he was smiling! Three different ways of approaching life. For some, life seems sour and an awful lot of carefulness must go into living so as to make it in any way tolerable. For others, life is bitter and full of travail – something to be endured and released from. For some, life is life: it is wonderful as it is, it is naturally balanced, it is to be exalted in – every last bit of it. Follow that way – the way of harmony, the way of creatureliness, the way of nature.
Her dream was about that way. The way of nature – there, in the very midst of it was her life and well-being, her sight and vision – and to it she must keep returning. She mustn’t put her life on hold hoping for one outcome or another, waiting until… She must live life right here and now, facing all the things that needed to be faced, and always knowing that in the natural world she would find strength and direction.
So she walked among the trees in the wood that day, with the milky white sun still glowing, and the wind gusting around her, tussling her hair and her scarf. That tree, over there, was alive with chatter and whistling – ski-slope melodies trilling from high to low and back again – those beautiful starlings altogether, clowning their sounds on the very top branches. And the more they chorused, the more other starlings were drawn to that tree – magnetised by their good humour and laughter. And she laughed at their joy.
And that jay – startled as she walked past – launching from its perch and showing its flash of blue feathers. What a beautiful sight. Thank you.
The ground was soft after so much rain. The deer slots were easily seen – traces left; their presence here earlier, now gone, they were concealed in the bracken til a quieter time of day. That fallen oak over there – its branches were smoothed by the deer earlier in the year as they scratched their itching antler skin on them. This was their place. She walked through it lightly, as a visitor, respectfully passing through.
She walked to visit her mama-tree: that beautiful oak on the cross-roads of paths whose filigree lace fingers could be seen now the leaves were gone – delicate, intricate and interwoven. Her bark low down was soft; soft from the green moss-fringed skirt she wore. And at her feet were tiny goblets, emptied; chalices of life – life in its potency, whether as food for the squirrels to sustain them, or as a new beginning for a daughter tree or son: life in its freedom and vigour; life brimming full and abundantly given.
This was the way; this was life.