Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Where tears come from and where they go

It all begins -- it always begins, really -- with a flock of fluffy ducks. More of a piddly flock, really.

Most days they're to be found in their Perfectly Happy Pond, never too cold and never too deep, where the water laps easily against the sloping banks.

The flock is small, but the Perfectly Happy Pond is almost smaller, so that from a distance it looks thick with ducks. There they frolic and bob and sometimes squawk, just being ducks, without so much as a care in the world.

Until the Cross Winds blow in. The Cross Winds are as cross as cross can be. They've been pushed a long, long way -- up the mountains, down the canyons, over the desert dunes -- and have been looking for something they can push around instead. And this Perfectly Happy Pond seems like just the place. And just look at all those ducks there, floating and dozing and happy as a duck can be.

Sneaking up on the ducks, the Cross Winds gently guide them to the farthest end of the Perfectly Happy Pond, careful not to jostle them too much. Near the edge ... to the edge ... and then with a sudden, low whistle, pushing them all of the way out of the pond and into the beginnings of the slow-moving Fitful Stream.

Awake but not alarmed, the ducks don't pay it much mind at first. The water is only a little bit wavy-er. They figure they'll just float along for a while and then fly back to their home.

But this being a Fitful Stream, the ducks find themselves caught in the grip of the ripples. And they hadn't counted on the Pouting Rain -- a plip here, a plop there. Pitter patter, sad and sadder, then pelting them all over and hurting too much to try and fly away.

The Fitful Stream deepens down, widens out and picks up speed, turning itself into a river. The ducks struggle to turn around and paddle back the way they came, but this river is, as it happens, The River of Some Regret. The flow is too fast, too strong. All they can manage to do is turn their heads around and look back to where the water was calmer, moving farther and farther away with every passing moment. But each time they do, they are almost pulled under by the past. So they give in to the currents and keep coursing forward.

Not just forward, but forward and ever faster, directly into the Unrequited Rapids, sending the flock into the dark, sharp Knockabout Rocks that clot the waters from one side to the other. Even the rapids have to go around them, but the ducks go crashing, bashing, dashing -- gnashing! -- slashing, thrashing and smashing right into the worst of them. And there is no safe passage through the pain.

Presently the Knockabout Rocks grow smaller and fewer, but the ducks scarcely have time to tend to their bruises -- the rapids have brought them to the very edge of All-But-Forsaken Falls, cascading so far down that the waters disappear in the bottomless mist below. A roaring sound fills the air. The ducks close their eyes rather than look down, but down they go just the same, flailing and falling into The Deep Deep Gorge of Deep Deep Grief. Tossed about, sloshed about, duck over duck, plunging through the mist and into the fierce waters, the foam churning up fears, unable to tell their up from their down or their bad from the worse.

All the ducks go under.

For the longest time.

Until finally one sore and soggy head pops to the surface. Then another, then all the others, much the weaker, being steered away from the bottom of the falls into Quivering Cove, where the water is calm but every bit as cold.

Heaving for air, the ducks take all the moments of rest that they can, then carefully toddle out of Quivering Cove and onto dry land.

Though their wings are still aching, they finally manage to start shaking off the cold, cold water. So awfully tired, with more than a few feathers lost along the way.

All their wing-shaking flings a sheen of tiny droplets into the air. The droplets don't fall to the ground -- they dangle there for a moment, then slowly begin to rise. One droplet touching another, forming a fuller drop, all the drops now attaching, drifting ever higher until they push through the top of the sky.

And that is when you start to feel the tears.

Trickling down a small, soft cheek, tear upon tear, more bringing more.

It never seems like it, but soon enough the tears will go away, for they are meant to have another home -- a puddle of a place called There, There that moms and dads and very best friends know all about. A gentle hand or a great big hug gathers up all the tears and puts them away, and There, There is where they will stay.

Now all the ducks are gone -- gone to find another Perfectly Happy Pond.

And all the tears are gone -- gone to be with the many tears that have come before.

And now you can start to smile -- still sniffling, but almost smiling just the same.

And your troubles are all behind you now.

Until the next time.

Because there are always more ducks.