When Clare was young, he and his mother would spend long afternoons walking through the neighboring lands. There were forests, cool and green: meadows rippling with tall, golden grasses: gentle hills upon which to scamper.
For the most part, she walked in silence speaking only when there was something to say. She plucked pine cones from the trees and described the folds that captured the seeds. She found entrances to the prairie dog burrows. She saw the paw prints and traced them with a finger.
Clare soaked it all up, questioning her comments, drawing new conclusions. He loved their walks together — most of all, because of the stories.
A Windy Tale
There were four which he held particularly dear — the tales of the four winds. His mother had invented these herself, he thought, for they carried what felt like a personal message.
"The winds have been around the world," she told him, "and they have seen the lives of every boy, woman, and man. All year they fly about, wrapping themselves around people and carrying their conversations. The winds gather stories, and then, once a year, they all come together."
"Where?" the boy asked, still whispering. "Where do they meet?"
"I suppose they meet at the edge of their lands where north meets south, and east meets west. There they come. once a year, to share the best of their stories. If you listen very carefully and very quietly," she continued, cupping a hand to her ear, "you can listen to them speak."
Clare cupped his hand to his ear like his mother. There, in a bright and open field, they listened. "What are they saying?" he finally asked, keeping his hand at his ear.
"The East Wind is speaking now," his mother replied, concentrating deeply on the sound of the rustling grass. "I think it's telling a story of a man who learned to fly." Clare dropped his hand, raising his voice excitedly. "Oh, tell me. Please — I want to hear the story."
So his mother straightened herself, wrapped her hand around one of Clare's, and began to lead him down the path.
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There was once a man who was a dreamer, she began. Then turning, she said, At least, that's what the East Wind told me. This dreamer sat around his home all day, dreaming of wonderful things to do. He dreamed of things to build and he built them. He dreamed of songs to sing and he sang them. Mostly he built toys, and mostly he sang songs that were happy and fun. Everyone who knew the dreamer loved him — even if they did think he was quite peculiar.
Now one day, this dreamer got a particularly fantastic dream stuck in his head: he dreamed that he could fly. It was a dream, but it almost felt real to him. He could almost feel himself soaring like the eagles. He could almost feel himself dancing like the butterflies. He dreamed this dream for many days. And then he decided to try it out.
The dreamer rushed out of his house, heading straight for the village square. When he reached the center of town, he grabbed hold of a heavy rope and gave the thing a pull. This sent the town bells crying, calling all the townspeople to the square. When everyone in the town had arrived, the dreamer stood upon a box and announced, "I have rung the bells because I've dreamed of a marvelous thing. I have dreamed that I can fly."
The people looked at each other for a moment. They started to smile. Then they began to laugh first quietly, but then louder. After a minute or two, everyone in the town was rolling in guffaws and belly chortles. "Dreamer", said one, slapping the man on the back, "you have truly outdone yourself this time. What a terribly funny idea! Think of it — a man flying! Like the birds!"
All the townspeople carried on like this for a while. When they had calmed down a bit, the dreamer spoke again. "It does seem funny." he admitted. "But I dreamed it, and it must be possible. Will anyone help me learn to fly?"
Now the people frowned. It was a humorous idea, of course, but this dreamer was serious.
"Dreamer," said one, "if we were meant to fly, don't you think that we would have been given wings?"
All the people laughed at this — surely it was an obvious thing. But the dreamer wouldn't be deterred.
"If I can dream it, I can do it," he said. "Will no one help me?"
By this point, the people had grown weary of the silly man's ideas.
"Look," they said, "it's impossible. You'll find that out sooner or later." And they went back about their business.
So the dreamer stood alone for a while in the square. He thought about ringing the bell again, to try to convince the people to help him. But he realized that no one was interested. He then walked back to his house, packed up a traveling bag, and left the town to seek a teacher.
The Search For Flight
He walked for many days on the road until he came to another town. This town was smaller, and it housed fewer people. Though its village square was small, it had a big bronze bell and a sturdy rope. The dreamer knew what to do. Walking up to the rope, he gave the thing a pull and set the bell clanging. All the townspeople flowed out of their buildings and into the square.
The dreamer didn't need to stand on a box this time; the group was much smaller. "Townspeople," he said, "I am a visitor from far away. I have come because I want to learn how to fly." The people looked at each other for a moment. They began to smile. Then they began to laugh but not as loudly as the ones before.
"Sir," said one, "flying is a wonderful dream. But it is impossible. People are too heavy, and the ground is too close to our feet. Flying is not for humans."
The dreamer shook his head. "I have dreamed it, and so it must be possible," he said. "Is there no one here who will help me?"
Someone else stepped forward. "Dreamer," he said, "there is no way to fly. But we in this town have learned to run so fast and lightly across the ground that one almost feel like flying. It's as close as anyone can get to the real thing. If you like, we will be happy to teach you how to run in this way."
So the dreamer agreed. He stayed in the town for several days, learning how to send his feet along the ground with such strength and agility that it did sometimes feel like flying. But it wasn't what he had dreamed. When he had learned how to run in this way, the dreamer thanked the townspeople and continued on down the road.
After a while he came across another town. This one was even smaller than the last, and it had only a little bell with a small piece of rope. He rang the bell. People trickled out of their homes, into the town square, to see what was the matter. The man looked at the small collection before him.
"Townspeople", he said, I have come to your town because I want to learn how to fly. The people in my town said it was impossible. The people in the last town said it was impossible, but they taught me to run so fast that is sometimes feels like flying. Now I have come to you, because I have dreamed that I can truly fly. If I have dreamed it, it must be possible."
The people looked at each other and they began to smile, but this time they didn't laugh. "Dreamer," they said, "Yours is a very noble dream. We, too, wished to fly, but we have found it impossible. Our bodies are simply not designed for life in the air. However", they added, "we have learned to run very fast, like you. And we have also learned to listen to the wind, and measure its roving air currents. We have learned how to run very fast atop the highest hills and then jump exactly when the air currents are strong below us. In this way, we have been able to fly for a few seconds."
The dreamer considered their words. "It's not the flight which I dreamed of," he said, "but I would like to learn this skill of yours." So he stayed in the town for a few days, learning how to read the wind and leap off the highest hills. Several times, for a few seconds, he felt as though he was flying. But quickly he fell upon the ground.
"This is not the flight of my dream," he finally said to the people. "I am grateful for what you have taught me, but I must leave to find what I came for."
The people nodded supportively. "True flight is impossible, except for the birds and insects," they said. "But we wish you the best of luck in your search."
Flying At Last
The man left the town and continued down the road for many days. The land was quiet here, and villages were nowhere in sight.
"Will I have to turn back?" the man asked himself. "Is there no one around here who knows how to fly?" But then he remembered his dream, and once again he could feel himself flying — he was weightless as a milkweed puff, happy as a bluejay.
The dreamer walked on for many more days, lost in his colorful reverie. Finally the road moved through a wide and open field, and there, in the distance, he saw something strange.
What it looked like was a large kite. And there was a person below it, dragging the thing across the ground. He walked quickly over to the place and found a woman seated upon the ground, flushed with exertion.
"Madam," the dreamer began, unsure what to say, "you appear to be having difficulties."
The woman sighed. "It's this," she said, waving at the giant contraption. "I can't get it to work."
The dreamer looked curiously at the thing. It did indeed appear to be a giant kite — there was a wooden frame, and a wide piece of fabric covered the whole thing. It looked rather beaten by use. "What does it do?" the dreamer asked.
The woman sighed again. "Oh, it probably sounds silly to you, but this thing has been a dream of mine. You see, I've always wanted to have a pair of wings. Everyone laughed a lot when I told them that, but when they finished laughing, some people were kind enough to offer a point or two of advice: how light wings need to be, how strong the bones are inside them — that kind of thing. Eventually, I learned enough to build this." She motioned at the invention. "Sort of a giant wing. But I can't get it into the air."
The dreamer smiled then, and he took the woman's hand. "May I try?" he asked. She nodded hopefully. Together they carried the wing to the highest hill, and strapped it on to the dreamer's back. The dreamer began to run, faster than he had ever run before; he danced his feet across the hilltop and listened carefully for the currents of air. When he reached the edge of the hill, the dreamer angled the wing into the current, leaped higher than ever before possible, and silence. He was in flight.
The woman let out a whoop of joy from below. "You're flying!" she cried, racing below him. "You're flying!"
The dreamer dove and climbed for five minutes upon the currents, flying like the birds he had long dreamed about. When the winds finally died he coasted back to the ground.
"My friend", he said, "You have taught me two things. The first is that nothing is impossible. The second is that we are meant to fly." And he spent the rest of the afternoon teaching her how to run, leap, and listen to the wind.
Gardens from the Sand: A Story About Looking for Answers & Finding Miracles
by Dan Cavicchio.
About The Author
Dan Cavicchio, a first time author, began writing while in college and is a 1993 graduate of Brown University. The above was excerpted from his first book, "Gardens From The Sand", ©1993, published by Harper Collins. Dan can be reached via his counseling business: http://www.coloradocounseling.com