This piece is an excerpt from our full moon contributor Eila Carrico’s new book, The Other Side of the River: Stories of Women, Water and the World.
As she falls more and more in love with her mushroom boy, she feels a tension between keeping the will of her parents and following the dream in her heart. Holding this internal conflict and keeping her love hidden makes her ill. Her father, already suspicious, insists she stay at home through the season. Reina misses her love with all her heart, and she puts the fullness of her emotions into her weaving. She leaves nothing out, bringing together wild oranges and dark greens, lonesome blues and luscious purples in her great story tapestry. She recalls the animals and the forest where she used to walk, and she puts all of this joy and beauty into her work. After some time alone with her weaving, she hears the unmistakable voice of her love. Her heart jumps with delight, and she sees her mushroom love peeking in through a crack in the window.
The lovers continue to meet in secret until Reina’s heart is ready to burst open. She can hold the secret no longer. And so the two finally decide to run away to the great unknown land of her mother Ocean where she hopes her mother will be empathetic. Reina uses the tapestry she had been weaving as protection over the two of them. She wove beauty, innocence and love into the threads of her work, and because of this had created an entire universe with her weaving. The result was a magnificent coat of fullness that blended into the very fabric of the world. In effect, it was a coat of invisibility, and so that night the two lovers covered themselves in this magical coat and ran away toward the Ocean.
During their flight, they are hidden from the Mountain by the cloak, but Reina’s father is furious and his emotions cause a storm of relatives to rise from all directions. The two continue their flight to the sea as the wind howls, rain falls, trees crash and thunder booms nearby. The two lovers, against all odds make it to the beach, and their feet step into the Ocean on the sandy shore, but suddenly Reina is gone. Reina the river has been scattered in all directions and no longer exists. The mushroom love is confused and lost, unsure of what happened or who betrayed them. He mourns her in every cell of his being.
The forest withers, the flowers fade, and the animals turn to skin and bone. The little mushroom is immobilized with grief and almost dies. All of creation cries over her death, the world dries up, and life refuses to go on for hundreds of years in this unimaginable drought. But time is their only friend, and finally, after lifetimes of grieving, her sweet mushroom love finds a brief moment of shining hope that is born from a drop of water at the bottom of his heart and begins to sing Reina back to her home inside the mountain with the help of the rest of the wild creatures.
His heart is so sincere, he eventually wins even the assistance of her parents, the Mountain and the Ocean. The drops of water come from tears, clouds, dew, stardust and every memory of love and beauty from every corner of the universe to gather inside the mountain and become Reina. It takes cooperation, patience, devotion and time, but she is brought to life. Reina eventually re-emerges in a burst of fresh life from her source in the mountain, and the world is able to continue on with beauty, magic, joy and love once again.
Back in Tohatchi, I watch the sun rise over a long horizon and inhale fully: I once was lost, but now I am found. There is a different promise that comes from a sun that rises slowly over the mountains. It seems to promise enough of everything in that day: enough time, space, food—all is taken care of. The mountain trusts the sun’s warmth, and so do I. The clouds stretch wide like pulled-out cotton balls, and the water tastes crisp with the piñon nuts we gather.
My understanding of hope, my way of practicing being found, is a return to empathy in action. My dad and I took turns maintaining the fire in the minus zero weather because each of us valued the life of the others in the house. Too often in modern culture we are removed from the effects of our actions. The priest ranting about original sin in San Diego may not realize how his narrow, judgmental dogma shrinks the psyche of our planet. He does not see how missionaries in New Mexico robbed the Navajo of their language and their way of life and brought them to a poverty that forces them into mobile homes without heat.
My family and I are little better, we pretend we are separate when really we are two streams of the same river. We see ourselves as individual agents in the world, selfishly thinking of our own gain all the time, refusing to kindle the inner fires of the hearth to connect in compassion. We as a culture of relatives suffer because we isolate ourselves. We do this in our families first and then in the world, and we may be killing our chances for survival on this planet because of this profound disconnect between ourselves. We need to braid ourselves back together, a new weaving that invites our differences to remain distinct even while we enter into relationship with one another. Reina, the sweet water, is a master weaver because she uses all the threads of life and creation. Her cloak is magical because it contains every color and brings them together in a constructive relationship. The maiden rejects nothing in her artwork. Braids, tapestries, and currents in the river show us the way again and again—it cannot be one clear way or another, it has got to be both ways and together.
Eila Carrico is a weaver and wordsmith who delights in the mystery and magic of landscapes and memory. She grew up in rural central Florida, and was inspired by her studies in journalism, anthropology and religion to travel around the world and teach in Paris, Ghana, Thailand and India before settling in the Bay Area in 2008. Check out more of her work at: http://www.eilacarrico.com.