Once Upon A Time


     “Once upon a time there was a cowboy in a bit of distress, as he was walking alone in the dark, unaware of the darkness, and also unaware that he was alone.  Oblivious to the night, he continued walking in the cool desert air for miles until he came upon some train tracks, and in the distance saw the tiny light of a locomotive approaching.  Although the cowboy was unable to identify the inner rumblings he felt as the train drew closer, his best guess for a name for what he was feeling was “concern,” as he also noticed a stage coach perched on the tracks, disabled for whatever reason, and unmoving.  As the train drew nearer yet to the the coach, the cowboy decided to name his next inner disturbance “panic,” as it became more and more apparent that the train was going to strike the vehicle filled with helpless passengers.

    And so it did, and oddly, the train continued to move, eventually fading in the distance, as the toppled coach stayed on its side, miraculously unbroken, but still with passengers inside obviously traumatized by the experience.  As the cowboy hurried to the coach, he noticed first that the coachman was dressed entirely in black, and lay motionless in his seat in front of the carriages.  The black horses also didn’t move, still alive, yet so still it seemed that they were frozen in time.  The cowboy turned his attention to the commotion inside and moved to help what turned out to be a group of four women.

   The first wore a frilly pink dress, and as the took her hands to help her out of the coach, she said through sobs, “There was nothing we could do.”  The cowboy then helped another woman out, then turned to a woman who pushed away his hands, saying “I can do this on my own!” And so he turned his attention to the young woman in the red dress, who was badly shaken by the incident and accepted his help gladly.  As the other women assured the cowboy that they were all right and that help would arrive for them, they urged him to bring the young woman to a safer place, somewhere she could rest and regain her wholeness.  Although the cowboy couldn’t imagine where in the vastness of the dark desert help would be coming from to assist the other ladies, he agreed and picked up the young lady in red, as he had noticed her limping and having great difficulty walking on her own.  

     The cowboy carried the young woman for miles and miles, through what felt like different seasons, from cold air and blustery wind, to the opposite end of the desert’s cruel spectrum and it’s scorching heat.  The pair noticed that, oddly, both they and the group of women in the coach had no food or water to sustain them. They were surviving on their own substance. The two endured, and the cowboy continuously assured the young woman that everything was all right, and safety was in sight, although he was operating solely on something he had decided to name “faith.”  He also felt an odd sensation creeping up on him, one that explained to him that he and the young woman weren’t in fact travelling through various seasons, but only a single night.

    It was at daybreak that the cowboy noticed that he and the woman he continued to carry were still travelling on the train tracks, and as the sun rose, the heat began to envelop them.  In the distance there appeared to be a structure of some sort, maybe a cabin, although the cowboy wasn’t entirely sure it wasn’t a mirage.  While taking his eyes off the supposed cabin for a minute, he felt the woman stirring in his arms and heard her say, “You can put me down.  I can walk now.”  She let out a small shriek as he bare feet touched the hot wood between the iron tracks, but then assumed a pleasant, small grin as she began to enjoy the freedom of walking on her own.  

     The two continued to walk excitedly as they noticed that the cabin was, in fact, real.  As they arrived at the cabin door and knocked, another woman came to the door to let them in.  She appeared to live by herself and was very open in welcoming her surprise visitors.  “There was nothing we could do,” explained the young woman in red to the lady of the house.  As the two continued to chat, the cowboy noticed that he was finding it harder and harder to be a part of the conversation,indeed the two women seemed to not even notice that he was there.  And so the two ladies continued talking of adventures real and imagined, the cowboy looked back outside at the darkness that seemed to be a season long, although he knew better: it only one more single night.,

     And so he walked alone in the dark for miles and miles, covering much desert ground beneath his gradually tiring feet.  As suddenly as the train hit the stage coach the night before, a beam of light came down from the night sky and surrounded the cowboy, leaving him no escape.  The cowboy felt another new sensation: he decided to call this one “pain.”  He did notice, however, a rather enjoyable bittersweetness to the the pain, a sort of melody that sang to him of the rapture of his own soul, while the newly named pain did its work and chipped away at some of the mortar the cowboy had surrounded his heart with,built over years of not exercising all that his heart contained.  And the cowboy continued to walk, until he noticed yet another new sensation, a sound coming from his mouth. He decided to call this one “whistling.”  And so the cowboy kept walking in the night air, looking near and far for those who may need to be carried until they can walk on their own.  Once upon a time there was a cowboy .. . “


     The above is my story version of a “past-life regression” that I had in early 1990.   Since then, I’ve come to “believe” more along the lines of infinite “parallel lives,” something that still is difficult to wrap my head around once in a while.  What I more importantly am trying to illustrate in the above is a sort of exquisite archetype that exists in all of us, including, to my amazement at times, myself.  The events above did in fact happen in real time.  In early 1990 I began dating a young woman who was in fact in some emotional turmoil, and quite often in our early going.  As our relationship progressed, she became more and more independent, she outgrew her need for me, and our relationship, sadly, ended.  While there were certainly other circumstances that brought us to our close, I’m eternally grateful to remember our brief alliance as my first time acting out my “regression.”  I was actually given a transcript of my regressive work by the hypnotherapist and promptly threw it in a closet somewhere.  It wasn’t until long after Mary and I broke up that I rediscovered the transcript, and was awestruck at it’s content.  Mary had indeed been carried by me until she could walk. She frequently wore red.  And she also loved going barefoot, which she did during our first walk together . . . along some railroad tracks in Minneapolis.  

     Who doesn’t need to be carried sometime?    The greater gist of what I wrote above is that we’re all in the process of leading each other back home.  In first acknowledging my own worthiness to carry such a beloved inner working, then allowing it to work through me as others do, I’m given repeated opportunities to have the Divine move through me in order to get to you.  I too have my sources.  I’ve certainly not lived this long without assistance.  Following the story I’ve been privileged to have been given is validation that we all are living our own version of the poem “Footprints,” because as a minister told me once, “People are how God gets around.”  I thrive on the beauty of this process. It is my reason for being. It is why I try not to let a day pass without at least once, mentally, and hopefully otherwise, telling as many individuals as I can “thank you.”  Each and every encounter is an opportunity to heal my loveless places, and when the conversation becomes one of being asked  for a few minutes to be listened to, whatever difficulties I may have had up until then in my day fade instantly in the distance.  You make my day, you bring me back alive.  And there are those of us in 12-Step groups who know what its like to have the same person calling over and over, and over again sometimes seemingly never moving up the next rung of the ladder, until finally that “eureka” moment hits.  Sometimes, whether it be a program person or not, I will hear the person speak about “guilt,” for coming to me a perceived one too many times.  To the contrary.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, every time I’m trusted as a sort or “father confessor,” the rest of my day invariably goes better.  My soul lights up like a Christmas tree.  I get to feel that exquisite beauty of Something I Cant Quite Name moving through me in order to get to you.  In the throes of our own desert disasters, we not only hold each other we up, we carry each other until we’re able to walk again.   For the many times I’ve been privileged to be relied on, there is no way possible I could say “thank you” enough.  I can’t count that high. We are one and the same.  There is indeed a cowboy.  And you are my Once Upon A Time.




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