By Joanne Theaker
Once there was a woman who lived alone in a small wooden hut in the middle of a forest. In front of the hut was a small pile of old bricks left there by the previous owner. The hut where the woman lived was basic and reasonably comfortable, though the roof did contain leaks, and sometimes when it rained water would drip onto her as she lay in bed. She kept meaning to get around to fixing the roof, but she was so busy with her life and often it was sunny outside and she forgot all about it until next time it rained. She kept meaning to tidy up the pile of bricks, but again she often got distracted and kept delaying the task. She never had to leave the forest where she lived as the simple food that grew naturally in the forest was enough for her. Sometimes another person would pass by and she would talk for a while, but for the most part she spent her time musing about things in her own mind.
Then one night, out of the blue and for reasons she could never understand, she had a beautiful dream, and in this dream she owned a beautiful house made of brick. The house was solid and big and strong and looked very inviting and comfortable. It had a nice garden too. When the woman awoke, the dream had been so vivid she remembered it, and the vision of the house kept coming to her even in the middle of the day. She thought to herself, ‘how wonderful it would be to have a house like that’. She somehow knew it would make her happier every time she imagined it.
After a number of days and weeks and months had passed she still remembered this dream. It just would not go away. Every time she thought of it she felt she somehow knew that is what she needed to achieve to be happy. She also started to feel bad because she was doing nothing about it, and that played on her conscience. So one day she woke up and she made a bold declaration to herself. ‘I am going to build a house’ she said. As she said it, she remembered the pile of bricks lying in front of her old wooden hut and thought that she could use those somehow. She soon realised, though, that she had not a clue where to start, and she just found herself staring at the pile of bricks forlornly and even becoming a little angry and sad with herself. Day after day, week after week and month after month she stared at the bricks, hoping some inspiration would come to her on how to build a house, but it did not. She began to lose hope.
Then one day whilst unusually wandering outside the forest she saw in the distance something she had not noticed before. It was a group of houses just like the one she had seen in her dream. She was so excited to see the houses. She ran towards them looking at them intensely. They were so beautiful and magnificent. She felt awe inspired. She even shed a tear in recognition of how they must feel to live in. More than ever she wanted to live in a nice big brick house. She returned to her hut and looked at it with a slightly frightening realisation in her heart that she could never really be happy living in that hut, even though it was so familiar to her and she knew it so well.
However, the woman still did not know how to build a house, but now that she had seen these houses outside the forest she thought to herself that perhaps she could learn by going back and simply looking at them. After all, they were actually standing in front of her and it couldn’t be that hard, she thought. So she set about making trips out of the forest and visiting and studying the houses by walking around them and trying to understand how they were built.
Soon she found, despite many trips, that she still could not understand by looking at them how they were built and she began to feel really frustrated again and sad at the same time. She felt tired of walking and looking and not understanding. She even tried to intensify her research by looking ever closer but she could still not understand how they were built. Even though she sometimes had insights here or there it still never made sense to her, and she was left with so many questions.
As she was visiting the houses one day, feeling rather exhausted by now, another woman came out of one of the houses. Startled at first, the woman from the forest said nothing and even felt a little frightened. She withdrew back to the forest. Days, weeks and months passed and the woman in the forest was still feeling very frustrated by her constant dream of a house that she could not realise in reality. She thought to herself, perhaps if I talk to the people in the houses and ask them about their lives I will learn the secret of how their houses got built’.
So again the woman in the forest started to make trips to the houses outside the forest and this time she knocked on the doors of the houses and introduced herself and tried to make friends with the people in the houses, those that would have her as a friend. As she talked more with these people she learned about their lives and even sometimes asked them directly if they could tell her how their houses were built. However, they could not tell her, and when they told her that they had bought the houses readymade the woman in the forest felt even worse. She now started to feel there must be something wrong with her as she compared her life story with that of the people she was talking to. She found herself thinking about her own childhood and coming to the conclusion that she had had it much harder than these other people, and that due to problems in her own childhood she was now incapable of understanding how to build a house. She began to sink into despair as her mind was pulled in two conflicting directions. Forward to towards the dream of the house and yet dragged backward by her constant search for reasons in her past why she could not build her house. She started to feel very depressed.
Then one day, out of the blue, while the woman was sitting in front of her hut looking forlornly at the pile of bricks, she looked up and standing in front of her was a man. He wore simple clothes and carried what looked like a simple bag of food over his shoulder. He looked back at her and smiled. He noticed the woman was sad and asked her ‘what is wrong? I can see you are sad?’ The woman looked up at the man. For a while she just stared at him. Noticing how simple his dress was, she thought to herself that this man would never understand her sadness and he would not be able to help her. She half-heartedly described to the man what her problem was. She explained all that she had done to try and resolve it, and how she felt now that she would never have a house as she was different to other people and something was wrong with her.
The man listened to her very carefully and smiled. He also noticed in front of her the pile of old bricks still lying on the ground. After remaining silent for a while and allowing the woman to calm herself down the man spoke to her. The man then said, ‘The beautiful home you seek is right there in front of you’ and he pointed to the bricks. The woman looked at the pile of bricks and then looked up at the man and with anger said to him ‘that pile of old bricks is no home! How can you be so silly?’ She felt bad for being rude to him but she was feeling upset and felt in that moment he was not helping.
The man didn’t stop smiling however, and spoke once more. ‘May I suggest you try putting one brick on top of the other and you will see what I mean?’ With that comment, the man smiled and left.
For days and weeks and months the woman continued to stare forlornly at the bricks, tormented still by her dream of the house and now with the words of this man fading in and out of her mind amidst her constant ruminations on how difficult her life was. One day, without much focus, she picked up a brick and without paying too much attention placed the brick upon another brick. She looked at the two bricks, but her mind was still full of so many thoughts about how difficult her life was that she could not really see the two bricks sitting upon each other. Then, as if appearing through a thick mist, the vision of the two bricks sitting upon each other started to take hold in her mind and as she looked more closely; she also noticed something else. She started to feel a bit better. At first, it was a faint feeling, but as she focussed on the feeling it was definitely there, and it did not go away. She was surprised.
Naturally, she found herself wanting to feel more of this, and she now more consciously picked up another brick and placed it upon the other two. Again she noticed as the little bricks started to form the beginnings of a wall that she felt better again. She looked with even a little satisfaction at the wall that was now starting to appear in front of her and she continued with ever growing enthusiasm to build the wall.
She became so engrossed in the task that she completely forgot all her other thoughts about her past and the other houses and people. Without thinking further she began to delight as this old pile of bricks in front of her was transforming into the beginnings of what she now could see would be a beautiful house soon. She smiled to herself and wondered who that man had been.