It started as whispers.
Gentle nudging in this direction or that.
They promised the water wasn’t that far away,
the well wasn’t too deep into the wood.
We trust at first because we have no reason not to.
They tell us that a woman will travel for hours to draw a day’s worth of water.
She will walk dusty trails
and brave dry heat,
all for a bucket of water
and the assurance of one more day without thirst.
There is a particular magic surrounding a well:
The vessel of one more day.
She will plunge her pail into the coolness and darkness
and it will emerge with a sweet hope,
a gentle promise of one more day.
The well is safe,
no matter how dangerous the journey was getting there.
That’s why we walked, too:
Because they told us that getting there would be the hardest.
But being there would be easy.
And so we wound our way through the brambles,
scratching up our ankles on
misplaced trust and withheld affection.
They told us to expect the scrapes –
We were not there yet.
nature would leave us a little dirty.
So we kept going.
They pushed walking sticks into our hands,
promising an easier path just ahead.
And sometimes it did become clear.
And sometimes it became more dense.
So they gave us boots to protect our feet.
And sometimes it did hurt less.
And sometimes the boots hurt our feet.
So they piled packs on our shoulders,
full of proverbs and roles and statistics.
And sometimes we found what we needed.
And sometimes our shoulders just ached.
They told us we were close to the water.
Close to the assurance of one more day without thirst.
No one really noticed how parched the journey had made us.
Then one day,
the whispers grew to shouts.
And we could see it just ahead:
stone cylinder and pyramid roof,
like a little fairy tale cottage tucked into the forest.
A well so deep and everlasting that surely
we would not feel thirsty again.
And in that instance it seemed as though our journey had never happened.
Scrapes turned to scars,
boots forgotten and packs suddenly light.
We peered over the edge to catch a glimpse of the sparkling water within.
And perhaps we were not paying attention,
or perhaps we were too mesmerized
or too convinced that we had made it at last –
Because we did not feel ourselves falling until we had hit bottom.
They told us that a woman would travel for hours to draw a day’s worth of water.
We traveled for years,
and then they pushed us in.
And when we found ourselves at the bottom,
we did not feel or see the water.
It was just cold and dark.
We looked to the top,
a circle of white sky far beyond our reach,
and there they all were:
Our guides, looking down on us, smiling happily.
You’re safe now.
they said, content.
The journey was long, but you learned enough along the way
and you’ve made it.
It was there,
at the bottom of the well,
surrounded by our walking sticks and boots and carefully packed bags,
when we realized that we had already been trapped.
Only now did we feel it.
when we ached so desperately to return to the top,
did we realize how tiresome our journey to safety had been.
Because there is no safety at the bottom of a well.
There is only damp air,
But when we asked for help no one came.
No one threw us a rope
or sent down a ladder.
They only kept dropping more books and rules and traditions on our heads.
They told us we had done everything right,
and now we were receiving the reward.
And the worst part was,
they believed themselves when they said it.
They couldn’t see us wilting,
growing paler and colder and less like ourselves.
They were too high
and the well was too deep.
They had told us that a woman would walk for hours to draw a day’s worth of water.
But they did not know
that women would sit at the bottom of a well
for much longer,
figuring out how to escape.
A day’s worth of freedom is worth more than a lifetime of suffocating safety.
We will stack their books and their pages of rules
and we will climb onto the shoulders of our sisters
and we will crawl to the world again.
We will walk back through the forest,
but this time we will go on our own terms.
And maybe we will be scratched and lose our way.
But maybe we will find others, too.
Maybe we will ask them to join us.
We will find our water.