In a valley not far from here lived two women, named So and Hum. The valley was ringed by a majestic mountain range, and in the foothills grew many and various trees and shrubs. There was evidence that amber waves of grain had tried to root in the soil, but it could not grow as it was cut off from the rest of the world it helped to sustain. Instead, there was purple sage that grew alongside tall redwoods, adorned with beautiful green ivy. Glorious black walnut trees also grew there; they were surrounded by lovely flowers of many different colors. Birds from far and wide knew of the beauty of this valley and rested in the boughs of the trees, leaving music behind and sometimes seeds from which new growth emerged.
The lands of So and Hum were divided by a long winding river which added another layer of music and beauty to their lives. Like any river, during stormy weather the waters raged. Both So and Hum built levees to keep the waters from pouring over into their beautiful valley. They were welcomed into each others lives, and Hum would often visit So at her home which was peaceful and loving, filled with beauty and grace. Hum loved the quiet introspection that she achieved during her visits there. So crossed the river to see Hum as well, but not as often. It was quietly agreed that So’s home was the place they would see each other most.
Over the next few years as they each tended their gardens, Hum made her journeys across the river to visit So. After one very large storm, Hum noticed the levees that So had built were beginning to drip. The leaks were not large, but there was a steady trickle which allowed the river to flow into Hum’s side of the valley. Hum spoke to So about the holes. So said that she was aware of them, that she herself had noticed them before. Hum was happy that So saw them as well. Hum believed that So would do something to stop the water from escaping.
As the months passed, So and Hum continued to spend much time together. Hum was troubled. The small pond on her side of the valley was growing in size. One evening, Hum crossed the river again to meet So in the forest. She noticed the water had formed rivulets spilling through the levee. As they strolled together through the forest, Hum spoke of the leaks again. This time, So was irritated with the reminder. So was defensive, saying she too had noticed. They changed the subject, while the wind whistled through the trees. They strolled for another hour, then parted ways.
More time passed, and the pond on Hum’s side of the valley had become a lake. It encroached on her gardens, no longer allowing her to grow enough food to nourish herself. Hum knew that it upset So to speak of it, so rather than broach the subject with her again, Hum took long walks through the forest to think, often lingering beneath the black walnut trees. Their leaves allowed dappled sunlight to shine through and warmed her heart and soul.
Hum walked so much, that she created new paths through the forest. Hum discovered a pass through the mountain range and into the world that surrounded them. Hum found other sources of nourishment there. Outside their valley lived more people, who were generous and helpful. People who counseled her about her troubles with So and the levee.
Hum still visited So, and they continued strolling through the ivy-covered forest together. They noticed the beauty that surrounded them, and both especially loved the new white birch saplings that had recently taken root in the forest. But So was not as receptive to Hum as she once had been. So’s levees were steadily percolating and brimming over onto Hum’s land, and So refused to acknowledge it. So’s levee had been leaking for years and the trickle had been so slow, that by the time Hum realized the danger she was in, it was almost too late. The deep depression that had been carved by the steady seep of water threatened to drown her.
Hum stopped visiting So when the waters on her side of the valley began to lap at the foundations of her home. So insisted that it was Hum’s fault, because Hum had called attention to the leaks. Hum could no longer make the journey to So’s side of the river. Hum could no longer get to her own levee to repair the cracks that had formed there as well. While Hum was stranded in her home, the part of the levee that she had worked so hard to maintain broke open.
The waters rushed into So’s side of the valley. They boiled and roiled and swept away much ground, exposing some of the roots of the forest that surrounded them. The churning waters threatened to unearth the tenuous hold the ivy had in the ground, and it clung desperately to the trunks of the trees and struggled for solid footing.
The river finally began to settle, and because Hum could no longer leave her home to walk in the forest and find her paths through the foothills, she wrapped herself up in a cocoon of warmth. She emerged, a week later. Breaking free from her cocoon, she spread her wings and flew high above the valley. A weight had been lifted, and she was delighted to discover her new abilities. Her wings were lovely to behold, variegated stripes of gold and brown. From the soaring heights she looked over the valley, surrounded by the forest that had once been her home. Hum saw that whether it was by a slow trickle, or a sudden gush of flowing water, both sides were swept away. It was a matter of perspective.
Hum could clearly see the circle below. Half of the water was somewhat murky and brown. The fiery overflow from Hum’s broken levee was evident on the surface. The other half was a sparkling and radiant blue, streaked with waves which hinted at the depths beneath. The contrast was beautiful! She worried that So was also stranded, because now the entire valley was flooded. But the river still wound between the two sides, clearly delineating what used to exist. Their homes were submerged but could still be seen, their opposing colors contrasting with the water around them. The trees still towered around the valley, protecting the deep waters.
Hum flew a little lower, nearer to So’s home. Suddenly, a leaping and sparkling fish whose scales brilliantly reflected the light and color that surrounded her, jumped from the water toward Hum. It was then that Hum realized that So had adapted as well. So had become that beautiful fish swimming through the waters that were left behind. Hum flew away, recognizing that the entire valley had changed. The old growth was washed away by cool waters that allowed a new and different kind of growth.
Hum knew that though she would never stroll through the forest with So again, she could still alight on the trees that surrounded the valley. The robust ivy-draped redwoods were a possibility, perhaps. The new white birch saplings also reached their branches toward the sky, quietly offering a tender young, flexible branch for Hum to land. The branches of the birch swayed with the winds that blew through the forest. Perhaps with time, they would become hardier and offer Hum more stability. Hum’s favorite spot to land was the strong and stalwart Black Walnut, which still provided refuge and dappled light to shine upon her through its leaves.
Though their world had changed, it was not deemed right or wrong on either side of the river. Some outside the valley shook their heads, sorrowful for the damage that the flood had caused when Hum’s levee broke. Others were witness to the fact that damage had occurred slowly on one side and quickly on the other, but both sides had suffered and the result was the same. Many noticed and were thankful that there was still much beauty that remained. Hum still flutters through the valley, and So still swims in the waters that were left behind. Hum holds hope for So that she will have the courage to plumb the murky depths of her new home. Both are wiser and sadder, sending love and healing to each other as they find their way in the new world they created together, surrounded by the beloved forest they both once called home.