- Jennifer Rivers
The Dalai Lama and the Red and White Cowboy Boots
One night, many years ago I dreamt I received cowboy boots from the Dalai Lama.
Lush, green fields lay before me for miles in the dream, and I walked alone with the blue sky above me, a gentle wind at my back. I remember feeling determined, knowing I was going somewhere but not sure where. My feet were sore, and I'd been walking a long time. I walked until I came to a deep ravine in the earth and wondered how I would get across it. It was wide and stretched for miles, like the Rio Grande River.
"Make your way down, then climb up the other side," said a small, still voice.
"What?! Easy for you to say," I thought.
But I began my descent carefully because it was so far down, I would have been swallowed up with just one misstep. Down, down, down, into the ravine I went; it felt like forever.
Finally, I reached the bottom. It was wet, and there were insects, snakes, spiders, and frogs at my feet. I shivered, and I felt all my fears. I wanted out.
"Wait," I heard. "Wait."
"Wait for what? And for how long?" I asked. I like to know the specifics of things. It's in my Virgo nature.
But no answers came. Only silence.
Looking up, I wondered, "How am I supposed to get back up there?"
Then the voice came again.
So, I began. I climbed up, grabbing the jagged rock; my hands were cut. I slipped many times. I'd make it partway up, only to fall back down into the ravine. The snakes and bugs around me. I wanted to stop because it was painful and scary. But I kept going, despite the pain and the fear. And finally, I made it back to the top, where the green grass lay before me, and I knew I had further to go. So, I walked, and as I walked, I looked down at my boots and saw they were muddy and torn, and my feet had blisters, and they hurt terribly.
I walked on through the fields, feeling pulled by something, but I still wasn't sure where I was going. The sky was turning purple, dark blue, and the light was beginning to fade. Dusk. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath of the night air, and felt something with me. It was my ancestors behind me, prompting me to keep going.
Then I heard the music. It was far off, but the sounds of piano, guitar, banjo, and laughter rippled through the night. It was the sound of joy. I followed the sound until I saw twinkling lights up ahead, flickering against the black sky. There was a little cabin. At first, I thought I saw a mirage. But, the music and the laughter were coming from the place. My whole body was tingling. People!
More laughter and music got louder as I got closer to the place; there was a performance; a burlesque/vaudeville type show going on.
Finally, I reached the door, and the metal doorknob was cold. I felt excited and a little afraid as I turned the knob. Stepping through the door, I was greeted by a room full of joyful, laughing, smiling people. All eyes were on me. The music stopped abruptly, and two people, the man, and woman, performing on stage in red and white striped outfits and blacktop hats, stopped and looked at me. My face flushed and red, I scanned the crowd for someone I knew, and a couple in the back of the room waved to me.
"We have a seat for you here, come on," they said.
I didn't know them. I didn't know anyone there, but it all felt so familiar.
I went and sat down with the man and woman I didn't know, and the music and the show started back up as if there had been no interruption. The laughter began again, and I joined in.
After a while, someone brought me a bowl of soup and some tea. As I sipped some tea, I looked down at my feet and noticed for the first time how destroyed my hiking boots were. What an adventure I'd been on. How long had I been walking? It seemed like days, weeks, months.
Suddenly the door opened. Just like when I walked in, the music stopped, the performers stood still, and all eyes were on the man and woman in the doorway. Their creased faces had smiling eyes, and both had long, white hair. They looked tired, and the woman held a big brown box under her arm.
"Welcome!" someone shouted at them. Stepping through the door, the man and woman with the white hair began scanning the crowd, just like I had, looking for someone. They caught my eye and started walking toward me. I had never seen them before, but they seemed to act as if they knew me. I felt butterflies.
When they reached my table, the woman handed me the box.
"It's from the Dalai Lama," she said. "He wanted you to have this."
"Are you sure? I have never met the Dalai Lama," I told them.
"Yes," she said. "It's for you."
I took the box from her and put it on my lap. "Thank you," I said.
"Open it. You'll need these," the man said.
I opened the box, and inside was a pair of red and white cowboy boots.
Hmmm, not my first choice in colors, I thought but, they were from the Dalai Lama. I looked at my feet. A toe was sticking out, and the sock had a hole in it. My feet were sore.
How did he know? How did the Dalai Lama know I needed boots?
"Here, you might need these too" the man handed me a pair of new socks he had taken from his pocket.
"Thank you," I said.
I put the boots on, and they fit perfectly.
The show ended, and it was time for everyone to go home. I hugged and thanked the couple I sat with and met many other people that I embraced, and they said that we'd see each other again soon.
Opening the door, the pitch-black night, sprinkled with thousands of stars twinkling in the sky, called to me, "Time to go again." I could feel my ancestors with me again.
Looking down at my new boots, I smiled and started walking into the darkness. I had a long way to go but this time I knew where I was headed. Toward the music. The laughter. The joy.
In my dream now, that is where humanity is headed-- toward laughter, joy, the music. We are walking together through these ever-changing, ever-challenging times, and we are part of a big thing here. All of us. We are walking together.