Night had fallen. The fires lit from the coals of the previous day had all died down except for one. Youssef checked on the guard keeping the fire alive through the night as had been their custom for generations – a duty always assigned to one of the young initiates destined to become leaders of the tribe.
The consequences of letting the fire go out were severe. The initiate would have to leave the campsite and stay in the desert without food and little water for 7 days. Some had never returned – out of shame or perished in one of the frequent sandstorms, no enquiries were ever made. New fire had to be fetched from across the desert and it had happened that the tribe was left without warmth for weeks.
Youssef was not concerned. His mind was wandering. He walked some distance into the desert and climbed one of the shifting dunes that were threatening to cover their altogether meagre grazing and to silt up their wells.
He often went out at night to star-gaze and travel from star to star far into the universe. Today, saddened and anxious his gaze was seeking a sign from somewhere out there.
As he lay on the warm sand he slid into a sleep and when he came to again he was wet from dew and cold to the bone. But a dream had stirred his mind and as he stood up and stretched the stiffness out of his body, he felt all anxiousness dissolving into the morning air.
The dream had been about a strange landscape, very much like the mirages of their desert, but more like glass, like the still surface of a great expanse of water he had heard about from traders who were crossing the desert on their way North.
And in his dream he saw a strange people walking across this glassy surface toward him. He felt a surge of joy and a feeling of great strength filling his heart.
The approaching day was beginning to redden the sky.
A new goal had been found.
It was time to call the elders into council again.
Preparations for the desert crossing had to begin swiftly.
With love from
Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, Thursday 3 March, 2011