The elders warned us to remain in the village, to never wander beyond the invisible village boundaries unescorted because we were young and innocent, we hadn’t yet been exposed to danger, the world was full of suffering and violence and the temptation to wander into the woods would tug at our hearts. Children are curious, they said. God’s enemies prey on curiosity. Don’t walk into the forest alone, they said. There are people in the woods and people hurt other people, that’s what they do, that’s what they’ve done since god created them and that’s what they’ll always do. We don’t understand this world any more than god wants us to, they said. We keep close to each other, we protect each other. We love and provide for each other and put our trust in god and that’s how we know everything will be okay.
Even as a child I knew their life would not be my life. Their god wasn’t my god, their rules didn’t apply to me. I held no enmity. With few exceptions, the village granted me a sense of community and inclusion. I loved those people who’d taught me the values of hard work and self-reliance. But even invisible boundaries are eventually breached. The elders spoke of salted deserts and wide plateaus upon which incredible creatures roamed, they mentioned clear waters and giant cities of stone and glass for the eye to behold. It was a vast and wild world that even the most wondrous dreams couldn’t simulate.
It took years to gather courage enough to leave. I feared the outside world and I feared the loneliness. I feared the danger of the unpredictable and tried to consolidate my limited knowledge and lifetime of legends into an immediate framework. I was afraid to leave my adoptive parents, who had done nothing but love and provide, nurture and behold. I endured countless meditations and hundreds of starlit discussions with Jennifer, fostered with love yet lost and alone in a remote world. It was inevitable. As difficult as it would be, I had to depart the only community I’d ever known to venture into a supposed dream and its unspeakable counterpart.