The Bridge: A Teaching Story

There was a bridge, old as the stars. It spanned a deep chasm, deeper than the cleft of the world; so that if one stood at its midpoint and looked down, the river below appeared as if it were a single black thread curled and twisting from one edge of a match box to the other.

Hand-milled redwood slats, tightly strung two-by-two, suspended securely from a web of tough hemp rope were the bones of this connection between two disparate worlds, Eastern Pinnacle and the Great Western Valley. Whoever wished to pass from one side to the other (and there were few who dared) must trod those wooden slats and sway with the wild wind.

Two young Samurai, already tested in battle, girded with steel, each clothed in royal garb from families of rare and mysterious lineage, set forth one day (one from the East, the other from the West) to seek themselves in high places. After much travail they happened upon the rock-strewn pass on either side of the jagged cliffs, whose juncture was the wooden bridge.

Spying each other from abroad, both stood motionless at the boundaries of their own lands, their garb unfamiliar to one another. The warriors unsheathed their weapons and raised them forcefully overhead, fiercely clasping elegantly carved sword hilts (one of jade, the other milky pearl), the fire of battle in their eyes.

Before either Samurai could move, a red ball rolled quickly and with great purpose over the rough slats. As if this small sphere were the sun compelling the Earth to follow its true orbit, two children, one dressed in yellow, the other in green, chased their own laughter across the great divide in eager pursuit of the round.

The warriors, taken out of time into a space beyond words, lowered their swords, walked slowly towards one another, then reaching the midpoint of gathered planks, paused.

“In breath the word is life, Brother!” one cried. “I see it in your eyes. You are my twin, separated from me at birth, when our real parents, forsaken and impoverished, abandoned us to the wind. I have been searching for you since I learned of our fate. I see you too found refuge in a royal house.”

“Yes, Brother, I see you as well. We are reunited at last!”

The young warriors hurled their great curved swords into the ravine, then embraced as only brothers can. The tears flowing from their eyes filled the immense chasm below. Suddenly a river roared and swirled beneath them, the fluid waters giving life to new beginnings, striving upward toward the bridge.

Laughter filled the land. Children, women and men from Eastern Pinnacle and the Great Western Valley swarmed the banks of this new flow. They flung rafts and small boats with sails into the deep water, freely crossing from one side to the other, waving and calling out “hello” as they met in the strong rapids.

The brothers, still entwined, watched with delight as the river rose beyond the wooden slats, drawing them deeply into the current.The ancient bridge, consumed by the shear force of the flow, was washed away.

Copyright, 1996 Patricia A Burke, MSW. All rights reserved.

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