Basket of Sea-Digital
Collage 4" x 6"
Along a road in Western China I happened upon a man sitting at the
base of a dead tree.Hanging from a branch above his head a thatched
basket that in defiance of every law of nature held water. I thought
my eyes must be playing tricks on me. The man rose from the ground and
approached. "Good day," he called. I shook his outstretched
hand and pointed at the basket. "How can this be?" I asked.
He laughed. "You are not from here." he replied.I nodded in
"It is water?" I asked.
"It is the sea. The sea that once covered everything around here."he
I smiled. "You are having fun at the expense of a tired and thirsty
The man laughed. "Here dip your finger into the basket and taste."
I put a drop to my tongue and spit it out. "Salt water!"
"You see," he replied. "I speak the truth."
"But how is it possible to hold a portion of the water in a basket?"
"The sea. It is an entire sea."
"Pour it out," I challenged.
He laughed. "It is far too fine an afternoon to kill one's self."
"You expect me to believe that this basket holds enough water to
fill this vast wasteland."
"You can believe whatever you choose, but to empty it for the sake
of pride or a foolish challange..." he paused and grew thoughtful,
I decided to drop the matter.
"How do you do it?" I asked.
"It takes many years of practice, but the first sons in my family
have been Sea Bearers for many generations."
"How is it that your family came to be burdened with this task?"
"There was once an emperor who did a great injustice to the first
son all those generations ago. In retaliation the son stole the sea
leaving the emperor stranded in a barren landscape."
"Did the emperor right his wrong?"
"Then why do you still carry the sea?" I asked.
"Over the generations, the people of the region have learned to
adapt to this arid emptied sea. It is the only life they know now. To
fill it again would render their rituals and customs void. Many would
most likely perish."
"Is it a burden?" I asked watching a junk move across the
"In my youth I resented the limitations imposed on me by this destiny.
I watched as my brothers prospered and enjoyed lives of wealth and influence,
but as I have grown old I see that it they who envy the simplicity of
"What will happen when you grow too old and weary to carry the
"I will pass it on."
"To your son?" I asked.
"I have no children, nor wife."
"What about your brothers or their sons?"
"No. None of them are interested in it."
"Perhaps a man a good will. A stranger passing through." He
smiled at me.
"I can't..." I said but he interrupted.
He took the basket from the branch and handed it to me. "Here.
Hold this for just a moment. I think you'll find the sound and gentle