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 agreement.
"It is water?" I asked.
"It is the sea. The sea that once covered everything around here."he answered.
I smiled. "You are having fun at the expense of a tired and thirsty traveler."
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?" I asked.
"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, "No."
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?"
"Who knows?"
"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 waters.
"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 my life."
"What will happen when you grow too old and weary to carry the basket?"
"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."
"Who then?"
"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 motion soothing."