I wrote the following piece late one night in the winter of 1983 when I was 28 years old and barely awake. It flowed out of my pen quickly and effortlessly, in a manner that is usually referred to as automatic writing, since I wasn't making any conscious mental effort in its creation. I immediately fell asleep upon its completion. The next morning I reread it and was truly surprised because it was evident that it was birthed from some other level of my consciousness and required no editing. (As a writer I am usually painstaking in my choice of words and phrases. It can take me an hour to fine tune a paragraph.) The piece was published in Woman of Power magazine in the spring of 1984. Subsequently, the storyteller Jennifer Justice asked me whether she could use it in her performances. I feel it speaks to anyone of any age since one of the greatest challenges of being human is balancing and juggling the complexity of our lives, including our own complex inner worlds.
We are women of the invisible and visible worlds. We are ancient, so ancient that we are ageless. We have learned to perfectly balance the energies of our bodies, hearts, minds, and souls. And we teach those women who seek us in themselves. We are the Jugglers.
We come to a woman as she sleeps and teach her to juggle. Usually our visits range over five weeks, or five years, or five centuries, but we come five times. A woman only moves on to the next lesson if she is ready.
First, we teach her to juggle branches from flowering trees. In the midst of trying to keep them from dropping a woman may become alarmed when the flowers begin to fall of and the leaves begin to die. But this merely helps her realize that growth involves metamorphosis and also entails death. This is not an easy lesson to begin with, but since it is so basic, we Jugglers insist that woman master it first.
The second night we teach her how to juggle fire -- beautiful, golden flames which leap and dance between her hands. Often she fears being burned, and if she continues to fear and anticipate such a thing, it will happen. But, it is not the fire that burns her, but her fear. This is an important lesson which must be understood before a woman can successfully master the juggling of fire.
On the third night, we teach a woman how to juggle water, a sparkling waterfall which swirls around and through her hands. While a woman is learning to do this, it is inevitable that some water will spill. She will sometimes begin to panic as the water rises little by little. We do not tell a woman that she cannot pass the test of a water juggler until she no longer fears being submerged. Once she releases the fear, she will find that she can breathe underwater.
On the fourth night, we teach her how to juggle rainbows. At various points during the juggling, the rainbows seem to disappear, but it is only because the light is withdrawn. If she stops juggling what to her may appear to be just thin air, the rainbows will fall and lie broken at her feet. The primary lesson here is that the rainbows are always there, even when you cannot see them.
On the fifth night, a woman learns to juggle the branches, the fire, the water, and the rainbows, all at once. It is an incredible sight to behold -- even we Jugglers still are awed by it. A woman who takes on this lesson usually assumes that the trick is to keep the branches from being ignited by the fire, or to keep the fire from flickering and causing the rainbows to diasppear, or to keep the water from putting out the fire. When a woman at last releases all anxiety about this finally juggling fear, she finds there is no danger of the elements consuming each other. And, at the very moment she realizes this, she becomes the very elements she is juggling, and they become her.
At the completion of the five nights, a woman joins the ranks of the Jugglers, and is then ready to teach those women who see us in themselves -- as she once did herself.