Desert Snowman

‘Our tears are sacred. They water the ground
around our feet so that new things can grow.’
Anne Lamott

An ancient desert tribe faced disaster. The oasis on which they depended had dried up. The drought had continued for months and showed no sign of ending. The tribal holy man had prayed, fasted, danced, cried and pleaded with the gods for rain, but the only thing that came was death. Many of the elderly died first, followed by the children.

Just prior to his death one young boy had a dream in which he saw a strange shaped man made of something that shone a dazzling white. From this strange substance the tribe ate and it turned to water in their mouths. On waking, the young boy told the holy man that the tribe would be saved by this man made of the white water that stubbornly refused to melt in the scorching heat.

The little boy was buried in the graveyard, but not before he’d taken a stick and drawn a curious picture in the sand. As he succumbed to the wicked waterless desert he drew something none of them had ever seen before – a large snowman.

That night the holy man had a dream. He saw his god standing in the graveyard weeping over the young boy’s grave. It was the first water the old man had seen for weeks. As the dream continued the deity’s tears froze as they fell, carpeting the ground in a thick white blanket of something the old man had never seen before; snow that glistened in the desert sun.

Three days later strange white flakes began to fall from the clear blue sky. After just a few hours the whole graveyard was covered in a large snow dune which shimmered and glistened amongst the dry and fiery sand.

At first the people were fearful of this white sand. But the holy man took the children onto the snow and began to offer it to them to eat. As it touched their mouths it melted into refreshingly cool water which quickly quenched their thirsts. Soon the lives of the tribe had been saved. The children began to make snowballs and a large tribal snowball fight took place amidst the worst drought in living memory.

As they all watched and following the shape the young boy had drawn in the sand, the holy man (with the help of the children), made a large snowman. For the arms the children used large cactus leaves and then carved eyes and a large smiling mouth. They placed some cactus thorns on the head as a sort of crown.

Although no more snow ever fell in that desert, the snowman stood guard for many weeks, refusing to melt in the smelting furnace. Indeed the tribe continued to take snow from his large body for water, and amazingly the snowman’s frame never seemed to diminish.

Then the long anticipated rains fell and the snowman was washed away, never to return. The oasis filled with water and the life of the tribe continued as before except that the holy man now told a new story as they sat at night around the camp fire. It was a story that continued in tribal folklore for thousands of years. It was about a god who came down and stood with the tribe in their time of greatest need. The god had cried at the sight of their sadness and his tears had turned into a white water from which they drank to stay alive.

Centuries later, long after the tribe had disappeared, explorers began to unearth their ancient civilisation. They discovered ancient stones on which the holy men had painted depictions of their tribal life. Amongst the paintings of the sun, cactuses, palm trees, sand dunes and wild animals, the explorers were puzzled to see a large white snowman. Even more baffling to them was the crown of thorns on the snowman’s head.