The Answer

                                            *A re-worked version of a story that needed a little more shine 

 

An old man sits on a cold mountain peak, facing west. He came here to watch one last sunset, and to contemplate life. He wears faded black robes, a battered leather hat and a long white beard. His fingers toy with a pouch of worn stones in an idle manner while his blue eyes search the horizon for a sign. A sturdy walking staff of ash wood lay across his knees, and the fitful wind plays music with the bells tied to the top.

  His feet are bare… Brown from the soil of the earth, and calloused from a thousand miles of tread. His toes feel the chill of the air and they curl in on themselves, unconsciously gripping the face of the mountain like a plant seeking purchase on a rocky ledge. He does not notice this, for his mind is riding on a particular formation of cloud, just there, and he is seeing the color orange in a way he never did before.

  A fresh gust of wind comes from the east with more insistence than the last, and calls his attention. Closing his eyes, he feels the breeze in his body. He inhales to the full capacity of his lungs, experiencing the wind both within and without, thinking that he could float away over the treetops with the height of this thought. A weightless moment of knowing the glory of wings, feeling what it could be like to catch a hot thermal of air, and soar into that very cloud he had recently been admiring. Smiling to himself, he opens his eyes to catch the last rays of the sun’s elemental slide show.

  The soft orange glow has been replaced by a scarlet inferno to the west. Glorious shades of yellow run in jagged lines through rivers of red flames, like dancers around a summer campfire. Rippling with the distortion of atmosphere they shimmy and sway to a rhythm he cannot hear, but he keeps the time with his heartbeat. The endless sky wraps itself around him until he is held in one perfect instant, overflowing with the vivid colors of life.

  Never in all his years has he witnessed such beauty, and it pleases him to know there are still surprises left.

  He watches until the horizon passes into a gentle gloaming, and all the birds are settled in. Counting the stars as they appear, he gives them names of his own devising, because he does not know what any of them are being called lately. He maps out highways and castles in the celestial bodies, and builds monuments to the Gods in the darkness between. Expanding his thought to transcend a fragile vessel, he grows to encompass the heavens.

  A long time ago, so very long that all is now lost in the mist of memory, he had been called many things, in many different tongues: Druid, Shaman, Mage, even God, and still other titles so old only the plants remember how to speak them.  He was a teacher, a metaphor for all those aspects of life that could not find words, shaping the power of his mind from the raw matter of Earth and articulating the Truth in all Things. Where none could find a way, where all was lost and the spirit was foundering, he was a firm sail riding the tempest. Walking inner pathways uncharted and un-named, leaving signs for others to follow. A priest, brother, father, friend, mentor, he is a self-sustained repository for an entire world of knowledge.

  Slowly however, others ceased to follow his silent path. The night of Creation became darker and darker, as people ceased to shine their lights into the shadows of superstition.  Seasons came and went, rivers rose and fell, mountains grew and died, civilizations prospered and crumbled, oceans heaved and his cave slipped quietly from the stone and into abstract paintings. Until one day came when he had no visitors at all, a lonely old man on a windy peak with all the wisdom of the world, and not one willing ear to listen.

  Left only with the first name they had given him, he speaks it now into the shadows, lest he forget: Abba.

  He nods to himself as he rises from his seat. This was the way of things, all life must change. Rebirth comes after death, and all has a place in the pattern. He knows the dung beetle is the architect of creation.

  Rummaging around inside his pack, he fishes out a notebook and a pen. Muttering to himself about the perils of damp moss, he searches out a place in the lee of the wind. He opens the book.

  “Ah, the blank page.” He says to the tree beside him, “What can I write here? What would they believe, should anyone wish to read it? I couldn’t put the real answer here, they would never understand… Perhaps I can give them a small nudge? Just a little something to point them in the right direction? Do you think that is cheating? You’re right, it matters not at all, I will simply write something Truthful and we shall see if anyone notices.”

  With that, his pen grew the wings he could not, and flew across the waiting page with all the eagerness of a fledging leaving the nest. From the fractures of himself he gave a piece of his soul. As God once made his own child to go forth and speak, so the Druid made his own son. From all the memories, visions, pains and glories of his life, he shaped his message to the world. Carving like a caveman his words, onto the waiting lines of a blank canvass. A masterpiece to illustrate the complexities of life, a sculpture that shapes the mind’s convex and concave… A perfect unity of Self. Blueprints for any wayward seeker to find the utopia of silence, a paragon of the unspoken and a light to illumine all darkness…. Right there, on one page.

  “No no,” He said to the tree, “That just won’t do at all, it is far too obvious. Perhaps I should use a few obscure metaphors? Skip the sequence of events around a little bit so they have to chase them? Ah hell, I’ll just change the whole thing and say something really simple. Then nobody can accuse me later of pretending to know too much… They would be right, of course, but we can’t tell them that now can we?”

  He tore the page from the book, and let it flutter away on the breeze. Over the edge of the cliff, sailing above the treetops, the answer to everything flew away on the wind.

  Instead he wrote only this: ‘Every sound is the right sound, every moment is a perfect one, each lesson is the most important, every step you take is your last, all pain makes you stronger,  laughter makes you more beautiful, tears make you wiser, and the only word you need to know is “yes”.’

  He closes the book with a grunt of satisfaction. “Well” He says to the sky, “It is not a masterpiece of words, by no means a culmination of my existence, but it is the Truth. I suppose it will do.” He wraps it in oiled rags because he has no use for a zip-lock bag, and leaves it on a random outcropping so the person who is looking for it can spot it easily. Someone is looking, he knows, so he will prop it carefully against the weather and weigh it down with an interesting rock.

  He steps back to the edge of the mountain and contemplates all that he sees with eyes that have witnessed more time pass then the ocean who first made life, holds all of Creation easily in a mind composed only of the single pristine moment which he is living. His right foot steps forward from the cold stone, and his left is close behind, ’till he strolls on the empty air toward a distant star. “I should have a hanky and stick for these kind of travels.” He says to himself, “What is the use of a dramatic exit from the stage, if the audience has gone home hours ago? They don’t really need me anymore, they can figure things out, I’ll just go off to another place… It’s been a long time for rebirth, I wonder if I still have the knack for it… Should I be a tree? A beetle? A river? A tiger perhaps? That could be fun…”

  The fading trail of his self-dialog floats away into obscurity, until all that is left riding the breeze is the sound of crickets, frogs, and the whisper of night in the forest. All the things he could have said were never uttered, because there was nobody to listen. The words he could have written were never set down, because there was nobody who would read them. The arms that could have held the world remained empty, because there was nobody who could climb that high…

    So passed Abba, the First Father, from all consciousness…

      I found his book the other day, when I was out picking wild huckleberries for my pancakes. I wrote the words down for you, so it would never be forgotten… That moment when the answer lived on a benign piece of parchment thrown into space…

   It is a lesson worth remembering.

                   4/30/10 

 

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