Soul weary and with a leaden heart, he slung the pack across his back and began to walk. He walked until he lost track of how long he had walked, till his mind was stilled save for the placement of the next step, long past the time where he crossed others upon the trail, till the muscles in his body screamed “enough!” And still he continued, placing one foot in front of the other. It was as if the trees were beckoning him onward, parting just slightly to show him the way. And still, he continued. Still further he would have gone, save for the fallen trees that barred the path forcing him to veer off to find a way around.
He pushed thorugh the brush and branches and heard the soft trickle of water nearby. So, he pushed a bit further away from the path to look for its source. The soothing crystal sound pulled at him until he found himself in a small clearing.
Soft rays of sunshine poured through scattered breaks in the branches and the mossy veils of the trees. The small steady stream of water slipped over a crease in the hill to play across the rocks, casting prism glimmers of light on the slope before coming to rest in the small pool in front of him.
He let his pack slip from his shoulder onto the ground, then slowly lowered himself down beside it. He pulled a small bag of food from the pack and leaned back against an ancient tree stump, a furrow in it a perfect fit for his spine, its gnarled roots granting a cradled seat. He slowly began to eat, allowing the silence to fill him, the scents to intoxicate him and the low heartbeat of the land to lull him..
He slipped into a gentle slumber and was awakened by a sense; a presence maybe. He looked around him to notice the sun had dipped slightly, shifting the shadows and play of light around him. Off to his side, he noticed a slender stump robed in a deep carpet of moss, rising up from the ground like a small moss-robed man. He smiled at the thought, remembering the stories he had been told as a youth of the fey spirits of the forests. He could see in this visage how such tales got their birth. And the more he looked upon this man of moss, the more real he appeared to him. It was almost as if he could sense him waiting, listening. But, for what?
He leaned back and watched it for some time and the spell of the forest touched him once again. “So, its a story you wish to hear, is it?” He asked the little man. “Well, fine then. Then tis a story you shall have.” He reached into his pack again and pulled out his pipe, filled it with some sweet smelling tobacco, lit it, then leaned back against the stump and began to talk.
His story, he began to tell, of his life. The words, slow and faltering at first, then flowing into a stream whose dam has broken, into a torrent of tales. He spoke tales of his pains and sorrows, of his joys and accomplishments, and of course, his failures. He recounted the tales of his youth and many adventures then. Of his loves and his losses, and of his children. Of those he had said goodbye to far too soon and those whose brief touch left an indelible imprint on his soul. He spoke of those that had loved him and those that had betrayed him and laughed at how often they were the same. He wept and he laughed as the stories poured out. The miles and the years and the lifetimes he had experienced, all were told, all revealed.Silently and patiently, the figure listened. An understanding being who had all the time in the world for him, who begged to hear, with his quiet countenance, all he had to tell. So, on he talked, telling the secrets he had never told another soul. He told of the things no man speaks of to another. The secret fears and the unfulfilled desires locked and guarded so deeply within.And deeper, the sun began to slip. And on he talked, till his voice was hoarse from the expense, till there were no more words to speak. And still the figure listened, silently, patiently, till the last word had been summoned forth
The night had stolen in during this time and the man smiled gently on the robed figure in the dark. The telling lifting the weight from his heart, his soul finally at peace. He closed his eyes to the night and slept, his mossy guardian never leaving his side.
She broke into the clearing, eyes full of wonder at what she saw there. She began to snap pictures of all that was about her, the sparkling little waterfall, the trees with their drapes of feather moss, the birthing blooms of Spring. This was the kind of place that dreams were made of, that held the promise of fairy dances and midnight rites, of the ancient gods and a time where nothing was beyond belief.A shadow fleeted off to her side, catching her attention. A small gasp escaped her lips as she spied the partial circle of moss covered figures. She began to snap pictures of them rapidly, from every angle. Worshipers frozen in time, the wise ones of the woods, guardians of the forest. They looked so real, she thought, as she set her pack down on the ground. “I’ll bet you all have such stories to tell!” She pulled her notebook and pen from her pack and sat down. She closed her eyes for a moment, breathed in the forest, and listened till the first soft whisper slipped into her ear. “Yes! Oh Yes!” she exclaimed, opened her book and began to write.
copyright March, 2010