Thursday, August 11, 2011

Feeding the Flame

"The Student"   
From Candle Light
The Old Man awoke to a new day and a new sound.
For him, sleeping had become more of a habit in recent years. When he was younger, he recalled, days would pass while he was in alignment in which he did not require the sleeping state. This was not to say that meditation was not needed. When one is in alignment, much can be accomplished with well chosen posts in the arcs of day and night; posts to achieve the meditative condition. Differing from sleep - when one loses consciousness - the meditative provides a markedly sharper awareness of ones surroundings.
However, as he aged, he allowed more time for the frivolity of a more traditional sleep cycle. The Old Man discovered sublime entertainment in the whimsy of dreams.
As with the evening, morning time in the Valley had its own backdrop and soundtrack. The pink and lavender clouds drifted above as an advance guard clearing paths through star laden darkness as sky began to take on the light of the approaching Day.  The sunrise chorus of birdsong struck up a lively tune to greet it. The damp, cool, jasmine tinted breeze picked up the beat and swirled about as the temperature began to rise. The patch of wild rosemary nearby donated what it could to the sensual feast. The Sun would not show itself to the floor of the Valley for an hour or so, but the western ridge soon began to announce its approach by catching and broadcasting its golden issue to all who had eyes and would see. The season was summer and there would be plenty of sunshine for everyone today.
All these things were as they always are. Today, however, something new approached. “Not new,” thought the Old Man as he went about his morning routine, “Different.” He turned his attention toward the eastern slope. He could hear voices coming from one of the encampments along the Gateway Path; that which lead through to what most people would call “Civilization”. 
One voice was that of The Sentry. His calling was as a sculptor. He had come to the Valley for seclusion, to quietly create, as he was able, objects in the art of form and substance. He often had need to travel to the outside world for his livelihood. Hence, though he called the Valley his home, his was also the closest dwelling to the outside world. And so, by default, he became The Sentry.
Another voice, that of a young man, both familiar and strange, echoed with a hints of nostalgia, tinted with defiance and a bit of remorse. He was introducing himself and a travelling companion to The Sentry, but he was obscuring a full disclosure of his true identity. The Sentry’s voice rang with a dissonant harmonic. He believed he recognized the young man, but his conscience was not aware of it as yet. It was not long before The Old Man heard The Sentry accede passage to the travelers.
At this time the third voice was heard.  A boy’s voice said, “Thank you.” It was a small voice full of wonder and trust, unblemished with the world; yet the words echoed throughout the Valley, travelling on the dissipating morning mists as though they had been amplified by artificial means. This was followed soon after by the footfall of the pair as they descended on the path. Again, The Old Man noticed that the adult’s steady pace and measured stride had a knowing confidence, while the youthful one followed along behind him pausing just a little bit every few meters to drink in the vistas, to inhale the beauty, to be amazed; then rushing to catch up.
The Old Man went about the tasks of preparing for their arrival.
The full light of the day reached the floor of the Valley simultaneously with the travelers. They emerged from the foliage at the base of the path and approached the Old Man’s lodge. A few meters from the entrance, they stopped and waited silently.  Apparently the adult knew of the Old Man’s custom of answering first to the Seeker who does not knock. Patience is rewarded more richly than ambition. He was not disappointed. The lodge door swung open almost immediately revealing its inhabitant: tanned and lean but not gaunt, shockingly white hair in a barely tamed mane above a peaceful visage, truck-sack slung over his shoulder; it was the Teacher whom they had traveled so far to see. The younger one gulped down some anticipation.
The Old Man approached them.
“Hello, Joshua,” he said, extending both hands in a gesture of welcome and acceptance.
“It’s good to see you too, Dad,” said the young adult. “I’ve brought you a new student. I’d like you to meet your grandson, Caleb.”
“Caleb,” said the Old Man, “I am very pleased to meet you.” He offered his right hand for the boy to take it; which he did, vigorously pumping the Old Man’s arm up and down for a moment. Then, thinking better of it, he downshifted to a lower gear.
The Teacher laughed. “Come inside, both of you. I’ve made some breakfast. You must be hungry from your journey,” he said, ushering them in to the coolness of the lodge, as now the Sun was approaching its highest point in the sky.
The boy immediately saw the bowl of fresh apples and apricots that his grandfather had placed on a large rough hewn table in the center of the lodge. A silent glance toward his father secured for him the permission to indulge in their sweet juices.
 The two fathers stayed behind to converse without the young one hearing. Nearly a decade had passed since words were spoken between them, yet they had not parted with animosity. In fact, their minds had often touched during the ensuing years. Audible words are not the real communication of the soul, both men knew this. It was to be one of the lessons the young boy would soon be learning. Therefore their conversation began in the middle of a thought, preliminaries were not necessary.    
“He is ready?” asked the Old Man.
“He believes he is,” replied Joshua.
“Then we shall see,” said the Teacher, “He is taller than you were at his age.”
“He has been fed better than I was.”
“You mean he has been fed more than you were,” corrected the Old Man, “I’m sure I will have to teach him appetite control in his first lessons.” He watched as the youth consumed one of the apples. In truth, the boy showed some measure of regulation already in his habits. He had already exhibited politeness and respect while accompanying his father into the Valley. The stamina needed in pursuit of the long journey to the Valley proved the physical qualification.
Perhaps the boy was ready after all.

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