The Cradled Meadow

IMG_4337 2.jpgThe gateway is marked by two bone-white boulders as big as bungalows.

As you pass between them, reach up.

If you cannot grasp a handful of blue sky then turn around. This is not the right day.

If you now have a pocketful of blue sky, then proceed.

The path ascends like smoke into the darkness between the densely packed cedars.

Even at mid-morning the light is so dim that it is easy to lose the trail among few columns of green light that find their way through the canopy.

As the sun rises to its zenith you will reach a meadow cradled below the headland.

The air will taste as clear as spring rain after the stagnant scent of the cedars, but do not linger here.

This meadow has been the setting for many tragedies, and the ghosts of these events have been penned in for ever by the circle of trees.

Now matter how quickly you cross this meadow your own dismay will seep into your bones from your deepest memories.

It is said that on the next section of the trail you will be accompanied by everyone you have ever known.

Even the most distant relatives whom you haven’ thought about since childhood will find you in this place.

They will each visit you one at a time, and each will add something to the weight you carry uphill.

Your lost lovers will follow a few paces behind in their own turn. If you glance back at them you will catch a fleeting glimpse. 

Some will glare at you with eyes of regret.

Some will glare at you in contrition.

But the ones who will remain with you longest are the ones who look through you with contempt, and there will be many of these.

Your few happy memories will make you sad, and sad memories will cast you into the nadir of gloom.

Just at the moment when you believe you cannot go on there will be a break in the trees ahead.

You will reach in to your pocket, place your blue sky in this gap, and find that the early-rising moon is right in the middle of it, full and round as fresh-sliced apple.

You will emerge from the forest into full sunshine, and fall back onto soft moss.

No ghost may follow you here. You will plunge into a profound slumber.

Your dreams will be crowded with people you think you know, but do not.

When you wake the moon will be high overhead.

You will shiver, drink your water, and eat your food.

Then you will begin your descent.

You will not notice even the most persistent apparition, so concerned will you be to balance, and place each foot in a place of steadiness.

You will not trip on any roots, slide on any loose topsoil, or twist your ankle on any oblique rock.

By the time you reach the cradled meadow it will be dusk, and you must cross it uttering any kind of prayer you can remember. Do not pause here for any reason now the list is fading. In spite of all the terrible things those ghosts accused you of on your ascent, worse things have been done here. Far worse. 

In a time frame that seems far too short you will once again see the gates, incandescent now in the twilight. 

You will feel weightless now as you pass between them, and make your way to the one who still waits for you.

Even though it will appear that you have only been gone a few hours she will look far older than you remember. There will be lines on her once smooth face, her arms will seem longer, and she will rise up slowly to greet you.

“You look tired,” she will say. “I have never seen you look so tired. Come and rest.”

You will lie down with her, fold yourself around her, and in the few moments before sleep takes you, you will know such peace as you have never known before.