I am deep within the woods, encompassed by green and damp and shadow. The quiet hum of nature surrounds me and the path I walk opens up just a bit to a small clearing with a stump in the middle: a forest altar. I have not seen this particular one before, but know their holy purpose.
I bring myself – I bring my heart – into this place and try to let go of the rush of my day and the noise of my encapsulated life. I try to drop the urgency of the routine so that I can be here. Whatever else, a moment’s touch with truth is necessary for my day. There are many layers I have put up around my soul to keep it from this touch, yet the touch is life.
I hear a bird call out and turn to find its form among the branches overhead. It flies to the stump and cocks its head and pecks at its woody heart. With this, the stump splits in two and opens up a doorway into the earth. I would have expected it to be dark below, but light comes from within and it calls to me. I follow the bird into the opening, down rooty stairs, into the firm brown earth, toward the light. A bird below the ground seems out of place, but unperturbed, it darts along the passageway with whirring wing.
At last I come to an underground grotto where a feast is in progress. The ceiling is hung with a candle chandelier and round the room is a large circle of tables, laden with food and full of happy people and animals and other creatures. It is a Narnian scene. All are eating and drinking and talking and laughing. The closest one pulls out a chair for me and sits me down and shoves a plate of food in front of me.
It is not an ostentatious crowd, everyone is eating with fingers and forks and talking while they eat. No stuffy decorum here. But the quality of the meal is one of joy and not of gluttony. The guests eat with relish, but seem to feed more on the joy of company than the food itself. I listen in on snippets of conversations nearby and the overwhelming sense is one of acceptance and gratitude and open-handed joy.
Finally things grow quiet, and a large figure enters the center of the room, within the ring of tables. A woman’s voice with a soft, deep, melodic lilt speaks into the quiet. “You have come. I am pleased. You have shared your meal and your stories and all have been fed. This deep treasure will take your heart forward one more day. Manna is a heart food – eaten as freely as it is given; shared with the knowledge that it will not last if it is hoarded. Like time, it is yours and is renewed daily, and is meant to be used and shared each day.”
She looks straight at me and says “I speak to your heart and not just to your mind. Understanding comes from both.”
Then she reaches her hand out to me in an invitation to join her in the center of the tables and I am suddenly self-conscious and afraid. What if I stumble? What if I fail? What if I am all wrong? What if . . what if . . ?.
She has taken a step closer and answers my flood of questions with some questions of her own. “What if I love you? What if I help you to come? What if the coming is what makes it right and true? What if it is not about what you bring? What if you have enough, you are enough, already?
I smile, and I turn to my new friend, and say, “What if we come?” I take a hand on either side of me and move past the table into the center with the woman. My friends join me, as do their friends and their friends and their friends until all the circle of diners is now a circle of dancers.
She smiles and reaches down and kisses me on the forehead and whispers “What if?” And she is gone.
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