In the cottage, I am sitting on the edge of the bed, one sock on, one sock off, halfway through getting dressed, caught mid-thought, mid-action, in suspended animation. Seems I am always getting ready and never really getting things done – never there, always on the way.
“That’s what life is – the way.” The voice comes from a traveler, seated at my table. Brown woolen robe, gnarled staff, rope belt, craggy face and hands; this one has been on the way for quite a while.
I drop the second sock beside the bed and move to sit beside him at the table. “Give me your wisdom, traveler,” I ask. “Help me to know the next step. Help me to not be so afraid of what might come. Help me to not be so distracted in my journey.”
He places his large hands over mine, so that I must, for just a moment hold them still, I must stop drumming my fingers, must stop picking at the table. He just covers my hands with his warmth and waits. A long silence, at first comforting and then a bit awkward, ensues. Finally I pull my hands out from under his and rub them together. “Shouldn’t we be going?” I ask.
The traveler smiles, “Going where?”
“On down the road, on with our projects, with our duties, for the day,” I reply. “Can’t wait forever, you know and I’m rather far behind already.”
“Behind in my schedule… the things I must get done… I am behind.”
“But where are you going?” He asks again. He has made no move to get up, to begin the day. His whole frame seems immobile. Not dead, not resistant, but not filled with the urgency that I feel in me. “Where are you going?” He asks me one more time.
I look at him with a question in my eyes. “I’m not sure… But don’t you think that we should get started?”
“Not till we know where to go,” he is almost laughing at me. He shakes his head.
I can see how silly this looks, but even so, I am getting farther behind, and if I don’t know the end, I do have a list a mile long that is supposed to be done by now. Surely we can start there and sort it out as we go along. “Must we wait longer?” I plead. “I am late already on so many chores.”
“How do you know you are late?”
“My schedule was set out long ago and I am behind. My energy is running out before my task is done, my time is moving forward and the projects are not moving nearly so fast. How could I not be behind?”
“Depends on the clock you use. Depends on whose calendar is there in front of you.”
“Don’t you understand? I have screwed up. My list is long and getting longer. I am behind, I am lost, I am desperate…”
He puts his large hands back on top of mine once more. He has to hold them down firmly. I fidget still. At last he picks up my hands in his and pulls them towards him and looks me directly in the eyes.
“My time, not yours. Live in my time.” He is very serious. His playfulness has passed and this is a solid, unshakable command.
My eyes fill with tears. “I wish I could,” I stutter.
He jerks my hands. “Don’t wish. Don’t put me off. You must follow my time. There is no other way.”
“But how?” I whimper.
“Stop crumbling.” He scolds. “Defeat is in your hands, but so is victory. Why do you pick defeat?”
“I see no other choice. How do I grasp victory?”
He turns my hands over and so that they point to the ceiling and form a small cup. “You don’t grasp victory. You receive it.”
My heart starts to argue, but its words go unformed. A pure clear light shines down from the ceiling of the cabin and lands squarely within my cupped hands. I can almost see images being formed within its glow, but cannot quite make out what they are. Then, as if the light is also water, it fills my hands to overflowing. It puddles on the table and begins to run along its surface like a small stream.
Then, just as quickly, the scene is transformed. I am beside the stream, beside a basin like cupped hands and he, the traveler, is beside me. A small raft is moored on the edge of the basin beside us, and the stream has grown now to a river, the basin to a pool. We step aboard the raft and he pushes us out into the middle of the river with his staff.
“Don’t give up yet.” He whispers, “Ride with me.”
“Ok.” That is all I know to say.
He grasps my hand. “Ok, then.”
We ride the stream together.