Despite the anxiety the wands had aroused in her, the Seeker found she enjoyed her time of fellowship with the villagers over supper. She had gone to the meal expecting to find herself beset by sinister feelings. But to the contrary, they were lovely, gregarious folks.
She listened with great interest to the activities that kept them busy. The market was a common affair. All sewed, carved, smelted, baked, grew according to their abilities and shared for the common good. There were also tasks outside the village proper to keep them busy. On the morrow the women were to gather at the home of a family whose crops had failed to thrive. They were going to plow new ground and start another kitchen garden for the folks who had several small children. Some of the women who engaged in making clothing were taking along new garments for the young ones who had outgrown what they had. On the other side of the valley, the men were gathering to help repair the home of an elderly couple whose roof had been damaged in a storm.
And then, of course, there were the daily studies of the sacred scrolls to be attended to. The people seemed to take genuine joy in debating what they read and discussed, but there was virtually no talk of how the precepts applied to their own lives. What good then, was studying the scrolls? She found no more desire to seek the Creator here than was evident among those in the temple.
Still, on the whole, the Seeker found a love for the Creator demonstrated in beautiful ways among the people. And yet… And yet there was rarely any mention of the Creator in their reasons for doing so. It almost seemed as if their acts of charity had become in some way as ritualistic as her duties in the temple. What did that mean, she wondered.
They had talked late into the evening, and the Seeker was heavy with weariness when she returned to her room. Someone had been kind enough to light a candle for her on a table near the couch. She reflected again on what a lovely people the villagers were. She changed into a nightdress someone had thoughtfully left on the sleeping couch and settled gratefully with a pillow and a blanket.
But her mind would not be at peace. For the first time she had begun to doubt why she had left the temple mount. What if she was wrong? What if there WAS no such thing as a deeper communion with the Creator. In fact, what if the Creator did not exist? Could it be it was all a myth men had invented to give meaning to what they do in life? And was that meaning different to different communities of people? Was her longing to know the Creator in a more meaning full way just a childhood fancy she had never outgrown?
Finally overwhelmed with questions, fatigue took its toll. As she was drifting off to sleep she sought comfort in the moonlight that shone threw the window over the couch. It struck her how beautiful and luminescent it was even though it possessed no light of its own. It was an illusion, she realize, as she drifted off to sleep.
Sometime later the Seeker’s agitation returned. She tossed and fidgeted in her sleep as in her mind she could see again the the flock of sparrows harrowing the eagle. She found it confusing. The eagle was so much stronger than the little birds. It could have chased them all away but chose not to. And yet, it had known it didn’t belong with them. Just as it had known she didn’t belong where she was either.
Once again the eagle’s cry sounded in her ears, “Follow the wands! Follow the wands!” as the eight wands flew by her.
In her mind’s eye she could see herself seated cross-legged on the floor in the classroom at the temple learning about the meaning of numbers in the universe. Eight, she had been taught, was the number that represented infinity, a constant building up and tearing down, usually because the old ways no longer worked. It was the number of balance and order in the universe. Birth, death, and rebirth. Is that what was happening to her? Were her beliefs, held since memory was formed, being torn down only to be rebuilt again? Follow the wands, the eagle had said. Here, in this place, was she in danger of clinging to old thoughts and patterns? Were the words meant to warn her to open her mind and her heart? Was there more to the sacred scrolls than what appeared on the surface?
As she climbed from her deep sleep to wakefulness she found above her a collection of beautiful swords. There were nine of them that hung in the air. It was almost as if they were shielding her from the illusion of the moonlight. She should have been frightened, but she could still recall those lessons in the temple. And nine represented completion prior to a new beginning.
Fully awake now she realized she had been in battle with her own self. Her fear of moving forward on her journey had needed to be confronted and conquered, and her evening with the people of the village had left her own thoughts threatening to sabotage her quest. Thus she had experience a dark night of the soul. And yet the heavens, or had it been the Creator, had sent the swords to reassure her that her pilgrimage would not be in vain.
The Seeker gazed at the steady light of the candle flame, and the certainty grew within her that her path led in the direction of the wands.
© Cheryl D. Carter
Picture Credit — personal (see also www.aeclectic.net)