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(Written in conjunction with Camp NaNoWriMo. For an explanation of what this strange story is about, you can read Obsessed by a Journey.)
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It was while wandering through an orchard on her way to the village that the Seeker happened on a maid gathering fruit from a tree. At first glance the Seeker could have sworn the fruit were coins like those of the King. Looking more closely she realized they were large, golden apples.

The young woman carried an empty basket in one hand and a sunflower in the other, but her attention was all on the fruit as if she were looking for something in particular.

“Good evening,” the Seeker said to the girl.

“Seeker! What joy it is to see you. We have been preparing a banquet in honor of your arrival and Calling.”

Somewhat embarrassed at being the center of so much fuss, the Seeker quickly changed the subject. “Your basket is empty, my lady. May I help you pick the apples?”

The girl smiled and turned back to the tree. “Oh, you will pick much fruit in your life, Seeker, and fill many baskets, to be sure. But this fruit is not quite ripe. I think, perhaps, this tree needs pruning. There are dead branches that are stealing the nourishment from the apples.”

At the Seeker’s puzzled expression she explained. “Like the Prayer Warriors in the House of Prayer, it is our Calling, mine and those like me, to tend the trees and make sure they grow the best fruit they can. Soon you will find that tending and harvesting can be hard work. Sometimes it’s painful to remove what has gone dormant and dark so the healthy branches can reach for the light.”

The Seeker nodded her understanding. “It is the same with us humans, I think. There are dark places within me that keep my heart from thriving in the Light as I should. I struggle with the darkness for from it comes rebelliousness and anger, and even fear.”

“Indeed. We all strive to reach the nourishing Light of the Creator so that our souls may be fed. But as odd as it may seem, like the apple trees we must not pick the fruit of our labors until the time is right. And that may mean we must question and know that dark. See,” said the maid, pointing to the tree. “These apples were green at first. Now they are beginning to ripen, and soon they will be bright red and sweet. It is not yet their time to be harvested. And sometimes we must stand in our own shadows within before our lives will bear much fruit.It is as important for growing people as apples! Oh! Where are my manners? My name is Patience,” said the woman, holding out her hand.

Taking it, the Seeker gave it a little squeeze and thanked Patience for her helpful words. Together they walked on toward the village, their conversation flowing unhindered through the beautiful orchard. Then outside of the small village Temple the Seeker stopped and excused herself to go inside.

The Temple was so small it could barely shelter two people, and someone was already there. A young Priest shirtless, sitting cross legged on the floor, hands folded quiet and still in his lap, was in deep meditation. Above him hovered three Swords of Regret, and before him another lay on the carpet.

Not wanting to intrude the Seeker turned to leave but was startled when he spoke to her. “I am learning to surrender my deepest regrets and fears, Seeker. To put aside the past and let the morrow worry for itself knowing that all will be well in the hands of the Creator, all will be as it should. But it is not easy at times. One sword I have overcome. Others still haunt my way.” He opened his eyes and peered at her. “So shall it be with you. Our journeys are fraught with learning, unlearning, and learning anew. Seldom are our paths straight. What is your greatest fear, Seeker?”

The Seeker thought for a moment. Of all the worries that invaded her sleeping AND waking hours, the fear of being alone was chief among the many. It was not that she minded being alone. In fact she liked her own company from time to time and found it necessary to collect her thoughts. But to be alone in times of need and unable to care for herself, this is what frightened her most.

“And yet,” said the Priest, before she could even voice her thoughts, “your fear did not keep you from setting out on this journey all alone. You have more courage than you realize, Seeker.”

Did she? She had never seen herself as courageous or strong, merely flawed. For the first time the Seeker considered she might not be the same person she had been when she began this journey. And the fear of being alone? Did that fear reside in the dark place inside her with her anger and arrogance? It was nearly too much for her to take in.

“That is because it is time for you to recenter yourself, Seeker,” said the Priest, reading her thoughts again. “Time to reestablish the balance of your inner life in the blessedness of what you have learned of the Holy One — here,” he said, laying his hand over his heart. “The love and acceptance that are part of the Creator’s own heart. You have been seeking the Kingdom of the Creator, and yet do not realize you have already found it. It has been with you all along.”

With that the priest closed his eyes again and resumed his meditation. Not wanting to bother him further, the Seeker backed out of the little Temple and right into someone waiting to enter. “I am so sorry,” she said, turning to the waiting pilgrim only to find it was no normal pilgrim, but a King.

He was dressed in black breeches and shirt, but his robe, white or nearly so, covered the dark clothes beneath. His crown sat lightly on his head as if he were at peace with the journey of his life. He carried with him a beautiful hawk which, when released, would spread the message he carried far and near. His sword rested point down on the ground. The Seeker could tell that though this was a man of action, he was also one who listened as well.

As his gaze fell upon her, his expression became serious. “I am glad to see that you continue to commune with the Holy One on your journey, Seeker.”

She sighed and smiled. “I must, or my doubts will become too many Swords for me to parry.”

“Do not fear your doubts, young one. For without doubts faith is no more possible than light is without darkness. They are not opposed, my dear. They are opposite sides of the same emotion. Those Seekers who are the wisest are the ones who know their darkness as well as their light.”

The Seeker was awed by the King’s wisdom and felt the need to cloister it in her heart. She thanked him for his words then took her leave that he might seek his own communion in the Temple.

Dusk was full upon her now and she gave her attention to finding somewhere to spend the night until the ship arrived. As she turned and walked toward the village, a man in a steel-blue cloak carrying a staff and a lantern stepped into her path. “At last we meet, Seeker…”

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© Cheryl D. Carter

Part 44 — Biding

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Picture Credit — personal (see also www.aeclectic.net)

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