The Seeker turned and faced him. She was not frightened, for something about him seemed uncannily familiar. “Who are you?” she asked?
“I am called the Hermit. Like yourself I am a pilgrim. I see that you need shelter for the night. Would you care to come and share my home, my bread, and my fire? Long it has been since I have enjoyed the company of a Seeker. There is much of which we may speak before you receive your Calling on the morrow. Much yet you have to learn.”
His invitation opened the Seeker’s heart and she delighted in the chance to speak with him at length of spiritual matters. “I would be most grateful for the shelter.”
“Come then. It is not far.”
And with that the Hermit raised his lantern higher and to the side so that both their ways might be seen on the path. Watching him, and the care with which he attended to their way, the Seeker felt certain this was not the first time he had harbored other pilgrims.
In only a few moments they came to the mouth of a shallow cave. A fire burned in a pit in the center of the floor and blankets were strewn around for sitting. The Seeker could smell fresh bread baking on the rim of the pit and her stomach growled with hunger. The Hermit motioned for her to sit and busied himself with preparing a welcome meal. He brought forth a large wooden trencher filled with fruit and cheese. From the fire pit he took the small loaf of bread and broke it in several pieces placing it on the platter as well. Finally he retrieved a ewer of ale and two cups. Then, when all was set for the meal, he seated himself at the Seeker’s side.
“Do you not get lonely living out here by yourself?” she asked.
“Sometimes, though I am often to be found teaching and counseling others as is MY Calling. Mostly, however, I am content to be alone sifting through the inner knowledge that comes from taking the time to look into the dark corners of what makes me who I am. For it is there in the depths of us all that we truly find ourselves. You have struggled much with the darkness inside you, young Seeker. It is the sharpest of your Swords of Regret, I think.”
The Seeker was surprised the Hermit could see into her heart so well. She felt as if he were able to look into her very soul.
“We insist on and become so used to our well-lit villages and dwellings,” he said, “that it seems unnatural to explore the darkness within. And so we live our lives without depth, disconnected from our true selves because we know it not. I would not wish the darkness away from you, Seeker, or attempt to sustain you myself as though you were weak and unworthy. But I will sit with you here in this dark place and tell stories and share nourishment and heat.
“Your Soul has brought you here to explore and answer the unspoken desire of your heart, to know, to experience the true celebration of life in all its passion and fear and grief and joy. To join in the dance your heart has always known must exist. Do not fear the darkness with which you struggle, Seeker. It is necessary to know the dark to truly celebrate the light. Plus,” the Hermit said with a twinkle in his eye, “one can see the stars so much better in the dark.”
“But how do I look within and discover who I am?”
“Draw apart and be still. Allow yourself to observe all that is within you. That is where you will find your true self.”
The Seeker was not sure she understood all of the Hermits words, and the conversation continued well into the night. Finally, weary from thinking and from anticipating the morrow, her eyes began to droop and fatigue overcame her.
“Sleep now, young Seeker, for tomorrow you will come to the end of your beginning, and the beginning of your end.” She fell asleep pondering his words.
© Cheryl D. Carter
Picture Credit — personal (see also www.aeclectic.net)
(Note: Some of the words of the Hermit are quoted from a comment from Plato at Plato’s Groove.)