Once, and never yet again, there was a land, and it was green.
It was green and it was old, much older than the people who now lived there knew or hoped; and it was deep, and it was wise.
The land was alive. It had a heart that would beat in rhythm to the stars above, the stars below and far away; and it dreamed of many things, spoke of many more, and knew the roads travelled, the journey and the destination.
In a small village, in a deep valley that stretched for many, many miles, there lived a young boy who had been chosen to become the one who speaks to spirits, knows the land, and tells the others of his tribe what they should do.
From a young age, the elders made him sit on a hilltop by the village and listen to the spirits, so he would learn to listen, and then understand as time went by, as seasons turned and he would grow to be a man, a leader, all his life mapped out the moment he was born, from moon to moon, from sun to sun, from day to night, each moment known before it ever happened.
So the boy was taken to the hilltop every day, and every night, and there had to sit and listen to the spirits, to the land, whilst other children played, and sang, and slept and dreamed, but all the boy was told to do was listen.
He was a serious child, a good child, and he listened; but all he heard was the wind in the trees, the wind in the grass, the sounds of creatures, small and large, near and far; sometimes he would hear the laughter of the other children on the wind, and sometimes, he would hear other voices, raised in anger or in fear, and very rarely, raised in love.
He listened hard, and he heard the sound of the brook in the valley below, and he would hear the sound of raindrops falling to the earth. In cold nights, he would hear the fire crackle, but spirits he heard never once, not once in all the days and nights and years he sat and listened.
The elders would come and bring him food, and always, always they would ask what the spirits had told him, what he had heard, but the child heard nothing but the wind and the sounds of the world, and he would tell them so, and his little heart would ache and ache as they looked down upon him in disgust, in disappointment, and shook their old wise heads, and muttered as they went away, not knowing that the child could hear, hear every word they said, for he had practised listening since he was taken here and made to sit and listen.
And so there came the day when the boy was grown enough to know a lie, and so there came the day when once again, the elders asked, and the boy answered, told them what they wanted to hear, and there, the elders danced with joy, they smiled and touched him full of gladness, and finally, they took him down from his hilltop into the village, and a great feast was had in the boy's honour, and he was finally given a name, based on his first message from the spirits, but it was all a lie, and only the boy knew this, and he kept the secret to himself to make the people happy.
The people came to him to find the answers from the spirits and he would give them answers that would make them glad.
When a woman came with a small child, new born, and asked of that child's fate, and her eyes would be wide and she would wait, breath held, the boy would close his eyes, and he would hear the summer birds above and all the sounds around and he would tell the woman that the spirits loved her child, that it was blessed; and the woman would be grateful, filled with joy and love her child more than before.
When a hunter came and asked where forest creatures could be found for meat and fur, the boy would close his eyes and listen, and he would point the hunter in the right direction where he'd heard the sounds of forest creatures, and he would tell the hunter that the spirits loved him, that the hunt was blessed, and the hunter would leave, with a shine in his eyes and happy feet, strong arms and a happy heart.
When an old woman came to ask the spirits about her ailing husband, the boy would listen to the old man's faltering heart and ragged breath, and he would tell the old woman that the spirits were excited for they would take her husband home and love him there, and hold him safe until she came to join them; and the old woman would cry but she would be glad too, and so would her husband when she told him of the spirit's love.
For all the village, the boy was the best leader they had ever known, and they were happy beyond happy in their world.
The boy grew to be a youngster, then a young man, then a man and then an old man, and in all that time, he never heard the spirits talking to him once, and he never saw a spirit manifest, not once.
His eyes grew dimmer, and his hearing wasn't what it once had been, but still he told the people the messages of spirit, for in his mind, the sounds and images were clearer now than they had ever been. Now, people came from far and wide to hear the messages, and not just his own village, but all the lands known to the very ends of the earth itself were living by his words.
And so the time, it came, that the elders spoke to him and said that it was time to find a new child, to take over when the spirit talker had moved on into the otherworld, and that he should choose a one that would be just as wise and wonderful as he had been.
Deep in his heart, the spirit talker sighed so deeply, he nearly sighed himself away altogether right there and then, for his knowledge and his burden had been great, it had worn him down, and never did he wish his fate upon a child, or any child, not now, not ever, not in any way.
To buy himself some time, he had the villagers carry his old body to the hilltop, where once the little boy had sat and tried and tried to hear the spirits, so far away in time and yet, so here and now.
The villagers and many visitors made a great procession and carried the old spirit talker to the hilltop. They surrounded him with flowers, precious oils and wondrous food, with soothing blankets and with many trinkets; they sang and danced for a very long time, and finally, they went away.
The old spirit talker was alone on the hilltop, and the stars that night were so bright that even with his old eyes, he saw them sparkling like the brightest crystals, and they were so beautiful, that he could not help but cry.
He had not cried since he had been a frightened boy, right here on this old hilltop, that night before he made the decision to lie to the people, and to tell them that he had heard the spirits, when they had never spoken, not at all.
He cried for all the years of lying to the people; of all the years of lonliness, of never being able to share his burden and the truth with anyone, not his beloved wife, and not his children, even when they were full grown, and full of love for him.
He cried for a life that had been nothing but a lie, and he was just about to cry himself into the next life when a sudden wind sprang up; it whirled the flowers, whirled the blankets, whirled the food and all the trinkets, shocked the old man from his misery, brought him back to his senses.
“What is this?” he cried, trying to hold on to his covering blanket, trying to see through the storm that was swirling around him, multicoloured spinning, all around, with him right in the centre of the storm.
The swirling intensified even more, creating a wall of flashing colours that receded, creating a space inside, and the sounds of the storm turned to whispers, far away, and the old man found himself sitting in a pool of stillness.
“What is this?” he whispered, clasping his blanket closer, looking around, and to be sure, now sensing an excitement growing inside of him, for he had been and lived so long, he thought he knew all there was to know; he thought he had experienced all there was to experience, and to be here, to be a part of something altogether new, it woke him up and sharpened all his senses.
There was a movement to his left; he turned his head, and from the wall of multicoloured spinning lights there stepped quite slowly a white wolf.
The pointy nose appeared first, followed by soft dark eyes that were reflecting all the lights; the pointed white ears, a little pink inside; a creature of such elegance and beauty, it quite took the old man's breath away.
Slowly, the white wolf emerged until its sweeping tail had cleared the colour storm; it came closer and then it sat down, facing the old man squarely on.
He looked into the white wolf's eyes and saw himself reflected there, the colour storm around them, but also the diamond stars and so much more, a universe of all things that he felt he could fall into and dissolve there altogether.
The white wolf spoke.
“It is time,” it said, and its voice seemed to be a part of the ground, of the sky, of everything, and it was inside, outside, above, below and all around.
The old man could not speak; he could not question; he could not think at all and so he gave up trying. He became soft, with a deep sigh, he released his grip on the blanket, and it gently slid to the ground.
He sighed again, and yet again, and it was as though a lifetime of burdens slipped away, and all those things that he had feared, battled, worried about and never understood now simply fell away and he could breathe again, could breathe like he just barely now remembered, breathe like a child, breathe like he did, before they carried him to this very mountain top and left him there alone.
The old man found his voice and said, “You are a spirit.”
The white wolf slowly lowered its beautiful head in acquisiton.
The old man said slowly, “You are my spirit? My spirit guide?”
The white wolf responded with a sense of smiling, “I am.”
“Why?” now cried the old man, “Why? Why did you not come to me when I needed you? Why did you not come? Why did you not help me? And why are you here now, when everything has been and done, and everything is now too late?”
The white wolf bowed its head, got up and slowly walked around the old man in a circle, before returning to face him. It settled down into a lying position, with its paws straight out in front, and the hind legs beneath.
It nuzzled briefly at one of its perfect paws and then the white wolf said, “You are a very old soul. This was your final mission, your final test of truth, of pureness of heart, and of love.”
The old man shook his head. “Who would set such a mission? Who would make such cruelty? Who?”
The white wolf said calmly, “It was you. You wrote your final destination.”
And there, the old man began to remember something from before, from high above and far away, a story that was written a very long time ago. A memory came to him, of sitting on this very hilltop but on a different level, on another plane, and there was a fire of many colours dancing, and there was the white wolf, his spirit guide and his best friend, declaring that it would be hard, quite break its heart, to stay away and watch the suffering that must ensue without the power to make any changes there.
Together, the old man and the white wolf watched the spirit talker's life unfold and how he had never faltered in his love for his people; had carried the burdens without complaint and how the consequences of his actions had rippled far and wide, creating a most beautiful tapestry of love that touched so many, healed so many, uplifted so many and made the entire world a better place.
It was a thing of beauty; of innocence and power all the same; the tapestry was perfect and now nearly all complete.
“You did all that, just with a loving heart,” the white wolf said in admiration, and it got up and snuggled to the old man, who put his arm about it and drew it closer.
They stayed together for a timeless time and talked in waves of colours, and of love; and when the dawn broke, the white wolf left and the colour storm began to fade and fade, until it was all gone, and all there was, was a beautiful sunrise across the wide valleys beyond, and scattered belongings fluttering in the grass.
Later that morning, the villagers returned to collect their spirit talker; and later that week, the spirit talker found a girl child who would be their next leader, a quiet girl with thoughtful eyes that held the starry skies within.
(c) Silvia Hartmann 2015/2019