He woke up at the foot of the mountain near the river. As the mists cleared from in front of his eyes he knew that he was once more drawn into the dreamworld. He could hear her name in the wind as it laid the leaves down across the bridge like breadcrumbs. Instinctively he follows the trail onto the wooden deck. Each leaf was imprinted with a symbol that represented a quality of his true love. Beauty, loyalty, passion, intelligence, creativity and joy and more. As walked further across the bridge collecting the leaves the symbols kept adding new traits to the list. As he reached the center he looked up from the last leaf. She looked back at him with her own basket of leaves in her arms. The mountain mists rolled between them as the real world pulled them from the bridge. Each awoke in their own bed with memory of the other’s perfect eyes looking into their own.
Later that same morning as he was driving to his new job he came to the crossing. His foggy memory of previous night’s dream was still fresh in his mind but he couldn’t recall the details. The fog obscured all but the bridge’s threshold as he stopped his truck in the middle of the quiet country road and stepped out. Just as he was beginning to recognize the structure a single leaf drops from the forest and disappears into the fog. Curious about what was happening he starts walking across. Before he takes his second step she emerges holding the single leaf. It was only when their eyes met that they recalled the dream.
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I exited the highway and slowly drifted down the muddy road. A few days prior I’d spotted the tunnel. The entrance is dark and foreboding. The Virginia Creeper vines hang across the opening as if they’re daring me to step within reach. Just on the other side the light falls gently on a peaceful looking forest. This is a mystery. My mind harkens back to my childhood and games of dungeons and dragons. What will happen if I cross the threshold? Will the vines try to grab me and pull me up into some primeval jungle? Will I find out the peaceful scene on the other side is just an illusion as I’m transported to an alternate reality by some mystical gateway? Will I find an angry axe wielding ogre waiting to squish me into jelly? My sense of fantasy and adventure begins to run wild. I began to recall hours of solving puzzles and riddles with my college friends in a world where one’s fate was controlled by the roll of a 20 sided die. It was pure escapism. Magical swords, cursed rings and legendary beasts all awaited us on Thursday nights in the student lounge.
The best games were the ones where we bent the rules just a little to keep the story going. I was tempted to temp fate and enter the tunnel for a few minutes. I quickly checked my pocket and found my trusty Victorinox Swiss Army Knife to fend away the vines. However, I remembered that the 20 sided die was lost to a wild roll and an open floor vent in 1988. Unwilling to face any axe wielding ogres without my lucky die, I opted to stay in the real world…for now. I turned my big blue truck back towards the open road and my day job where the vines don’t try to eat you. However, I am a little suspicious of the ficus in the corner of the office. 😉
When I can’t really get out for some down time I take a moment for a mental vacation. Let me share one with you today in my thoughts below.
Warm sunshine and cool waters fill my thoughts. I long for the salty air and the cry of the seabirds. My only goal for the day should be to finish a good book with my toes in the sand. The ocean breeze washes over me as the crashing waves drown out whispers of the to do list. Responsibilities are for those who are imprisoned. Today I am free.
As a child I used dream that I could fly. The dreams were always very vivid. I could feel the inertia as I banked through the clouds. Every time I stand by this spot between two skies I’m taken back to those dreams and I know that one day I’ll hear a trumpet summoning me to “come up hither” and in the twinkle of an eye I’ll be soaring between two skies.
A morning stop at the junction of the Gauley River, New River and the Kanawha River was rewarded with a display of the mists rising up from the surrounding mountains. Fog and mists are inspiration for the imagination. While looking at the scene before my eyes it was easy to conjure up what it must have been like during the settlement era. There were no houses or roads. Just the river and the tree covered mountains with the occasional rocky ledge. If I close my eyes and focus on the image I can hear a Shawnee playing his flute as he sits on the bank. He’s working on a love song for his true love, drawing inspiration from the song birds. The tune has to be perfect because it’s the only dowry he has. I can also smell the fire from his camp as his breakfast cooks. He’s having fish from the weir he made yesterday. He’s wrapped the fish in wild aromatic herbs and the scent is amazing. The leaves of Carolina Allspice impart a lemon flavor to meal.
The young warrior pauses to make a mental note of the tune and turns towards his meal. He pretends not to notice that she has been watching him the whole time. He smiles as he watches her reflection in the calm pool along the river’s edge. Playfully he calls out, “If only there was someone who would share this meal with me!” With slight giggle his true love emerges from edge of the bushes. They embrace and I am called back to the real world. I pulled my truck back onto the highway and began my morning commute. However, as I did could have sworn that I saw the two lovers reflected in the river.
After learning the secret written in the stone. I began to make my calculations. The maiden was carefully observing my every action as I removed the jackknife from my pants pocket and started scraping small shavings from the log where she had been seated. Ever so cautiously I collected them in the tail of my shirt. Next I would need a large piece bark and dead twigs from a nearby elder bush. I cut a notch in the bark just like my grandfather had taught me as a child and began to spin a twig in the notch. In no time at all I had a hot coal and was able to sustain it with the shavings. I took the next twig which longer split it perfectly in half. The pithy center was easy to remove and once that was done I bound them together with strands of the tall grass in meadow. I studied the broken dulcimer and committed it’s outline to memory. As I worked I looked up and saw the maiden looking onward in amazement and the raven still circled me above the trees. I placed the first hot coal on the dry wood and began to kindle it with the elder blow tube. I occasionally stepped back to the stone and checked the mathematical formulas carved there by ancient hand that was long since gone. The legacy written was instructions for a new dulcimer. The precision burning of the wood and removal of the char would need to be perfect. I became so involved with the task at hand that time lost all meaning. There was only the fire and the wood and my breath. Periodically a large drop of sweat would fall into the coal and erupt with a long stream of steam. With the jackknife I would put the finishing touches on the piece. Hand carved dovetails to hold it together and keys for tuning the strings recovered from the old one. There it was. My dreamworld had a new voice. I turned to the maiden and offered my finished product along with the parchment entrusted to me by the raven. She spoke not a word but the newfound joy in her eyes was the most profound expression of gratitude I ever experienced. Her eyes danced over the open scroll as she read the music. Then, she tuned the instrument to perfect pitch and took a breath. As she played the first few notes that gray sky rolled back and the birds all began to sing with her. The newly awoken sun pushed back the remaining clouds. With my task completed I began to make the return journey back to the waking world. As I approached the iron gate a now familiar shadow passed overhead. As turned to cast one last gaze on my dreamworld the raven landed on the road. He spoke in a raspy voice. “There is more to see here. You are as much a part of this world as you part of the one beyond that gate. You are the Fireweaver and a prince of the dreamworld.”
The drone of the alarm clock grew more intense as I slowly rose from my bed. The sun was shining through the blinds and just outside my window I could hear a mockingbird singing a song that was oddly familiar…
I walked down the silent road with only a plume of dust to mark my passage. The gray world around me seemed so empty and lost. Nothing seemed to move now. No insects in the grass and only the giant raven in the sky. He circled around as he lead me back to the beginning of the road. When I came to the head of the road I looked around. The birds sat still in the trees. If it had not been for the occasional flash of feathers as they shifted position I would have been convinced that a flock of stuffed birds had been placed on the edge of the dark forest surrounding this strange highway in the dreamworld. The raven lighted in a majestic but ancient and gnarled tree. His red eyes flashed at me and he nodded to a dimly lit path in the wood. I understood that he could guide me no farther in this quest. Will a bit of angst I stepped inside the woods and looking towards the place where the light fell away I saw her. Dressed all in white and crying as she sat on a fallen log. At her feet lay a broken dulcimer. And then I knew the answer. She was the voice of this world. And without the dulcimer that voice was gone. The birds could not wake the morning sun and the clouds ruled the day. Silence is not always golden. As she wept quietly I approached her with cautious anticipation. When she noticed me standing on the edge of the path she wasn’t startled. She looked up at me in desperation and gestured to the shattered remains of her joy lying in pieces. I opened my mouth to speak words of comfort but no sound came from my throat. She took me by the hand and pulled me to a large stone in forest. We cleared away centuries of moss and there carved into the granite more strange symbols. I studied them for a moment and realized that I knew the meaning.
To be continued