This, being the 50th chapter of these stories, seemed like a good time to revisit the true origin of my Sacred Garden, and to see how that coincides with my own recollection of its origin.
We join Kev and our Dear Caesar Emeritus now, as they snuggle and settle in for the moon greeting, within the northeastern plains of Lemmington. It was their intention to spend the next sun greeting shopping in the Lemmington Town Square, then to return to their homes in the beloved Xanadu Forest straight after, having been away on quite an extended journey. Kev was about to extinguish the little fire they had built, but Dear Caesar, the Baloo-eyed Akita, had asked him to keep the fire burning a little longer, if he didn't mind. For Dear Caesar, you see, as they were journeying through Interterrestria, had stumbled onto a particularly interesting story he had just completed translating from the Dead Tree Scrolls.
"So, Mr. Kev," Dear Caesar began, "My most recent translation from the Dead Tree Scrolls was most fascinating. I wondered if I might ask you a few questions about your Sacred Garden?" Then the Baloo-eyed Akita rummaged through his satchel and shuffled and reshuffled a stack of Dead Tree Scrolls, and sat down in front of the light of their little fire.
"Well, of course," Kev replied, without hesitation, "You always know you can ask me anything. I'm an open book, you know." Kev chuckled, believing he was being quite clever.
The humor completely eluded Dear Caesar Emeritus, of course, and he simply continued, "Very well. So first off, didn't you say there was once a cottage in your Sacred Garden?"
"Yes," Kev answered, again without hesitation, "It was already there when we arrived. We did not build it. And we never slept in it. We had the Royal Bed under the large tree outside."
"I see," Dear Caesar said pensively, "Do go on. What happened to the cottage?"
"Well," Kev went on, "We only ever used the cottage for guests. A season came about when snakes began to sneak into the Sacred Garden, and a wicked spirit with eyes of coal would watch down at us from the upstairs window of the cottage. So we tore down the cottage and replaced it with the Persian rug that's still there. Rod Stewart was the last guest to stay there, while he was rehabbing from knee surgery."
"Interesting," Dear Caesar mumbled, then asked, "And the two trees behind your Sacred Garden...they are identical, no?"
"Indeed," Kev replied. "They are identical in every way--even in their fruit. They stand directly across from one another on each side of my sister the River. We didn't notice the twin trees until quite some time after we had lived there, though. Andrew actually pointed them out to me."
"On one of his visits?" Dear Caesar asked.
"No," Kev replied, "he actually used to live with us for quite a while--he AND Casey the Cardinal. They left when I did, the first time...when I ran away."
"This is truly fascinating," the Baloo-eyed Akita concluded. "Now the last question: would you like me to read you the story I just translated from the Dead Tree Scrolls?"
"Well of course I would!" Kev exclaimed. "I don't believe you've ever read me a story before. This will be a pleasant change." So Kev lie down gently by Dear Caesar Emeritus' side so that he could feel the Akita's warmth.
Dear Caesar, for his part, edged closer to the fire for better lighting, and he began reading from the Dead Tree Scrolls. "It is simply called 'Origins,' there is no other description. Anyhoo, here it goes:"...
"Long ago, in another age, a father lived in a cottage with his son, in the midst of a vast realm of wilderness. Now the father, feeling weak and tired in his bones, knew that he would soon have to leave this body for another age; but he did not wish to burden his son's heart with that sort of sadness. He decided, instead, to send the boy away, since the boy had become of age already. 'Son,' the father called softly, 'Come sit with me on the back steps of the cottage and meditate and watch the setting sun with me once more...for with the rising sun I must send you away.' The son was immediately troubled, but he didn't question his father or even speak at all when he sat down next to him on the steps, and stared into the falling sun. The two, father and son alike, sat in silence for quite some time and watched as the sun finally disappeared beneath the horizon. Constellations began to appear, one by one, and they pointed and traced them out with their fingers and smiled, but still they did not speak.
After many hours, the father put his arm around the boy's shoulder and finally spoke, 'My son, you have grown in wisdom and stature, and I am most proud of you. I have done my best to teach you everything that I can--and, indeed, you have perhaps learned even better than I have taught you--but there are mysteries in life that can only be learned by way of journey and experience. You have come of age, and there is no more I can teach you here. If I were to allow you to stay here with me any longer, I would be doing you a great disservice. I would be holding you back, as well as the rest of this world. For you see, my dear son, you have many brothers and sisters to meet--and cousins--lots and lots of cousins!' With that the father stood, and extended his hand toward his son, and lifted him to his feet, and pointed to the sun that was now beginning to rise from the front side of the cottage.
The son looked on at the rising of the sun, and a tear began to fall from the corner of his eye. The father wiped the boy's tear away, smiled softly, and kissed his son on the forehead. The boy finally spoke, 'I'm going to miss you, father. I love you. Always. Thank you.' And the boy's head fell gently into his father's warm embrace.
The father held back his own tears by squeezing his son tighter, and finally spoke, 'I love you always too, my son. Do not be afraid. Wherever your journey takes you, whomever you may meet, tell them you are on a journey for the secret to life. Your heart will know who to trust, for I have already shown you the way. And I will see you again someday, my dear son. Be assured of that always. The boy was about to burst into tears, but his father stopped him, 'This is no time for sadness, my son. It is a time of excitement!...for you are soon to discover the meaning of life. Now go, my lovely son. Do not dwell on these feelings. Find YOUR life's journey, and I'll meet you again once you've found it.' With that, the son wandered off into the wilderness, and did not look back. The father looked on smiling."
Dear Caesar stopped reading for a moment and noticed that the flames of their little fire were reflecting off a tear that now streamed down Kev's cheek. The Baloo-eyed Akita then gently wiped away the tear with his massive paw, and massaged Kev's shoulder ever so softly. Kev snuggled closer, then the reading of the story continued:
"As the boy wandered further into the wilderness, and the cottage had fallen quite far out of view, he spotted a Raven that seemed to be following him, but stayed mostly hidden within the trees. He tried his best not to think of anything at all, and focus only on the workings of his heart...for he instinctively knew that's what his father would have instructed him to do.
The first person the boy met on his journey was a great brown bear--a very kind and gentle one. The bear was resting on the ground next to a great oak tree, and the boy's presence did not startle the bear in the least. 'Well, hello there, young man,' the bear greeted him. 'I have not seen you in these parts of he woods before, but you are most welcome in my kingdom.' The bear gestured for the boy to sit down next to him beneath the great oak tree.
The boy did so graciously, and thanked the bear. 'My father has sent me out into the world on my journey to discover the secret of life. Do you have any advice for me?'
'Hmm,' the bear grumbled softly, 'Well, we bears are not so wise when it comes to such deep and meaningful things. We know the value of rest, though--we are very good at resting! Oh, and we know our bark, nuts, berries, and seeds as well as anyone--if not better! And we are great tree climbers. I could teach you these things, if you like.'
'That would be very kind of you, if you wouldn't mind,' the boy replied. Surely there is value in all these things. I can already feel the value of resting as I sit here next to you.' The boy and the great brown bear spent many seasons together, and the boy learned to climb trees like a bear, and he learned all varieties of bark, nuts, berries and seeds. He learned all forms of sweetness, tartness, and even how to tell whether the next new season would be coming earlier or later in a given planetary cycle. Most importantly, the boy learned to rest. He learned to sleep through the entire winters even, with the comfort of his friend, the great brown bear. When their final season together had finally drawn to a close, boy and bear embraced, and it was no sad parting. The boy assured the bear they would meet again, when the time was right. The great brown bear kissed the boy on the forehead, and deeper into the wilderness did the boy wander.
The boy ventured beyond the land of the Great Oaks, and Sycamores, and Maples, and eventually into the land of the Spruce, the Birch, and the Alders. There he met a wolf--again, a kind and gentle one. Rather, the wolf had met the boy, for the wolf had been tracking him for many days, and only revealed himself to the boy at the proper time. 'You come here with a purpose, young man, my heart can feel it,' the wolf finally spoke. 'I welcome you to our kingdom.'
'Yes, sir, and thank you,' the boy replied. 'My father sent me out into the wilderness on my journey to discover the secret of life. Have you any advice for me?' the boy asked, as he sat down before the kind and gentle wolf.
The wolf sat only upon its hind legs, directly in front of the boy's eyes, so that they could look deeply into one other's hearts. 'With we wolves, our wisdom and strength lies within the pack--in fact, our very survival depends upon it. That is your first lesson, my new friend.'
'But you came to me alone,' the boy replied.
'To your senses still sleeping, it seems that way, yes,' the wolf spoke. 'My pack has been tracking you for many days. They are surrounding us now, even as we speak, for many miles around us. Were you a danger to us, you would have been destroyed long ago. My pack has decided you were sent to us so that we could help you, and they chose me to teach you now. Are you ready to learn, young man?'
'I believe I am, yes,' the boy answered.
'Good,' the wolf spoke softly. 'Now close your eyes, and take my paw. I want you to listen for my heartbeat--not feel for it.' The boy did so, but could not hear it. 'No,' the wolf continued, 'You are trying to see. And think. You must listen. Shut off all your other senses, for the moment. That's it, you're almost there. I can feel your other senses shutting down. Good, good. Now listen.'
'I believe I can hear it!' the boy exclaimed. And he began to open his eyes and smile.
'Excellent,' said the wolf. 'Now I want you to feel my heart, and not listen,' the wolf added, and he withdrew his paw from the boy's hand. 'No thinking, no hearing, so seeing. Just feel.'The boy did so, and the boy did feel the wolf's heart. The wolf smiled. Then the wolf spoke again, 'Now stretch out your feelings, further, and much further still. No other senses right now. Find another heartbeat, off in the distance. One that feels very much like my own, but is different. Yes! You are doing great, my friend.'
'I really felt it,' the boy stated proudly. He kept his eyes closed. 'It was like yours, but it felt different. Only a little different.'
'You just met my wife, young man,' the wolf explained. 'Good, very very good. Now shut off your feeling, create a thread--just a singe thread--and attach your heart to your ears, and try and listen to my wife's heart. Shut off all other senses...only hear. No feeling, this moment.'
The boy succeeded in hearing the wolf wife's heart, and was very grateful to be learning such things. 'I heard another heart though, too. A much smaller one, much faster, and a much higher frequency.'
'You are an excellent learner, young man,' the wolf replied, 'for you have found the heart of the Raven that has been tracking you since you left on your journey. She watches over you, keeps you safe...though it is not time for you to know her yet. She has driven away many that would have misguided you, and caused you great harm. Thank her with all of your heart every day.' The wolf drew close to the boy, and sat down next to him, and placed his foreleg over the boy's shoulder. 'I have but one exercise left for you, then I must send you off on your journey. We will watch over you until you reach the land of the Cottonwoods and Willows, and the River Birch, though you will not see us. You will feel and hear us. You will be on your own after that.'
'But you can teach me so much more,' the boy almost cried. 'I'm not ready to leave you yet.'
'I have taught you just enough, young man, my new friend,' the wolf gently replied. 'We wolves are hunters. You are no hunter; you are a young man. To teach you more right now would only endanger you, and perhaps even us, one day. It would be a most terrible tragedy if either of us were ever put in a position in which we'd have to harm one another. Trust me, it's better this way. Now, please, close your eyes, and practice your last exercise.' The boy cleared his mind completely, and closed his eyes, and waited for further instruction from the wolf. 'Now,' the wolf continued, "I want you to shut off all your senses completely for just a moment. All of them.'
'Done,' the boy assured the wolf, who was still next to him with his foreleg around his shoulder.
'Good,' my lovely young man. 'Now, turn on your hearing. Do not listen for the frequency of a heart...listen for a whisper...far off in the distance. A higher frequency, not quite as soft as that of a heart. Keep your eyes closed--and do not speak--but point in the direction it comes from once you believe you have found it.' The boy found it, and pointed accordingly. 'Good, very good, my young man,' the wolf finally spoke. 'Now open your eyes, and indeed, all of your senses. That was the River you were hearing, and that is the direction you must go. You must find her.'
And so the boy and the wolf parted ways, and the boy found his way to the River many days' journey later. Exhausted, and grateful for all he had learned, the boy fell asleep next to the River, and he slept for many seasons. As he slept, the River whispered many things into his heart: she spoke of the wisdom of Love and compassion, and all things gratitude. At one point, she even revealed to him that she was truly his sister--though he would soon forget this fact, only to remember it again many ages later.
When the boy finally awoke from his long slumber, he believed he was still dreaming. But he was not. A Raven lie upon his chest, then flew off into the trees. He sat up, and a Bee hovered in front of him. The Bee spoke, 'You have had a long journey, and now it is time for you to find your journey's secret of life. Are you ready?'
'Yes,' the boy replied, and he rubbed his eyes. 'I believe that I am.'
The Bee gestured for the boy to stand up, and He directed him to the two twin tries that stood directly across one another on either side of the River. 'You must eat of the fruit of one of these two trees. The fruit of one of them will provide you with the secret of life for eternity; the fruit of the other tree will surely kill you. I cannot help you decide. The choice must be yours, and yours alone.'
'But the trees are identical in every way, even down to the fruit,' the boy stalled. 'There is no possible way for me to know which is the right one.'
'Indeed,' the Bee simply said. And He added, 'Choose wisely. There is no hurry.' Then the Bee landed upon the boy's shoulder.
After much thought and feeling, and all manner of senses indeed, the boy finally decided to eat of the fruit from the tree across the River, because he felt it would be nice to pass through his sister, at least one time (the boy remembered still, that this River was his sister, though he would soon forget).
The boy ate of the fruit, and he fell, and his hand fell into his sister, the River. Before his eyes fell completely shut, he saw the Bee hovering in front of his face. 'Father?' was the boy's last word in that age. At some point, long, long, after the boy's fall, the Bee stung him. The Bee became the boy, and the boy became a man...no longer young."
Dear Caesar Emeritus smiled to himself as the story concluded, and Kev lie beside him snoring--not nearly as gently as the Baloo-eyed Akita would have liked. Dear Caesar put out the fire, snuggled with Kev, and they shared another moon greeting of sweet, sweet slumber.
Life is beautiful, beautiful indeed.
Thank you for joining me on this journey.
I love you.