The Traveler

A harsh light from the noon-day sun washed over a little grove of pine trees. The air was exceptionally clean, and the trees reached up into clear, blue sky. The light also revealed a middle-aged man, lying on the ground in the space between the trees.

He had been asleep for a long time – most of the day. He was awake now, and blinking his eyes, while a wondering look appeared on his face. He looked up at the tall trees, and turned around in circles gazing at both ground and sky. By appearance, he could have been anyone: his clothes were plain, his hair short-cut brown, his face lightly tanned from the sun. But something about his eyes was far from ordinary. They would have arrested any onlooker who had seen him at that moment.

As he stood, something in his eyes darkened, and they took on a normal appearance again. An accurate judge of character might have described this change as a result of becoming “grounded again in reality”. For the glade was no longer a bizarre, strange place to the man. Now he knew how he had come there, and why.

His first action was to close his eyes, while he reviewed something in his mind. Maybe it was a plan of attack, or maybe it was a prayer of some kind. His temples twitched with activity, and his cheeks were very tense. Then suddenly, as if a cloud passed over the bright sun of his mental activity – and indeed an actual cloud did pass over the sun at that moment – his composure became entirely calm. It was a calmness that nullified any tensions of any kind. The feeling spread out in waves, touching the plants and transforming the air. A religionist might have described the feeling as “hallowed”, or sacred. The stillness acted like a gravitational force, drawing in all of the conflicting energies of nature from the forest and the wind. Ultimately, the silence was complete. Not a thing moved. Even the insects seemed to have been transfixed by the depth of his concentration.

Then it broke. With a slow sigh he let go of the stillness, and allowed the normal tensions of his body to move back into the face and hands. A look of dismay, but at the same time one of curiosity, played into his eyes. He turned toward the north, and began walking away from the open space, into the trees.