Footsteps so faint, barely waving the lush grass, padded through the dew-struck meadows. Birds sang in this stranger’s presence, unafraid. Deer followed softly behind him, curious and calm. Mighty trees with sturdy trunks stood sentinel as their guardian passed. To these, he bowed his head reverently. For him, the trees stretched their branches high and brushed the heavens. The great winds from the four directions spoke through the rustling of the leaves, a tongue they and the stranger shared. Even the breeze aided his pilgrimage, lifted his cloak from the dew to keep it dry.
This pilgrim knew of the blessings around him, and he counted them off one by one. From the great forests came the beasts of the hunt, the deer and the elk, feeding his people. Never would they hunt more than was needed, for one must never take advantage of such a gift. Because of the forest’s generosity, his people never starved in the winter.
Not only did the forest provide, but it taught his people the skill of the hunt. The greatest of these teachers is the clever wolf. From him, the pilgrim’s people learned how to work together to bring down their prey. In turn, each family would share in this victory and be fed. Their families became like the wolves’ packs, strong together and united forever.
But the greatest teacher of the forest is the mighty tree itself. Whether a part of a forest or standing alone, he always stands tall and proud. He does not wait for someone to tell him he is great, for he already knows. He just is. Through this greatness, he provides for anyone who goes to him with respect. He offers shade from the great sun, a place to rest for the weary traveler, and a history within his bones. From him, the pilgrim’s people have learned a valuable lesson. How to stand sturdy in the face of the storms of life. As the tree resists the raging winds, does his people withstand the storms of life.
Now the pilgrim came to the glittering river, filled with currents, laced with foam. He bowed his shrouded head and whispered a soft prayer for a safe passage. Once he raised his head, the river offered stones on which to step, still damp from their watery home. Nodding a grateful thanks, the pilgrim stepped barefoot onto their slippery surface. Despite the swift currents around him, he walked straight and fearlessly, confident the water would not take him. Water lapped softly around his worn toes as he stepped, offering aid in his balance. Once he was safely on the other side, he offered praises of thanks as the river reclaimed the stones.
Oh, how the river has helped his people! Besides offering swift travel and dinner for the lucky fisherman, it teaches a lesson that rings true in the hearts of all leaders. As the currents persist, always consistent, so must be the strength and will of each good soul. Never must they give up. Never must they give in. If they keep working hard, their work their current, they can wear away any stone in their path.
The pilgrim kept going, now the earth rising in a steady incline towards his destination. He followed the wisdom of the trees on this path, inclining themselves to stay upright. Leaning forward, he pushed on. When he began to tire, his feet growing sore from slipping, he rested a weary hand upon the nearest tree. Under his fingers, the bark was rough and warm. Delicately he traced his fingers through its swirling patterns. Giving thanks for its beauty, his rested his full palm against the sturdy trunk. Reaching out his soul to the tree’s, he pleaded for help. He was not as strong, as sturdy, as he needed to be to complete his journey. Creaking joints and exhausted muscles were dragging him down.
A warm comfort spread through him as the southern wind spoke through the rustling leaves. The pilgrim knew he would be able to complete his journey, despite his lack of strength. He thanked the trees for their sturdiness in the face of trial. Though his bones creaked like the boughs of the mighty trees, they would not faulter or break.
Thus, the pilgrim continued his journey, every now and then resting a grateful hand upon the steady trees around him, praying for their strength. His mind drifted back to the glittering river, always moving forward, persisting through every obstacle. Like the river, his weary muscles persisted, step by step. He would not stop, would not rest, until he reached his destination.
Even the earth aided this lonely traveler. The higher he climbed, the stonier the ground became. His tough feet welcomed the stones underfoot, as they offered more grip than the lush, sleek grass. As the stones became more frequent, the trees slowly faded away, giving way to the beginnings of a sacred place. The trees did not completely abandon their guardian, and as they fell away, a sturdy branch appeared in the pathway. Stripped of bark and twigs by other creatures, it became a smooth staff in the pilgrim’s callused hands. With every step this staff aided, reverent praise fell from his lips.
Finally, the pilgrim’s destination came into view. The incline leveled out, now at its peak, soft dust replacing rough stone underfoot. All around was the valley where the pilgrim’s people lived and worshiped. Lush and bright, filled with meadows and miles of woodland, it was a paradise. Surrounded by rolling hills and rugged mountains, this paradise was secure.
The setting sun cast sharp shadows around this paradise, highlighting the hill crests and forest canopies. Giving his staff back to the earth, the pilgrim laid it back on the ground, for one should never take advantage of such a gift. Stepping to the edge of the peak, he stretched his arms wide and embraced the sun’s rays. Warmth and strength flooded his ancient muscles and bones. Years fell from his tired frame, and a smile spread across his worn face.
Lifetimes younger, he fell into a deep bow as the sun dipped beyond the distant mountain peaks. Warmth and strength still flooded his veins as the stars and galaxies awoke around him. As millions upon millions surrounded the pilgrim in the inky sky, he grew smaller and smaller. Here was infinity before him, and he knew nothing greater. One day, he knew his soul would travel amongst those heavens.
He folded his hands and offered praise and gratitude. As the sun gave strength and warmth, the stars within infinity bestowed serenity and humility. Oh, how good is this creation! How beautiful the world around him! His people knew peace because they knew the world in which they lived. They learned lessons from the forests and the rivers, from the heavens above and the earth below. From these, his people were able to become the best they could be.
Before his descent, the pilgrim paused to take in the glories around him. How incredibly lucky he was! How incredibly glorious this existence! Surrounded by the forests and rivers, the mighty earth, and the infinite heavens, he knew love and peace, hope and prosperity. He knew what it was to be human, yet to be more than human.
He knew he was blessed.