An old woman opened the door of a hut on the edge of a village surrounded by deep, dark forest. She stood still and silent for a few moments in the doorway, breathing in the cool air and tilting her head upwards with eyes closed so that the sunlight danced on the delicate skin of her eyelids. As she opened her eyes again she smiled a welcoming smile to the world around her before walking calmly forwards. She began an unhurried tour of the garden, moving slowly from plant to plant, stopping next to each one to whisper secret words of encouragement and gently caress their petals. Her very presence sent waves of expectancy quivering up the stems of the plants and down into the roots of the surrounding trees.
The old woman moved with a fluid grace that belied her great age. Her transition from plant to plant became a dance, with every outward gesture connected to her core and every step carrying her unhesitatingly forwards. Her eyes were as bright as twin stars and contained such depths of kindness and wisdom that even her gaze alighting on a leaf carried nourishment. Her voice emerged from the depths of her being, rich and vibrant in tone, able to transform itself from the softest of whispers to the most commanding of speech.
When she had finished her morning ritual, the woman sat down on an old wooden bench that looked as if it had been in the garden for as long as she herself had lived and breathed. She surveyed the garden around her, her focus stretching outwards to the edge of the forest and upwards to the blue sky, still criss-crossed with remnants of cloud. While her gaze could reach only to the limits of physical vision, her inner sight perceived infinitely further. From the seemingly enclosed cocoon of the garden, the old woman could hear snow melting on nearby mountains, smell fronds of seaweed being washed ashore on faraway beaches and feel the fearful joy of a baby being born in a distant village.
The delicately incongruous noise of a twig breaking in the undergrowth at the edge of her garden, an unnoticeable sound to most people’s untuned ears, brought a smile to her face and distant memories flooding into her being.
The old woman shook her head in a moment of near comic disbelief as the memories opened up within her. How long ago had it been that she, the feral girl, had arrived at the edge of this most special of gardens. How afraid had she been as she hid in the undergrowth, like a timid bird, attempting to study the old man before her. How in awe of his eyes, voice, body and very presence had she felt. It was several days before she had the courage to show herself to him and several weeks before she opened up fully to him. Talas had become her teacher, guide and most trusted of friends. He had helped her discover who she really was, what life really was and where to tread next along her path. He had even given her the name which she still carried to this day; Lilanthro.
As she allowed the memories to continue passing through her, Lilanthro remembered how she had first appeared to the villagers with her dance through the heart of the village and her story-filled singing. She remembered with poignant sadness the night of the celebration when she announced her decision to live in the village and realised that it would be Talas’s last night in his home. The following morning she and Talas had tended the garden, sat together in a silence full of emotion and breakfasted in the sunshine of a particularly enchantingly warm day. She did not question him on his decision; she knew it was how Talas wanted it to be and how it was meant to be. Talas’s home was to become her home; his garden, her garden; his life of quiet inner journeying and outer compassionate action, her life.
Tears formed briefly in her eyes as she recalled their parting; the words of love and gratitude, and the all embracing seemingly endless hug, which nevertheless did end. She remembered watching Talas as he disappeared out of the garden into the depths of the undergrowth, just as she had once appeared from it. A few moments of silence followed, during which time the loss inside her felt as if it might engulf her completely, before the sounds of children calling her name heralded the arrival of the villagers at her door and pulled her into the present moment of her new life.
The memories continued to flash by. Lilanthro had become an integral and much loved member of the village, over time as much respected as Talas had once been. Every day she tended her garden and extended this ritual to the gardens of other villagers, taking turns to bestow her blessings on each one. The children of the village sought her out to dance, sing and tell stories. Woven skilfully into these moments of play was the chance for them to explore their emotions and for Lilanthro to teach them about the world around them. The adults sought her out for her knowledge of the forest and over time they came to her for guidance on many other matters. Once in a while, when Lilanthro needed to replenish herself, she slipped quietly away for a few days of solitude in the heart of her beloved forest. But she always returned to the place and people she had grown to love unconditionally.
Lilanthro had met her husband Brahen one fateful day when she and some of the villagers were on a hunting party far from the village. Brahen came from a previously unknown village many miles away, in another valley across a distant mountain pass. He was leading his people on an exploration of new lands. As soon as the two groups met, Lilanthro knew he was special to her. When she saw him, she felt all the separate noisy strands of this world merge into one perfect note, and she felt him respond to her presence in kind.
Lilanthro and Brahen had lived many happy years together. They ventured to the mountains, the valleys, the deepest parts of the forest, the lower lands and even to the ocean. They led their people to new lands, discovered new villages and forged friendships with many new peoples. They explored the depths of love that two humans can share and, when the twins Arlea and Isaco were born, their love as parents knew no boundaries.
Another sound from the undergrowth at the edge of Lilanthro’s garden brought her back to the present. All of those golden years were now long gone; Brahen had died over ten years ago and the twins Arlea and Isaco had ventured bravely out into the world and sailed far away across the ocean. Lilanthro was now a village elder, a wise and respected old sage, whose advice was still sought frequently, although not as frequently as before. The glory days had passed and the local villages had relapsed into regressive times. Lilanthro was at peace with this shift in the human realm. She knew beyond doubt that all was as it should be and that utopia is not meant to exist forever in this world. Across immeasurably long expanses of time she could see the constant play between moments of near-perfection and moments of devastating-fall throughout all human civilisations. She knew that change is necessary for learning and imperfection necessary for growth. It had always been so and would be always be so for as long as human souls needed to live and to learn.
Now, fully engaged in the present moment, the old woman Lilanthro smiled as she felt the presence of the boy hiding in the undergrowth at the edge of her garden. She knew who he was; a quiet, humble boy from a neighbouring village who lived alone with his father now that his mother had died. Lilanthro saw how he struggled to understand the human world just as she had once done and how he struggled to reconcile the pain that he and his father lived through. She also saw the amazing gifts hidden within him. No one else was aware of these gifts, not even the boy himself. But Lilanthro knew that with her guidance he would one day grow up to be a wise, strong and compassionate man, capable of leading the villagers out of the shadows and towards the light once more.
And here he was, drawn to her though he knew not why, yet still too uncertain to approach her openly. He had been visiting her garden for the past week, watching her tend to the plants and feeling comforted by her presence. Lilanthro guessed it may be another week or two before he had the courage to step out of the undergrowth to meet her; but she had no doubt that that day would come. There was no need to rush, she felt no impatience and no judgement towards the boy. He would step forwards when he was ready and, Lilanthro knew, that was the only way that anyone in this world ever grew; when they were ready.
So, she continued to smile to herself and allowed her gaze to drift in his direction for the briefest of moments, knowing he would shiver as he felt her eyes wash over him. Then she continued her day of contemplation and love-infused living.
Before Lilanthro had ever been born, throughout her whole life and far into the distant future, a multi-coloured thread weaves a never-ending tapestry of ever-changing forms. The feral girl, wise woman, Lilanthro had been but a moment of white and golden beauty emerging briefly into glory. Now it would soon be her time to fade, just as it had been Talas’s time before her. But the thread will continue its dance onwards and all will be as it must rightfully be in this world.
An end is always a new beginning; is that not what this imperfectly perfect world teaches us every day?