The Voice of Night – Reclaiming the Castle

woods-clearingI had a remarkable dream, one night. I dreamed I was attending an herbalist convention, held at a camp in the middle of a northeastern forest. There were both men and women there, all of us deeply committed to the healing arts. The main lectures took place in a medium-sized camp hall, where about nine rows of folding chairs were set up in front of a podium. There were other workshops and classes on the schedule, in other small buildings around the camp. But the main discussions and speeches took place in that main hall.

I had been listening to lectures about herbs all day, and I was tired of so many words. So, I got up and took a walk in the woods to stretch my legs. I walked a long way, through the hardwood forest, the ground soft with many seasons of fallen leaves, as well as the ferns and moss common on the Eastern Seaboard. I walked farther than I realized, though, and soon I found I was lost. I stopped and looked around, but could see nothing but trees, could hear nothing but the wind stirring in the leaves, as well as little creatures scampering across the forest floor.

As I turned and looked around, I suddenly caught sight of a part of the ground that seemed to be dug up, off at a distance of some 100 yards. I walked closer to it, wary, but I could see or hear no other humans or sign of danger. As I came closer, I realized it was a huge pit dug in the forest floor — rectangular and stone-lined, it reminded me of an immense swimming pool, or an inverted castle submerged in the ground. The top of the pit was flush with the forest floor, and it went down many feet into the earth. The stones that lined it were perfectly cut and set together, and the whole structure was about 20×30 yards in size. I crept closer and closer to it, still not certain what this was. As I came to the edge, I looked down, and saw it had water sitting in it. I couldn’t tell how much, but there was a good deal — brown, almost brackish, but surprisingly inviting.

For some reason, I thought it would be refreshing to take a dip in this pool in the middle of the woods. I wasn’t sure why, but it beckoned to me. I was hot and sweaty and stiff from sitting all day in that camp hall, and a swim seemed like just the thing. If I got dirty from the water, I thought, I could always go back and wash off. I jumped in with my clothes on.

The moment I hit the water, I was flooded with an intense sensation of wholeness. It wasn’t just a sense of well-being — it was intense and almost overwhelming sense of oneness, of fullness and no awareness of lack or limitation of any kind at all. I was free. I splashed around in the water, did backstrokes and somersaults, and paddled around, filled with a sense unlike anything I’d ever had before. My whole being was suffused with a sense of peace, safety, well-being — a Divine sense of consummate satisfaction that calmed every irritation and smoothed every wrinkle of worry from my being. I could hardly believe it. This brackish water, which at first sight looked tainted with rotting leaves, filled me with joy beyond any expression.

I swam from one end of the pool to the other, testing the depth of the water. In one place, it would be six inches deep, in another it would be too deep for me to reach the bottom. Every square yard of the pool had a slightly different bottom, and I tested the depths with serene pleasure. I splashed and dove and played for almost an hour.

Then I decided it was time to get out. It was getting dark, and I thought I’d better get back to my conference and finish out the day’s lectures. I pulled myself out of the pool, dripping, blissful, and amazed at the experience. I could hardly believe this had happened to me, and I thanked whatever or whoever had led me there, for allowing me to experience this bliss.

I looked up, then, and saw two women watching me. They were middle-aged, with long, grey-streaked hair filled with twigs, leaves, and moss. Their faces were smudged, and they wore long burlap-like dresses that were tattered around the edges. Their skin was weathered and dark, but their eyes were clear and bright. They introduced themselves to me as the ones who were excavating this ‘site’. They said they were anthropologists who had been searching for Camelot all their lives, and they finally located it here. “That pool you were swimming in,” they said, “is Camelot. It’s always been here, and it’s still here for anyone who needs it.”

I was flabbergasted, speechless. I didn’t know what to say. They told me that they’d been working on this dig for years, now, and it was finally ready for others to experience. It was time to start telling people about it. They said I should go back to my workshop and not hide what I’d found. At the same time, though, I shouldn’t tell just anyone about this place. “Not everybody is ready for this,” they said. “Not everybody will want it, either.” I couldn’t imagine anyone not wanting what I’d found here, but they insisted I be selective in whom I told, while not being reluctant to discuss Camelot with those who were genuinely interested. Then they told me to go back, and I bid them good-bye. I said I would see them later, and they said, perhaps I would.

I returned to the camp, my clothes dry from walking briskly. When I got back, I could hardly wait to tell people about my experience — yet I wasn’t sure whom to approach. Besides, it was time for the keynote speaker, Patrick Stewart, the actor who plays Captain Jean-Luc Picard on the television show, “Star Trek – The Next Generation”. My head was in a whirl the whole time he spoke, but I picked up some of what he said.

He told us that although he played a starship captain on television, we herbalists were actually doing the same work as his co-players on the show — making inroads in whole new areas of life, and making it possible for humanity to expand beyond its own limitations. “You are the real thing,” he said, “and your work is as vital as my role on television seems.” His words sent a thrill through the audience, and we knew he was right — we were doing important work. Yet all the while he was speaking, he seemed distracted, tired, weary, and frightened. He seemed totally depleted, and although his words had the ring of truth, they came from a taxed and worn soul.

When he was finished speaking, we jumped to our feet, applauding. He stepped back from the podium, drawn and pale, and the audience broke up. Some gathered together in groups around the room to discuss the conference, while others of us went up to Patrick to shake his hand or ask him questions. He was polite to everyone, yet distant.

I stayed at the edge of the crowd surrounding him, waiting my turn to speak with him. When most of his admirers had praised him and moved on, I approached him and thanked him for his talk. “But I want to give you something back,” I said. “I just want you to know that Camelot is here. It’s not far away in some star system, it’s not halfway around the world. It’s here. I’ve been there just today, and I can show you where it is. We can go anytime.”

At that, Patrick fixed an intent gaze on me, disbelieving. “It’s here,” I said again. “We can go to it anytime you like. Right now, if you want.” All the hardness and tired lines faded from his face, and he broke down and began to cry. He cried very hard, like a little baby, holding his face in his hands, his shoulders shaking, while people around the room looked over at him, surprised and wondering. Some came over to see what was going on. After a few minutes, he collected himself and looked up at me and asked me where it was. He appeared hopeful for the first time all evening. Others around the room said, “Yes, where is it?” and came over to hear the answer. I told them where, and they all looked at each other with wonder. They couldn’t believe Camelot was so close, but I assured them that I had been there.

Some in the room heard what we were saying and turned away. They had no interest in going to see the place or experiencing it, and they said as much. They just wanted to discuss what they’d learned that day in their classes. They were hungry, or they were tired, or they just weren’t interested. They didn’t begrudge us our enthusiasm, just moved off in their little groups to get an evening snack in the cafeteria, or get ready for bed.

Those of us who did want to go to Camelot began to move out in clusters. I gave instructions on how to get there, and in small groups, we moved out — some racing at top speed, some going at a measured pace, others stopping to get their swimming suits or talk some more. I went with Patrick Stewart and a small group of women. As we approached the place in the woods where the pool was, we could hear laughing and splashing. Patrick’s demeanor was becoming lighter all the time, he had a spring in his step, and he was now talking animatedly, joking with the women in our group. We came near the pool and could see through the trees a luminous shining surrounding the pool, as some of my fellow students leaped and dashed and splashed into the water in hilarious ecstasy. Others stood around the edge of the pool, watching and enjoying themselves at the sight. Off to the side, I saw the two women who had unearthed this treasure. They nodded to me as I came near and smiled appreciation and approval to me.

I knew then, I had done the right thing. I ran to join the others in the pool, just as Patrick dove into the water that would renew him.


Author: Kay Lorraine

Poet, publisher, programmer. I still like PHP.

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