the heart of the world

In the middle of the forest at the center of the world where dragons glide and elves play with unicorns—where fairies dance with moonbeams and everyone sleeps with a smile and wakes up with joy—where the trees talk to the rivers and the rocks to the sky—in a vast clearing of grass and flowers, is the rainbow tree. The rainbow tree—majestic and tall, with the promise of color exuberantly arching from within its branches out over the entire world. The rainbow tree—shining brilliantly through the days and the nights of the forest at the center of the world, with what looks like a large, dark, hollow section in the trunk just above the reach of the tallest of the bears—what looks like a gaping hole. But none of the creatures of the forest name that a hole or speak of it as hollow, because every creature knows there is no emptiness there. There is only fullness—a fullness they call the heart of the world—there in the rainbow tree in the middle of the forest at the center of the world.

And from every corner of the forest at the center of the world come all manner of creatures—come large and small, come furry and sleek—come flying and crawling and walking and creeping and slinking and swimming and slithering and swinging—come to gaze on that which is full of the wonder and mystery that is the blessing of life—beating there within the rainbow tree—pulsing light and color throughout the world in gleaming arcs.

Now, came to the wood one wise in the ways of the wide world—came to the wood one old and learned—wrinkled with experience—with eyes that had seen much—ears that had heard much—came to the clearing of grass and flowers—came to the very foot of the rainbow tree—looked upon the heart of the world, and looking there upon it, saw … nothing—saw … emptiness.

Turned the one wise in the ways of the wide world to address the hosts arrayed in the clearing around the rainbow tree: “Fellow creatures of this time and this place, from afar have I come, traversing both mountain and ocean, from a land distant and foreign, where in the lore of our storytellers, there are wondrous tales of the mystery in the tree at the heart of the forest at the center of the world. And having heard this in the stories of my youth, I determined to see for myself—to see for myself this wonder, so I too, could tell wondrous stories to set the minds of youth on fire with longing and imagining—to redeem the fire in my own mind. Long have I travelled to gaze upon a miracle—unspeakable are the trials I have endured. And I arrive, at long last, at the clearing described to me in the middle of the forest at the heart of the world, to discover … a hollow tree. So I will not return to my people in my land with my story. I will return to my people in my land to say there is no miracle. There is no wonder. In the clearing in the middle of the forest at the center of the world there is no heart of the world. It is a dream—a fantasy—like dragons and unicorns and talking trees. It’s just the way someone wishes it were.”

And the dragons looked at the unicorns and raised their wings in perplexed shrugs. “What was just said?” whispered the wood. “I understand not,” gurgled the creek. “This is an experience most rare,” bloomed a flower. “You have eyes, but do not see.” Waved the grass, “you have ears, but do not hear.” Murmured the breeze, “you are surrounded by the very wonder you seek yet are blind and deaf.”

Then said one wise in the ways of the wood, “Eyes cannot be made to see, nor ears made to hear. There is a sadness and a dissonance within the joy and the music of the story all too often left out when the story is told. So you will go your way and you will tell your story as you wish, but before you go, you will hear mine, and mine is the story of the heart of the world. For before there was time, there was the rainbow tree. Before anything came into being, there was the rainbow tree. Oh, not as we see it now, but as light in darkness, color in the absence of diversity, sound in silence. And of the rainbow tree was birthed all that is—the world as we know it—the rainbow tree as we know it. And from the forest at the center of the world, the rainbow tree breathed life.”

“Yes, yes, this is it,” muttered the one wise in the ways of the world. “This is the lore of the storytellers of my land. This is the story of my youth—the story I had hoped to redeem.”

Continued the one wise in the ways of the wood, “And all the lives gathered at the foot of the rainbow tree and breathed in deep of blessing. And having tasted of the richness, moved in closer, seeking to breathe in more, and the rainbow tree shuddered as those assembled sought to take more than was being given—to claim that which was not appropriate. And as they breathed in ever deeper—ever more hungrily, greedily, there was a ripping—a rending and a tearing, and there appeared in the rainbow tree a gaping hole—a darkness that leaped out and enveloped the world. With a gasp and a moan, the lives dispersed unto the ends of the earth, leaving the forest at the center of the world, groping through that silent darkness with the last image they saw burned into their minds and hearts: the hollowness they created, in trying to fill themselves, reaching out to embrace them in a hunger they can never satisfy.”

“This I have not heard,” said the traveler quietly. “This I do not know. This the storytellers did not relate.”

“Yes, you see it was in this darkness, this silence—within this hunger—this despair—that there came a light—pulsing—dimly in the distance—then exploding so bright as to blind the whole world. And color poured forth into the absence thereof—washing creation in rich hues and deep shades as music cascaded over, around and through all that is unto the ends of the earth—as hollowness was filled and hunger satisfied—and life came to know, beyond blessing, grace.

For in the light, it was to be seen that the source of light and color and sound—the source of fullness—was what was thought to have been that hole in the rainbow tree—the ripped, rent, torn and broken. Now those with eyes to see, see a richness beyond that which just anyone can see. Your sky is blue, but my blue smiles. Your wind howls and mine sings songs. The life of the heart of the world fills all I see and hear and touch and taste.”

And one wise in the ways of the wide world left the clearing in the middle of the forest at the center of the world, but as one learning to love the wisdom of the wood, looks up at the sky—looks long into the sky—oh so still—and there is a tear—and then—slowly—a smile—blue—and a song—on the wind.

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