The Old Man in the Woods

Fine weather greeted us. Strong rays of the sun penetrated the valley and there wasn’t a breath of wind.

“Wouldn’t it be a perfect moment to check the compass and the map, Shobo?” I said while I dismounted the horse, and then extended the map on the grass.

On the map, there was a lake, which I didn’t see yet for real. “Let me check…” I said while I walked towards a little hill on our left “according to the map, the lake should be exactly…” I looked down and just like in the map, a lake was filling half the valley with crystalline water that I could see from where I stood. “…here!” I exclaimed. “Here Shobo, it’s here!”

I ran down the hill slowing down at the end to avoid a fall and took the compass in one of the bags. “Let’s see…” I said whilst struggling to open the compass “it doesn’t open!”

Before letting myself be dragged with frustration, I decided to put the compass back into the bags and mounted on the saddle and sighed “I guess we still have some journey ahead before the compass will be willing to open. Let’s follow the path now; I’m sure that it leads to the shores of that lake.”

The path indeed led us to the shores of the crystalline lake, and once there, I decided to follow the shore to the west, for it was to the west that I was meant to find meaning to my quest. Half an hour later I could make out a conifer forest in the distance and I felt the urge to gallop all the way there from where we were. The sound of rolling stones being crushed by Shobo’s hooves as he galloped was already familiar to me and I have to say that this was a moment I treasured in the spirit of the adventure while it lasted. We splashed water on both sides as I conducted the horse into the water.

The forest stood in front of us, silent and mysterious. Shobogenzo stopped below a centenary cedar tree and turned his ears in all directions, which made me think that there was something close, moving. The undergrowth was mainly young conifer trees and although a path was clear to me ahead, I couldn’t see more than five meters in front of us.

“What should we do? Should we give it a try and get in or should we turn back and find another road?” I thought. But the horse walked straight forward, into the woods.

“Ok, this time I’m going to trust you,” I said and let go of the reins.

The path through the woods was narrow for a horse, so I got whipped on my legs by all sorts of branches. I wished we’d stop so I could dismount but there wasn’t any place for me to jump down. Both sides of the path were so thick with bushes that I didn’t dare even trying. I was starting to get annoyed when Shobo stopped and stared to our left. I could also say that something was moving through the undergrowth, and that made me a bit nervous as I knew that it could be anything, even a predator. It wouldn’t surprise me if I’d see a snow leopard or wolves around, even in those woods. But Shobo continued walking and after a while, calmed down, so maybe it was just a bird. At least it wasn’t anything threatening to us, because at that, my horse never fails to guess.

I was getting hungry and thirsty again, and now I was somewhere lost in some unknown dark woods. “Oh Shobo, I wish you hadn’t come this way!” I exclaimed “Look where you led us, now how do you think we’ll get out of here?” But the horse didn’t look worried at all, actually, he was walking very confidently as if he knew where he was going. “Ok, don’t listen to me, but don’t complain later if we don’t find…” And just at this moment I heard running water. “Water!” I shouted.

In front of us, the vegetation didn’t look so thick and the narrow path widened a bit, taking a down slope turn on the left. As we approached the slope, the sound of the water increased, and when we reached the edge, I could clearly hear that there close, flowed a river. And a clear confirmation of it came while we walked down the slope. I was so distracted with the sight of the river that I didn’t see how we almost walked into the old man.

“Having a nice morning walk?” he said while he smiled widely.

“Erm…yeah…well, not really, I thought…” I said clumsily.

“…that you were lost” he finished “that’s ok, a lot of people come this way and think they are lost until they find my place here.”

“Do you… live here?” I asked.

“Oh yes! Come, I’ll show you. You’re going to like it,” he said looking rather enthusiastic about my presence.

“Am I?” I said feeling rather weird about this last sentence “How in the world could he know about my tastes?” I thought.

“My name is Yarlung by the way” he said “Yarlung Lobsang”

“My name is…” I started pronouncing.

“Ilan, your name is Ilan” he finished “I was waiting you.”

I was flabbergasted.

(Making of the painting: Acrylic paints on cotton canvas.)

About soulportrait

Michaela Devi Genaine, Spain Although I am of Swiss origin, I have been living in Spain for 20 years. I moved to this country with my family when I was 9 years old, and have since then been involved with a broad spectrum of alternative projects, as well as being a pioneer of homeschooling. I am currently living in the Prades mountains near the Mediterranean Coast. I practice sustainable gardening, ecopsycology, art and psychosynthesis. I am fluent in English, Spanish and French.
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