A Meditative Spell to Find the Lost

My son was up here for a visit last week. We explored this neighborhood a bit together and found our way up to the Town Cow Pasture Trails a few blocks from my house. This three mile trail loop is pure magic. Slate-bottomed streams, huge old maples, lichen-covered spruce, old orchard remnants, tumbled stone walls, fields of wildflowers, cool birch woods — and a spring well. This amazing pool of burbling spring water is in the middle of the woods on a steep slope, a few yards off the path. It is rounded about with stacked slate. Its outflow tumbles down to a chattering brook. The water is cold even in August.

For some reason, finding that magical Well in the Wood reminded me of my one and only attempt at meditative pathworking. The meditation failed utterly. I’ve just no talent for spending much time analyzing the interior of my skull. There’s always something that needs doing. But even when I manage to calm the mom-instincts, invariably something far more interesting happens along. I can be distracted by clouds, you see.

I still try meditation now and again, but this is the only guided meditation I’ve ever written. It may not work as intended, but it is a rather lovely story. So I thought I might share it.

Maybe you can get it to work properly.

The maple-lined stream-bed behind my former home in Massachusetts
you are alone in an autumn meadow
		nature aflame as it burns
		its last summer glory
	sunflowers nodding gracefully
	goldenrod a mist of sunlight
	russet grasses dotted with violet stars
	vibrant raspberry joe pye weed
		standing sentinel in erstwhile marshy ground
you are clad simply, carrying little
	you are a seeker
		and go forth humbly to find
	you need naught but the lost
you see the eaves of a forest
	crouching darkly on the meadow’s far edge
you know you must enter
	so you stride purposefully into the shades
it is a pathless wood
	your boots trod upon years uncounted
		decay mixed with sleeping new life
you are surrounded by lichen-laden conifers
	needles black in the gloom
	here and there
		white-boled birch
		stately grey beech
		ragged oaks
		majestic maple
	all divested of leaves
	as though winter has claimed this wood
still, the barren trees admit light
	showers of muted grey gleaming fall through the evergreen murk
		for this you are grateful
	you think it bodes rain
you become aware of a stillness
	in the meadow behind you
		a riot of rustling and birdsong
	before you solitude and silence
you feel that it has not always been thus
	that the wood once pulsed with life
	but it is bound to your quest
		heavy with expectancy
	watching you
		to see if you shall succeed
so deeper into the darkness you stride
The birch wood trail
the way becomes difficult
	and all ways are the same
	trackless and forbidding
		the wood will not reveal the way
	you scramble through pine and spruce boughs
		scratched and aching and parched
and you wonder when the rain will fall
	to give you some relief
with this idea of water in the mind
	distant sound comes to your ears
		a stream chuckling to itself
		a rush of water over a fall
	you have new purpose
		and you come to the edge in no time

you stand on grey shale under the open sky
	the water falls away at your feet
		tumbling in prismatic haze
		lit by the setting sun
far below, a fathomless pool receives the falls
	swallowing the rush and spray
		with barely a ripple on its surface
you are drawn to the pool
your urge is to dive from the cliff
		to the unseen depths
	you must fight the desire
you may find what you seek
	or you may be dashed against hidden rock
you wait and watch
	while the sun falls into the forest
	and a thin moon comes riding from the clouds
		turning the falls to silver, the pool to a dark mirror
The Well in the Wood
you begin an arduous climb
	as much stumbling as intention
		arriving at the base, bloodied and winded
you walk a ways from the falls
	marveling at the still pool
		opaque, hard, glassy in the twilight
you think it may have no limit
	an infinite well of darkness
dipping your hands in its waters
	you find them cool but not cold

you are startled
		by the eerie cry of the nightjar
	and you heed its clarion call
	shedding your few supplies
		and travel-stained clothes
for a moment you watch the maiden moon
	dancing on the surface
		then you wade in
the banks drop away suddenly
	and your naked body is submerged
		in cool waters like silk
the pool is not as deep as you imagined
	and you wonder at its stillness
		as though all energy
			even yours
				is sapped in these waters
you long to sleep forever in this embrace
	you remind yourself of your goal
something in the depths
	glitters in a glancing ray of starlight
you dive, chasing the glimmer
	it is hard to see
	and you must surface so soon
		yet you try again
and now clouds veil the light
	you lose your way 
	you only just make it back to the surface for air
so a third time you dive
	fixing the place of glimmering in your mind
	and you reach the bottom
your hand reaching to the muddy bed
	finds solidity, cold and sharp
you do not have time to wonder
	you close your hand around it and kick for the starlight
		it feels an endless trip to the surface
			and you pray for endurance and strength

finally, you break free
	swim for the stream bank
only when you have left the pool
	do you look at what you have found
nearly the size of your hand
	it is crystalline
	smoky and purple and pointed
	pulsing with a faint light
		in its heart
you bathe it in the pool
	the better to see
		and it begins to glow
		warming at your touch
you close your eyes in joyous relief
	you have found what you seek
	the lost
you hold your prize to your naked chest
	open your eyes
		and look into the depths of another soul

©Elizabeth Anker 2021