The Teacher And The Question About Dawn: Tales From The Hearth

20181227 THE TEACHER AND THE DAWN TALES FROM THE HEARTH

There was a time when it used to snow heavily at Christmastime in north Wales, and there was a time when I would spend hours and hours playing with friends in the snow: tobogganing on an old tea tray (when really small), making and throwing snowballs, making a snowman, even making an igloo using old ice cream tubs as containers to form ‘snow bricks’.

Ofcourse, that was many years ago when I was a wee lad, and seeing on tv, recently, some scenes of the Sami people in the northern parts of snow-laden Finland, wonderful boyhood memories came flooding back.

On one occasion, as a wee lad, I had been playing outside for some hours, and though it was snowing and so wonderful for me, I was just a little bored on that occasion as all my friends weren’t allowed out to play. Nevertheless, I tried to keep myself occupied, loved the snow and the way on those oh-so-snowy days in north Wales the scenery would be bright white with snow, and the clouds would be a gloomy, dark, brooding grey – the ground was brighter than the sky and I loved it.

But, eventually, being alone, I got bored.

‘Look at the sky. We are not alone. The whole universe is friendly to us and conspires only to give the best to those who dream and work’. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Going through the boot-room of my grandparent’s cottage (a small room for depositing of earth or snow-covered boots) I entered into a wonderfully warm and baking-fragranced kitchen, and ambled on into the living room, and settled by a roaring fire in the hearth, and beside my grandmother’s rocking chair.

Thawing out, the cup of hot chocolate my grandad had made and given me went down a treat. My grandmother asked about my time outside and I let off a series of complaints, centring on the fact that life wasn’t fair, that I had wanted to play with friends but they weren’t allowed out, that they were probably having a better time than me, and… and… and, so it went on. I really did feel sorry for myself as though I was the only person in the whole world that had a reason to be upset.

’The wound is the place where the light enters you’. Rumi

My grandmother was a patient woman, listened intently to me as she rocked in the rocking chair. Occasionally she would stoke the fire in the hearth. She waited for me to stop complaining. I did eventually stopped, and then she spoke.

Lovingly, and with the most splendid of valley accents she quietly said, ‘You know, Tadgh, when you think you’re alone, you’re actually surrounded by lots of things, if you only give yourself time to look and listen. And, when you think your friends are so different. It’s then that you, and it applies to all us, need to know that we have a lot in common, that were very much alike, and more. And, once we realise that, we’re never really alone.’

’If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude’. Maya Angelou

Curled up, beside her rocking chair, I remember her saying, ‘Let me tell you a story’. With that, my attention was captivated as my grandmother told the most wonderful, ‘treasure-laden’ storyteller, who told stories that both entertained and enlightened.

‘A teacher once asked his pupils, ‘How do you know when the first moment of dawn has arrived?’. After a long silence, one of the pupils said, ‘When you can tell the difference between a dog and a sheep’. The teacher shook his head, tutted, and walked about the classroom hoping that another pupil would try to answer the question.

Another pupil chimed in, and said, ‘ When you can tell the difference between an olive tree and a fig tree’. Again the teacher shook his head, tutted, and walked about the classroom hoping that yet another pupil would try to answer the question. There were no more answers.

At this point my grandmother asked, ‘And what would you have said, dear Tadhg?. Open-mouthed and wide-eyed, engrossed in the story, as a wee lad, I could only but shake my head. An unvoiced unknowing was ‘loudly’ expressed!

She continued. ‘Well’, she said, ‘the teacher waited for a minute or two and then said, ‘You know the first moment when dawn has arrived when you look into the eyes of another human being and see yourself!’.

At this point my grandmother quickly chuckled to herself, ruffled my hair as I had a nonplussed expression on my face, and quietly rocked in her rock chair giving no further explanation.

I had a little understanding of the meaning of the story, but it wasn’t until many years later that the true import of the story made sense.

We are not really that different at all. On one level we all have the same needs and aspirations, all respond similarly to hurt and pain, and on a deep and very real level we can never be alone, because we really are one!

‘You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.’ Rumi

We are one. That was the ‘treasure’ contained deep within my grandmother’s story and which ‘dawns’ on those who are aware (which, like good, old, wisdom stories was ‘borrowed’ by her and others, and had been told to countless generations around the world in one form or another).

We are never truly alone. We are one. Indeed, everything is connected into one cosmic web.

‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these…you did for me’. Matthew 25:40, The Book

 

The Quest: A Story From The Heart(h) From Beyond The Veil

20180521 THE QUEST ANOTHER STORY FROM THE HEARTH BEYOND THE VEILIt’s a great evening here, as I sit in my garden of Tŷ Gwyn cottage, north Wales. It’s one of those evenings that, after a fine, sunny, cloudless, quite warm day for the time of year, it has now become somewhat cold, or as they say around here, ‘bracing’ or ‘fresh’.

‘Imagination is the true magic carpet.’ Norman Vincent Peale

As I sit here with a glass of good red wine on the old wooden garden table, my mind wanders and I remember former times. My stomach is full, some of that red wine is coursing through my veins, a pleasant glow seems to envelope me and my imagination is fired up, especially as my eyes seem now to be half-veiled.

As a wee lad I would gather by the hearth and listen to one of my grandmother’s stories. She was a seanchaí [pronounced ‘shawn-(a)-key’, Gaelic] a story-teller, and would tell me many a profound story that only now, in some respects, do I see a yet deeper layer of meaning in the retelling.

‘Lift the veil that obscures…and there you will find what you are looking for’. Kabir

As the sun sets, so in my mind’s eye I can see the past, me as a wee lad, the golden glow from the hearth, and I can feel its heat on just one side of my face, something which periodically causes me to move from the side of the rocking chair, where my grandmother is sitting, to the opposite chair. There is a satisfying and protective feeling of warmth around the hearth, and not just from the fire.

I can remember telling my grandmother, somewhat reluctantly, that I had forgotten to do something that she had asked me to do – it had slipped my mind as such things do when a child is engrossed in play especially when surrounded by the majestic beauty of valleys, lakes and streams, mountains and an abundance of wildlife, such is north Wales.

My grandmother used my forgetfulness as the basis for another story.

‘There was once a small child’, she said,‘ who lived in a palace with fine food, luxuries of all kinds and who never wanted for anything. His father was the King, his mother was the Queen, and the small child was a prince.

There came a certain day when the King and Queen told the prince of a quest they had set before him. Giving him provisions for the journey they took from him his prized purple toga and glittering white robe. They instructed him to head west and to bring them back a most beautiful pearl and he would be rewarded, but to be careful as the pearl was guarded by a ferocious huge serpent. And so, off the prince went with his two guardians.

The prince travelled far and arrived on an island, his guardians left him. He asked many questions of the locals about the pearl and the huge serpent, and as he bided his time, for he wanted the huge serpent to fall asleep, he got bored and lonely. He really missed his home and his family.

He shared his provisions with his new neighbours and became good friends with them. Why, he even started to talk like them and to dress like them. Dressing like them, talking like them, eating their strange-but-now-familiar food he forgot that he was a prince, home seemed a distant memory or a fairy tale now, and he even forgot his quest for the unique pearl.

Years went by. When their son didn’t return home the King and Queen wrote a letter to him, signed by the King and Queen and all the nobles, which was delivered to their son by an eagle.

The young man, for he had now grown up into a fine young adult, awoke with a start. The eagle spoke to him and gave dropped the letter on the young man’s bed. He read the letter and remembered that he was indeed a prince and his home were there is no want, and he remembered his quest for the pearl. The veil of forgetfulness immediately fell away from his eyes.

He manfully went about his quest, located the pearl and the huge serpent, and sang, and sang, and sang until the huge serpent fell asleep. Then he took the pearl, went back to the village, cleaned his clothes, and embarked on the long journey, eastward, to his home.

Just as he reached the city gates to his home he saw his family running to greet him, and they brought with them his favourite purple toga and his bright, glittering, white robe. As he put on his fine clothes, he thought of how many years had passed, but his over-riding emotion was of joy at being back home with his family.

Giving the King and Queen the wonderful pearl, they rewarded him with even more fine clothes, luxuries of every kind, and as promised he inherited the kingdom to rule, along with his bother.

My grandmother finished the story by asking, ‘Do you think you might be that prince, the one who forget and then remembered?’. Ofcourse, I knew the cue, nodded, and she let out a hearty laugh.

‘Awake, O sleeper…’, Ephesians 5:14a. The Book.

‘Yes, yes, yes you are, ‘she said. ‘We all are. It’s as though we’ve all fallen asleep, we’ve all forgotten where we come from, our purpose in life and where our true home is. But, some of us are now waking up, starting to remember, aren’t we?’. Again as a small boy I knew another nod was required.

And even today, many years later her story rings true.

We have all forgotten our real home, our status, our purpose, and our return. But, some, maybe I as I retell this story and you, as you read it, are getting glimpses of the truth behind the veil.

Research showed me that my grandmother ‘borrowed’ that story from the Acts of Thomas and loosely adapted it. Nevertheless, it does contain gems of truth about our origin, status, purpose and journey home, and that we currently live in a world where many have forgotten the most important thing in life. Many are asleep.

The sun has now gone below the horizon here in north Wales, and my eyes are now wide open. There’s a distinct chill in the air and its pitch black. But, it’s a wonderful evening. It’s dark. There are many walking in darkness, but not you, and not those you draw alongside. As my grandmother passed the lighted-truth onto me in that ancient-future story, so you and I pass it onto others, sometimes even without knowing it by what we do and say. The veil is lifting. Don’t go back to sleep.

‘The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!’

(Rumi)