Dusk comes, and in the evening light, the stars begin to shine. I look up and see the great square of Pegasus, and the swirling star dust which forms the Andromeda Nebula. When the universe was half its present age, the light was leaving this distant island universe, and has travelled for millions of years to reach the earth.
I cross a stream, and see three small pebbles on the ground below me, and pick them up, and they are icy cold within the palm of my hand, and I intone the incantation of the dreaming stones:
I will lift the stone
For substance, virtue, and strength;
May this stone be in my hand
Till I reach my journey's end.
It is a clear sky, the patterns of light bright against the dark backdrop of night, and the cold wind blows across the moor. Lyra and Cygnus are overhead, and between them is the dark void which forms the Cygnus Rift. I shiver in the bitter wind, and walk towards the old forest nearby.
The forest is dark, and scattered starlight barely penetrates the canopy of branches. But there is a light shining ahead, and I make my way towards it. There is a clearing, where a large tree has fallen, and two lanterns hang from the branches of other trees, their flames flickering yellow. Nearby is a small pyramid of stones, and I bend down and place one of my stones upon the pile.
Suddenly I am aware of an old man standing still near me, in a white robe, with a staff in his hand and a golden sickle in his belt, and as I stand up, he pushes back his hood, and I see his white hair, and his sweeping silver beard. He smiles, and beckons me closer, and points.
I follow his finger, and see between two branches of a tree that a spider had spun a web, delicate, gossamer, and fine. The silver threads gleam with dew in the lantern's flame. In the centre, the spider waited for its prey, small and black. The man looked at me; his eyes were bright and fierce. Yet he spoke gently.
"The fates spin their web," he told me, "and we too weave our own web, the pattern of our lives, of good or evil, of memories of joy and goodness, of our successes and our failures."
I watched as the spider crept slowly across the web to where a fly was caught in its meshes. "Here are the ghosts caught in the web of dreams," said the old man, "and now is the night to face the ghosts, for this night the ghosts are unleashed. Here are the phantoms of past hurts, of fears, of regrets, of the roads not travelled, those moments that haunt our days."
"Can nothing be done?" I asked, in my distress.
"Yes indeed," he told me, "but you must face and ponder your past, and face those ghosts, or they will return from the dark recesses of your mind and haunt you still. But now you must go on further, for not all is dark. There is fear at the roots. You must look to the deep springs for strength and seek the well of dreams."
He handed me one of the lanterns, and gestured towards the forest path. And I left the old man, and went along the path, the trees crowding in against me, branches like fingers trying to catch me. But then there was another clearing, and in its midst, I saw a well, its wall of ancient granite stones, some covered in moss.
I gazed down into the well, and the lantern light flickered in reflection. I dropped one of my pebbles down, and the light danced in the water, as the waves spread swiftly out, and the reflection faded, and an image, indistinct, began to form in the swirling ripples.
Then the image cleared, and I saw the sun shining warmly upon a green and pleasant meadow, with an apple tree ripe with fruit at its centre, and a river of cool water flowing by. I saw myself there, feeling full of joy and hope, and all those I have known as friends and those I have loved, whether alive or dead, were there, holding hands, and dancing in the sun around the tree.
And a woman's voice speaks softly, "Here are the summer lands, the hopes of the days to come, to be yourself as you truly are, and where nothing that is good is ever really lost. This is but a glimpse, and you are seeing only a reflection, darkly, but later you will see face to face. You know it within yourself, that even those you love and befriended are never gone, because you remember them, and they live in you."
I turn my gaze up, and see an old woman in a shawl, with a ruby ring shining on her finger, and she points me towards the path.
Once more, I walk the old forest way, covered with wet leaves, but the path suddenly opens up and I am back in the open, once more out on the heath. The night is inky black, and out of the blackness shines brightly and steadily the pale white stars. I look up, and find Capella shining brightly in the night sky, and suddenly there are flashes across the sky, as the Orionid meteorite shower strikes the upper atmosphere and burns up.
A bitter cold assails me and then I see a bonfire is blazing, and beside it, I see once more the elder, cloaked in white, and the old woman. Together they gaze upwards where Saturn is shining brightly in the night sky before dawn breaks, and chant together:
Come Saturn, ancient planet
In far distant space, cast a net
And draw in rings, many bands
Of colour, falling light on lands
Antiquity rising, now come down
Cold pressure descending, a gown
Of mystic purpose, heavy burden
A crushing weight of glory then
Like mountains of centuries past
Layered, deep, so huge and vast
Freezing waters, such biting cold
Unendurable sorrow, so very old
Yet strength as well, hard as rock
As granite walls, the waves do mock
Fling back the breaking seas, endure
This is Lurga, ancient of days, sure
To strengthen us with powers blast
But a fraction of the planet cast
More would unmake us, take care
Saturn descending, become aware
I warm myself in the glow of the fire while night fades, and the stars fade one by one, and watch the final embers as they die, and then presently the sun rises, and I hear the sound of birdsong. The old man and woman wave at me as they leave, returning to the forest, and I walk away from the trees, into the new year dawning, feeling born anew. I feel the stone within my hand, and it is warming.
May this stone be in my hand
Till I reach my journey's end.
I let the last stone gently fall onto the deep grass. And I have reached my journey's end.