It was a crisp day, a morning bright with blue light that showered on her from a cloudless sky. The leaves of the dense woods were tinged in varying shades of yellow and orange and the cold air bit at the tip of her nose and left stinging kisses along the edges of her ears. The young girl walked alone along a thin trail that wound itself through the woods in lazy, meandering curves. Fallen leaves crunched beneath her feet and under the weight of her shoe, she left them as small as confetti pieces. The scent of the leaves mingled with the aroma of earthy soil and she inhaled it all deeply, letting the cold scented air fill her lungs with its raw life. She felt more than alive, she felt electric beneath the changing canopy of trees, amid a world were words were useless simulated communication. With each step, she saw more and more, as through each move forward took her deeper into a world of mystery that usually lay beyond her grasp. Now she was here, walking, alive. She saw tiny brown capped mushroom heads sprouting from the ground. A bright green caterpillar inched its way across a fallen twig. An owl interrupted from his nap by the sound of crunching leaves flew overhead, looking for a meal.
In a curve of the path, the little girl saw a large tree, thirty steps away. It looked like all the other trees that surrounded her, only it wasn’t, there was something different about it. Filled with curiosity, she stepped off the path. She approached the tree slowly and saw there was a small opening at the bottom, a little door just big enough to poke her head in. She got down on her belly and pushed gently on the wooden door. When her eyes adjusted to the dim light within the thick trunk, she saw a small Native American man sitting on a tiny stool made of bark.
He looked to her and their eyes held steady and she knew he had been expecting her. Had he waited a thousand years for her to walk the path, to see the owl, to find the tree? She smiled and said hello. He did not move his mouth, his expression did not change, he sat still on his little stool, but the little girl heard him,
"Hello!" he said back enthusiastically.
The tree was silent, he was silent, and yet, he spoke to her and she could feel the warmth of his voice, the tenderness of his heart. The little girl smiled again.
The little girl broke their contact naturally and turned her head to look around the small room. There was a small fire in the far corner which gave off just a bit of warm light. The little man pointed to the back wall. She turned her gaze and saw a map carved into the tree. "Where will this map lead?" she asked her question silently, thinking her thought and then sending it to him like an open letter.
"It is a map to your heart."
The little girl was taken aback
"To my heart?!?!" she squealed.
The small man with tan skin nodded. She turned her head again to the map. A faint blue light came from it.
"To my heart." she repeated.
She stared at the map, letting time fall around her, letting her limbs grow numb, letting the forest continue on its charge towards death and rebirth. She stared at the map, her eyes fixed on the charted path to her own heart, the internal voyage that seemed a world away, an odyssey of a task. The image burned, though her eyes, past the various masks already imprinted on her young body. She let the map burn, moving through her bones, past her personality and past her learned habits and she let it burn itself into her soul. Each line of the map went in, becoming a new vein, a new course, a new path to follow.
The little man handed her a small rock. It was a small cracked geode. She held it tightly and tilted it back and forth, the sparkling center twinkled in the light of the fire and sent sparks of light across her face. She peered through the crack, looking deep, as deep as she had when she saw the details of the forest. She looked and looked and looked some more, and then, she saw it, inside the illuminated center of the geode was a smaller version of the map on the tree wall.
"Take this with you wherever you go,” the man explained. "It will be your Guide.”
The little girl put it in her pocket.
“How can I ever thank you enough?” she asked.
"Use the map. Follow your heart. That is how you can thank me."
The little girl smiled, wider than she ever had before. The sun opened in her face, the world came through her eyes and she held out a finger and touched the tiny man's heart. It glowed blue and she felt the ground let out a slight tremor and then he disappeared. She ran back to her house, clutching the geode in her hand the whole way. In her room, she placed the rock under her pillow, the soft place she kept all her treasured possessions. She was anxious to start the search for her Heart… but first, it was time for a nap.