There once was a wise and noble king who had a magnificent kingdom. The king loved his kingdom immensely. He could name every tree and flower, river, rock and creature in it. He knew every thing about his kingdom, down to the number of the grains of sand on its shores. He would take long walks through the hills and valleys, and sometimes he would come across a traveler, and they would walk together for a while. Usually, the traveler did not recognize him immediately. This may seen odd to you or me, since we are used to seeing pictures of our leaders in the newspaper or on our money, but this king had never had his likeness made in print or statue. However, after some time in conversation, most people who encountered him could identify his authority by his regal bearing and knowledge. For some reason that the king could not entirely understand, the travelers would begin to feel uncomfortable with him and refuse to keep his company after discovering his identity. The king was puzzled and a bit hurt by this phenomenon.
In time, the people of the kingdom convened among themselves and decided to build the king a palace and a throne room where they assumed he would reside happily without the need to walk about the countryside bumping into them unexpectedly. Certain subjects vowed to devote their lives to the business of making sure the king was reasonably content to stay in the throne room. They brought lavish gifts of food and music to him and decorated his chamber with fine art and furnishings. The king was very kind and wanted to honor these subjects’ devotion, for it seemed to him that they were trying their best to serve him in their own way.
It wasn’t long, however, before the king began to miss his time among the rocks and trees and flowers that so delighted him. It had also come to his attention that not all of his people had visited him, or were even allowed to visit him, in his fancy estate. He wondered what the ones who hadn’t met him might think of him, and he still wondered why the ones who did meet him became uneasy in his presence. Would they want to meet him here, gathered around this throne of gold, or would they stand just as uncomfortably, shifting their weight from foot to foot and shifting their eyes from floor to exit, just as they had done on the road? He wondered what kind of a throne it could be around which they might gather comfortably.
The king began to daydream about what it would be like if he could be king of the palace and king of every inch of his kingdom all at the same time. He wondered how he might set up a throne wherever people were: in their homes, on the road, where they played, worked and visited, maybe as close as under their very skin, so that wherever people were, there was a place for him right in their midst. He thought of the things that were common to every person in his kingdom, things that were linked to the richness of the land on which they all lived. He thought of them walking home for supper at the end of the day, lighting fires in their hearths, gathering their children about them, and sharing a loaf of bread and a jug of cool water. He thought of the water that flowed down from the mountain glaciers, cutting a fertile river valley in the plains and coming to rest in a large and bountiful lake.
“To be truly king of this kingdom,” he thought, “I would have to be like water. Then my throne would be on the highest mountain, in the smallest dewdrop dangling from a flower, in every kiss between two people, and at the feet of the children dancing on the beach. Oh!” he thought, “to be amongst my people like water would be the best way to reign!”
Giggling softly at his own pun, he drifted off into a contented sleep. He dreamed that he was in a meadow. He felt the warmth of the sun on his face and the tickle of the grass against his skin. Suddenly, he heard laughter coming from the woods, and a host of joyful people burst onto the meadow. Children skipped among the tall wildflowers playing games. Women gathered bouquets and spread out colorful cloths on the grass. Met set out large loaves of bread and wheels of cheese, cutting slices with knives that flashed sunlight back to the heavens. In the middle of this happy scene, a young man carrying a wooden buck and and young woman with a crystal vase approached. Steadily they advanced, and the king realized they were probably going to fetch water.
“Let me help you,” he tried to call out, but he found he had no voice.
Still they came nearer with clear purpose in their step. The king was puzzled as they held out their vessels in his direction. Then, with a smack! they plunged them through his heart and drew back their brimming containers dripping with the cool, clear liquid.
Breathless, the king realized that he was the source of the water they were now pouring and passing among themselves, and more than that, he could feel everything he flowed into all at the same time. He was still the meadow spring that felt the impact of the bucket, but he was also surrounding the bouquet at the bottom of the vase. He was ladled from the bucket to the lips of a child whose throat was dry and greedy and whose sleeve ran quickly over him. He was passed in a wooden bowl to a lady, old and withered. She parched in skin and bone and tongue, and he longed to fill her completely, to cool the burning heat that age had baked into her body. He was mingled with the mud and dirt on the feet of men who had walked for miles to come to this gathering. He heard them sighing in relief as he cleansed their weary soles. A woman slicing cheese had slipped and blood ran from her finger. He was pressed into her would to guard her from disease.
He found himself poured out, divided, spilled, then multiplied in a thousand new encounters with his people, while a part of him lay quietly in the meadow, ever-filled from deep below the earth. His dreamed adventure set him about the kingdom enthroned in living water, and never did a traveler turn from him uncomfortably again. He was able to be present in every corner of the land at once, and they say in that kingdom that the king has never fully awakened from his dream.
My neighborhood is probably fairly typical for suburban USA, but I always find things that strike my imagination as anything but. There’s a story wherever you look. Here are a few I found yesterday.
The house on the hill was once owned by a retired sea captain who could be spotted occasionally behind the iron parapet with a spyglass, looking toward Lake Michigan. Sometimes I hear him when the wind roars in the trees, shouting “Thar she blows!”
Mrs. McGillicuddy was hanging out the wash one day, when a German Shepherd came barreling around the corner of the house and ran right under her skirts. This sock flew out of reach and remains in the maple tree on Church Street to this day. (What happens to the story if I don’t capitalize the ‘s’?)
“Momma? Can we make a snowman family in the front yard? Please?” “Nonsense, children. That’s not necessary. I have one I ordered from WalMart’s Home Decor department right here. There! Now run inside and watch the TV until dinner.”
The meteorite streamed through the dark night sky, blazing a menacing trail of fire toward the quiet, white house on the corner where Carol & Ken slept. It whistled past the living room window, sending Fluffy on arthritic legs across the rug and under the sofa on the opposite wall. With a steaming hiss, it plopped into the snow. Ken snored loudly and rolled over on his left side.
Enjoy your Sunday amusements! The sun is shining, and I think we’re off on a hike this afternoon.