The Forest

    by Rachel Leedom

Hidden away, on the other side of a village, behind a creek and a field, was a forest. The forest was said to house terrifying creatures and certain death for those who entered. Everyone lived in fear of the forest and the uncertainty that lurked within. They were so afraid, that they stayed in their village, tucked away in their homes. All the windows and doors locked tight every night. 

 

When they had to leave their homes to venture throughout the village, their hands would shake and their heart would race. For fear was always by their side. They lived this way their entire lives. No one ever explored the forest, thanks to their fear of the dangers they would surely encounter. They wasted away in their homes, day after day and year after year. They never learned there was nothing to fear. They never learned that the forest held only daisies, blue rivers and deer.

 

They stayed clear of the forest as it was filled with unknowns, but in doing so, cursed themselves to being alone. No one knew the magic and love that the forest beheld, for they could not see they were under a spell. They were afraid to leave their village and get lost on the way, but they could not see that they were already lost within their walls where they felt safe to stay. 

But some brave souls ventured out into the wood. Deciding that perhaps they could find a way through, and be rid of their village for good. Those who stayed behind, mourned their fallen friends, certain they would never be seen again. But those who explored were delighted to find, that there was nothing to fear after all this time. They basked in the beauty and comfort the forest provided, and most had decided never to return to their village, displeased by its ignorance. 

There was one girl however, who felt this wasn't right. All those people she loved were still living with fright. She traveled back to her homeland and began to tell stories, of the wonders she had seen and the expansive forest's glories. Most didn't believe her, they thought she went mad. But those who did, began to follow her footsteps on a great journey. Of overcoming their fear and pursuing the magic she promised was near. 

The girl wrestled each day, with gainsayers and skeptics, who trampled all over her precious memories. But she vowed not to return to the forest, until everyone was saved, until everyone knew the truth. Day after day and year after year, she began to give into her lingering fear. She wondered if the forest had been nothing but a dream, and all those she sent off were no longer laughing by streams. The fear and the guilt became worse by the day, tormented by those gainsayers who knew that her terror soon would give way. 

She was no longer a girl when an old friend came to save her, knowing something was wrong when she had stopped sending folks their way. She saw him with a start, as she had feared he was lost, but he lovingly shook his head and said, "This is the way it has always been and must always be. We came from beyond the forest, but when we passed through, we forget everything we ever knew. The forest is a veil, to keep us safe while we're here, but we were never meant to live in so much fear."

She shook her head in response, not quite understanding, so he continued this way, "You already left once. You have left many times, my dear. But when you came back, you forgot all the love and safety you knew to be true. It's the nature of this place. It's the way most arrive and the way most will stay. But that choice is always up to you. You returned last time with a mission, to help others remember what you already knew. But you gave into doubt and separation, it's so easy to do. Don't be afraid or worried any longer, for each time you returned here, you became so much stronger."

The longer he spoke, something stirred within her. A silent remembering, a true-ness was clicking. She recalled a time, back in the forest, when she was filled with such purpose. To come back here and save all those in fear, for what an achievement that surely would be. Her friend saw she was struggling as she began to remember all of the beauty and wonder she lost. For now years of her life had been wasted in fear, and the keys to her happiness were suddenly so clear. He reassured her, "Don't believe that voice, the mean one in your head, who tells you that all of this was something to regret. There is a method to this madness, a plan in disguise, always in perfect motion at all times."

She began to smile and let out a deep breath, she hadn't realized she had been holding. "Those who wish to leave this place will know precisely when. Anyone who chose to stay, is content then in their ways. Leave them be, for their story need not be the same as yours. It is only in this village that this may not make sense. Back home there is a clarity to all the things we dread. Breathe easy, little one, there is much work to be done. But please not from fear that you must save everyone. There is no one to save, they have not been forgotten. You can stay here and still have some fun, the choice is always up to  you. No one is trapped, not in the truth that lies beneath the surface." 

She slowly decided to follow him back home to the forest, knowing that soon she would return once again. The girl who was much, much older now, followed her friend who now walked with a cane, into the woods from where they first came.  She looked back on her village with love and delight, knowing that next time, she just might live this life right. She wouldn't be worried of how others opinions might sway, she would know that her heart always gets the final say. She would help those she could, because it made her feel good. But she would not allow their fear to dampen her security. 

She knew she may forget, time and time again, and that was alright, there was nothing to hurry. But she had faith now that no matter the voices that may try to dissuade her, she would return to the truth that sat deep within her. For no voice was more constant, or feeling so strong, as the love that is inside each one of us all along. While the name of the forest may vary in life, the truth is steadfast throughout all of time. Whenever you forget, as we all are sure to do, remember you can always find the answers inside of you. 

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