Outside the cave tonight the first sliver of moon glows sharp: a scimitar, a nail-paring.
All was silent until the soft footsteps; the freezing toes in sandals. They come; they go.
Nuns came here tonight. They left rice. So many nuns and monks come. So many days. They leave rice, millet, sorghum and pastes made from I know not what. Food is left in bowls at the cracked entrance of my cave. They leave wood to burn and water to drink.
Food left in pretty bowls. Why do these lovely people leave food for me? Why the pretty bowls?
Pretty bowl… I turn it and study the painted flower pattern. You, a child I think, may have painted a hundred of these today, or yesterday, and will paint more tomorrow. I think people buy things painted by you. They do not know you and may hardly glance at your simple work.
You paint, your parents sell from a stall, they buy food, you eat. This is how I lived when growing up.
You only had moments to paint the flower designs on this bowl but I have many moments to look at them. I have eternity and can find it in your hurried brush strokes.
Why were you born into this world? I know. I asked myself and received the answer. The answer is you. I like answers like that.
I’ve eaten the rice. My body is fed. I look at your rushed painting, little child, and see beauty that equals the moon.
The cold creeps into my toes and fingers. It is time for my blanket. Time to sleep.
There were more footsteps after the sun went down. Feet moving and the sounds of a tent being erected.
It must be a tiny tent to fit in the level space near my cave – the flat place at the end of the punishing climb to reach this crag.
One or two people will fill the tent. They will want to talk to me: ask questions.
Tomorrow. Questions are always exhausting and always the same. Questions from those on the journey who think knowledge is something they have to strive for, work for, pay for.
They’ll ask me what the truth is, as if truth is a destination or a fact.
They’ll ask me if I know the truth of all things. I’ll say ‘yes and no’. They won’t understand: they’ll think it means doubt or indecision … or ignorance.
I admire them for asking these questions.
Sometimes … my favourite … are the silent visitors who don’t ask anything. They are like the nuns and monks – people who have learned that no one can give them answers: they must seek their own.
They would look at your painting on the bowl and see not brushstrokes but you.
©Gary Bonn, 2016