This morning I had a close look at the mysterious map that granddad gave me and Iwas staring at it as if I was waiting for it to speak to me, I closed my eyes for a moment and tried to contact grandpa. Nothing. But when I opened my eyes, I got for the first time a weird feeling… It really looked like the map of Tibet, I don’t know why I’d never noticed this before! The strange thing is that it doesn’t have the same geography, nor the same village names. I would say that it looks like an occult map of the real geography. And then I realized something new; I remembered when granddad told me that I would know when to undertake “the journey”.
So that day I asked my mum if she knew about the map, and the only thing she answered me was, “Then it’s the moment”. ”
But the moment for what? For a journey? For what journey?” I exclaimed.
“For your journey, Ilan” she answered. And since then, I don’t know how it happened exactly, but a feeling that I had during all my life, came to the surface. I just knew this moment was my moment to go in search of the meaning of my own life, and that I was the only one in the whole world that could define what this meaning is to me. Still, I asked mum what she meant by “Then it’s the moment” .
“To meet the Guildmistress” she answered.
“The who?!” I said.
This was all a bit weird but for some reason it made sense. The thing is… a few days ago I read again a book that my granddad used to read to me at night called Hidden Shangri-la, which is supposed to be just another tale for kids, but while I was reading it, I could sense a new meaning to the tale, as if I was part of it. Almost as if it was talking about me. Something told me that “the journey” grandpa was talking about was about to happen, and that “my journey”, as mum says, is a journey in search of Shangri-la, maybe there is a real one, or maybe I’m meant to find it?
The whole day passed and I spent it thinking about all this. Mum was behaving in a different way today and that made me very nervous. Today it hadn’t been a day like any other day in my whole life. Even Shobo was nervous, I can say that because he bit me and Shobo never bit me ever before! Maybe it was his routine that was changing as I didn’t take him into the valley today, so busy in my mind I was with all this stuff about the mysterious journey, hidden shangri-las and guildmistresses. Then all of a sudden, mum told me to put on my ceremonial clothes.
“Please mum, will you tell me what’s going on today?” I said.
“You will know in a few minutes” she answered.
So there I was, putting on my ceremonial clothes. But wait, I thought, I only put on my ceremonial clothes for one occasion, and that is when I go see my Jomon Sugi tree.
“That’s it! I’m going to have a ceremony of some kind! And that’s the journey that grandpa talked about!” I exclaimed.
“You’re going to have more than that, Ilan, you must prepare for much more” she said.
“Prepare for what!?” I asked.
“Oh Ilan, this is going to be your greatest adventure and go get Shobo, you will need him”” she said nervously. I was so excited I almost missed the three steps when I got out our house.
Once in the forest, we lit candles all the way to Jomon Sugi tree. Jomon Sugi tree, my tree, or also called Ilan’s tree, is an important presence in my life. When I was born, a few days later, I was “given” to it. In most countries of the world, people don’t understand this concept, but in our island, all parents give their children “in spiritual custody” to a tree that still doesn’t “own a child”. This is not only for good luck during the child’s life, but also a deep teaching for every child of the island, that bonds them forever with nature. In Yakushima, all children know that nature is sacred and so is the bond that exists between them and their trees.
So we got there and mum asked me to leave a candle at the foot of the tree, and so I did. She also asked me to hold Shobo close to me. Then she made a circle on the earth around the tree with a stick and she asked me to step into the circle with the horse. And so I did. Then she asked me to dig a little hole by the foot of the tree. I dug and dug more, and got tired, but mum insisted. Suddenly the earth started falling in the hole , the hole was literally swallowing the earth and it almost swallowed me too, but mum was quick enough and grabbed my arm just on time. Then the hole stopped swallowing earth and it looked like a well. The diameter of the well was so big that even Shobo could fall through it! Then mum asked me one last thing, she asked me to trust her and jump into the well.
Always expect the unexpected.