State Of Grace

Entry by: Alobear

11th August 2016
State of Grace

Grace was a small city state, nestled between the Forest of Mindfulness and the Peaceful Mountains. It stood on the shores of Lake Serenity and sprawled up a short way into the foothills, providing tranquil views out over the water for its residents.

One of those residents was a little girl named Charity. She frequently went on excursions into the forest to gather herbs and mushrooms to garnish her family’s meals. One day, she put on her sturdiest shoes, gathered up her basket, and set out. The sun was bright, but the leaf canopy in the forest shaded her, creating a beautiful dappled effect that lit up the ground.

Charity always enjoyed walking in the forest, as it had a tangible atmosphere that brought her to a very positive state of being. It wasn’t the transcendent calm of the mountains, or the sense of all-encompassing tranquility that came from looking out over the lake. It was a more focused awareness that allowed Charity to appreciate the details of everything around her, easily spot the plants she was looking for, and take pleasure in the simplicity of her task.

Charity was a good-hearted and friendly girl, and the animals of the forest liked her. She didn’t disturb their habitats or tramp noisily around, alarming them with her presence. She was always respectful of nature, and understood that she was a guest amongst the trees and vines. One denizen of the forest in particular had befriended Charity; a little sparrow, who often joined her on her travels, twittering away about his day as they moved through the foliage.

Today, the sparrow had interesting news.

“I was over on the other side of the forest yesterday,” he reported in his high, trilling tones, “and I flew a bit further than usual. All of a sudden, the trees stopped and I popped out into a vast, open space I had never encountered before.”

Charity looked up at him, wide-eyed; she had never ventured too far away from the state of Grace, only exploring the very edges of the forest in her search for mushrooms.

“The hard ground stretched as far as I could see and the wind whipped up dust and dirt into the air,” the sparrow continued. “There are people who live there, too. I spotted at least two or three small settlements, scattered over the area.”

“People?” Charity said. She had never heard of there being any people other than those who lived with her in the state of Grace.

“Yes,” the sparrow confirmed. “Not many, but there could be more further out. The dust made it difficult to make out details, and I was too scared to fly out too far.”

“Show me,” Charity said.

She followed the sparrow as he flitted from tree to tree, always making sure to keep within her sight, and chirruping excitedly as he flew. Charity’s stride had purpose, and she was certainly intrigued by the prospect of meeting people who lived outside her known sphere of existence. As ever in the forest, though, she kept her attention on her immediate surroundings, not allowing her thoughts to wander too far ahead of her steps. This proved fortuitous, as it meant she spied some particularly succulent mushrooms to munch on along her way. She was glad of the sustenance as the journey continued, for the way was long and she was beginning to grow tired.

Eventually, though, the trees grew thinner and were spaced further apart. The sparrow suddenly disappeared completely from view and, a few steps later on, Charity emerged from the shade of the greenery into the harsh light of the midday sun. Dazzled, it took her a moment to make out any details of the unfamiliar landscape before her. As her eyes grew accustomed to the brightness, though, she saw it was as the sparrow had said. Scrubby grassland stretched before her, flat and almost featureless. A few shrubs sprouted from the dusty ground here and there, but the contrast with the lush forest was jarring.

Further away, Charity caught sight of blurry shapes that gradually resolved themselves into buildings, gathered in clusters in the distance. She made her way towards them. As soon as she left the shelter of the trees, Charity felt her focus slipping. In the relentless sunlight, it was harder to keep aware of her breathing, and her thoughts strained towards the unknown of the settlement she was heading for. She caught herself being distracted by uncertainty and anticipation, and she shepherded her mind back to the present moment, to ensure she did not stumble on the rough ground.

The settlement became clearer as Charity drew closer to it, and soon she could see an enclosure with some thin cows milling about in it, and a selection of mud huts. As she approached, several people caught sight of her, and started walking to meet her. There were three of them; a man, a woman and a young boy.

“Hello!” Charity called out as they came within earshot.

All three of the strangers looked surprised at her sudden appearance, and also a little wary. They stopped walking when Charity was still several paces away, so she stopped also, respecting their apparent desire to maintain some distance.

It was the little boy who eventually spoke. He had a scruffy mop of dirty brown hair, and was wearing a ragged loincloth. The adults had slightly more sturdy clothing but were still unkempt and thin.

“Who are you?” the boy asked.

“My name is Charity,” she replied. “I have come from the state of Grace, on the other side of the Forest of Mindfulness, as I had heard there were people here and wanted to meet you. What is this place?”

The man sighed. “You would have done better to stay where you were,” he said. His voice was hoarse, and his tone weary. “This is the Wasteland of Despair. There is nothing for you here.”

Charity was not disheartened by this. “But there may well be something for you in the state of Grace,” she said, confidently. “If you are not happy here, why don’t you come back with me there?”

“We don’t know how to get there,” the woman said. She clutched nervously at the hem of her tunic.

“But you can just follow me when I return,” Charity said. “It’s very easy - it’s just straight through the forest and out the other side.”

“What forest?” the little boy asked.

Charity pointed, puzzled. “That one right there,” she said.

All three of the strangers squinted into the distance, but their expressions remained closed.

“I don’t see anything,” the man said. “There has never been anything in that direction. We don’t go over there. We just stay here.”

“Well,” said Charity, her task now clear to her, “if you cannot reach the state of Grace, I will have to bring the state of Grace to you.”

She called the sparrow down to her.

“Go back to the city,” she told him, “and tell my family where I am, and that there are people here who need our help. They must gather the townsfolk and travel here as soon as possible to share our wealth and knowledge.”

The sparrow bobbed in agreement and sprang into the air, zooming off back in the direction they had come.

Charity, meanwhile, turned back to her new acquaintances and prepared to embark upon her newly chosen purpose. It was time to teach these people the ways of Mindfulness and Grace, so that, one day, they might leave Despair behind them and travel to new parts of the world.