For years I have enjoyed sitting near the well in the courtyard in the morning, polishing the goblets for my restaurant. It gave me time to reflect about my family and the business of my inn. I’ll never forget that morning, with my breath still slightly visible from the chill of the spring dawn, I watched a young traveler walk in from the King’s Road. As my inn was set half a league from the thoroughfare in quiet surroundings, I had the opportunity to observe him. Hmm, something is different about this man, I reflected, as the traveler approached. He is dressed well like a merchant but his youth and demeanor suggest something else.
The bright and graceful traveler entered the courtyard and stopped near the well to shake the dust off his clothes. He sang out to me, “Dear sir, please draw me some water to quench my thirst, and I will satisfy your curiosity about me.”
I was a little startled by the traveler’s familiarity, as if he knew me. I answered, standing up with a hand on my stiff back, “Yes sir, I am more than happy to bring you refreshment and later food if you so desire.”
I was unlike most Raians, who were tall and slender. My wife would describe me as more on the squat side with a nice round belly, but with a face ready to smile and serve.
I scratched my head for a hesitant moment, then said, “But yes, after your are finished eating and taking rest, I would like to have a moment with you, if you would be so kind.”
“Yes, of course,” the man said, his heartfelt smile having a relaxing effect on me. The sun finally rose above the trees, casting its warm rays upon squinting eyes, brought relief from the chill of the night.
Under an enormous spreading oak tree, close to the well, were several tables for customers to dine when the weather was suitable. The traveler sat there, placing his small backpack beside him.
Hmm, he is traveling light, I first thought. But, when I picked up the backpack to clean the table, its heavy weight aroused my curiosity.
As if he knew what I was thinking, the traveler said without looking up, “The bag contains special stones. I’m taking them to Rai for placement in a temple.”
“Oh, is that so?” I replied, a little puzzled but feeling especially drawn to the man. I noticed that even the animals around the inn seemed to be attracted to him. I often enjoyed watching the dogs dash and frolic around the inn in the morning. On this day they remained silent, sitting under his table after the traveler pet and said a few words to them.
The inn was particularly full because it was festival time. As the morning danced along, the sounds of breakfast being served and guests being helped on their way filled the air. A few lodgers came outside and sat close by the traveler, exchanging the usual morning greetings.
Although I was fully occupied, I couldn’t help sneaking a look at the traveler when I had a chance. I saw my wife noticing my unusual behavior by her puzzled looks and I was relieved she was too busy to inquire about it.
Finally, when most of the guests were taken care of and it was quieter, the traveler caught my attention and signaled me to come over. Why am I so pleased to meet him? I thought, as I joined my mysterious guest.
With friendly eyes the traveler said, “Please sit down with me.” When I complied, resisting the impulse to sit too close, he continued with a gentle voice, ‘Thank you sir, for this wonderful food and drink and for providing such a cheerful place for us weary travelers. Please tell me your name.”
I could not help but smile and said, “My name is Fritaye, and it is my pleasure to serve and provide comfort to travelers. My family has been running this inn for many generations. As my father before me, I was born here and most likely will pass away here. Hopefully my son will take over when I am gone and then his son.”
“Look,” I said pointing to the main inn, “we have just finished renovating the central building, and over there, towards your left, you can see our new barn we built far enough away so as not to disturb the guests.” After reflecting thoughtfully for a moment I said, “I cannot imagine not running an inn. I guess it is in our blood to help and serve.”
“Yes,” returned the traveler, “I know your heart is pure, and this is reflected in the wonderful atmosphere of your inn.” He spread his arms out gazing over the entire complex saying, “It is a delight to be here.”
I lowered my head to accept the compliment, but when I looked up the traveler turned directly to me and continued in a totally different way. With a clear face looking intently into my eyes, he said, “Please Fritaye, don’t worry about your daughter, she will find a good husband and your son will take over when he is ready. Give him space and he will come by himself. Your wife’s illness is serious; she needs rest, but most of all, she needs more attention from you. Make it your business to spend more time with her and less on guests.”
I felt my head spin and almost lost my balance. But then, bracing myself, I said almost in a whisper, “By Rai, how can you know this about me? It is as if you have known me for years. Who are you?”
“My dear Fritaye,” the man said placing his hand on my shoulder to steady me, “I am you in the deeper sense. I am the trees, the sky and the dog that sits here. I am not attached to any definition of myself as an individual person. That is why I can look and see into you. I have felt the pure flow of your heart, and I know you are ready to receive.”
Having said this, the traveler stood and touched my forehead. In complete surprise, I felt a strong power enter me, filling my whole body with a new tingling sense of joy. A humming began in my head that became louder and louder. And then, when the sound totally filled my head, I felt myself rising upward, traveling somewhere new and unknown, losing awareness of my body. I found myself floating in a void where nothing could be defined.
After a few minutes in this eternity, I returned and looked into the eyes of the traveler. I saw the vastness of my own self without separation between the world and me.
“It is so simple,” I exclaimed, “why have I not seen this before?”
“Now, please don’t talk,” the traveler said, his voice soothing, “allow yourself to experience what has happened. Please continue with your duties as if nothing has occurred; the understanding will reveal itself to you in time. We can talk again when I return this way.”
The traveler reached for his backpack, took something out and said, “Please accept this small stone. When you have the need, hold it and you will feel me.”
I asked softly, “Oh special one, please tell me your name and something about you that I can take into my heart?”
“Yes, my name is Kareae. I grew up not far from here in the temple you know as “The Temple of Love.” My parents are the high priest and priestess of the Kanparu Temple. I am pleased to meet you on my travels to the capital city Rai.”
“Ah yes,” I said, “I have visited that temple on many occasions to receive blessings for my marriage and children. It is a very inspiring place.”
Then looking at Kareae I said, “My home is your home. Come anytime, and you shall be received, ask for anything I can provide and I will give.”
Kareae assented with a nod and again a flow of energy and a sense of understanding was present between us.
Gathering his backpack Kareae said, “I continue my journey now with the warmness of the sun on my face. You have no obligations towards me. I am delivering only what is yours. The purity of your heart bought me here. I will return, but only as a friend.”
With that Kareae left the inn and was gone.
I watched Kareae leave, remaining spellbound on the spot. Finally my wife, Clarae, came over and asked, “Are you not feeling well, dear?”
Slowly I regained my presence of mind. I looked at my still handsome wife with new eyes of acceptance and said, “I had the most incredible meeting with that man who just left. In only a few minutes he changed my life by showing me who I truly am.” With this I gave out a loud “Hurrah!” grabbed Clarae, took off her apron, and started dancing with her around the courtyard.
“My dear, what has gotten into you?” Clarae questioned at first but then started laughing, caught into my excitement.
Afterwards, when we were both exhausted and out of breath, she said, “My husband, it has been a long time since we have danced like this; I am not used to it anymore. And still there is work to be done!”
“Ah, my wife, let the work wait for us, I want to sit and hold you for a while,” taking her to our favorite place near the oak tree.
“Are you sure you don’t have a fever?”
I just silently smiled, gathering her in my arms. “ Oh well”, she said relaxing in my embrace, “Give me a kiss.”
For days I experienced the sweet presence of the traveler everywhere in the inn, even when I slept. The rest of the family gave puzzled looks to each other when they found me doing unusual things like sitting and just staring into open space. They were very curious about what had transpired. I wanted to share with my wife and children what had happened, and how I was forever changed, but it was not possible at first. I needed time to absorb the experience and make some sense out of it. My family finally relaxed their attitude when they realized how soft and accepting I had become even if they didn’t understand my new behavior.
Almost immediately, I could tell that the guests at the inn sensed the more loving and caring atmosphere. In the next months the inn became an even more popular place to break a journey. Visitors told me how pleased they were to be here. And when they left, they always seemed to have a sense of solace, feeling rested and ready to continue their travels.