On a chilly, wet winter’s day I arrived in the coastal holiday town of Knysna, South Africa. Piled high in the back of a small pick-up truck that I had loaned from a long-suffering friend, resided all of my worldly possessions. Being a Saturday afternoon, the town’s main road was virtually deserted. Driving past closed shop fronts with darkened windows, I suddenly found my heart filled with misgiving, recalling the vibrant, busy highways of Cape Town, which I had so recently departed. I wondered whether I was cut out for the life in a quiet town that had none of the distractions I was so accustomed to enjoying as a city dweller. There wasn’t even a movie house in this one-horse town, for goodness sake! And definitely no sign of stylish coffee shops, award-winning restaurants or glitzy clubs. But there was no turning back now, as my bridges were well-and-truly burnt, I mused, easing the truck into the parking area of the modest apartment building in which I would be living for the foreseeable future. At least there was plenty of available parking; something which no city dweller will ever take for granted.
A sweaty hour later and the pick-up was emptied of my meagre belongings, the bulk of which now resided in the middle of my sitting room inside of a pathetic pile of soggy cardboard boxes. Hanging up my dripping raincoat in the shower, its mouldy, drooping curtain adorned with seventies-style brown and mustard swirls, I was finding it increasingly difficult to keep my spirits up. What on Earth had I been thinking to resign from my lucrative job as a journalist at a top Cape Town daily newspaper and move out of my comfortable, stylish house into this tiny, miserable, flea-ridden apartment?
Mentally giving myself a shake and yanking myself back from the temptation of diving head-first into a lengthy wallow in a mire of self-pity, I reminded myself that this had been my own choice. I had willingly given up my career and my city life. For better or for worse, some part of me had decided that this was to be my dream for the future. There was nothing to do now but to make the most of it.
Grabbing a beer from the cooler box on the floor, I threw myself down onto a pile of cushions on the futon, which would have to fulfil the dual function of a bed and a couch in my new Spartan living quarters. Taking a long, cool swig, I mentally reviewed the events that had resulted in my current situation.
Ten months earlier, my long-term girlfriend, Clare, had left me, due to our irreconcilable visions for our shared future. Hers had included marriage and children and mine… well in retrospect I was unsure of exactly what I had wanted at the time. My previously cherished position as a highly-regarded journalist of some fifteen years had no longer been satisfying to me and I had been ready for a change. I just hadn't known exactly what that change would entail.
Then, a series of chance encounters led to my taking a six-month sabbatical in Knysna, during which time I collected stories of super-natural and transformative encounters in the forests of the region for a potential book. My time spent in Knysna culminated in a personal encounter with the mysterious Green Lady, guardian of the forest. This encounter proved to be just as transformative for me as it had been for my interviewees. Upon my return to Cape Town, I had resigned from my job and had set about packing up my life to permanently move back to Knysna, hopefully for good. The plan was to support myself working as a free-lance journalist; inevitably at a fraction of the salary I had previously earned. But my real work would be to finalise the writing of my first book, to get it published and to eventually begin work on the sequel.
Returning from my little trip down memory lane, I clicked my tongue in self-recrimination. My plans now appeared hopelessly optimistic and over-ambitious. What did I know about writing and publishing a book? I'd never published anything longer than a newspaper article before! And who could possibly be interested in the off-the-wall topic I had chosen? Self-pity's siren song beckoned me once again.
Pushing myself up from my prone position and staggering to my feet, clutching my aching back, I threw my empty beer can at the wall in disgust. I knew that I would get nothing done in my current mood and so I decided to take myself off to the local pub. I hoped that a few drinks, a basket of deep-fried bits of something or another, and possibly some congenial company would assist me in lifting myself out of my funk.
In the pub I fortuitously encountered Ken Brady, a marine biologist working in Knysna on his PhD project on seahorses, whose story I had included in my first book. By the time we had downed a few beers each, gotten greased-up on pub-grub and bonded over the rugby teams we supported, I was feeling considerably more positive about my situation. I returned to my apartment to start unpacking my few belongings in an attempt to create a slightly less chaotic environment, hopefully more conducive to creativity.
The following morning I awoke, bathed in a brilliant beam of glittering sunlight, with a feeling of excitement in my belly. My blues of the previous day had completely disappeared. I’d made it! Here I was in Knysna, about to commence my new life in which I would follow my heart towards expressing myself as grandly as I could. After a quick breakfast of cereal, I gathered up the flattened cardboard boxes, which I took to the recycling depot, and then bought a prepared sandwich and a few granola bars and got into the truck to drive up the mountain to one of my favourite forest hikes. After all, I reasoned, it was Sunday and I deserved to have at least some time off to recover from my move.
My spirits lifted even further as I stepped out onto the trail. The forest was exquisitely cool and fragrant after the rain, with droplets sparkling on each newly-washed, intensely bright-green leaf. My nostrils welcomed as an old friend the aromas of humus-rich, moist, fertile soil. I found myself humming a jaunty little tune as I stretched my pace, breathing deeply of the healing energies of this most lovely of places.
Within a couple of hours I had reached the massive ancient Yellowwood tree amongst whose roots I had sheltered during my dream-like encounter with the mysterious Knysna elephants earlier that year. Placing my raincoat on the ground to protect my clothing from the damp forest floor, I settled down amongst the roots and enjoyed my picnic. Afterwards, I simply sat basking in the atmosphere of the place. I remembered what the Green Lady had told me about opening my heart and allowing myself to feel love and gratitude toward the forest, and so this is exactly what I did. As I did so, I felt a glow begin to spread from my chest and gradually I remembered exactly why I had decided to uproot my entire life and move to Knysna. Once more I began to feel excited, energised and deeply grateful to be there. The blues of the previous day were by now totally dispelled and I luxuriated in my joyful mood.
Within a few minutes, the light illuminating the pale-green leaves began to deepen to a rich, golden hue. The varied colours and textures of the trees and plants, moss, fungi and lichen began to intensify and I became acutely aware of the magnificent density of life surrounding me... enveloping me. The crickets, frogs and songbirds, the rustling of the undergrowth as small creatures visited this magical place and the chattering of the canopy above as the breeze gently caressed the leaves, all contributed to a delightful, harmonious symphony of vivid life.
The forest held its breath in an extended moment of anticipation. Someone was coming…
And then, suddenly, there she was, gliding across the forest floor towards me, her hands outstretched in welcome, her beautiful face glowing with gentle, green light and her eyes twinkling in a heart-warming smile.
“Peter, you have returned home at last,” she said, softly touching my arm with her cool fingertips. I was suffused with intense joy as I realised that her words were true and that I had, indeed, returned to my spiritual and emotional home. I scrambled to my feet with a delightful sense of anticipation. Something wonderful was about to happen!
“I didn’t know that I was coming home. I’ve only just realised that… this very minute, as you said the words,” I babbled, feeling overwhelmed with happiness.
“Peter, you have just begun to follow your heart, to trust in your own authority and in your own knowing, rather than seeking affirmation and direction from outside of yourself. This is the very first step on your journey towards finding and expressing your most authentic self. And you are rightly feeling suffused with joy, because this is simply the most joy-filled journey you will ever undertake! This is the journey to self.”
The Green Lady gracefully sank down onto a moss-covered log and indicated that I too should sit. Then she said, “Peter, I have been following your progress with great interest and I know that your first book will be enjoyed, and indeed, cherished, by many. But, more importantly, you have contributed towards an increase in consciousness and in love by writing it, even if no-one were ever to read it.
Now, I know that there is still some work to be done in finalising the book and in making it available for people to purchase and, of course, this work must progress. But, at the same time, you need to start getting into the right frame of mind to write your next book.”
“My next book? But… but, I have no plans at the moment to do such a thing. I’m feeling completely intimidated by the huge amount of work required to finish the first book! And, besides, I have absolutely no ideas or inspiration for another book at this time. I'm still trying to come to terms with the massive changes in my life. It's simply too much!” I expostulated, suddenly feeling overwhelmed.
The Green Lady leaned over and placed her hand on my chest, over my heart, and the anxiety left me, to be replaced by a feeling of calm centeredness.
“Peter, it’s natural to feel a bit afraid of all this change. But that should not stop you from doing what your heart calls you to do. Your next book is waiting in the wings and, as for inspiration…that’s what I’m here for!” A bright, tinkling little laugh that both opened and warmed my heart trilled from her lips.
“Your first book shared the stories of people who had encountered me in the forests of this area. In your next book I will be the one telling the stories. These stories will provide your readers with some insight as to who I am, what is important to me, how I became the Green Lady and what exactly that means,” she said.
“Oh, but I would absolutely love to write those stories,” I gasped with excitement. “In fact, I can’t think of any other stories that I would rather write at this point!”
“And that, my dear friend, is a sure sign that you are on your path; that you are starting to express your most authentic self,” she smiled. “Follow the joy, follow the excitement, follow the fascination and the curiosity and they will always lead you to ever greater and greater expressions of self. For now, it will be the writing of The Story of the Green Lady, but, in future, who knows where your joy will lead you!
But let’s stay focused for now on the next step. So, what I propose is this: you will come to this place in the forest once a week, on a Sunday afternoon, and we will spend an hour or two together. I will tell you the stories of many experiences I have had and how these experiences have led to my becoming the being you see before you. These will be thrilling stories of seekers and soldiers, of priests and shamans, of aliens and of ordinary human beings. Stories of adventure and discovery but, ultimately, the story of ever-deepening understanding, love and appreciation of the self.
In short, Peter, it is the story of Life discovering itself. And, in the receiving and the writing of my story, you will find yourself on your own journey of discovery of your most magnificent and most authentic self. You will be writing your own story too.”
“But, this sounds simply wonderful,” I gasped, “I can’t wait to begin!”
“Then, I will next see you here in a week’s time,” she smiled as she stood up, raised her hand in greeting and then drifted away between the trees.
I sat for several minutes longer, relishing the excitement of the anticipation of what lay ahead. My new life truly was about to begin…