The Holy Man and His Shadow, A Story of Redemption in Three Parts, Part Three: Communion

The Holy Man and His Shadow

A Story of Redemption in Three Parts

Part Three: Communion

He awoke in
a dark chamber surrounded by all manner of animals and beasts, monsters, and
birds, bats, ghosts, skeletons, reptilian creatures, giant toads and frogs,
lizards and snakes, horses and buffalo, giant fish stood around him too on
their fins even though he didn’t feel like he was in water any longer.  Still they were there.  He saw vagabonds and beggers with red, frightened
eyes.  There were women standing around
him in chains, battered and beaten.  Old
men stood around him covered with bloody wounds.  Soldiers stood with rifles and gaping holes
in their chests.  They wore arm bands
which bore his image.  They saluted him
gravely.  All manner of people from every
religion of the world stood around him each with their bodies mangled and tortured-but alive staring at him.  Gnarled trees stood nodding their barren
branches.  And the children—they tore
through his insides like none of the other ghoulish visions.  The children stood around him, some radiant,
some smiling, some playing catch with little rocks and stones, others looked
clearly beaten and abused, but they lived looking at him with wide, hollow
eyes.  As he looked around, blinking at
the horrifying images, he noticed the room was illuminated by a milky blue
light.  He also noticed he was still
bound by the shadows.  He screamed as one
of the ghostly children stepped to where he was kneeling. 

“Do you see
me?” the boy asked, moths fluttering from his open mouth.

“Yes,” said
the holy man, “I see you.”  And he began

“That is
good,” said the child and he reached up and tore away a piece of the holy man’s
shadow and placed it before him like a communion wafer.

The holy man
opened his trembling mouth and the child placed the piece of shadow on his

The holy man
winced as he swallowed the shadow.  It
moved through him like a virus warming him with sickly fever.  He trembled and opened his eyes.  Before him stood another child, this one had
been abused and battered. 

“Do you see
me?” she said.

“I see you,”
wept the holy man.  And then she tore a
piece of his shadow and fed it to him as the little boy had done. 

The holy man
convulsed as the poison flowed through him. 

One by one
the beings of this horrible circle–the monsters and ghosts, beasts and demons,
saints and sinners, the people he had judged and disowned, the nightmares and
visions of ageless beauty, his mother and father, grandparents and ancestors, the
trees and fairies, gods and goddesses–each one asked him the question as they
children had done.  Each time he answered
in the affirmative they fed him his shadow until at long last he could move his
numb, heavy arms. 

A group of
men wearing brightly colored robes approached him.

“We are the
writers of the holy book,” they said, “and we would like it back.”

The holy man
handed it to them.  They wrapped its shadow
around it like a shroud and then turned and disappeared into the circle.

The holy man
lowered his head, exhausted.  And then
the last one to step before him appeared. 

A shiver ran
through his fever-racked body–a shiver of exquisite relief. 

“I knew you
were here,” he said gasping for breath. 

“I know you
did,” the Comforter smiled, and she lifted the last piece of his shadow and held
it in the space between them.  He tilted
his head back and opened his mouth.   He
waited.  Nothing.  He looked at her.  Their eyes locked together.  Finally she moved her hand and placed the
tattered piece of shadow into her own mouth. 
He screamed as deep shame burned through his body.

“It is the
only way,” she said, “No one can digest their entire shadow without the help of
someone who loves them.”

And the holy
man fell into her arms and wept like a baby. 
He sobbed and sobbed clutching her for dear life.  After a long time, he was able to sit up in
her arms.  She cradled him as he opened
his eyes and looked around him.  He wept
again and collapsed into her arms as the intensity of beauty of the vision
flooded his heart and soul and mind—the monstrous circle had become a circle of
luminous angels, each one more beautiful than the next, and all of them
infinitely beautiful.  They were clothed
in deep white robes with crowns of gold. 
Some carried swords and others cups of wine; some carried musical instruments
or baskets of fruit, several of them held infants in their arms.  The angel children waved at him with sweet,
tiny hands.  And as the Comforter rocked
the holy man the angels drew closer and began to sing.  At first their voices were hushed like the
morning but soon were rejoicing with the full strength of day, with the full
glory of spring.  And as they sang the
Comforter carried the holy man in her arms and lead them all on a joyous
procession to the village in the valley of the hill.  As they neared blossoms sprung at their feet,
birds circled and sang out with the angels, and the villagers came running up
the road to meet them and they all joined in the song.  The young woman who had tried to heal him
with the blue streamer embraced the Comforter and the holy man.

“So there
was hope,” she wept. 

“Yes,” said
the Comforter, “you and the others gave it to him and it was ultimately too strong
even for his cold heart.”

“Thank you,”
said the holy man to the young woman, “Thank you for helping me see myself.”

welcome,” she said touching his face, “I am so happy for you,” And she turned
to join the singing and the heavenly parade.

“Do you
think you can walk yet?” the Comforter asked the holy man.

“I would
much rather stay in your arms.”

She laughed
and lowered him to the ground and said, “If you’re able, you must walk among

“Where are
we going?” he asked.

“To the
castle of the King and the Queen.  They
are holding a feast in your honor.  For
you were once lost and now you are found.”


Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

The Holy Man and His Shadow, A Story of Redemption in Three Parts, Part Two: The Rapture

The Holy Man and His Shadow

A Story of Redemption in Three Parts

Part Two: The Rapture

That night,
the holy man knelt alone on the hill top bound in his own shadow and in the
shadow of the holy book.  As the darkness
around him deepened, he began to hear noises; hooves clicking among the rocks;
heavy padded feet crushing the grass, wings fluttering like wind-tossed drapes;
deep, guttural growls and puffed breath from enormous lungs; grunts, shrieks,
and even whispers.  He trembled and fell
to his side, arms bound behind him, eyes slammed shut.  And then he heard the sounds of roots lifting
from the ground and entire trees shuffling towards him.  The night itself seemed to yawn and roar, breaking
away from some ancient hinges; circling around him like a monster.  An ink colored river flowed towards him and
soon surrounded him, lifting him ever so slightly from the ground.  He shook with panic, mumbling prayers and
curses.  The gathered beasts and animals
splashed in the river that now was carrying him down the hillside into the
valley below.  Many times he rolled in
the river, going face down into the black water thinking for sure he would
drown, but at the last moment he would turn face up, gasp for air and then
scream as the river bore him faster and faster. 
The beasts and creatures of the night ran through the river behind him,
growling and shouting with savage fury. 
Bats and ravens clawed at him as he floated on the river.  Dark horses with flaring nostrils and flaming
eyes trampled towards him.  He screamed
in terror as he saw trees running through the liquid-obsidian river towards him
waving their branches as if caught in a storm. Voices from the blackness washed
into his ears and tickled his mind with maddening sensations. 

At last the
river spilled him into a lake.  He
descended down into the water, deeper and deeper, feeling his lungs about to
explode.  He screamed a silent scream as
he saw huge shapes swimming near him, some buffeting him and brushing him with enormous,
rough fins and tales.  Giant crabs and lobsters
snapped at him with claws as big as sharks. 
And as he began to lose consciousness, the last thing he remembered
seeing before the end was a soft, blue light moving towards him like the dawn.

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

The Holy Man and His Shadow, A Story of Redemption in Three Parts, Part One: The Miracle

The Holy Man and His Shadow, 

A Story of Redemption in Three Parts

Part One: The Miracle


Once upon a
time a self-described holy man stood atop a great hill.  In his hands he held a weathered, black, holy
book.  He had advertised that a miracle
would occur on the hill early in the morning just after the sun had risen.  He had proclaimed it across the land.  Everyone from every faith was invited to come
and witness the miracle.  Once everyone
saw the miracle he was convinced they would join his religion.

“The people
will be stunned,” he said to himself. 
“They will be moved to tears and rocked to their core.  They will have their falsities demolished and
they will stand in the presence of the light; the light of salvation.  They will understand the importance of faith.  They will become convicted of their own sinfulness
and beg for mercy.  And I will offer it
to them.  I will point the way to the
light of lights.  I will be a living example
of purity of heart.  All who are moved by
this great miracle will know the truth of all truth.  They will see that my way—the way of the one
true light—is the only way; the way that heals, and transforms; the way that conquers

As he
expected people began to gather on the hill. 
They came from all walks of life and from every corner of the village,
and even from distant villages; for word had spread how the holy man was to
work a miracle; one that would change the course of history; one that would
save a fallen world.

The holy man
stood with his hands one on top the other with the bottom hand pressing the
holy book tightly to his chest.  The
crowd grew and grew until the hill was completely blanketed with people.  The sun had risen and the holy man looked up
and smiled.

He turned
his gaze down upon the people assembled before him.  He raised his hands into the air and bid them
silence.  A wave of whispers moved over
the crowd and stopped at the shores of silence. 
Nothing stirred. 

yelled the holy man, “Children!  I hope
everyone can hear me and what I am about to say.  We are gathered on this hill top to witness a
miracle.  All who witness it will be
saved, for they are the pure in heart. 
They are the chosen ones.  They
are the ones belonging to the one, true religion.  They will be born again.  But watch closely and pray you are a beloved
of the light and can see the miracle.”  

The crowd
was now completely transfixed as each person pondered in their heart whether or
not they might be holy enough to witness the miracle.  A nervous energy began swimming through them.  Nearby birds flew away and hid in the trees
as if a storm were approaching.  The
leaves on the trees in the valley below turned up their leaves as if to block
the vision they were about to see from their faces.

The holy man
swept his eyes over the expectant, fidgety crowd. 

“They are so
young,” he thought to himself, “so much like cattle, so much like lost ghosts.
It is a pity so many will be lost.”

“And now
dear children, I will reveal the miracle.” 

He turned to
the people behind him and commanded them to part leaving a path along the
ground.  Once this was accomplished, he
faced the light and said to the people:

“The miracle
is this—the sun has risen and is at the perfect height to cast our
shadows.   Every one of you has a shadow
trailing along the ground behind them.  Take
a moment and look at your shadow.  Shout
if you see your shadow.”  And there was a
great shout for everyone could see their own shadow in the morning sun.

“You see
children, every one of you has a shadow, every one, that is, expect me.  And that is the miracle.  Look behind me oh sinful and floundering
generation and see I have no shadow. 
That is the miracle and the sign for all of you.  If you can see this miracle then perhaps you
are one of the chosen ones; perhaps you can be redeemed. If you see my shadow
however, then you are doomed to hellfire.”

The people
looked behind the holy man.  They covered
their faces and wept; many fell to their knees and wailed for mercy.  Others tore their clothes and beat their chests.  They began hurling themselves down the
hillside screaming.  The holy man looked
around shouted, “If you see my shadow you clearly are not among the chosen and
you should go home and beg for mercy, for you are all but lost.  The rest of you who can clearly see that
there is no shadow behind me—you, you dear ones, are the ones I have come for.”

And as he
spoke, the entire crowd dispersed down the hill, weeping, gnashing their teeth,

“What?!” he
shouted, “Not one of you sees the miracle? 
Not one?  It is worse than I
thought!  Set fire to your village!  Destroy yourselves before the light
does!  Oh you sinful generation of vipers
and infidels!  Woe unto you!  This holy book was not written for you.”  And as he shouted his vehemence he spun
around and as he did his shadow spun across the ground with him, for it was, of
course, there the whole time.  He turned
around and around shouting at the people descending down the hill until
suddenly he stopped.  He couldn’t
move.  He was somehow rooted to the

“This is
what you wanted,” said a voice behind him. 
The holy man turned around as far as he could, but his feet wouldn’t
budge.  “Who is there?” he shouted and he
caught a glimpse of a blue, oval shaped light behind him.

And then he
felt himself twist inside as the blue light moved to face him.  He suddenly felt torn and mangled
inside.  When the being of blue light stood
before him, he saw she was a child, angelic and luminous.  She was surrounded by a blue light shaped
like an almond and the blue light radiated like the ocean, it spread like the
sky.  And she held something in her hands
that resembled a long, black silk.  It
trailed from her hands to the where his feet met the ground and from the book that
he held in his hands.

The people
moving down the hill stopped and looked up. 

“Who are
you?” the holy man shouted. 

“I am the
miracle,” she said, and as she spoke she pulled the black silk.  And as she did it sent him sprawling to the

“What are
you doing?” he screamed. 

“Trying to
help,” she said dragging him closer.

“That is my
shadow!” he shouted, “This is impossible!”

Soon the
child in blue light had gathered up his shadow and drawn him to his knees
before her. 

“Give me the
book,” she instructed, holding out her hand.

“Never!” he
shouted, “It is the source of my strength and light.”

“Maybe once
upon a time,” said the child still holding out her hand, “but you have
perverted its message.  Now the book is a
part of your shadow.”

he said and he drew the holy book into view. 
He gasped when he realized the black book’s shadow was part of the same
black stream that she held in her hands.

He handed
her the book, trembling.

She took the
book and then slowly began walking around him draping him with the woven shadows.  As she walked around and around him the
tighter the shadows became.  The crowd
had gathered again and as they looked on the child completely tied the holy man
in his own shadows. Only the whites of his eyes were visible.  He looked like a kneeling mummy wrapped with
black linen. 

When she had
finished, she turned to the people assembled and said, “None of you saw the
miracle because there was no miracle. 
His shadow was there the entire time. 
Do not despair; you are good and decent people.  Do not burn your villages and believe you are
doomed to hell.  The Creator did not
create you in order to destroy you. 
There is only one amongst us who may very well be doomed.”  And she turned to the holy man. 

“You have
hurt these people,” she said to him.  His
eyes were wild with fear.  “What shall
you say to them?”  She removed the
covering around his mouth giving him a chance to speak.

“Do not
listen to this devil!” he screamed, “She is a monster and a charlatan.  Somehow she has done this trick to me.  If you listen to her you will all burn in

The people
murmured and whispered to one another.

wants to be saved, let him untie me from this humiliating trickery.  Step forward one brave soul and save yourself
from hell fire.”

No one
moved, expect to get closer to the child. 

“Come,” she
said, “you have suffered enough.  Come
and bathe in the light.”  And she opened
her arms and the blue light spread like a blanket of cool water around
them.  They moved in closer and gasped in
wonder at the relief and refreshment of her cool, majestic blue light.

“Fools!” the
bound man shouted, “You are lost to the true light now!  You are lost!”

The people
drew closer to the child and as they did her embrace only widened gathering
them all in.  And as they gathered she
grew into a woman of such beauty and wisdom that everyone wept in astonished joy. 

“Do not let
us go,” the people said to her.

“I will hold
you as long as you desire,” she said smilingly, “for I am the Comforter.”

“What will
become of him?” one of the people asked her.

“He will
eventually die and be eaten by the birds,” she said sadly.

“Isn’t there
anything we could do?” A young woman asked her.

“There is
always hope, beautiful soul,” answered the Comforter, “what would you do?”

The young
woman thought a few moments and then stood up. 
And just as the Comforter had grabbed hold of the holy man’s shadow, she
took hold of a streamer of blue light emanating from the Comforter, and began
walking towards the holy man.  Soon another
person took a streamer of blue light and moved towards the bound man, and then
another and another, until the entire crowd began walking around him with
streamers of radiant blue light. 

“We forgive
you,” each one said as they lifted and shook the blue streamers around him
sending him cool, refreshing wind–wind of water and of light, wind of the
heavens and the sea, wind of the earth and of the darkness, wind of their
hearts to his.  The Comforter wept as she
watched their outpouring of mercy.

“Do you
acknowledge the wrong you have done?” the young woman asked who had begun the
parade around him.

“And are you
ready to make it right?” spoke a young man nearby.

“Are you
ready to truly look at yourself and to stop judging us?”

The holy man
opened his eyes, for he couldn’t help but close them and feel cooled by their
waving of the blue light around him.  He
heard their questions.  Tears formed in
his eyes.  After a long time he spoke in
a soft voice.

“You are kind
children,” he said, “so kind, but alas, so misguided.  This demon woman has you convinced I am the
enemy and that she is way to the light. 
You are all, dear children, being tricked by the devil.  I do not need your forgiveness, for I have
acted only out of love for you.  I have
done no wrong.  You may all take your
banners of light and leave me to die.”

The people
waving their banners of blue light wept. 
They turned to the angel in blue, their Comforter and said, “You said
there was always hope.”

“There is,”
she said, “but the hopeless one must embrace it, or at very least cling to a shred
of it.  Then it can flourish into
salvation.  We cannot force him.  Some are bound very tightly by their

“See there!”
the holy man shouted, “She lies!  SHE
bound me with my shadow.  It was not me
who put myself like this.  It was HER!”

The people
looked from him to the Comforter and said, “It is true.  We saw you. You did this to him.  Why?”

“I am the
Comforter because I manifest the truth. 
I make visible what is painful to see. 
The truth and the pain however, are the healers, and they must be seen
and experienced to be able to perform their healing work.  He has been tied and bound by his shadow and
the shadow of the book for many years now. 
It was my hope if he could fully see and experience the truth of what he
has done to himself by becoming so self-righteous and evil in his thoughts of
those different than him, that he might see himself for what he truly is, and
begin to change.”

“Lies!” he

please forgive us for our doubts, but it seems your making the truth manifest
has doomed him to die.”

“Dear ones,”
she said, “your doubts and questions are good, and there is nothing to be
forgiven.  And no, I have not sealed his
fate.  He did by calling you here and
driving fear into your hearts.  He
tricked you.  His shadow was there the
whole time.  His own deep hatred of
himself has done this to him.”

“But you
helped,” said a young man, “and you are supposed are the Comforter.”

“I am the
Comforter,” she said, “and as tragic as this is to believe, he is comfortable
right now.  This is the way he would
prefer things to be.  His own self-hatred
runs so deeply that his only comfort is to isolate himself from you and to
judge you for being infidels and unbelievers. 
Your gesture of kindness to carry the light to him was beautiful, so
beautiful.  It is the thing that seals
your fate in heaven, but if he will not look at himself, he will die here and
die believing he is right and everyone one of us is wrong.”

“Isn’t there
anything else we can do to help him see himself?” asked a young woman.

soul,” said the Comforter to the young woman, “We have done all we can.  The rest is up to him.”

“She is
delusional,” shouted the holy man.  “She
is a murderer and an agent of the devil. 
Flee from her and untie me.  If
you follow her and leave me here to die, you will all be murderers and cast
into hellfire.”

“Some of us
are afraid,” said a young man to the Comforter, “what if he is right?”

“Dear one,”
she said, “I make you do nothing.  You
are all free to do as you wish.  But you
can never free him.  If you unwrap him
now his shadows will only grow stronger and tighter around him later on.  Search your hearts and your own shadows and
find the truth for yourselves.  I will
always be with you helping you see.  You
must choose for yourselves.  My loves, I
pray you follow no one except your own conscience.  You may learn from one another and travel
with one another, but follow your own soul and song.  For everyone’s journey is different.  They may all lead eventually to the same
door, but give yourselves the gift to follow the path you must follow that
brings you there.  And know that even if
you do not see me, I am there illuminating signs along the way.  I am within you and around you.  And at your journey’s end, I will hold you
for as long as you desire.”

And with
that she was gone.  And the people stood
in silence as the bound holy man shouted at them and berated them for being
fools and sinners.  And as he continued
to shout, they began, one by one, to walk down into the valley, and back to
their simple and holy lives.  They had
learned much about themselves on this day of miracles, and they were silent as
they went, pondering it all in their hearts.

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

A Conversation on Soul-Making

Conversation on Soul-Making 

My friend
Jean Raffa’s writing has been inspiring me for a couple years now—ever since I
discovered her work on her blog, Matrignosis
The other day she wrote a post, “Soul-Making Half Way In Between,” and
this story popped out as a response/reply. 
I am grateful to Jeanie for her kind and wise encouragement and
permission to leave such long comments on her blog.  Anyway, here’s a story I posted as a comment
for her piece.  I thought you might like it.  It’s a transcription of a conversation I overheard between a kindly old man and the Divine Child as I sat up in the Tree of Life daydreaming.  Let me know what you think, let’s keep the conversation going. 


The Journey

Along a
shadow-dappled path on a late summer evening, a child and an old man walk
discussing many topics of great interest: their favorite painters and poets,
the art of brewing tea, water divining, and the ever self-revealing topic of soul-making.

“There is no
finish line on that journey,” said the child to the old man.

“Is that why
we make everything into a race?” asked the old man, “It would seem we like
finish lines.”

“I suppose,”
laughed the child, “we all like to imagine and to feel a sense of completion.”

“So it’s OK
to want conclusions?”

“Of course,
provided you remember that conclusions are just doorways to new beginnings.”

“So nothing

“Oh things
end,” said the child, “just not in the way we’re taught to understand endings.  In the movies they flash a big, ‘The End,’ so
we know to get up and leave–in case we didn’t know.  Everything gets tied up nicely.  In reality, however, when something ends, when
Enlightenment dawns, when a soul awakens, it often happens after, or during, a
not-so tidy experience.  Sometimes it’s a
little messy, rough around the edges, torn, broken, wrinkled, worn out.  But if one looks at our brothers and sisters
of the cicada variety and the caterpillar variety, and the hatchling and the
tadpole variety; the autumn leaves, late, late evenings like this one, we would
see that endings are really wildly transformative and colorful beginnings.”

“I’m not
sure I want wildly transformative beginnings.”

“You’re not
alone,” said the child, “I am guessing when the cicada nymph’s back splits and
its wings spill out that it feels both painful and relieved, much like the scratching
of a deep itch.  I wonder how it feels to
be the caterpillar spinning its own shroud in rhythmic pulsations, and then
dissolving into an alchemical substance that will eventually take the shape of
a butterfly.  Really, think of that a
moment—caterpillars dissolve in their
cocoons.  They liquefy.  What must that be like?”

“A bit like
losing oneself in grief, perhaps,” offered the old man.

oneself into anything you love,” said the child, “Tears and heart-softening
embraces happen when we’re happy or sad. 
My point is it’s probably a difficult transition—from fully-bellied,
exhausted caterpillar to churning, golden liquid; to deep dreaming; to powdery
winged enlightenment.”

“Did you
know that the word ‘chrysalis’ comes from the Greek, ‘khrysos,’ meaning gold?”

“I did know
that,” said the child, “thank you for reminding me.  The whole enlightenment process, even the
difficult parts where we seeming lose ourselves—is golden.”

“Maybe we
like finish lines because we get to rest, or because we imagine the pain and
hard work will be over?”

like that,” said the child, “if we actually learn to settle into periods of
rest and inactivity, so-called ‘endings’ wouldn’t come as undesirable surprises.  After all, the tide comes in and the tide recedes.  The morning dawns and the night awakens.  The body slips into the harbor of sleep and
rises with the songbirds to work the fields. 
Endings are the shadows of beginnings. Enlightenment is the sister of

“It would
seem a healthy practice then to enjoy the journey,” said the old man.

shouted the child happily, “That’s the key. 
Allow yourself to be blessed by the very path itself, and by the walking
and the movement, the rest times, and the dancing.  Allow yourself to revel in the ability to
move and to learn, to be able to stumble and rise again.  This gratitude opens all doors at the so-called
end of the road.  And when one steps
through the gates they find themselves in a mansion that is really a universe; that
is really one world within another, one body of light giving way to other
bodies of light; there are rooms within rooms in the mansion of heaven, souls
within souls, embraces within embraces. 
The valleys rise and the mountains bow. 
Beds are carried on currents of dreams, and dreams spill over into
kitchens and living rooms, classrooms and churches.  New myths are told and stories bloom in the
minds and hearts of children. Gardens break forth into gardens, caresses drip
into caresses, desires are fulfilled only to give birth to children named,
“Gratitude,” “Prosperity,” “Success.” 
And then these go out into the world to play only to discover entirely
new cities and open new gates, enter new heavens, explore new forests.  Yes, enjoy the journey,” said the child, “and
know that enjoying the journey means sometimes you will stumble, fall, want to
give up.  That’s all a part of it.  We do grow tired and weary sometimes.  Enlightenment doesn’t necessarily mean
boundless energy; it just means there’s clearer light to see where to go next.”

“What do we
do when we grow tired and weary?” asked the old man.

“Rest,” said
the child, “Pause.  Breathe.  Allow yourself to dissolve into doing
nothing, stop where you are on the dance floor and rest your head against the
shoulder of your partner.  Let them glide
you along.”

“So part of
the journey is resting.”

“Yes.  And part of the journey is learning to live
with incompleteness and imperfections. 
Think of the tadpole when it’s close to becoming a frog.  It still has a tail.  And it probably doesn’t try to hide it like
we might.  But it belongs to two
worlds—the fish and the frog.  It has a
sort of identity crisis, only it probably isn’t a crisis because it simply
accepts this temporary tail as part of the plan.  We’d probably feel embarrassed at not quite
being fully frog; we would think we’re not enlightened until we lost our tail.”

saying the journey is imperfect?”

“No, the
journey is perfect.  It’s just that we
walk it imperfectly, which in the grand scheme of things, is perfect anyway,
just as the clouds look all jumbled and yet somehow manage to look beautiful as
they travel across the sky. We are enlightened here and now, it’s just that we
think too much about what that means and the experience gets lost in ideas and

“Let me try
and sum this up,” said the old man.

laughed the child.

“There is no
finish line to the journey of life, to enlightenment.  There are pauses, deep breaths,
transformations, rest stops, but no actual endings.  Endings are beginnings with different
names.  They’re twins.  Also, we cannot travel the road
perfectly.  We will stumble sometimes or
get caught with our tails still showing. 
But in the end…”

“That’s a
pun,” interrupted the child.

“Oh dear,”
laughed the old man, “So it is.  In the
end, or at the end of the day, whatever we call it, the night comes, our own
cosmic cocoon descends, and we dissolve into sleep and dreams only to wake up
the next morning, born again, refreshed, renewed, transformed, and ready for

“Sounds good
to me,” said the child, “and there’s one more thing about the journey that is
perhaps the most important thing of all.”


And as the
old man waits for an answer, the child slips his hand into his. 

“We go
together,” said the child, “the journey is shared.  It belongs to us all.  We can only walk alone so far.  We all need to be carried sometimes and we
all need to carry others.  And when we
reach those views, those heavenly plateaus, they are heavenly precisely because
we are sharing them with others.  Heaven
is heaven because it is the coming together of people and loves, desires and
dreams—all spilling into one ocean, one song, one dazzling and exquisite

“I like
that,” said the old man, “thank you for going with me.”

And as they
continued walking deep into the night, the moon untangled herself from the
trees and drifted easily into view.  The
sun tucked his face gently into the bosom of the night, and the child turned to
the old man and smiled.  It was the smile
of the future and of endless beginnings.


Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

Breathe, Listen, Watch, Transcribe–the Art of Pedagogical Stories, Part One: First Day of School Jitters

Breathe, Listen, Watch, Transcribe

The Art of Pedagogical
Stories, Part One: First Day of School Jitters

I recently
got word that one of the first graders I am going to teach in the fall was
feeling nervous, full of questions, and anxious about starting school.  And as so often happens with me when I hear a
child is having some sort of issue, a story popped out.  Sometimes I share these stories with the
children, sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes
they are for me to learn from and gain insights into the situation.  Other times, like this story, they are clearly
written for the child in question and need to be shared. 

This is an
example of a “pedagogical story”—a story designed to address an emotional,
behavioral, academic, or social issue that a student or class may be
experiencing.  Pedagogical stories are
wonderfully gentle interventions to meet children of all ages, especially younger
ones, at their level—the level of wide-open imaginations and open hearts.  Such stories have the ability to work their
way right into the hearts and minds of children and give the children the power
or permission to transform or resolve whatever the issue is for themselves.  Pedagogical stories honor the child’s experiences,
concerns, and struggles.  And since
children (and many adults who strive to keep this ability alive) think in
pictures, the language of the story—the language of the heart and imagination
is an ideal way to effectively reassure, inspire, comfort, redirect, and heal many
of the concerns of children.  They are a
tool that can be used by parents and teachers alike.  And while a story might be written with one particular
child in mind, it is often the case that if one child is experiencing a concern
most likely others in the class are as well.  So some stories are told for one, others for
the group.  This story, a simple yarn
about a bear cub and a bear, was written for one.

Some parents
and teachers think pedagogical stories are nice for those that can write
them.  Some believe they can’t “make up
such stories.”  They’ll say, “Oh well,
you’re a writer, Joseph, it’s easy for you. 
I just can’t think of what to write.”

To these
concerns I would say: let the story be born from your love for the child.  Really. 
Let it arise from the heart of the matter.  There is no need to “make up” a story.  The story is living in the situation.  It just takes a little attention, a little
care and effort to think of the issue in terms of an image and let the story
blossom from that.  Most of the images
and stories will come from nature—animals, birds, butterflies, trees—let the
language of nature clothe the particular issue and let this happen freely.  Of course, one can always pray before writing—for
guidance and insight.  One can simply
start writing, as I do, without any thought or plan—well, there’s a plan to
help comfort a child if I am writing a pedagogical story.  But in general, for me, the stories are
there, waiting to be harvested from the Garden of Inspiration, plucked from the
Tree of Life, gathered from the Fields of Dreams; netted from the Lake of
Wonders.  And while this may sound
flowery, it’s my experience.  

stories are like most children (and adults)—they are aching to be seen.  And they will open themselves before you if
you take the time to quiet yourself enough to listen and watch.  If I “try” to write a story, it will come, but
most often, it will crawl from the pen painstakingly and be crippled in some
way.  And if it does come through my
force, it will come out only to go hide somewhere in the corner of the room
perhaps forever.  If I approach the issue
a child is having with an open, compassionate heart, a heart of understanding
and knowledge of where children “are at,” then the stories just come.  You can always edit and revise the initial
story—prune, weed out repetitive words and so on, after the story sprouts, but
that’s for later.  For now, take a deep
breath.  Try it. 

Think of a
child you know and love who is experiencing some sort of concern.  It might be a little one, so to speak, and
the story might be three lines long—just an image for the child to hold onto
that honors them and gives them hope.  It
might be more involved and take many days to write and tell.  But try it. 
Your heart will be in the right place, so you cannot make a mistake
here.  Of course, I rarely, rarely, rarely
mention a particular child’s name in a pedagogical story—in fact; I often
change the child to an animal, or change the gender of the child, age, etc…that’s
really the only big guideline as I see it. 
The rest will come when you are even a little bit open and willing to
sit down a minute (or walk, some stories come to those who move).  So breathe through the experience; think of a
child you know who is experiencing an issue of some sort and let a story approach
you and reveal itself to you—you just listen and write it down—that’s really
the formula for the initial story—breathe, listen, watch, transcribe.

And then
share this gift to the child—tell it by heart, and know you have truly touched
the heart, mind, and soul of a child. 

Here’s the
story that came for one of my first graders:


Keepers of the Castle

Once upon a
time a wonderfully Bright and Kind Bear Cub stood at the edge of a Great
Forest.  Inside the woods a path towards
an Enchanted Castle wove through the trees like a shining, golden river.  Music and laughter could be heard in the
distance.  The Bright and Kind Bear Cub
wanted so badly to step into the forest and onto the path, but she was nervous.

“What will
it be like in there?” she thought.  “Will
I have fun?”  “Will anyone be mean to
me?”  “What will I learn there?”  “Will the Keepers of the Castle be nice and
friendly?”  “Where will I sit at the
table?”  “Will I be next to my
friends?”  “What if I make mistakes?”
“What if I say something silly?”

As all of
these questions, and more like them, fluttered through her mind and stomach
like so many butterflies, she suddenly heard a low, but friendly growl coming
from the forest.  Then she heard huge
paws padding towards her through the underbrush.  A crack of twigs and branches shot off like
fireworks and there in front of her stood an Enormous Black Bear. 

“Oh dear,”
said the Bright and Kind Bear Cub, “Who are you?”

“I am one of
the Keepers of the Enchanted Castle,” said the Big, Black Bear, “I have come to
answer your questions and invite you to join us.  We need other Keepers.  Kind Keepers, Bright Keepers, Keepers Who
Care about Themselves and Others.  We need Keepers like You.”

“Me?” She
said surprised.

“Yes you,”
he said, “I can feel your kindness all the way from inside my den.  Now, are you ready to have your questions
answered, and are you ready for a wonderful adventure?”

said the Bright and Kind Bear Cub, “but may I ask one question before we go?”

“Of course,”
growled the Big, Black Bear.

“Will I be
OK?  Will you love me?”

“That’s two
questions,” laughed the Big, Black Bear, “And the answer to both questions is:
Yes.  You are already OK and always will
be.  Your heart is Kind and full of
Laughter and Light.  And I love all of
the Keepers of the Enchanted Castle. 
Together we make an Enchanted Castle that is Safe, Fun, and full of Laughter,
Learning, and Song.  How does that

said the Bright and Kind Bear Cub, “But I have one more question.”

The Big,
Black Bear nodded.

“May we go
now?” she asked, “I’m ready.”

The Big,
Black Bear laughed a laugh so loud the surrounding trees shook their branches and
rained down their autumn leaves.  And
then the Big, Black Bear bowed before the Bright and Kind Bear Cub inviting her
to climb aboard his back.  She laughed
and did just that.  Together they
wandered their way through the magic forest towards the waiting, Enchanted


Go ahead
storyteller–we’re all storytellers and gatherers–a story is hatching within
you right now.  You can do this, you know
you can: breathe, listen, watch, transcribe…

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

Kristin Pedemonti: Bringing Joy to Everyday Moments

Wonder Child Blog Readers,

friend Kristin Pedemonti is a joy-spreader.  She shares hugs, bubbles,
smiles, big wheels, and it all translates into joy and hope.  Recently she
auditioned for TED and did a wonderful job.  It’s a joyous filled
presentation that has a message the world desperately needs to hear.  

watch the video here, but also follow this link to the TED site and watch it there too.  And please take a
minute to log in to the TED site (it’s free and quick) and leave a comment and rate her
video.  You need to log in so your
comment will stay and be registered. 
more positive ratings and comments she gets, the better her chances to make it on
the worldwide TED stage and her message definitely needs to be heard.  Watch this and you’ll see why.  Of course, you can also share it on your Facebook and Twitter pages.

Wonder Child Blog Readers.  You’re the
bee’s knees. 


I am also including a true story that happened to Kristin recently on her Free
Hugs Tour.  Get the tissues and from this
story you can see why she’s so special at sharing joy:

“My conspiracy of love = Free Hugs. One of
the most powerful Free Hugs ever received or given:

I had just finished my monthly Free Hugs in Union Square, NYC and was walking
back to Harlem where I lived; I saved subway fare by walking as often as
possible, being a storyteller I don’t have much money. I saw a woman sitting on
the pavement, her shopping cart to her side piled high with her possessions;
her shoes were worn to nearly nothing. I got out my Free Hugs sign and
approached her: I smiled gently and asked if she would like a hug. She looked
at me with disbelief. “You’d hug me?” I opened my arms and walked
closer to her, “if you want a hug, absolutely.” She reached out for
the hug and then told me she had not been touched in almost 20 years. I hugged
her tighter. I apologized to her that I had no money to give her that day and
she responded that the hug I’d just given was worth more than any amount of

Next time you see someone homeless, smile at them, say Hello and if it feels
right to your heart, offer a hug or even the touch of your hand on their arm.”


Storyteller Kristin Pedemonti combines theater with storytelling to create
multicultural, educational and entertaining programs that build bridges between

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

Cicadas–the Sound of Summer and of Your Dreams

I remembered this post I wrote almost exactly a year ago.  Its words resonate louder with me today.  I hope you feel them too.

Beneath the tree, and below the ground—a vast, intimate exchange of water flows.  Roots spread through the dark soil, nursing hidden springs.  Cicada nymphs, half-asleep; nuzzle the roots of the trees for nearly twenty years. 

Imagine for a moment—on the day you were born, a brood of cicadas hatches below a tree, perhaps in your own back yard.  And on the night of your thirteenth birthday, or your seventeenth birthday, or on the night of your graduation party, the cicada nymphs emerge from the earth  and slowly crawl their way up the rough bark of an oak tree, painstakingly—their front claws like grappling hooks, hoisting themselves ever upwards.

Imagine one of those cicadas is your daemon–your spirit guide—the physical manifestation of your dreams and visions.  Imagine it continues its aching ascent, until it cannot lift one more claw.  It is exhausted.  Not only that, but it has an itch that sings a strange, nearly maddening song through its back and head. 

Imagine the moon-lit sky is calling your cicada’s secret name—perhaps it is singing your name

Imagine the cicada beginning to pulse and throb with an inner turmoil.  Watch as the spot just behind its head, where it meets its body—suddenly and inexplicably–opens, and its broad, triangular face lifts from its husk, as if you were raising your face from a long-furry sleep. 

See its yellowish-pinkish-cream colored flesh, and its eyes like dabs of champaign colored paint, looking blankly, yet wisely amazed.

See a carnival of fireflies celebrating the arrival of this newly hatched being.

And then, over the course of several hours, the cicada pours from its own skin, not unlike you pouring from your old ideas of limited beliefs and fears—the old ideas that used to lumber along with hooks that tried grasping onto anything to keep you held down. 

Imagine the cicada arching its back with its arms looking like flat, helpless whiskers.  Imagine it curling upwards in a marvelous gesture of triumph and praise.  Imagine it remains attached to its already drying husk by only the thinnest of chords.

Imagine when you emerge from your old ways, how at first, your wings are truncated stubs waiting to be inflated with warm, clear blood. 

But once you step forth from the past, you must steady yourself a moment.  It has been such an exhilarating rush of transformation and hard work.  Get your bearings, because the wonder of awakening, the discovery of hidden powers, and the call of the waiting sky, are great and can easily blur your thoughts like a drunken haze.  So stop a moment and breathe.  Feel the air flowing over your clean, glorious body. 

Once you are centered let your wings unfurl down your back like a cape divided into two layered parts.  Feel them thicken with blood, feel their weight—light, transparent, trimmed with golden veins.  Feel the wind finger them gently; separating them to be sure they dry evenly.  Feel the wind strum them with satisfaction and praise.  Feel your wings thirsting for flight.

Feel your body darken, becoming the color of night.  Feel your body becoming strong and precise—fluid black armor gilded with deep greens and gold.

Feel the chord of self-doubt snip as you take your final step from the husk which will remain on the side of the tree like a monument for some observant young child to find and treasure.

And when you finally lift into the cool, dew-laden air—for by now the sun will have dawned—and you bank your first turn into the wide open sky, never forget the dark time beneath the earth, sipping the roots of trees, seeing nothing—nothing for years on end—remember so you can teach those earth-bound and visionless.  Remember so you can be there to welcome them at the horizon.  For your voice will shake the summer night.  Your voice will be the summer night.  It will be audible heat that will have the magical power of being able to be thrown—cast like a net across the houses and the streets—it will resound from the sidewalks and chimneys—it will drip from the moon and the stars and the dome of heaven itself.  It will be unfollowable—but that is good—you do not need followers.  You want your voice to rouse the dead, to awaken the sleeping, to excite the dreamers to rise and do, rise and be, rise and run, rise and live. Your voice will be the loudest sound in the shadows of the branches of the night.  It will be unmistakable and undeniable.

So blow out the candles or take that diploma and know that somewhere nearby, your dream is being born and while it may take time—years—know that it is there—you will hear it calling in the night—an electric river of blessing—flowing from the trees and the stars—straight into your waiting, trembling heart.

Brood XIX Periodical Cicada 2011 from Mark Dolejs on Vimeo.

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog