The Blacksmith

As he walked through the small town settled on the side of the hill, he searched once more.  The homes watched over the valley. They seemed timeless to him; unwavering and unaffected by the passing weather and years. He could feel his feet falling heavily on the stone path below as he walked. He saw the faces of the people living their lives as they sold what they had grown or made by their own hearts and hands. He remembered a time a long time ago when he did the same. He longed to forge the hot iron into whatever his imagination could create. Seeing the faces of people that happily took his creations and offered him food, clothes or just gratitude in return was all that he wanted. Not even food or breath could feed him like being able to make things that made people happy. He had choked and struggled to find this sweet air for such a long time and it left him with a quiet sadness which always remained with him. It surrounded him and blocked his view. Becoming used to this blindness was too easy. That was his real sadness.

Looking at the deep blue sky, he lifted his eyes and shielded them with his hand from the glowing sun. It was almost magical. He stared at the blue ocean above him and deeply into endless space. A few white shapeless clouds slowly floated by like small boats on a still ocean. It all seemed perfect to him – his source, his energy. He wondered why he didn’t look at the sky as he did when he was a child. So much on the ground had distracted him since then. He hungered for the light above him; a deep hunger that had been with him for a while. Breathing in slow breath, he closed his eys and tried to swallow the sky. When he opened them, he squinted from the suddenly shining sky.  A small white bird circled slowly above him watching him as it glided beneath the clouds.

Looking down at the path below his feet, he continued his slow journey forward. He could hear sounds of people around him. Some were quietly talking about the day and others seemed to be whispering to themselves. Children laughed in the distance. When he looked up again to the sky, the bird was gone, but its faint echo remained.

The town settled around him and streets wound around the homes in familiar turns. There were small shops scattered throughout the town. A baker. A cobbler. A shop filled with clothes, and an old woman carefully sewing as she pumped the pedal of the sewing machine. The needle slowly rose and fell. One more stitch added to each moment. One more stitch made with love. One more stitch that bound her soul to the cloth meant to cover a child playing in the sun. She was completely lost in her work and it became part of her. Her body rocked back and forth in rhythm with the old sewing machine as the wind and waves moved over the earth.

As these stitches fell upon the cloth, his own thoughts unraveled in him. He looked at his empty hands which were once full of marks of love. Now they were smooth, unworked, and disconnected from his soul and from the tools the once held. For many years, his hands were the instruments of his imagination. He had distant memories of his heart once pouring through his hands as they shaped the soft and glowing metal. The pain of those memories grew louder within his heart and head. At first, he tried to stop the wave of emotions – as he’d done so many times before. But, this time, it was different. He couldn’t stop the growing noise of what once was. Closing his eyes, he tried to ignore what he was feeling. This is when the pain began. First deep in his stomach, then up to his chest, and filling his heart as it began pound; feeling like it was going to jump out of his chest. He couldn’t stop it now. It was not the memory itself, but the thought that he’d given into seduction. That he’d given up what was once pure and good for something else. He didn’t know why…or he didn’t want to know. Maybe he knew the truth, but the truth was too much to face. How could he do it? How could he give up so easily? How could he give up without so much as a fight for his soul?  That was the source of the pain…not what was lost, but that he’d lost it. He’d allowed it to be sacrificed to lesser angels. No, not angels. Something much worse. His gaze dropped to the ground as his heart saddened.

Tears began to form in his eyes, but he swallowed hard and wiped them away. He didn’t have the strength to face this. It would have to wait.

The sun began to climb high into the sky as the day began to warm. He continued to walk slowly and aimlessly through the small town. It was a friendly place full of sounds of life, laughter, and love. The people looked ordinary enough, but there was something the bound them together. He found it hard to describe, but it seemed simple enough. As he turned a corner, he saw a beautiful young woman sitting on an old wooden bench. She was wearing a long, grey dress with a brightly colored blue scarf wrapped around her neck. Her shoes were worn and seemed to wrap around her feet like they were made for them. She had deep brown eyes and long brown hair that moved as the breeze moved past her. Every now and then, her hair would wrap around her face and she wiped her fingers from her cheek bones down her face and to her neck to once again reveal her eyes. She was holding a baby who couldn’t be more than a year old. The baby was wrapped in a worn blanket that seemed to be made from the same cloth as her scarf. She looked down at her baby and smiled. The baby starred into her eyes. She smiled again and began to sing a slow and sweet melody. And as she did, the baby smiled as though he’d heard the song many times before. She sang not on top of the notes, but around them, winding through them, like lovers walking hand in hand. She sang and her baby’s eyes became heavy and gently closed. The simple smile was frozen on the baby’s face as he slipped deeper into sleep.

She looked up and saw him looking at her. She smiled at him. Her eyes locked on his for a moment and she smiled through her deep brown eyes and into his. His heart seem to settle and his breath slowed. The young mother’s eyes held a sense of wonder. A simple curiosity which held no expectations. He stood in silence as he watched her with her baby. She smiled a slightly crooked smile and tilted her head a little almost beckoning him to speak. She blinked slowly and looked down to her baby who was now sound asleep. She continued singing, but more quietly now. It was almost a whisper. He felt himself leaning in a little closer so he could hear her words as if to come closer to a warm fire on a bitterly cold night.

In another life, he’d been that baby looking up his mother’s warm and welcoming eyes. And in her eyes, there was the universe and all its wonderful possibilities. Everything was there in her eyes. No boundaries and no limits. No judgment. Just pure joy and creation. He longed for that feeling once again. The love of making something pure. To return to the elemental. If only for one more moment. And if it did, he would cherish it; hold it softly without the crushing weight of the dark forces that now occupied his soul. He’d need to live a thousand lives to find that moment again and he would if he could. But he had this one life. And all he wanted to do was to cry out to force the cold, dank air from his lungs into the depths of nothingness above him. To release everything inside him so he could live once again. He wanted to live again. He wanted to once again feel the fire inside him instead of the cool and unrelenting darkness that settled within him now. He wanted to scream to the heavens. The fire would be his path to salvation, not into heaven. But into himself. To love himself. To once again see himself through his mother’s eyes. The creator’s eyes.

His feet felt as though the earth was pulling on them harder and harder. He held fast and stood there watching the child. The young mother carefully pushed away strands of the baby’s dark hair that had fallen on his face and slowly got up. She smiled at him tenderly and began walking away. He thought about following her so he could ask her name, her sweet child’s name. But he didn’t. Instead, he stood there in silence as image of the beautiful child’s face danced within him.

The sun was falling into the earth as night approached. The town was getting quiet and he decided to continue walking down the path along the outskirts of the town. After walking for over an hour, he began to hear some familiar sounds. They pulled him forward.

Approaching the end of the hill, he could see a small building with glowing light escaping from within the building through the gaps in the doors and windows. He could make out silver smoke coming out of an opening in the roof and into the darkening sky. From inside the building, he could hear clanging and jarring noises. As he got closer, he could smell a strong and familiar smell. Approaching the door, he reached for the heavy handle. He pulled on it and the door creaked as it slowly opened a little to reveal a brightly glowing room. The noises and smells were much stronger now as he stood in the doorway. Inside was a man dressed in coveralls, boots, and wearing heavy gloves. The man was wearing an old blue scarf around his mouth. On the back wall, there were several large openings which allowed the billowing smoke to escape the room. A few lamps hung from the ceiling, but the fire in the center of the room provided most of the needed light. The man moved around the fire while he held tongs that grabbed and pulled at pieces of iron that were in the hot coals. The iron was glowing like a beating heart. The man pushed and pulled on a bellows that breathed air into the fire. As he pressed down, the fire leapt up and began to hiss and growl like dragon’s breath. The man looked at the fire as he plunged the hot glowing iron deep into the burning embers. The iron spat and sparkled as the flames danced around it. He could see the flames reflected in the man’s eyes, which made it seem like his very soul was on fire. The man’s arms were muscular and they trembled as they strained to hold the large, black tongs that clasped the iron.

The man was wearing boots, a long apron, and sturdy gloves as his armor against the now raging fire. Next to the fire was a small pile of black coal. He could smell the arid smell coming from the fire. He slowly pulled the glowing wrought iron from the fire, rested it on the anvil, and waited for what seemed like an eternity. Next to the anvil rested a heavy looking hammer with a wooden handle that didn’t seem strong enough to hold on to the massive hunk of steel on the end of it.  In one seamless motion, the old blacksmith reached down and grabbed the waiting hammer, pulled it off the ground, raised it above his shoulder and swung it down. It struck firmly on the molten iron to make a loud and distinctive sound; the sound of hard steel on soft ore. As the hammer struck the iron, thousands of sparks flew from it. Not to diminish it, but to free the ore from the bounds of its prior existence so it could take its true shape.

He pushed the door fully open. It creaked and groaned as the old rusty hinges strained to hold on to the heavy piece of wood that made up the door. As the door opened, the old blacksmith looked up and motioned him in. He grunted, smiled a little, and held his gaze for a few moments. The blacksmith put his hammer down and slowly pulled off his gloves. He sat down on a chair and gently rubbed his tired hands. They were old and marked with lines from the many years of living. They were also somewhat misshapen from the years of happily gripping the tools of his trade.  While the blacksmith’s body looked old and worn, his eyes were ageless and beautiful. They were the eyes of someone that had seen the rhythms of each season and endless sunrises. They were deep pools of love and stillness.

The old man asked him to sit down and they sat talking for a while. About life. About the making of things for people. The blacksmith was proud of the things he had made. They were all things that the people of the village used in their lives. The old man described how the villagers would bring him food, clothing, and various things from time to time, in exchange for the good things the blacksmith would make. It was a simple and beautiful existence. One of giving and of love. The old blacksmith leaned back into the wooden chair and seemed to invite him to pick up the hammer.

He did not resist the old man’s gaze as he put on the gloves, an old apron, picked up the hammer, and walked up to the fire.  The hammer was heavy and familiar as it drew his body into the earth. He approached the fire and he could feel its increasing brilliance and warmth. To his right, he sensed the old blacksmith now standing next to him waiting and breathing deeply. He could hear the old man’s heart beat near his own.

There was an ancient murmur within his soul. It was an old feeling; sown over the ages and nurtured by time. It was inevitable and unending. It was a feeling, a sound, and the most beautiful scent imaginable. And through the darkness in him, he could feel it. It was burning, growing, and moving closer to him. It was there all along, but he’d denied it and pushed it deep within him. Not because he feared it, but because he feared its illumination on who he had become. It was the truth of all things.

His fingers wrapped around the hammer’s handle and he squeezed it tightly as it once again became part of him.  Lifting it slowly and focusing intently on the glowing ore in front of him, his arm and body strained as he lifted the hammer to the height of his head, just above his right shoulder. The hammer fell through the warm air of the blacksmith’s shop and it struck soundly on the ore. His eyes lit with fire as he stared on to the amber glowing steel. The heat coming from it made him sweat. He swung over and over. His hands, arms, back, and body ached from the lifting of the hammer as his body came alive. All that he was, came from his body as it strained under the weight of the hammer blows. There was nothing but the movement of his body connected to the earth below him.  Hammer, tools, ore, and the earth. All as one with gravity pulling through them; all of them working together in one movement to shape the ore. The earth shook gently under him as he struck the ore again and again. As he did, the glowing shape began to take a recognizable form. Something for the people of the village. Something that would become a part of their lives. Something meaningful and good. He began to remember the feeling of serving. Not himself, but the world around him.

He watched the fire and, as he did, fell deep into it and became spell bound by the light and its warmth. Deeper and deeper he went until he was immersed in the dancing flames. He felt the faint, but recognizable, feeling from a long time ago. He called to it once again. He called to his spirit. He begged to it. He called into the darkness, “spirit break out…”.  It called back to him, “forgive me…”. The words echoed through him. He felt the eternal in them and in the moment, he felt the release of his many years of captivity. The jail was his own making and the product of his own distortion. Tears fell from his eyes as he remembered his old life when he was younger, full of life, and empty of layers of judgment. “Forgive me”, he whispered again and again as the hammer struck the ore and his tears and sweat fell from him. With each blow, the walls weakened. With each blow, the walls of his body melted away and he was once again whole with the universe around him. A man of his own design. He was once again free and untethered. He was free to make. Free to love. He was alive.