The sun had dropped in the sky a bit before our Fool shook himself from his reverie. The motion set off a merry jingle of bells which caused his little white dog to pounce at his shoes while barking. He laughed then began to dance a bit so his dog had to run to try to catch the tassels on his shoes.
“Hurry, little friend. Justice told me there would be a man in a tree next. I wonder if he will have a tree house.” The Fool mused as he struck off on the left-hand path. The dog ran quickly after him grabbing at his heel and growling.
“What is it, dog? Am I going the wrong way?” The Fool looked up to see the trees so thick around him that they almost touched him. Long branches like skeletal fingers seemed to wait for a chance to snag him. He began backing up until he nearly fell. Then he whirled about dashing back to where he’d started.
Wiping sweat off his forehead, he sat down suddenly because he feared his legs would not hold him. His dog curled up beside him to lay a furry foot on his leg. Patting the soft white coat, the Fool wondered out loud. “Well that didn’t seem to be the best way now did it.”
Letting a tremulous laugh out made him feel better. He got back up dusting his pants off. He pointed a finger straight ahead. “Straight we’ve been going so far, my friend, so straight we shall continue.”
With that, he shouldered his stick more firmly before he set his feet to the path in front of him. The dog paced quietly beside him. For once he did not roam out to the fields to chase butterflies or rabbits. The Fool felt a bit uneasy, but he knew that if he was to find his Will, he had to continue on this journey the Magician had started him on.
As he walked, he noticed that smoke seemed to be on the horizon, but it was so far ahead. “I know we won’t make it that far tonight, dog.”
Then he tripped over a root. When he looked for the source, he gasped. Never had he seen anything like what lay in front of him. A tree so tremendously large that the branches seemed to reach heaven. The roots stretched out far and wide dipping beneath the earth here and there only to erupt again as if seeking air. In fact, the Fool had to walk another ten minutes before he reached the base of the tree. He was trying to measure the girth with his arms when he heard a booming voice from above him.
“What are you trying to learn?”
“Pardon me?” The Fool tipped his head back looking for the tree house he knew must be up there somewhere in those branches that intertwined like faithful lovers. “I don’t know what you mean…what am I trying to learn? I am not trying to learn anything. I just want to find the Will the Magician told me to seek.”
But the Fool saw nothing above him even though he craned his neck so far that it began to ache. “Where are you?”
Deep laughter rolled from the tree’s branches. “You do not seek in the right places, Fool.”
“I see you know who I am. But who are you? Where are the right places?” The Fool felt a little annoyed. He had places to go and things to do and people to meet, but this tree man seemed determined to make him wait.
“Look to your left, young one. And up. Then you may see me.”
And he did. There above him hung a man by one foot. He wore bright red trunks with a belted tunic that seemed to wrap about his legs somehow. The man looked relaxed even though the Fool did not think he could be comfortable. Yet his one foot was crossed behind him as were his hands. He looked for all the world as though he were reclining on a sofa rather than hanging about in a tree by one foot.
The Fool looked more closely. “It would seem your head is on fire, sir. Would you like me to put it out for you?”
The man’s eyes were kind as he laughed and shook his head. “That is not fire as you know it, Fool. It is the fire in the head of the Shaman.”
“Shaman?” The Fool tilted his head to one side. “What’s that?”
“Let me explain. A Shaman is a wise man or woman who has taken themselves into deep study. They have sacrificed things so that they might learn. I am nearly ready to let my replacement take over so I may pick up the lamp to guide others.” The man sighed a bit.
“Your replacement?” Biting at his lip, the Fool queried, “Am I your replacement?”
“Oh no, little Fool, not you–not yet. You have much to do before you are ready to seek this kind of knowledge. Why, I’ll bet you are still seeking your Will!”
The Fool nodded so vigorously his cap fell off. Dusting it off before setting back on his head, he asked, “Do you know where I will find this Will, sir?”
The Hanged Man nodded solemnly. “I do. But I can’t tell you. I can tell you that you must complete the journey. I am but the eleventh of the twenty-one you must meet. I would go with you, but I have already been on your journey and lost my hat.”
The Fool stared. Lost his hat? Whatever did he mean. The Fool shrugged it off as meaningless. “I see. Okay then, I must continue for I must find this Will. Um… good luck to you in your studies…whatever it is you are studying.”
The Hanged Man chuckled. “I was so like you, Fool. You shall see. And Fool?”
The Fool turned back having already started walking away. “Yes?”
“Your next meeting will be with Death.”
The Fool shrieked, “WHAT? I’m going to die? I didn’t sign up to die! No way! I am not going one step further!”
He plunked himself down right there on the ground where he’d been standing then crossed his arms over his chest while he glared at the man.
“Fool, fool, fool.” The Hanged Man shook his head making his glowing halo pulse in and out. “You will not die. But you must meet Death in order to move on. Be brave. I promise you that I have taken the trip you took and survived.”
His voice lowered until the Fool nearly did not hear him, but what he did hear comforted him. “Even though I thought I might not survive.”
“Okay. Fine!” The Fool stood fighting an urge to stomp his foot in the dust. “I will continue. Justice said it might be hard but I didn’t know about Death.”
“And you won’t know unless you get moving. On your way, Fool. On your way! Time’s a’wastin’.” The booming voice of the Hanged Man chased the Fool down the path as he plunged ahead. “And Fool? Hang on to your hat.” Laughter faded as the Fool hurried into the gloom of the gathering night.
To be continued…