I am finally back to being a responsible little writer and posting flash fiction on the full moon. This old Cabal favorite is posted in honor of Linda Holiday Sensei of Aikido of Santa Cruz, who visited Aikido of Madison this weekend. Thank you.

The Diplomat and I had walked so long through silent forests and babbling villages that my first city was a shock and an offense to me. Three times he gently took strangers by the shoulder and made them return my amulet pouch.

“Pickpockets, we call them on Gaia,” he said. “They think you carry money in that pouch.”

“Money?” I asked blankly.

He explained about money, but that was not what I wanted to learn; I wanted to know how he came to be so wise, so clever to notice the pickpockets and to stop them with such peaceful firmness.

“…And please don’t say ‘experience’ like my grandfathers would,” I begged. “Please, I know you studied in special places.”

He laughed.

“I wasn’t going to say experience only. I did study on Heavenly Mountain. There are eight thousand and one steps up our mountain,” he said with love and memory in his voice, touching the long fold of his robe. “Carved in the face of each step, to read as you climb, are the words of the sages and oracles. There are temples on the landings, guarded by clear streams and bamboo forests, where you must serve and study before you climb again, until you reach the summit.

“There, where you can see the mountain ridges falling away to the horizon, the great masters give you your final lessons from mind to mind, without speaking, because by then you are ready.

“All this is widely known. What is not well known is the final secret: that you have learnt nothing until you have returned down each and every step and used your wisdom in the world beyond the mountain. It’s easy to be wise on that silent summit; rather harder in the shouting marketplace, among the pickpockets.

“I remember the climb back down. That’s when I noticed the other wise words, inlaid in lapis and jade on the top of each step, hidden right under foot. I thought to myself, ‘How did I never notice these before?’ I laughed, then, for I knew I had been too busy climbing.”