The Islands of Hope

Story by Marc Maramay

There once were two creatures who saw one world end and another begin. They had been born at opposite ends of the Earth, one near the North Pole and one near the South. One was a Polar bear and the other, a penguin, and both knew they were living in a strange and special time. The end of their old world had been foretold by the Elders of their tribes, for a new world was waiting to rise. The patterns of the past were melting away, including the painful patterns of troubled times, the memories of conflict, the old stories of suffering. The great weight of the past would be released, to make way for a new crystal age. Yet, all that was vital from ancient times would live on and this living wisdom would grow to new life.

All of the tribes of creatures living at the ends of the Earth had been preparing. Over the years, they had grown used to a gradual melting and warming of their frozen world, finding mud where there had once been ice, and water where there had once been solid rock. Soon, the Elders explained, the very ice beneath their feet would open up as ancient volcanoes awakened, and the great ice-mountains would fall. The frozen world they had known would shatter and sink, melting back into the ocean, to become one with the new flows in the Ocean of Life. They would witness events they would not understand, and it would seem that their own end had come.

Yet, there was nothing to fear, for they would be warned by the spirits of the volcanoes and the ancient Crystal Elders, so they would know when the moment had come for them to go to a safe place. They would be guarded from harm and guided into a new world. In the meantime, they would have to listen hard to the subtle sounds and signs of change, and read them with all their senses. And, beyond what their eyes and ears told them, they must remember their deepest, inner sense, for their understanding of what was happening would come from within. Only their hearts could tell the truth.

In the far North, in the Arctic, the young Polar bear knows that the moment is very near. The signs in the skies have been strange, the land has moved and moaned, and the ocean has been filled with echoes of deep voices from inside the Earth. The air has been singing with the cries of the Elders calling all the clans and tribes together, to follow them to the place of safety, the place where they will wait. The young Polar bear climbs to a high ridge of ice, and stands there, watching the scene wide-eyed - she has never before seen fire. Her eyes are alight with fire, as she watches all that she has known break asunder. Her familiar landscape is being reshaped by forces from deep within the Earth, and in the meeting of ice and fire, water and molten stone, all is being transformed. Even the freezing sea is warmed, until steam rises from the waves.

Behind her, she hears the faint calls of the other Polar bears calling her to follow them to safety. Yet, she seems mesmerized by the sights before her eyes, and when she finally looks behind her, the bears are far off in the distance, beginning to disappear into the steam and icy mist. Their cries are very faint, as she takes one last glance at the scene of dramatic transformation. Then, she turns and begins to run as fast as she can to catch up with her clan.

Meanwhile, far away, at the other end of the world, the young penguin had been waiting ­ a little impatiently - for this day. For many days, living streams of creatures had been flowing towards the place of safety, led by the Elders. Long columns of penguins were making their way towards the sea, while the ice rolled and trembled beneath them. One particular penguin was not with them, however. This young one had heard the wise advice and taken it to heart, but he also did not want to miss out on witnessing such a once-in-a-lifetime event. Safety was all very well, but he wanted to witness the end with his own eyes and tell the story later of how it all happened. Now, the foretold day had come. Yet, when the last of the penguins set off towards the chosen place, the little penguin set off in the opposite direction. There were moments when he doubted the wisdom of his choice, and doubts kept cropping up to remind him of the dangers of his course. Was it worth the risk, he wondered, when he might not be around to tell the tale?

But he was already making his way up a slippery slope to a high cliff with a breathtaking view. On this day of all days, it was a grand and terrible sight to behold. A great volcano rose over the icy plains, belching smoke and roaring, as if it had swallowed a bellyful of thunder. Other volcanoes had cleared their own throats and were rumbling their reply in the distance. The icy mountains all around which had stood for millennia were shaking and shuddering, and the great plains of ice were beginning to crack and buckle. The end would not be long now. In the sea-breeze, the penguin heard the voices of his clan calling. He knew it was time to go, or he might not make it to the chosen place. Surely, though, one more moment could do no harm...

At that moment, on a broad, open shore, far off, there was a vast gathering like none ever seen before. All kinds of seals and penguins and seabirds were assembling in the place that they had been guided to. All around the growing crowd of creatures was the roar of volcanoes, the distant hissing of steam, growling rumbles from below, and the cracking of the ice. The gathering creatures were calling their kind to them, until the sounds of thousands of creatures echoed from the ice-mountains and crystal cliffs, growing to fill the air over them, like a dome of sound. So, even louder than the roar of destruction, echoed the call to gather, becoming a chorus of hope in the midst of the cataclysmic events.

The Elders of the tribes of creatures came together in the center of their circle. They were veterans of this harsh, cold, but beautiful world, and their wise and weathered faces showed no fear, as the diverse faces of seals and sea-lions, penguins and terns, albatrosses and gulls turned towards them. The Elders blended their hearts and voices together and spoke to the hearts of all there.

"Our old world is falling and will soon be gone. We know some of you are frightened. It seems we are losing everything, but we are all alive and we each have a life still to be lived. We must trust our Mother, the Earth. She has not forgotten us. We listened to her warnings and we were guided to the right place to be when the end came. Now, we have only to trust. Somewhere, we have a future together."

Their voices had barely faded from the air, when the air itself began to crackle and whisper, as it lit up in an Aurora of rainbow tones, lighting up the faces of the creatures in exquisite colors; warm tones that rang with gentle, loving music, soothing their fears. These ringing colors flowed around the creatures in a glowing circle and began to fill the air above them, and, within the flow, they saw bright, living forms of creatures with shining, joyful faces. Their voices sang of a deep, eternal love, and the beautiful sounds, the dancing colors and flying forms began to blend into one flow.

Soon, the astonished creatures were surrounded by a sky-dome of rainbow colors, while the ice beneath them began to sparkle, reflecting the glory above, until it began to glow with its own light, pulsing from deep within the ice. The faces of the creatures lit up from below and each of them glowed brighter, bathed in this crystalline light of the Earth Motherıs love. Those at the center of the circle saw a tiny opening appear in the ice, and a trickle of crystal light bubbled up and up, to become a fountain of fiery light reaching high into the air. The rainbow dome glowed brighter still and surrounded all with soft crystal colors. Everyone rejoiced, held gently in the love of the One who gave them life, and they cried out thanks from their hearts, each in their own voice, unique and beautiful.

Then, a reply came from the very ice itself - a high, screeching sound that moved in a circle around them, echoing off the distant cliffs, until the sound transformed to became a deep, booming crack, like thunder from below the ice. A line appeared in the ice, as if written by an invisible finger, then the line widened to a crack, and the crack yawned open to a broad gap. The ice opened up like a gaping mouth, and a sound like a great scream filled the air, as a giant body of ice was released. The waters rushed in to fill the space until they had surrounded the vast raft of ice and its precious, living treasures. Now, the ocean held them in her embrace. All gathered there felt the pull of the ocean taking the island to her and the ice beneath their feet moving through the water, until the enormous body of ice began to move away from the coast, to float out to sea. From the dying world, a crystal giant had been born.

Though it was newborn, it was ancient, for its gestation had been long, as it formed and grew over many millennia. It was, itself, a Crystal Elder and knew well that it had a special task to do, given to it by the Earth Mother, to keep afloat this circle of life and hope. Through the shimmering light around them, the creatures on the island watched towering cliffs collapsing while, in the distance, whole mountains tumbled into the ocean. But, they observed the events with a new vision, with less of the sorrow and woe many had felt before. Stray seals and tired birds were still arriving on the island. Penguins who had been clinging to floating ice-fragments or trying to clamber aboard tumbling chunks of ice without success now swam to this crystal haven. Suddenly, however, the whole shoreline they had left behind seemed to crash into the ocean all at once, and a rolling wave rose up out of the ocean, moving towards them. Some of the creatures cried out in fear, and panic began to ripple through the huddled creatures. But the Elders raised their voices above the clamor and called for calm and, quickly, all began to settle down and the singing light around them seemed to brighten and intensify.

The wave rose still higher and came closer, but it did not crash over them and sweep them off the island as some had feared. Instead, it picked up the floating island, raised it up and carried it along at speed. Then another wave carried them further, and the next wave, further still. From high above, the seabirds could observe the island as a great crystal circle under a dome of light, a huge, colorful globe, floating on the waves. It looked as light as a giant bubble as it moved out, slowly, towards the deeper ocean. On the island, in the midst of the multitude, some of the penguins noticed there was one very inquisitive cousin missing...

By then, the young penguin was watching the frozen plains break apart beneath a smouldering volcano, while high mountains of ice tumbled with crashing sounds. Tall crystal cliffs were falling all around him, as if being sliced by a fiery knife. He remembered that he, himself, was standing on a cliff and wondered whether it was time to leave...

Suddenly, to his amazement, the top of the volcano opened like a flower and it was as if the Sun rose out of the mouth of the mountain. A wave of heat hit him, as if this Sun had breathed on him with its fiery breath, and knocked him off his feet. As he shook himself and stood up, a sound loud enough to shake the world echoed off the roof of the sky. Rivers of fire began to pour out of the volcano, and his astonishment was such that it took another moment for him to realize that one of those rivers was approaching him at high speed.

With a last look at the scene, he turned and fled to the edge of the slope, then he launched himself beak first to slide down it. When he reached the foot of the slope, he began to run as fast as a penguin can, but he soon realized that the place of safety was very far away, while his legs suddenly seemed very short, indeed. As he waddled along, aware of the roaring sounds behind him growing louder, he wished his legs were longer, or that his wings worked as well in the air as they did in water. Steam and mist surrounded him now, so he was not even sure which way he was going. When he ran beak-first into a wall of ice and landed flat on his back in the snow, he wondered if his end had come. He had no wish to die for the sake of a story, however good it was, and he began to berate himself, wondering why he had been so foolish. He came to his feet and, as he tried to decide which way to go, the angry voice faded away and to his surprise, he heard a cooler, calmer voice within him, which didnıt seem to be panicked at all. He wondered why and looked around, noticing an opening in the wall of ice.

He recognized it instantly and remembered what it was. Every penguin parent told their young ones to stay away from this spot, as the opening led to an extremely steep slope, a curved ice-chute, and no one knew what it led to. Some said it led to a mysterious void from which no one could ever return. The penguin knew he would not be returning here, anyway, so it seemed like a good moment to find out the truth. With the rumbling becoming ever-louder behind him, he stepped to the edge of the opening, but could see nothing beyond it but thick mist. Before he could give himself time to think and turn back, he took a step forward. He felt himself falling, until he landed on his belly and started sliding down the near-vertical slope at a tremendous pace, which accelerated until he doubted whether any of his kind had ever reached such an un-penguinly rate of speed.

Then, the slope turned steeply upward, before coming to a very definite end. The penguin flew into the misty air and felt the strangest sensation so far.

'Aha,' thought the penguin, 'This must be the void we were taught to avoid.' It didnıt seem so bad after all, in fact, he felt excited and free. This long, blissful moment of soaring came to an end when he heard a roar behind him and looked back to see, in the distance, the glow of fire bursting through the opening and pouring over the wall of ice. A moment later, he realized he must be falling and, as he looked down, he faintly saw waves below him. He braced himself for the impact the moment before he splashed into the water and then dived, down and down.

Now, he was in his element, in the one place where speed came easily to him, where he could move faster than the flowing fire. As he swam out to the open sea as quickly as he could, he felt the shockwave of hundreds of tons of molten rock pouring into the ocean. He swam on and on, faster and faster, until he began to tire. He rose to the surface to snatch a breath, and noticed that the water was warming around him, and the air itself was becoming so hot that it felt like he was breathing in fire. He dived down again and swam on into cooler water. The water was filled with the strangest of sounds, sounds that he had never heard before and never wanted to hear again; the sounds of his old world dying. He was swimming for his life, and the story he was going to tell about his escape was getting better and better, but he just hoped it was going to have a happy ending.

The next time he rose to the surface to take a breath, he found solid ice above him. At first, he was pleased to see something that was not broken, but then remembered that he needed air soon and there was not an air-hole to be seen. With his lungs aching, he swam and searched until, up ahead, he saw a beam of light reaching into the ocean. He knew what that meant, and with the last of his strength, he swam towards it. But, when he entered it, he felt himself sucked up by a pull from above and he realized this was no ordinary beam and the light itself was pulling him upward. And, as he moved through the opening above him, he could tell it was not just a breathing-hole in a thin sheet of ice. He found himself moving along a bright, crystal tube through what seemed like a mountain of ice. He felt a sensation of lightness, almost weightlessness, that was odd but enjoyable. What a day of sensations it had been!

Now, he could see sky above him, coming closer, so he instinctively leapt towards it, and shot up into the air in a plume of light and icy water, to find himself surrounded by surprised faces with wide eyes. He landed on his belly on the ice and discovered that though he was far from home, he was very far from being alone. He recognized some of the wise faces, including those of the Penguin Elders, who were part of a circle that had gathered around this opening at the center of the island. The embarrassed penguin thought it wiser to save his story for later, and he apologised for disturbing the gathering, as he made his way to a group of penguins he recognized.

Most of the creatures there were still looking back at the old world they had known, but they could see just a few jagged forms of ice on the horizon, wreathed in steam, the glow of dying fires and a mist gathering to swallow up all traces of their old homeland. Soon, as they drifted on, all that remained was a haze on the horizon. Then they were surrounded only by water, and even the horizon was hidden by mist. On the island of ice, some were still mourning the loss of their beautiful home, and some were still afraid of what the future might hold. Where on Earth were they to go? Yes, the Elders had spoken only the truth and been proved right, but even they did not know where they were all going, now. A few of the creatures even felt fearful that they had only chosen a slower way to die. Sensing this, the Elders had assembled to allay the concerns of the creatures, and to help them find their hope again inside them.

As they reminded the creatures of the miracle that had taken place, their voices rang in the rainbow light that still faintly shimmered around them. We knew that our old world had not long to go and that it would soon vanish. Remember, we have been promised a new homeland, where we will have all that we need. If we can live in peace with each other on this island, we will reach that place together. This is our Island of Hope.

At that moment, at the other end of the Earth, thousands of creatures native to the far North were waiting for a sign of hope. They had gathered on a narrow peninsula whose sides were high, sheer cliffs. It was a long monolith of rock and ice jutting out into the ocean, like a finger of ancient bone pointing to a future, far off and still unknown. At the very tip of the peninsula, some of the Elders waited at the edge of the cliff; a wolf who had lived many winters, a venerable polar bear and a wise old stag. These seasoned hunters, the old warriors of this icy world, had come together to stand in peace, side by side. Every time the ground beneath them shook, or the air trembled with terrible sounds, they reminded those gathered of the promise that Mother Earth had given to them. So many of these creatures would never normally have found themselves together, yet they had promised to respect and care for each other, and live in peace.

Now, they stood, side by side, and waited for a sign. They looked out towards the horizon, but they were surrounded by a heavy mist of smoke and steam that obscured their view. The Elders at the edge of the cliff saw the worry in the creaturesı eyes, and could sense the many hearts gathered there were beating in fitful rhythms, between fear and hope. Turbulent waves beat loudly far below them, but the sounds of rumbling and crashing were even louder and growing nearer. So, the Elders listened instead to the steady beating of their own hearts and the heart of the Earth beating beneath them. Around them, all were wondering why had there been no sign.

All of a sudden, frightened voices cried out in alarm, as they saw what was coming out of the mist - a solid wall of ice, as tall as the cliff-top. A vast iceberg, hundreds of miles across, was heading along the coastline, straight towards them. Some began to push, to try to escape the imminent collision. In the jostling, others were pushed to the edge of the cliff and in danger of falling. Panic began to take a grip and a few fearful creatures were trying to fight their way out of the crowd. But the Elders had recognized immediately that this was not a bringer of doom, but a gift from Mother Earth. Now, their voices rang out as one along the cliff-tops.

"This is not what it seems to be! Trust, and be patient for a moment longer! If we fight each other, chaos will consume us all. Remember the promise we were given ­ and the promise we made to the Earth Mother!"

Their voices rose into the air, which whispered and shimmered, until sounds like high voices began to flow in a circle above them, and a soothing song of love spiralled down around them. Calm gradually descended, but still the iceberg was coming closer. There was nowhere to run now and nothing left to them but trust, so all watched while the iceberg came nearer and nearer. It seemed as if it would hit the cliff with unimaginable force, but, to the amazement of the watchers, the monstrous iceberg missed by a narrow gap and began passing slowly by the cliff-edge.

All eyes looked up, to see curtains of crystal colors descending from above. These were falling around the vast iceberg and wrapping it in delicate veils of color, so that the ice sparkled and flashed in the brilliant light. Around it, the very air came alive with light and glowed. Suddenly, the solid mass of ice seemed almost transparent and the iceberg floated along as if its vast bulk was actually light as a feather. The fear of the onlookers faded away as they watched a great rainbow dome forming over the top of the giant island of ice. Even the most doubtful creature could tell that this was the sign they had hoped for.

However, the island of ice was too far for them to reach and the gap was too wide for any of them to leap. How they yearned to reach it, and their hearts cried out in a silent plea, heard in the heart of the Earth. From the cliff-edge, came thin filaments of light, delicate rainbow threads that stretched out across the gap, like fine tendrils growing out over the void. The threads braided together and plaited themselves over and over, to become a thick rainbow rope that glowed with an inner light. More and more threads twisted together to become rainbow braids, and these thick ropes came together to make a bridge, suspended across the open space.

Yet, still, they could see through it, down to the turbulent waves, far below. It felt so real to their hearts, but to their eyes, it seemed a flimsy thing, a vision that might fade at any moment. But the wiser ones knew well to believe their hearts and not just rely on their eyes. The Elders at the edge knew they would have to be the first to make the move and trust this bridge of rainbow rope. They were not sure if it was ready for them, or if they were ready for it. Would they both be strong enough to make it across?

One of them would have to test the rainbow bridge. The Wolf Elder let go of the last of her doubt, gathered her courage and stepped out over the abyss. She felt herself supported by the braided threads and she walked steadily across the gap, over the rainbow bridge, stepping through the shimmering veil, until her paws stepped onto the solid ice on the other side. Her fur began to sparkle and glisten, and, when she turned to face the waiting crowds, there was a diamond light in her eyes.

"AHOOOOOOOOO!!" she howled, and the hearts of the gathered thousands leapt for joy. Hope rose in the hearts of all, and the rest of the Elders led the first wave of creatures across, until the surge of living waves became an unstoppable flood of joy, each wave bright with sparks of life crossing the gap.

On the other side of this island of ice, the Elders of the Walrus and Seal tribes were coming ashore on its seaward slopes. They began calling to their kin and kind, until walrus and seals in their hundreds were coming up out of the sea. As thankful creatures congregated on its slopes and cliffs, the island gathered speed and headed out to sea.

Meanwhile, the young polar bear was running to take her place with her clan. But, by the time she reached the chosen place, the cliff-tops were empty. She stood in shock, not believing her eyes. When she looked into the distance, she saw the island of ice moving down the coast with its multitudes. She cried out, but they had gone beyond hearing and she began to run along the cliffs to catch up with them. But even as she took her first hurried steps, the sound of cracking split the air and the ice in front of her opened up to form a deep cleft, too wide for her to jump. Would she be left alone, here in the old world, while everyone she loved set out for the new? She called out for help, hoping that someone, somewhere would hear her desperate plea. All she heard was a rushing sound, and she looked around in confusion, trying to find its source. As it grew closer, she looked over the chasmıs edge ­ and down the chasm was pouring a flood of fresh melt-water. This was the flow from the melting of ancient ice, releasing its liquid wisdom in a crystal wave, which poured down the opening channel.

Something inside her told her to make the leap, and she dived in, to find herself hurtling down the widening channel, riding the torrent. When another chasm crossed at right angles, the surge of water turned the corner and she was swept along with it on the crest of a wave. On, she was carried, along one channel, then another, some opening wider even as she flowed down them. These cracks in the old world were opening and connecting to become a network, down which a whole new flow was rushing. And, though it seemed like a wild, chaotic flow, she felt she could, somehow, trust the current. Finally, she flowed around a corner to see the open mouth of the channel pouring its waters out into the sea. She entered the sea with the ancient crystal waters returning to their source, spinning and tumbling with them, as if time was turning around her, until she could swim up to the surface.

She blinks the water from her eyes, and when she looks up, the shining island is floating towards her. Her heart leaps at the sight and she swims towards its slopes that rise over her, reaching to the sky. When she reaches the shore, she digs her claws deep into its icy surface and climbs the slope. At the top, she pulls herself up over the edge, delighted to see so many familiar faces gathered in one place, and they are deeply relieved to see her. The young polar bear breathlessly tells her story, while the bears make their way to the center of the island, where all are gathering to give thanks.

The circle of creatures had only just gathered, when a circle of light illuminated the horizon, and every face turned in amazement. A moment later, a great wave of light began to rise up over the horizon and flow through both sky and ocean. All felt the excitement, yet none felt any fear. The radiant wave washed over them and its light poured through them. All sensed themselves lighting up from inside and, when they looked at each other, they were beginning to glow, gently. Then, joy rises in them like a wave, and they cannot hold it in; they have to dance, they have to sing their thanks. They enjoy the embrace of the radiant light and, as the first wave flows on, others follow, and they celebrate the waves as they pass, late into the magical night.

On the shining island, the creatures see each other in a new light and in the days and nights that follow, they warm to each other more and more, as they learn about each othersı ways and natures. Their faces and forms glow now, and even the most familiar seem so different, as if they are meeting in a wonderful, new dream. The island is a busy place, with creatures making homes and nests, digging out hollows and little caves, with so much to be explored and so much to discover about each other. Few were used to being part of a community like this. The polar bears, in particular, found it difficult, at first, to get used to such a way of living. They did not flock together or move in herds, they had hunted alone and travelled freely through vast open spaces, enjoying being alone most of the time. The Arctic wolves and foxes, too, were changing and adapting, learning new ways of living.

Life in the sea was abundant enough to feed them and each day they gave thanks for its sustenance. When they had fed themselves, the stronger ones would go to find food for the younger and weaker ones, who were not able to brave the waves. Each day, though, they found that they needed to eat less and less, for their bodies were becoming lighter and lighter. Instead of hunger, they felt a fullness within them, and they realized they were being nourished by the light that surrounded them and filled them. They began to let go of old habits, now that they did not need to struggle for survival. They released old roles, whether hunter or hunted, now that these were no longer necessary.

They were learning to care for and respect each other in deeper ways, though it was not all plain sailing on the island. When the inhabitants looked out, they would see no trace of any land or anything solid, just an endless expanse of water around them. It could easily seem as if they were drifting aimlessly. So, sometimes, the voices of gloom and doubt would be raised amongst the voices of hope. All were learning to live with their differences, but there were times when the tensions boiled over and the Elders would help to defuse squabbles and resolve disputes. The creatures would come to the center of the island where there was a circle formed of high crystal columns with graceful arches in between, making a sacred space of healing and a place for sharing truth. This crystal circle of peace became central to their lives.

Here, the warriors of the old ice-world would come together to resolve their differences. At the center of the circle, a spiral of crystal light was always rising, like a cool flame. It rose over the space, the threads of crystalline light forming a rainbow tree that reached up to the stars. Through its waving branches, the starlight sparkled and, always, shining seeds of light showered gently down, like the blossoms of this tree of crystal love. Beneath this sacred tree, their hearts could open to peace, for it was place of clarity, where problems were illuminated in their inner truth; a place of revelation, where a solution that was invisible could reveal itself. There, the Elders would speak to their hearts of those gathered, to remind them of the delicate balance their lives depended upon.

"We have only keep this peace between us and remember our sacred promise. We are not lost, for the ocean knows we are here and the Earth Mother knows all that we are feeling. We are not forgotten."

Sometimes the creatures would gather to share memories of the past, sometimes to share visions of the future, sometimes to heal the hurts of the past, sometimes to celebrate. So, what once had seemed like a barren wasteland was becoming a place of peace, where love was growing and a true community was forming.

Far away, on the other Island of Hope, the young penguin had been telling his story. He was listening, also, to the many voices around him, with their questions and concerns. Everyone wonders how long they will have to drift along and which direction they are heading. The questions are asked every day, but the Elders do not pretend to know the answers. No one knows where they are going or how long the journey will be. Some on the island are worried they are drifting to those legendary regions where the Sun shines all day, the air and water are always warm, and there is no snow or ice at all. The penguins shiver at the thought of such a place. Surely that cannot be their destination...

To their relief, though, the Sun was still veiled in clouds, the air was cool around them and the sea did not boil anymore. So, the voices of doubt were few. Then, a discovery was made that brought fresh hope to all. There were moments, while the seals and penguins were swimming around the island, when they would sense something moving through the water and wonder what it was. They realized there was a subtle stream within the ocean that was carrying them along, leading them on into the unknown. They could discern the current moving through the ocean as a wide, swiftly-moving stream, pushing and pulling them towards some invisible destination.

The Crystal Elder who carried the community on its back was still melting slowly, letting go of its past and its old patterns. Most of its history was stored below, deep in its core, and only a fraction of its vast body of knowledge showed above the waves. The lore of worlds past and generations gone were imprinted in its crystal memory. Gradually, the secrets hidden in the ice beneath their feet were being released. This crystal history-book grew a little lighter every day, for layer by layer, level by level, page by page, the Elder was letting go of all it had held so long. Those who gathered around the central opening heard the whispers of ancestral stories, and some saw visions of ancient days and faces like none they had ever seen before.

Yet the future seemed to be hidden behind a haze, just as the face of the Sun was hidden from them, his fiery gaze still obscured behind opaque clouds of fabulous colors, sometimes subtle and sometimes dazzling. There were moments when the creatures wondered how many more islands like this were there. They could feel their presence, somewhere beyond the sight of their eyes, and they felt connected to them, somehow...

Both islands were moving in a stream through the ocean, one flowing North and the other, South. There came a time when the two streams met. Their meeting created a place of slowly spinning water, a vortex towards which both islands were moving. This meeting-place of the waters became a meeting-place of worlds, for, one day when the young polar bear was staring out to sea, she glimpsed something that looked like a colorful cloud on the horizon. As it floated closer, she realized it was a shining sphere that surrounded an island of ice, like her own. She called out to all to come and see, and by the time others arrived, the island was near enough for them to make out distant figures upon it.

It was not long before the polar bears could make out strange shapes gliding though the water towards them. Then, a strange creature shot out of the water like a leaping fish and flew into the air like a bird, but a moment later, landed on its belly like a small seal. When it stood up straight on two webbed feet and honked hello, all the creatures were too confused and surprised to reply.

The young polar bear came forward to greet this creature, which was half light and half dark, while the penguin admired the beautiful strangeness of this one whose skin was like soft snow. Soon, more creatures came ashore, and the shoreline came alive with welcomes and greetings as two worlds met and two poles came together. In the middle of it all, two creatures held each other in a steady gaze. They each seemed to recognize something familiar in the other, beyond the strangeness of their form. Since they each had a playful and adventurous nature, the two quickly became friends. Over the days that followed, they spent their time together, swapping the stories of their adventures, learning about the old worlds that had been and imagining what the new world would be like. Others became used to, but always amused by, the sight of the penguin balancing on the bearıs back as they wandered along together. He discovered her skin, though bright like snow, was soft and warm. And they made more discoveries over those precious days, as did so many others who had met in the middle of the ocean.

Then came the moment when the currents shifted. The streams moved apart and began to run parallel again, and the islands drifted away from each other. They returned to their original course, one heading North and the other, South. When the creatures noticed what was happening, they found themselves tugged in different directions, unsure of what to do, and some muddled ones ran this way and that. The Elders come forward to cut through the confusion, reminding all that they are free, and that they face an important choice: they can now decide which community they want to be part of. There is a flurry of farewells and hurried exits, reunions and new commitments.

But, when the polar bear went looking for her friend, he could not be found, and he did not reply to her calls. Her heart sank, as she watched the other island drift further and further away. Two seals who had opened their hearts to each other came up out of the sea and made their way past her. She wondered whether to swim out to the island, even if it was just to say goodbye. She made up her mind and started to make her way down to the shoreline, but waddling up the slippery slope beneath her was a now-familiar figure. The penguin had come back to stay with his new friend and continue with the island on its way, even if he would be the only one of his kind on the island. He explained to the polar bear he had gone back to the other island to say goodbye to his clan, and swum back knowing he would never see them again.

Some of the more adventurous penguins had followed him, however, and they would become a part of the new community on the island. Most on both islands had stayed with their familiar tribe, but they carried the memories of their brief meetings with them as the Islands of Hope flowed on, moving even deeper into the unknown. Now there was new learning too, as creatures who had never encountered before began to feel at ease with other, and accepted each otherıs strange faces and mysterious ways. As the days and months passed, the air and the ocean became even cooler, and the Sun stayed behind the skyıs rainbow veil of colors.

At the Pole of the Earth, the scene appears lifeless, a wasteland of mud and rock, yet there is a stillness and silence that is expectant. From the darkness of the open sky, a seed of light spirals down to land. It sparkles briefly like a diamond, before it sinks down, appearing to disappear into the warm mud. But, it opens and sends out threads of light, one thread stretching up and the other reaching down deep, as if searching. While the tendril reaches down, a thread of light is rising up from the deep of the Earth.

When they meet, they entwine in a burst of light and rise together to the surface, reaching up as one to the silent sky. Around their one light, their threads form a bright bud, pushing up through the rock and the mud. It emerges onto the surface of the Earth, as tiny as a candle flame, but as bright as a star. The bud bursts open like a crystal flower unfolding in a blaze of new light, as if releasing a star, and from the crystalline starlight, beautiful patterns and forms begin to pour, filling the empty, waiting space. Then, it as if the sky opens, as seeds begin to fall in millions, creating a lattice of crystal through the very air and spreading a crystal web over the landscape.

Each seed, as it lands, sends its thread of light up to the sky and into the earth, entwining with the rising threads. Each seed unfolds its gift, opening and opening, until the waiting world comes alive with new forms, growing and reaching out, rising and rooting themselves deep. Forms unfold and branch out, connecting and interweaving to create a fast-changing landscape of incandescent beauty. From the body of the Earth, water rises from unseen springs and flows out in crystalline streams to find its way through the contours of this world in formation. At the center of the Pole, light rises from deep within the Earth and bathes the emerging world in a rainbow glow of deep love. All is taking shape and finding form, all is fulfilling its inner promise.

On the Islands of Hope, the tribes of creatures had grown together so closely that they had become one tribe. They had let go of so many old identities and roles, and, each day, they felt more at home with each other. The heart of their communities had opened wider and deepened in their love. Those creatures with observant eyes had noticed that the crystal islands had begun to grow again, yet in surprising ways and new patterns. At first, delicate patterns of ice appeared, like fine lacework, but soon, new structures began to appear and grow, until the islands began to transform a little more each day and open in new forms.

Each day, there were fresh patterns to discover and new spaces to explore. On the calm ocean, the Islands of Hope floated like crystal lotuses, connected to the heart of the Earth by a deep root, feeding from the love within and opening more to the emerging light each day. Every day was a day of hope, yet there was a yearning within everyone for the long promised world, and the hoping was part of each day. Perhaps those mothers who were pregnant hoped the hardest, wishing that their young ones would be born in a new land.

The moment they had all waited for came when almost everyone was asleep or looking in the wrong direction. At dawn, on that particular morning, just one set of eyes was open and looking in the right place, when high peaks appeared over the horizon, out of the morning mist. The little penguin almost cried out with surprise, but didnıt want to wake those sleeping around him until he was sure this vision was real. But he nudged his friend, the polar bear, beside him; she was used to him imagining he could see land and wouldnıt grumble much if it was just another mist that would quickly evaporate. She awoke instantly and opened her eyes on the bright vista in the distance. Yes! These looked like the peaks of mountains - but their colors were bright and fiery. Then, it dawned on her that they were illuminated by the morning sun and rose-tinted in these glowing tones. They could be ice ...

A high ridge appeared over the rim of the Earth, and cliffs rose beneath them. A moment later, the mist cleared enough to reveal, between the cliffs, a wide expanse of ice like a wide, open road. The penguin could not hold his squawk in any longer and it burst out of him, as he began to flap his wings and make a happy dance. The other penguins around him began to rouse and when they saw the beautiful sight, of course, they also began to squawk and flap and dance, until they had woken every creature on the crystal island.

They heard a calling from above and looked up to see a circle of seabirds unlike any they had seen before gathering overhead. The seabirds were flying out from the cliffs where they had been making their homes. The Elders returned their greeting and asked them where they were. The seabirds called out the name they had given to this place, and the name echoed off the high cliffs, repeating and repeating, as if the cliffs themselves were approving the name given by the winged ones. All of the creatures, with relief and joy in their voices, took up the cry and called out this name that felt sacred to them as they sang it out. And the cliffs multiplied their cries, so their singing of this sacred name became a glorious chorus of celebration and gratitude, the echoes like the voices of countless invisible ones; the voices of those who came before them and those who would come after them, the voices of those who had not made the journey and of those not yet born.

The little penguin could not restrain himself any longer and the others heard a splash as he set out for the shore. His friend the polar bear followed, and more and more penguins and seals followed their example, while the more patient and the older creatures kept their patience a little longer. They knew it would not be long before they could step ashore, as the island was entering the mouth of a natural harbour and the waves were welcoming them in and hauling them towards the shore. Some of those still on the island were reflecting on their journey. If they had believed this world was waiting for them, they would have felt no fear and would have let go of the past more easily. If they could have trusted, their voyage would have been a more joyful one.

When he was nearing the shore, the penguin looked back, and realized his friend was still quite a way behind him. He remembered a penguin can move a lot faster than a bear, so he swam back and clambered up onto his friendıs back, telling her he would prefer them to arrive together. They watched the first of the penguins reach the shore, and a great cry went up from the island. More cries and calls echoed from the shore as those already there encouraged the island on, as if they were pulling it in with invisible threads. The polar bear and the penguin came ashore together and joined the noisy throng of seals and penguins waiting on the shore. The island was nearing the shoreıs edge, coming ever closer, while the excitement on both sides of the narrow gap grew. Their wildly beating hearts bridged the gap and their voices united in passionate anticipation of the union to come.

Then the edges met with a gentle melding of ice, ancient and new, and the crystal patterns of opposite poles blended into one. When the island came to rest at the edge of the shore, it was an island no more, but a bridge from the old world to the new. The first of the Elders stepped gently onto the soft snow, which cushioned their steps, and the ice was sparkling and new, glittering like diamonds. They felt, for a moment, as if they were stepping into a dream-world, but beneath them, the ice was firm, the surface was solid - this world was real. Love had dreamed it into being.

A procession of joyful creatures began to flow over into this new world. The air smelt fresh and when they tasted the ice, it was clean and pure. This world was still forming; it was growing, moment by moment. A new crystal world, even more beautiful than the world they had known and more wonderful than they could have imagined. Everything looked as if it had been carved and created with loving care. Everything looked so different to their old home, yet somehow, seemed familiar, as if they had all been here once before, while sharing the same dream. This world had been forming all the time, unseen by their eyes, but real and waiting for them to arrive.

Now, it was coming to life with the cries and calls of its new arrivals. All shone in pristine purity, and the morning light dazzled as it reflected from the icy forms, sculpted with love. Everything glistened with crystal patterns of bright ice ... The welcoming doorways of sheltering caves, the soaring cliffs with their elegant crystalline columns and cascading waterfalls, the broad expanse of glacial plains. Further inland, they saw the living colors of emerging greenery and the distant figures of trees growing on the slopes of hills and majestic mountains.

All those who gathered on the crowded foreshore gave thanks to Mother Earth and to all who had helped them on their way. They knew they had a bright future here, for there was room for all of them, and more. With them, they were bringing the peace they had found deep within them. This was still shining and living within, and it was their gift to the new world. How they had all changed since their journey had begun... They were bright crystal beings, with hearts of purest gold. They were one now, and their hearts would beat as one.

For all who had made the journey, one adventure was over, and another was beginning. The penguin and the polar bear set off together to explore this crystal realm. Others went to make a space for themselves and find their new homes. Farewells flowed from heart to heart, as the creatures began to make their own ways home, some heading inland to the green plains, some climbing to the snowy high ground, and some setting off towards the blue and purple mountains in the distance.

All looked up to see a light snow begin to fall, bright seeds scattering from the sky to plant themselves in this new land. These creatures, too, had come as the seeds of a new beginning, and from these seeds would grow the shining tree of the future. As the thousands set out on their different, yet connected ways, their tracks in the snow and the paths they made splayed out like the branches of a great crystal tree.

The patterns of this ancestral tree would be imprinted in the ice, and the fresh soil whose grains glittered like diamonds. Its memory would be invoked by generations to come. Some of those who walked those ways would sense the signs in the ice and the earth and hear whispers in the wind. The stories would live on ... <P> <BR> <center><A HREF="goldenthread.html">The Golden Thread</a> <P> <A HREF="serpentreeoflove.html">The Serpent and The Tree of Love</a>





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