What excitement thrills me threatens your hand to tremble and bear a weight unagreed upon, to shoulder my dropping a ball. Look, the ball has dropped. The glass has broken. There is no need to pick it back up right now, in the silence is just a quiet picture to notice, safe in the aloneness of the unseen, unaware, a picture you can observe, without an expectant stare. No mind paid to your reaction, no light to a face. –>

The prince walked far from his kingdom, his legs grew weary and he took shelter in a barn. A day later, the master of the land handed him a shovel and seed and taught him to plant and grow and cultivate.

The prince now spent his nights in the barn, his days on the land, and the master, an older man, watched him from his porch chair.

After hot days of planting he looked at his garden of crop and flowers watched the stars arise to glisten above. Beautiful, for a time, but the prince grew restless.

The master, noticing this and fearing he would leave, told the master to dig with his shovel after a day. The master said that there was treasure to be found, beautiful rare and precious gemstones beyond compare.

So after a day of watering his garden, the prince picked up his shovel. Hot and fatigued, yet eternally unsatisfied and yearning for more, he began to dig.

The prince dug a hole, and hit upon rocks and dirt. Pushing through his exertion, excited thoughts and colorful fantasies filled his mind.

The prince dug many holes, and found no treasure. Time passed by faster than he realized, and his bones were growing older, and his pains shouted over his excited thoughts. His mind kept set on treasure, but in his pain, doubt too swirled in his mind.

“I have been here, and dug many holes, and found no treasure. The master sold me a dream, so that I would not leave his garden in my restlessness and yearning. That wise man told me what I needed to hear to keep going. There is no treasure.”

As many moons passed, the light of his excitement went out, and after tending his garden he sat, again looking at the plants and stars, satisfying his tired eyes. Pains and aches were all he knew, and what got him through each day was the sleep that waited for him each night.

After many years, he had forgiven the master for deceiving him, because now he too understood. He had been a young prince, he had possessed the yearning of youth, the dream. The master was not a monster, but a compassionate man.

“He gave me a gift of hope, that mattered for a time. Perhaps it did not matter that it was false hope.”, the prince thought to himself.

Now in his old age, the prince understood the harsher truth, that under the earth lies rocks and dirt.

The prince was still quite alright. Working, while painful, was good for his bones, and he had done it for so long it was a second nature to him. The garden was beautiful and he was still proud of what he had tended to. He had learned how to appreciate the silence of night, the sounds of the wind, and how to rest into a deep peace within him, choosing to see the beauty of his life as it was.

For many years the master had spent most of his daytime on the patio. One day, the prince noticed he was not to be seen. As he had once held a bitterness for the master, the prince had not actually spoken to him in decades, excepting the occasional courtesy of a wave.

A few days passed and the prince had still seen no since of the master. Worried, he went into his estate. He found the elderly man in his bed, and learned he would never again stand, he would soon pass.

The master explained to him that as he had no heirs, the prince would become the master of the estate after his passing, the house, barn, and garden he had worked on for so many years was his treasure.

The prince, having long ago found an inner peace, was grateful for this blessing and for his life.

The prince was sitting with the master for some time in silence. The master looked over to him and held his hand, and looked for his eye. “Why did you never come back to ask me about the treasure?”, he asked.

The prince shook his hand away from the older man. “What are you talking about? There was no treasure.” In a few moments the prince found that his surprise had turned to an anger. He was not sure if perhaps the old master had become lost in his own fantasies, and this somehow angered him even more.

The master looked back at him with a confused expression. “Why would you think that?”, he asked. “I understood your wise lesson. The treasure was the garden. The stars above me, and my life. I didn’t need to look into dirt to search for what I already had.”

Now the master looked shocked. The master replied, “Well, you surely have wisdom, to have an appreciation of these good things. I am honored by your respect for me and glad to have given to someone who valued what I had.”

The master paused, and continued on. “However, I am not the lying sort. I was not lying about treasure. I know it’s buried out there.”

It had been far to long since the prince had held any hope of treasure, and he just listened to him go on speaking.

The master continued. “I watched you dig for treasure, into rocks and dirt. Son, the treasure is below the rocks and dirt.”

For some reason, this caused the prince to tear up. He felt emotional. He was not sure what he thought of the dying man’s words. He was not sure if perhaps he was moved by the fact that the one who had shown only kindness to him would soon pass on.

The prince stayed with him until his passing, and laid a grave and took his shovel and buried him by a tree.

He had become the master of the house, and took up residence there. The porch was raised a few steps higher than the land, and it was a marvelous sight to look down at the garden.

For a few weeks, he tended the crop during day, and spend his nights in a softer bed, next to a window he could look out and see the stars.

A tiny pain of dissatisfaction had been planted in his heart. For a time he worked hard and ignored it, but eventually it stung too much to focus on anything else. He stopped tending the garden. The field withered. His peace had floated away. He stared at the skies and muttered to himself. He wished that the master before him had never spoken to him of treasure, and never reminded him of it. Surely in those words he had just been an old man, desperately holding on to hope before death.

The days of this summer were exceptionally hot and the new master found his existence insufferable. He could think of nothing else but the treasure. He went out to dig, no longer at night after a days work, but now in the morning, in the heat of a full sun.

He dug into the same spot for hours and hours, through rocky brown dirt, when eventually his shovel struck a sound he did not expect. The sound was of a shovel striking a splash of water. He went to his knees and reached down with his hands into the dirt, and found his hands wet with a crystal clear water. He dug deeper with his hands, to find a shallow river of rushing, shining water flowing through his fingers. The master saw that the water did not just shine on its own, but that a shimmering was coming through the earth below it. He grasped his hands into this earth, and pulled out precious gemstones. Ruby and diamond and emerald and sapphire he held in his hands, with the sunlight of day shining brilliantly upon them. He praised the heavens, and found himself overjoyed, and took his treasure back to the estate.

He reflected that the man before him had not lied to him at all. There was indeed a great treasure, some great empire or kingdom must have buried it on this sacred land, far from where any thief could find.

His hope satisfied, he watered his garden and looked to the skies for many days and years.

One day a young girl came onto his land, seeking shelter. The once prince turned master did not wish to hold any wisdom from the girl, as the master before him had.

He showed her the rubies and gemstones he had recovered, and told her to dig, past the dirt and rock, until she reached the water stream below.

The girl, excited with the yearning of youth, took the shovel, dug, and found as many gems as her hands could carry. She thanked the master, and told him she’d be on his way. She wanted to travel and see her world, not to find something, just to see what more beauty there might be. The master blessed her and wished her well and sent her off with supplies from his crop.

The master was happy to have passed on his secret. Contented, he spent many more years on his porch, watching sunrises and sunsets, contemplating the beauty of his story and life.

In his old age, a day came when a woman dressed in colorful robes, embroidered in crystal appeared to greet him. The girl had grown up and returned from her travels, wishing to tell the master of her discoveries. She explained that she had traveled deserts, canyons, and mountains, and what she had found was that there were many, many gardens in these lands. Her curiosity led her to apply his secret, and dig below the rocks and dirt at another garden. Underneath, she had found a stream of water, and underneath the water, precious gemstones just as here. She opened a bag and showed to him amethysts, and stones he had never seen.

She went on, and confessed to him that when she had come to him she had been a princess, soon to be queen of the kingdoms of the land. After her travels, she had returned to the kingdom and taken her throne, in order to take command of a force able to satisfy her curiosity. She commanded thousands of her citizens to go out into lands and dig for stones.

Thousands had returned to her with bags full of various gemstone. Her curiosity satisfied, she had concluded that this kingdom was the most prosperous land in all the world.

Having finished her tale, the queen left the old master with the gift of her bag of stones, blessed him, and traveled back.

As the master reflected on this for many years, and looked out his window from his bed, he realized that perhaps this world was not what he had once been told. Perhaps underneath the soil of all the earth was a great river, and wherever gardens were planted, gemstone could be found.

His imagination stretched this vision out to envision perhaps these treasures laid under the surface of not just his planet, but on however many stars out there his eyes could see.


c james t. bytes 2021