The day after I cracked my knife and nearly fell from the rock wall, a woman appeared skipping down the Dice Road. The mid-afternoon sun bathed everything in a golden light and soften the edges of the world. The woman’s wide grin and dyed green hair initially led me to believe my next visitor to be a young woman. Perhaps in her early twenties. When she passed under the waterfall and entered my cave, however, I realized she must’ve been in, in actuality, her fifties. Arms swinging wide, she approached my tea bar with a grin.
The woman’s round cheeks were pink and flush, and when she spoke, her breathy words carried a soft accent. “Good afternoon, might I bother you for a spot of tea?”
I welcomed her to the bar and began heating the water. I found it curious that I never heard any variation in a person’s accent or dialect before. Why now? Something appeared to be changing, but I didn’t understand what. I resolved to give the matter more consideration but decided to set it aside for the time being. I had a visitor that wanted “a spot of tea”.
After she found her seat, I asked, “You seem so happy as you travel this path, what do you believe lies beyond the tea shop?”
Her dusty brown eyebrows knitted together, and her hazel eyes grew distant as she considered my question. Still, the corners of her mouth never dipped. Eventually, she said, “Two things really. More truths and more friends.”
I had never seen a visitor like this one, and my curiosity grew hungry. I began to shuffle my Deck of Secrets and asked another question, “My last visitor brought with him a melancholy fog, but you travel in the golden light of a hopeful afternoon. Did you know the wise sage?”
“I knew of him. I read his books and listen to his lectures on justice and ethics. He was very insightful.”
I placed my cards face down on the bar next to my visitor and walked up to one of the backless bookshelves in the shop. On the shelf sat a round, bright green teapot. I thought it suited her mood, so I retrieved it and began preparing it with ginkgo leaves. When the hot water filled the teapot, the leaves released a pleasant aroma filling my shop with a fresh yet earthy atmosphere.
As I waited for the tea to steep, I turned back and found the woman was holding a card in her hand. I asked her which card she drew, and she turned it around. It depicted a clay pot shattered on the ground. But growing through the cracks and shards of red clay were tall, beautiful flowers. Each flower petal was a different color from the one next to it. Instead of a bed of pollen, at the center of each flower, perfectly cut sapphires twinkled.
“New life born from death,” I said, “what was, is gone, and all that remains is what will be.”
I poured the tea and asked, “You realized something when you started traveling the Dice Road? What was it?”
Her eyes still lingered on the card as she answered, “I realized I was wrong. In fact, I had been wrong my whole life. When I was young, I was hurt very badly. The person that hurt me, didn’t mean to do it. It was an accident, but I carried that pain with me every day since. I grew fearful and reclusive. I stayed in my tiny dark flat and read books by lamplight. I feared people, I feared more pain, I feared the light of the outside world. I knew that every day was full of pain and always would be. Then I died in the same way I lived; alone, afraid, and in great pain.
“And then I found I was wrong. Pain does come to an end after all. At first, I wandered around confused. I had lived my whole life thinking only about my suffering, and my sadness, and it took me a long time to sort out what that meant. I realized that if pain ends, loneliness can end as well. When I realized how wrong I was, it brought an end to my fear.”
Who was this fearless woman, I wondered. She was so different from all my other visitors. Her heart was full of hope and her eyes glittered with curiosity. Her shoulders didn’t sag under the weight of regret and bitterness. In fact, something about her manner reminded me of a balloon; light and buoyant in the air. Then I realized, a balloon could easily be knocked about. The slightest gust of wind, even a breath could redirect its path. Perhaps this visitor didn’t need a warm cup of tea to ease and relax away her suffering. Perhaps she needed something to awaken her focus and help direct her energy.
The fearless woman sitting in my bar took a sip of her tea. When she did so, the glittering jewels in the card she had drawn began to shine brighter. Light danced from their facets and filled my tiny little shop with twinkling bands of color. My visitor marveled at the site, then looked at me excitedly.
“What kind of tea is this?” She asked, her voice filled with giddy excitement.
“I call it rainbow tea. It’s very rare, and the ingredients were given to me by a woman who made a similar realization while seated where you are now.”
The hermit giggled and her smile appeared to be nearly as bright as the colorful lights filling my tiny tea shop. When her cup was empty, the card dimmed and my visitor stood to leave. She extended the card to me and I shook my head.
“That is your card. It represents you, and what you stand for. Take it with you and be proud of what it means. Perhaps it will help others learn the lessons you have already mastered.”
The woman shook her head, curly green hair tossed about. For the first time, her smile wavered. “I-I have no way of paying you. How do I return your kindness?”
“Now that you travel this path, you’ll find that things like that don’t really matter.” I took a deep breath and looked out the mouth of the cave. The golden light, the dancing rainbows, and the fearless woman filled me with relaxed confidence. I continued, “Besides, I believe in my heart that you have already helped me, so go and help others.”
She nodded, confused, but smiling again. She turned and continued on her path.