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The Master and the Stump


A simple cup of water

A master walked the same path every day. Through the school, then the village and then into the forest beyond, and then, the master would return home.

Every day she would do this walk. Walking a constant pace and seeing the world around her, the master would smile at everyone that she passed. Each day she started her journey in the same place. Each day she would stop in the same place and sit on an old stump in the woods.

There the master would contemplate what the past meant and what the future might bring. She would sit for an amount of time, that was the only variable in this walk, But she would always stop at the Stump and think.

She had many conversations with the Stump. About its purpose, about its existence, but mostly about the quiet solitude the Stump provided.

One day she arrived at the Stump, at the time she always did, and found a cup of water at the base of the Stump. The water was still cold, so it had come from the stream that was down the path a bit from where the Stump sat. The Stump was at the edge of a clearing, in a space between two other trees that grew tall above. The master had spoken to the trees many times as well. Thanking them for the beautiful shade, they gave this seat that had once also been a mighty tree.

The master imagined that the Stump rose high into the sky/ But that was imagination she had come to this path many years before, and the Stump had always been a stump. As if he burst forth from the womb of the world a stump.

The master drank the cold water, refreshed, and contemplated the world for a time. Then as was always the case, she rose and walked back to the village.

When she returned, she looked at each of the people in the village differently. Seeking clues, or possibly hoping one would reveal themselves as the person that left the water. But no one in the town revealed that secret. So the master returned to her students and taught.

The old master died but she said "there is a stump where I go to contemplate"

The next day she rose at the usual time and, at the regular time, took the usual path to the same place she had come for many years now. There was again; the same cup filled again with cold water. This time, the master drank the water and thanked the universe, then she sat and contemplated the meaning of things and the way of the universe.

Again as before, the master rose and walked back to the village. For the second day, she searched the faces of the villagers seeking a clue. The villagers were not alarmed; they had lived near the school for many years and knew the strange ways of masters. They talked amongst themselves, wondering what eternal universal question the master sought in their faces. They did not question or fear the difference, accepted it, and moved on.

The master rose again on the third and also wen her path, and again there was water at the base of the Stump. She drank the water again and sat to contemplate the universe. For the third day, she returned to the village, but this time she did not wonder who was providing the water. Instead, she was happy that someone was helping her that way.

The next day and for many days after that, the master rose, at the same time every day and as was the tradition walked through the village, to the Stump. Each time there was a cup of water, and each day she drank that water.

That went on for many years. The master, who was old when this story began, reached the end of her life. One day, she knew she could not make her walk. She called the student who was to become the new master into her room and told him this:

“In the clearing near the river outside the village, there is a stump that is where I go to contemplate the questions the universe asks me.” With that, the old master died.

The new master rose at the time that the old master had always risen and walked through the village to the forest beyond.

When the new master arrived at the place where the old master had said there was a stump, she only found a cup of water and a strong. The stone seemed comfortable, and the new master sat and drank the water. She contemplated the answers of the universe.


© 2020 DocAndersen

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