I came upon a clearing in the wood
where the beds of pine needles turned into a path of mossy patches and stones
that led me to a small unmarked building.
And he was there, in the corner, the majestic stag,
horns seeming taller than the heavens.
He waited for me by the door.
He was expecting me.
I entered into a dark, narrow hallway.
The stag entered after me, only he was changed through the doorway.
No longer a stag, but a man, with ashen hair and wild eyes,
following silently behind me in the dark.
At the end of the hall, I found the room that housed the hot springs,
heated by the fire at the center of the earth.
Without being asked, I removed my clothes, piece by piece,
aware that each piece was an element of myself that I shed.
I was naked. Fully naked.
Vulnerable and strong.
Exposed and protected.
I slowly stepped into the bath, the hot water purifying my aching soul.
I held my breath as he did the same.
He stood behind me and washed me gently,
pouring water across my shoulders,
sending waves of shivers through my body as his fingers grazed my neck.
I turned to him, meeting his eyes for the first time.
Without words, he asked me if I’d like to come with him.
I nodded silently.
I rose from the bath as a phoenix might,
smoke and steam rising from my skin.
He watched in awe and respect
and showered me with adoration.
I was his queen, he was my knight.
I was his goddess, he was my consort.
He carried me to a room filled with golden afternoon light and white silks,
and laid me on a bed of moss.
He smelled of cloves, earth, sweet oranges, and all manner of wild things.
He set out on a pilgrimage, his lips the travelers,
following the path of my freckles as if they were maps of the stars.
And they were.
Our bodies were constellations,
each moment, each breath, its own star,
dying in the night in bursts of flame and white.
I was neither self-conscious nor hurried,
I was simply held in ecstasy,
as each cell of my body absorbed the light and transmuted the fire,
as each cell of my body cried in rapture,
as pleasure took root in my very existence,
until the cosmos exploded into black holes and blinding white light.
He brushed my hair and dressed me, kissing me tenderly.
The golden light was just underneath my buzzing skin now.
We left the bathhouse silently,
and as we reached the edge of the forest again,
he was once more a stag,
and we parted ways in anguish and devotion.
As I walked back towards the place I came into this world,
I thought to myself, “I should meditate more often.”