I am walking down, down, down the long circular descent of the spiral stairs. Ordinarily, when I finally reach the bottom of the stairs, I will see the familiar form of my friend the large, white rabbit, nibbling happy in a green field of clover and violets. Or, I'll be met by the shapeshifting raven, either in bird form or in one of her human guises.
Tonight, no one is waiting. I see an inviting green stretched out before me, but realize with a shock that it's not a meadow I'm walking into, but rather water. The green is an endless stretch of water lilies. Monet would have been so happy.
I resolutely shake out my long skirts and descend on a steep incline further and further into the water. Before long, I am immersed up to my neck. I should stop, but an inner voice urges me on, promising that I will be able to breathe underwater.
I take a deep breath, nevertheless, and keep going until the sunlight is just a distant memory. As promised, breathing is effortless, but I feel like I'm in way over my head (is that lesson I'm supposed to be learning?)
Still, I keep walking across the foreign environment of the watery landscape. Fish drift pass, showing no interest in me or my slow progress. At long last, the land beneath my feet begins to slope upward. With a sense of relief, I hurry along. So relieved to see the promise of light above me.
I emerge from the water to a mountainous incline. I walk up and up and up. The ground here is covered in snow, even as more snowflakes drift lazily past me. The sky is grey and not the bright blue that I glimpsed over the waterlily lake (somehow, I am dry and the cold doesn't bother me).
I climb steadily up until I reach the top of a mountain crowned with ice. All around me, everything is tinged with blue. Looking down, I realize that even my own gown is that peculiar shade of ice blue. A voice speaks to me, demanding that I offer up my heart. Easily, I open my chest and pull out my heart.
It isn't beating. It's frozen, turned that strangely beautiful shade of blue.
I realize that this, finally, is my lesson.
I can feel overwhelmed, yes, but I can press on despite the obstacles. I have been willing to face that fear.
What I haven't been able to do is to be open, to be willing to accept help, to stop forcing myself into isolation. I am frozen and alone because that is the path that I chose.
If I truly want to progress, if I want to escape this mountain of cold, I have to be open to allowing others to be close to me. I need to be open to the possibility of finding love.
The world can be a harsh and cold place. Don't try to conquer it all alone.