As he watched the sun kissing the horizon goodbye, he felt lonely, like a good friend had waved goodbye. To the left and right, all he saw was his light fade into the infinite dark beyond. The lamp post often felt lonelier when the glazing snow fell; the cold winter nights were the brightest, but the loneliest. But the woods were as lively as ever. In fact, the trees resorted to a strange manner of talking to one another; to others, they would just rustle. “Oh, wait! Do you hear them?” pondered the lamp post aloud, as he heard the leaves rustle and nudge him. “No, not yet!” they replied. “Are you sure? In winter, the dark after sunset, usually does not attract carriages.” But just then, the snow-clad leaves rustled with a gusto in rhythm to the crackling stones and the cutting through of ice by the carriage wheels. As the sound grew louder and identifiable, the monstrous mist-shadows of the horses got sharper and smaller. And the lamp whispered, “How strange! Visitors!” The lamp straightened its post, adjusted its focus, and awaited the sight behind the sound. He was impatient for a visitor during this season. That was priceless! To the lamp, visitors meant company even if they were just passing by. So, he leaned forward, and peeped towards his left to estimate how far off the carriage was. But to his dismay, all that greeted him on this road was his deep loneliness. All his other friends to the left and right had long gone, and he stood alone on this road, his loneliness engulfing him.
Before he could comprehend the thought, the carriage crashed through the mist and halted. The door of the carriage opened; expectations grew. Nervous, but upright stood the lamp post. He wondered why the carriage stopped, for it was no ordinary one. The artwork had the stamp of a tested craftsman, the horses were warm and healthy, and the gold outlines shone right back at him. “That’s posh!”, said the lamp, “It is time that this traveller gives me some company now.” The lamp blinked as the traveller stepped out, for he was treated with an array of sparkles. A young man in a red coat stepped out, but he tripped and spilled a map from under his coat. The lamp blinked again because of the sparkle. “That’s not glitter! Why these tears?” questioned the lamp. “Never have I seen a man have so much and yet, his eyes are so empty and lost. He longs for more.” The lamp skipped past his joy of a passing traveller into deep concern for the young man. At that moment, the lamp forgot how lonely he was and chose to shine brighter. To his surprise, he was greeted by the warmest hug he had ever received. It was both comforting, and yet, confusing. Why would an absolute stranger stretch out and give him such a warm hug? The question was deep, but the warmth deeper. As the young man held on, the lamp post felt the cold tears running down, but did not understand why. “Probably this young man was lost,” thought the lamp post. And he sure was. The young traveller picked up the map, opened it, and said, “You can have a map, you can own a carriage, but how do you know the path one must travel?” As he looked up to the lamp post, he said, “We need light when we are found, and we need light when to be found!” The lamp felt alive hearing those words; they pierced through his cold post and made him feel like a human being.
The lad pondered upon the map, pointed at a destination or two, and then, with his hands upon his head, leaped for joy and exclaimed to the rider, “I know where we are – the Dark Forest of Willow Green. Here’s what the people talked about – the lone, burning lamp post, once thought so insignificant, but priceless after you experience the long endless dark roads. I now know our way.” The young traveller was glad and he tipped his hat to the lamp post as they left. Just as the leaves had carried the sound of their arrival, they carried the sound of their departure. This was a strange encounter for the lamp post; a short moment of joy, he thought, as he paid attention to the fading sound of the chariot. But the leaves carried another sound; the rhythm of the young rider gently whistling as he disappeared. The lamp smiled.
The winter was harsh that year. The lamp post hoped that the worst had passed since spring was around the corner. The warmth of the sun arrayed the forest in all of its beauty; there was the scent of flowers in the air, the buzz of the bees and the softness of the grass – all had a feeling that this season would be special, and the lamp just sensed it in the air. But he could not get the young traveller out of his head. Perhaps he would return the favour and help install some company along the forest road for the lamp post.
Many a night passed, but no company arrived, just the dark old night. The only thing different was the season; it was spring this time. The lamp post reminisced on the thoughts of the young traveller till one day, in the middle of this thought and in the blink of an eye, the weather took a turn for the worse. There are not many things worse than a passing shower on a cold evening; not many, but it seemed a little better than the old woman who approached, wrapped in a rug. She took one step at a time, trying to reach the lamp post quickly. The rain subsided, but the cool evening breeze made the weather extremely chilly. When she reached the lamp post, she looked right up at the light, nodded her head in approval, and sat at the lamp post’s feet. “I prefer at least a sight for the eye before someone approaches me,” said the lamp post as the old woman grew more comfortable at its feet. She kept adjusting herself by pulling her rug upwards to cover her head entirely to avoid the wind. As she did this, she muttered, “You never fancy the heat of the sun until you are drenched by a cold blast of rain on a windy night. But who could have thought that this single dim lamp post would to me be as the sun.” At that moment, even though the rain had long stopped, the old woman felt a cold drop crash gently on her hand as she held her rug tight. She thought that they were the hanging droplets of rain, but little did she know the lamp was looking straight down at her with misty eyes. Those were the kindest words he had heard in quite some time. He looked desperately to the left and the right hoping that someone heard what the old woman had said about him. But in vain. He still stood alone on this forest road. The lamp sure did not enjoy many days like this, but these were the moments that made him feel important, wanted, useful and proud of himself for standing alone on the road with his back straight and wick burning.
The old woman slept that night under the assured warmth of the lamp. But, the next morning, before the break of dawn, she was gone without a warning or a goodbye. The lamp was disappointed but still brimming with confidence and joy at what he had heard the night before. He discovered a new light in his dimly burning wick. Word spread far and wide. From just a lonely lamp in the woods, to being a saviour to the traveller, and warmth-giver to the old woman – these stories were reassuring to the people in the nearby town. The many people who now passed this road looked up in admiration at the lamp. He felt proud of being so famous so fast. His wick shone bright; but spring was ending.
Spring soon gave way to the monsoon, and the clashing clouds lit the sky and carried a terrifying sound. Travellers were scarce, especially as the season matured, but yet, the lamp post stood straight and proud with its wick burning. He would often lean to the left and right, not in sadness this time (oh, he was still filled with the words of the old woman), but with pride and a smirk on his face because he knew he was the only one standing. This was the monsoon. The lamp post would be challenged by the season as he would need to prove to himself, sooner or later, that it is as important to keep the flame consistently burning as it is to shine bright.
The monsoon was known in the forest as a season of measuring temperaments; it had a way to wash away the loose ends. But it seemed like the lamp did well. The sound of the thunder and the flashes of light did little to move or scare the lamp post. He stood as he first did, upright and lit. Surprisingly, the lamp did little to protect his flame, but did more to stand upright in pride, being the only burning lamp post on this road.
Then, to his horror, in the middle of his smirk, down shot a streak of lightning and nailed the lamp right on his head! The lamp post closed his eyes in fright. This was the first time the lamp post had ever experienced a lightning strike, and oh, was this a big one! blinded by the light of the lightning, and terrified by the sound and the electric feeling through his body, he held his eyes tightly shut in fear for a long time before he slowly opened them. But all he could see was darkness. His eyes were probably still blinded by that great light. But a sudden chill ran down his spine when he realized that, even after some time had passed, he still could not see. “Oh no!” said the lamp post. What he feared most had happened; he lost his flame and he lost his light. The lamp post cried uncontrollably at the thought of it, and was thoroughly embarrassed. All that he was proud of extinguished in the blink of an eye.
All who looked upon the lamp the next day, knew by the shattered glass, that something was wrong, for the lonely lamp in the wood would no longer be lit. This was terrifying to the lamp post. He felt purposeless and weak; he was completely helpless. No one walked these roads to maintain the lamp posts, and he knew for sure, they would not come for him. The nights were no longer just lonely, but terrifying.
In the darkness that gathered around him, the lamp post thought, “Indeed this road is not maintained. No one will come, for none have come since I’ve been lit. But then, who did light me? And who does maintain me? How is it I kept burning all these seasons?” Well, the monsoon was washing away loose ends, but as water always does if you allow it to, it can clear the dirt and sometimes reveal the truth. These thoughts pierced the lamp. If indeed it was the end, the lamp at least wished for an answer to this question before it all ended. Through many a night, the lamp post stayed awake, both thinking and playing out different scenarios, and also in fear of the dark. The monsoon added to the drama with light and noise. This indeed was like a roller coaster to the lamp – from having it all to having nothing, being all confused and dejected and completely helpless.
The lightning flashed across the sky again, bright and loud, straight on his head. He remembered the fear from the first time he was struck. “What happened to ‘lightning never strikes twice’,” he thought, and tried opening his eyes to the darkness he was sure he would meet. He looked down at a puddle at his feet, and he could barely see a grey silhouette of himself in it. The darkness was deep, but to his surprise, there from the middle arose a dimly burning wick. You don’t need to tell a person who has been in darkness what it is to know the light. He knew it was the light he longed for, but he was confused – surprised, in tears, and most definitely excited. “How can this be?” he thought as the lightning flashed across the sky once again. The lamp gazed upon the trail that it had left behind and was humbled. It dawned upon him immediately what the forest did speak about this season. His loose ends were being washed away and what is true was now being lit. Looking up, he said, “Ah! dear friend, I had questions that you have answered. And although you know your purpose, I will allow this light to show me mine. The light that lights you is the light that lit me; the hands that direct your path are the hands that sustain me.” The lamp looked different after two lightning strikes, (of course, anyone would) for the heat had melted the glass. But to everyone’s surprise, the bends in the glass brought a twinkle, amplified the light and increased its spread. The cloud cover vanished from over the lamp post. The questions were answered, the truth lit and the darkness erased. He stood fearless in the forest again. As the lamp post does when a traveller passes by, he did again, upright and lit. He stood till the traveller he heard about from the leaves actually approached.
Travellers would always come close and tip their hat to the lamp, for they always appreciated him in the middle of nowhere. But this one also looked up and said, “Dear me! Whoever maintains you out here? But thank you!” The lamp post smiled, looked back up to the heavens and replied, “An honour to serve you Master, O light of my light!”
Author: Nyal Fernandes
Nyal is a software technical director. Augmenting reality by truth and purpose is the passion that drives him. He enjoys sifting thoughts and writing them down as he asks the five Ws and H to most life situations that pass him by. Besides reading, thinking and writing, he enjoys photography. He’s married and the couple are blessed with two daughters