Rebecca sat on the school bus looking out the window and thinking. The last six months had really been something. First, her mother died in a car crash. Then she had to move to rural Minnesota—the middle of nowhere—to live with her grandmother. As if that wasn’t enough, then she found out her grandmother had a real dragon living inside her. She was a bit skeptical about that first; but then she met a gnome, some fairies, elves, and a water nymph.
Then there was her birthday party. It started out great. Her new friends came over for a ride through the woods. There was a brief problem caused by a gremlin disguised as a bumble bee, but then it was fun. However, when everyone went home, there was a battle with a tornado that was actually a Fury. Then she learned from the gremlin Marid that he caused her mother’s fatal accident and that it was meant to kill her. Furthermore, he was acting on the orders of “the great god” Pan—who wanted her dead for some unknown reason.
On the plus side, she had new friends, was beginning to love her new home and was learning mindfulness as a way to help her cope with it all.
The last weeks of May were busy ones for Rebecca. She really didn’t have the time to think about the excitement of her birthday party. School was winding down, which meant finals and a couple of projects that needed to be finished. She was spending more time with her new girlfriends. She continued with her mindfulness training with Naomi. If that wasn’t enough, she had started self-defense training with the elf, Lancelot.
He had decided that, since she was very busy, they would start with physical conditioning. There was a lot of running. They would run on the trails through the woods. Lancelot would set the pace and he was merciless. They would run a little further each day. When they would return to the barn Rebecca was shot, but Lancelot was barely breathing hard. Then he would make her do stretches and other exercises. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow every night.
The last day of school had finally arrived. Much to Rebecca’s surprise, considering how much she had hated her new school when she started in November, she was actually a bit sad to see it end. She had made some tentative plans with her friends to get together over the summer. Since she had gotten a new phone for her birthday she was sure they would. She was also sure that, since Heather only lived a mile down the road they would spend a lot of time riding. It would be a fun summer.
When she got home she had her mindfulness session, as usual. When she was finished, she opened her eyes to see Pip sitting on the hearth by the fireplace. He smiled. She responded in kind. She was in a pretty good mood anyway, but when a gnome smiles at you, you have to smile back. You can’t help it. Plus, he was a gnome and dressed the part, complete with a pointy hat and shoes with toes that curled up at the end. He was so darn cute you just had to smile when you saw him.
“Hi Pip.” She said.
“Hi.” He replied. “I was wondering what your plans are for this afternoon.”
“I have training with Lancelot.”
“Actually, you don’t. I heard he was planning to give you a break.” He said then he shouted, “LANCELOT!”
Lancelot suddenly appeared. Rebecca still found it a bit unnerving when elves just popped in and out like that. Lancelot didn’t fit any notions Rebecca previously had about elves. He was nearly six feet tall and dressed in casual military fatigues. Were it not for his pointy ears he could easily pass for human.
“I was just telling Rebecca that you were giving her a break today.” Pip said.
“Yes, I thought that in view of the fact that today was the last day of school, and she has been doing well with her physical conditioning, she could take the day off.” He replied in what Rebecca thought of as an aristocratic British accent. Then turning to Rebecca he continued, “That way, you’ll be good and rested when your real training starts bright and early tomorrow.”
Rebeca wasn’t sure she liked that last bit about the real training starting bright and early. But, she kept that to herself. After all, this present moment was OK. Also, she was kind of looking forward to doing something other than working out. So, she turned to Pip and said, “I guess I don’t have any plans. Why do you ask?”
“I thought we could take a walk.” Pip replied, winking at Lancelot—who smirked a bit. Something was definitely up. Rebecca decided to go with it.
“OK,” she said. “I’ll play along. Let’s go”
Soon they were walking the familiar path to the pond. It was a nice late spring day, sunny with a light breeze. Birds were singing and fairies were everywhere. It was nice just walking along, so no one spoke. Rebecca felt relief from the intensity of the last few weeks so she just let her mind wander as she walked. When they got to the pond they sat at the picnic table and Pip said casually, “Lovely day for a walk, don’t you think?”
“I do think.” Rebecca replied. She was really enjoying this break with her friends. There were ducks and geese on the pond. There were other birds flitting around. A few fairies had paused in their labors to join the group and even Amaryllis came down from her spring.
“So, what did you see on the way here?” Pip asked.
“What do you mean?” Rebecca replied.
“On—the—way—here—from—the—house, –what—did—you—see?” Pip repeated slowly and loudly, as if he was talking to someone who was hard of hearing. He even pantomimed the words as he spoke them.
“OK . . . I saw the usual trees, a lot of fairies, some flowers, ducks on the pond, and . . . the horses in the pasture.”
“Well . . . yeah. I didn’t know there was going to be a quiz.”
“Of course, of course, not really a quiz though. I was just wondering. Lancelot, what did you see?”
“I saw horses and sheep in the pasture, many trees of course, the fairies, an eagle, an oriole, there was a wren cursing at us, several kinds of flowers, the ducks and a fox hiding in the raspberry thicket. I could go on if you like.”
“I think the point is made.”
“What point would that be?” Rebecca snapped. “That I’m a ditzy girl and walk around in a fog all the time?”
Pip chuckled. “Well . . . you may be a ditzy girl, but that’s not the point. The point is that you, like most humans, are not always fully present. You’ve got lots of stuff going on in that pretty head of yours. People often make the mistake of thinking that mindfulness is something you do for a few minutes every day and then get on about your business. Mindfulness is all about being fully in the present moment—every moment. Lancelot was trained in mindfulness as a child and in the many years since his training he has practiced constantly. Now he does it without thinking. He is always in the present moment. That is why he saw what you did not.”
There was a long pause while Rebecca thought about what Pip had said. Part of her wanted to be mad. It was almost like they were making fun of her. But, Pip sat there looking at her with that grin that was more of a smirk. She realized he was trying to teach her something he thought was important. Besides, she really could not stay mad at Pip.
Finally she said, “So what’s the rest of the lesson?”
“Good girl”, Lancelot said. “Not everyone would have asked that question. You have realized that lessons can come at any time. The point of this whole exercise is to demonstrate that there is benefit in being mindful at all times and that anything a person can do can be done in a mindful way. There are three broad categories of mindfulness, participation—which is doing something, description—which is assigning words to an experience and observation—which is paying attention to your senses. The suggestion here is that you go through each day with the intent of being mindful as much as possible. And of course, as always, dismiss any judgmental thoughts you may have along the way. Always be fully present and your enemies will find it hard to sneak up on you. Questions?”
“Lots—but I can’t quite decide where to start.”
“Good. That’s where we’ll leave it for today. Tomorrow we’ll start martial arts training at eight. I will expect you to have one good question for me by then.”
“Wait, I do have a question I would like answered now. It’s not about mindfulness.”
“Very well, proceed.”
“Well, I know it is good to be prepared for any attacks that Pan may throw at us. How long can we stay ready for him? I mean, isn’t he immortal? Can’t he just wait until we slip up somehow? Will he ever give up? Isn’t there something we can do to resolve this so I can get on with my life?”
Pip started pacing back and forth with his hands behind his back. For once he wasn’t smiling. “I thought you said one question.” More pacing. “OK, I’ll take them one at a time. It is not only good to be prepared, it is essential. If we are not constantly ready you will die. Not only you. Pan is a very vengeful character. He will go after any who helped you. However, you raise a good point. For all practical purposes Pan is immortal. He can afford to wait until we slip up. Although, I have to say that with the crowd you have helping you slip-ups are rare. We are all very good at what we do. Also, Pan is not known for his patience, so he is not likely to wait long. Anyway, he will never give up. So, you are right. We need to find some kind of resolution. At the moment, I am at a loss. I think we should have a meeting—tonight. We’ll put our heads together and come up with something.”
Pip sat back down and crossed his arms, looking quite pleased with himself. He was grinning again. “Well, we have a couple of hours till the meeting. What shall we do for fun?”
Lancelot spoke first. “I’m afraid I will have to excuse myself. I have a few errands. Roland will keep watch while I’m gone.”
Roland, who had popped in while Pip was talking, smiled and waved at Rebecca.
Pip turned back to Rebecca and asked, “Have you ever gone fishing with a water nymph?”
“Well, then you are in for a treat. Amaryllis, my sweet, would you be so kind as to help us with fishing?”
Amaryllis, who had been floating along next to the beach the whole time stood up and put her hands on her hips. She frowned at Pip, who gave her his biggest grin. Then she smiled. “It would have been better if you had asked me before promising my help, but I will help—provided you do not take more that you need for supper.”
Pip giggled with glee as he began striping off his clothes until he was clad only in white boxers with big red polka-dots. Amaryllis waded in up to her waist, closed her eyes and began to sing. Rebecca did not understand the words, but the melody was beautiful. Pip dove into the pond and soon a fish flew out of the water and landed on the beach, flopping in the sand.
Then he poked his head out and called to Rebecca. “What are you waiting for? The water is fine.”