Unlike yesterday, today’s breakfast was a lively one. Over their fresh winterberry muffins and pine nut porridge, the guests were laughing and chattering away with each other. They had slept well. They had accepted the invitation of the forest dwellers to make new friendships, and everyone had fallen asleep with hearts full of love.
When their meal was almost done, once again the regal buck stepped onto the stage at the clearing’s end. “Good morning, dear ones! I see that each of you is in a splendid mood this morning! I predict that all of us will have another splendid day today.
“I have a special message for you this morning. As you know, today the Light will reach the farthest point of his journey to the southern realms. Tonight is Festival Eve, our longest night of darkness. Grandfather Pine, the most ancient of all the beings in our forest, has asked that you gather together around him after your evening meal. He has received word that, instead of a noon-time guest, Little Pine himself will come again to visit us in honor of the occasion. He expects to arrive just after the stars rise.
“Until then, please enjoy another day of making and deepening friendships. Wander our forest as you will. Every inch of it is glad for your visit and welcomes you with delight.”
The day, being the shortest one of the year, flew past. And as the sun sunk behind the forest’s western edge, the visitors gathered in a circle around the base of Grandfather Pine. Behind them, the forest dwellers came to take a seat. Deer came, and foxes, and rabbits. Squirrels scampered in, and chipmunks, beaver, mice and coyotes quietly filed in and joined the circle.
From across the lake, a delicate song wafted into the camp sung by Holly and the choirs of the butterfly meadow and the golden grasses. Soon, the sky grew dark and glittering stars began to appear.
One star seemed to glow with a warm pink glow, and it grew brighter and floated down to Grandfather Pine’s top-most bough. It hovered there for a moment and then descended to a place just above the ground, where it opened to a vision of a tiny, sleeping cherub.
“Hi, Everybody! It’s me, Little Pine,” a voice said in a soft, merry tone. “This is my little pal, Angelina Cherub, asleep here in my boughs. She tried to stay awake, but the excitement was too great, and dreamland called her. She’s a cherub of innocence and joy and she would want me to tell you how fond she is of each of you and how she delights in your laughter.
“Your joy and laughter are more important than you know. They’re the sparks of the Light itself, dancing in your heart. And like Light, they have the power to change your world. They’re the bright flags of love that can illuminate all darkness.
“When I made my wish to visit this forest once more during Festival season and to bring some of my friends to meet you, little did I imagine what a thrill awaited me! Your enjoyment has filled me with such light, that I think I must be one of the brightest pines in Home World right now. And if I had another wish, it would be that each of you takes with you sparkling memories of your days here to share with all your families and friends. Tell them all that you have seen and heard and learned about the preciousness of beauty, and friendship, of love and fun, and goodness.
“Thank you for making my wish come true in such a spectacular way. Along with little Angelina here, I wish you a night of sweet dreams and contemplation. All of us will be with you in spirit tomorrow as you celebrate the Return of the Light. Happy, happy Festival, my friends.”
Then the vision faded and the moon rose and the stars twinkled in the sky. The forest dwellers silently returned to their homes, and the guests retired to their beds. Holly and the choir sang soft lullabies for a while, and then the night was still and filled with wonder.