When I was ten years old, I found a map of the world under a rock on a beach at the Lake of the Ozarks. It was old and crumbled. I carefully unfolded the map. As I looked at the old map, it began to glow. At first I thought something was wrong with my eyes because images began to appear then disappear on the map.
Suddenly, a girl appeared before me on the beach, she seemed to be about my age. “It must be confusing to you, all those images moving about,” she said as she took the map from my hands.
“What is this?” I asked her. “And who are you?”
“My name is Arywren and I live in the Mystical Forest, “ she said.
“I don’t understand,” I said. “Where is the Mystical Forest?”
She held up the map and said, “Everywhere you can see on this map and beyond. The Mystical Forest is the world beyond your world, that is of our shared world.” She laughed at my confused expression, but in a kind way. She continued to explain, “You see, we share the trees, the water, the earth. You live with the physical form and I live with their spirit forms in the Mystical Forest.”
“Can you show me the other worlds?” I asked her. My heart was pounding as names began to appear on the map. First Felinia, then Owlandia, the McLeary Farm, and the Forest of Chaos. Even the Lake of the Dragons, where we were currently sitting appeared on the map.
“Yes I can, ” she replied. “Take the map with you and every time you open the map, be prepared to venture into the Mystical Forest with me.”
Every night before bed I would carefully unroll the map and wait for Arywren to appear and tell me another story from the Mystical Forest. She took me to many places and worlds within worlds. The next morning the first thing I did upon rising, was draw the map of where we had been and record the story I had witnessed.
Then one day, the map disappeared along with Arywren. All I had left were my memories and the maps I had drawn of the different places and worlds she had taken me. I tried to recreate the world map, over and over again, but the Mystical Forest and the places I had traveled to were too elusive to be stamped on any ordinary world map.
As I grew older, I began to realize that the Mystical Forest is fluid and exists in all our backyards, our neighborhoods, in our villages and forests. It is all around us, all the time.
And now, I am sharing with you the stories and worlds within the Mystical Forest that Arywren lovingly shared with me those many years ago, so that you will better understand how I felt when she returned on my 50th birthday…