My Meeting of Dante
By: Brad Cole

I was out for an evening walk when seeing the falling star. It was a beautiful sight, a piece of heaven being torched by the high winds of earth, I thought while wandering through the darkening trees near my home. The shadows were lengthening as the sun fell below the horizon and twilight set all about me. I could feel something watching me and turning around I saw a large grayish black wolf staring directly towards me. When our eyes met the animal jumped forward along a trail that was unfamiliar. So I walked over there and slowly but cautiously started down it to see if I could once again find the strange animal. But I did not feel comfortable going where I had never been before. Looking up toward the eastern sky I saw a pale full moon rising ominously to greet the falling night.

It was then I again felt eyes on me and I saw a large darkly robed figure with a prominent face peering out from the folds of the hood. I immediately recognized the tall individual as Dante, a medieval poet that I had been studying. Before I could fully comprehend the presence of the strange man he spoke, “I am to take you on a journey. You will see things important for your people. Afterwards, it will be your responsibility to communicate what you have seen. “ Then he gave me a probing look to see if I understood.

With a wave of his hand I started to follow him down the trail, entering a forest that felt strange and foreboding. But feeling entranced if not captivated by the man, I followed him blindly like a child would follow his father.

The trees grew black and a heavy rain started with strong winds. I felt somehow that the night had shifted as though entering into a different realm or world. The full moon was now high in the sky telling me that it was around midnight. Time itself had shifted, I thought.

“The Old Wolf Moon will be the first you will see tonight,“ spoke Dante, his eyes burning as though undergoing an emotional strain. I turned and saw four cloaked figures with shovels throwing dirt on the ground. Then I noticed humans partially buried where the dirt was being tossed. Their faces were peering up from the ground so aghast with horror they could not speak. In shock I turned away to see the moon peering down between clouds and into the dark forest as though with approval.

“Why are they being buried alive,“ I asked Dante, the horror of the scene having sunk into myself. “Because the nature of their souls is so murderously abominable. They are being buried alive by the depth of their own calculating evil,“ he said calmly. “A man's ultimate destiny is determined by the character of his life.“ He paused and then added, “The Old Wolf that feeds off of such dark evil will not go hungry tonight.“ Again he turned toward me to see if I understood. I nodded my head as though I did, but in truth I did not.

The robed man seemed to sense my bemusement. While walking ahead of me he went on, “Spirit lays beautifully all around in Nature. Only the darkness of selfishness lays within us and those poor in spirit will be buried alive by its evil weight.“

He continued our trek through the rain and wind. The forest bent heavily under the strong blows of the gusty storm. He walked quietly with his back toward me and I followed as though in a dream, not knowing where we were or going. But I was still enthralled by this ancient man, even more so after experiencing such a fantastic vision.

We had just stepped over a fallen log on the trail when he turned to me and stopped. His eyes were still glazed over and slightly red. His face was drawn and tired looking as though he was emotionally exhausted, but from what I did not know.

“You will now see the Hunger Moon.“ He voice was loud and it boomed through the forest. I looked about to see several figures being devoured by large flames that were engulfing their entire bodies. The light was sharp and throwing shadows of the fir trees all about us. The bodies were writhing about trying to escape the burning fire but every move brought the flames closer to them. I could see from their expressions the sheer pain they were in; they were being cut apart by the blazing inferno.

“These souls are being burned alive by their own unrestrained desires, a horrible hunger that overwhelms any reasonable or moral bearing.“ He bent over slightly to see my eyes and then said bluntly, “But the fire will cleanse them. This is not the judgment of an autocratic God but of Nature itself. You must understand that justice occurs as naturally to Man as the falling of rain. If you touch a hot stove you get burned! “ Looking up I anxiously nodded to show him that I understood.

This was a second shocking sight to see. I shuddered at the thought of such a horrific existence. But the storm seemed to lessen and the rain was not so pelting. Peering into the night sky the moon behind passing clouds had slipped farther to the west and the Dig Dipper had evolved like the hands of a clock showing it was pre-dawn.

We were now walking uphill. The trail was fairly steep and rocky, which was not easy to see in the moonlight. The sound of the wind was eerily haunting as though we had walked through a hidden doorway of the night into this strange, cryptic land.

“We now will witness the Worm Moon, when the land is prepared for the planting seeds. But for this to be done the Earth must be plowed and torn open.“ He extended his arm and pointed forward; there appeared several robed figures carrying long spears, which they were plunging deeply into the bodies of several convulsing figures. “Here the seed of the spirit has been planted in a cold ground, these souls who cannot see beyond themselves still commit thoughtless and hurtful actions. Remember, it is the landscape of our lives that holds the ultimate truth.“ He walked toward me and looked deep into my eyes; a shudder ran through my bewildered body as though I was about to be touched by death itself. “You are witnessing the truth as it appears to a cosmic being. Remember this.“ Then he turned away and continued our walk up a sloping wet trail through wind whistling trees.

By now I was mesmerized by the scenes I had seen, and I could sense that deeper meaning Dante was trying to impress upon me. He was more than just a guide through the woods, I felt, but a mentor on the meaning of life and death. He was my personal poet showing me eternal truths of the human spirit.

“We are now on the fourth moon of our journey. This is the Fish Moon. It is when the freshly planted seed fearfully wrestles from the dark earth its intimations of life, its desire to be strong and free. It is about the birth of spirit.“ Dante paused to look at me and check if I would acknowledge him. But instead I was looking more closely into the trees where I saw a couple of figures struggling with large snakes tightly coiled about them. The look of exhaustion and fear consumed their faces while their bodies shook with the desperation of battle. Dante spoke, “To grow spirit they must seek the waters of life.“ He paused and I could hear him breathe. “They are struggling to free themselves from an addiction to the darkness of earth,“ he spoke as though from a great distance or was it from weighted emotion? I watched him momentarily, seeing him more clearly than before, seeking to find the man within the figure appearing before me. I wanted to know how he struggled with his own weighty darkness, a burden that made him human. But he began walking, leaving me with only the back of a rustling robe to watch.

After a short way I could hear the sound of heavy rain falling, but felt only slight drops when I put out the palm of my hand. Descending a large mound we came upon a mountain river where a waterfall was just upstream. In the moonlight I could tell that it was about forty feet tall and fourteen feet wide. Beneath the falls the river was fairly calm and quite wide. Then I saw a single light appearing out of the night, swinging from side to side, coming toward us from across the river. As it got closer I could tell that it was hanging on the bow of a wooden boat with an elderly gray haired man standing up and working an oar.

“That is Charon, the boatman of the spirit world. He will take us out of this Hellish realm of vanquished souls and transport us to Purgatory. It is a place where souls still struggle for knowledge of God.“

We boarded the ancient wet wood of Charon's boat and he ploughed his oar through the turbulent water pushing us forward. The boatman had a deep but quiet look, like he had calmly seen all the evil a world could throw at a man. His long thin gray hair flowed in the wind and his tightly toned, muscled body gave him the look of a very mature and steadfast warrior.

The boat slid up on the opposite shore on a muddy patch that had been receiving the boat's bow for near eternity. Dante and I leaped onto the wet grass and ferns of the forest and continued our hike up the sloping trail. Strangely the weather seemed to have improved. Only a slight moist breeze ran among the towering firs and cedars. Again, I saw a star falling between the clouds rimmed with moonlight. I made a quiet wish for wisdom.

We had not traveled far before I could hear human voices muffled with heavy breath. As we got closer I could see figures bent over large boulders, pressing their bodies against the round grayish stone and pushing them up a long steep slope. But as they reached the upper levels of the muddy hillside the steepness of the slope would overwhelm the figures causing them to pull away, releasing the boulders so they fell back downhill.

“Here you can see the first signs of spiritual growth. This is the Flower Moon. But it is not an easy time. Like wildflowers in the spring, the will of these souls are pushing hard against the darkness of their lives, but they are not strong enough to endure. Darkness keeps falling down upon them. Hopefully, faithfully with time they will get it right,“ Dante spoke with a slight suggestion of sorrow in voice. I was surprised by this and looked at him, wondering about his revealing response, about his hidden emotions.

“Do you mean that someday they will leave here?“ I asked him.

“Only if they are able to grow in their faith,“ he said. “For it is the knowledge of God that will make you strong and wise. This you will see.“ He turned to walk up a steep slope, stepping on stones to avoid slipping on the slick trail.

Soon the sound of soft drumming was heard as we continued our hike. After rounding a bushy bend in the pathway I could see nude figures running, one after another, down a connecting route. The gaunt figures look stressed and frightened to the point of desperation. Dante spoke, “this is the Strawberry Moon. In nature it is the time of plumpness. These souls have the knowledge of righteousness and spirit but do not know how to use it. So in desperation they run incessantly, but only in circles.“

“But will they too be able to leave here someday,“ I asked..

“Only if their faithfulness can lead to the insightfulness needed to see and understand a more truthful way of life. One needs to abandon the craziness of the world in order to find the lasting peace of spirit,“ answered Dante.

So we moved on and the sky became clearer and drier and the faint rosy rustlings of dawn were filtering through the night. I could see the Big Dipper with its starry arm pointing toward the morning. Dante was now walking a little faster, perhaps thinking the completion of his task was near at hand, I thought.

“This next moon is one that I have known well,“ he said with his back toward me, still walking up the trail's slope. “It is the Buck Moon. A time when the antlers of the deer begin to grow and they feel the acute need for the strength and vigor of life.“ He stopped abruptly to turn and look at me adding, “but before they can do that they must confront the feelings of isolation and darkness within themselves. They must face the greatest of their fears.“ Suddenly he waved his arm out full and pointed to the side of the trail. There stood a group of robed figures, some with large sticks, others pointing outwardly, demanding that another smaller figure to go away and leave them. “To be exiled is to be abandoned, but abandonment is the beginning of true freedom. The freedom to seek and be enriched by the power of spirit,“ he said.

I looked closely at the anguished face of the man being exiled and wondered if he will be able to find any consolation in his catastrophe. Dante looked at me as though reading my mind and said, “He will have a long journey and only in the end will he find peace.“

Then I realized that he was taking me on a journey. That this was all about the journey of the human spirit and its struggle with good and evil.

We continued our walk up a slippery slope crossing over a couple of old, fallen logs. The forest was still restive and seemed to be bearing witness to our presence. I could feel the haunted weight of the woods and it burdened my walk with a feeling of foreboding. The horror of the initial sightings was with me still and I was apprehensive about what I would encounter next. I was not to be disappointed.

Soon Dante turned to me again and said, “This is the Salmon Moon. The gift of life comes from the waters and it is given generously, but many are unable to bear true witness.“

I had to look closely through the gray darkness. Even with my fear and frailty I could not resist probing the scene carefully and in detail. It was such an incredible sight. Four tall robed figures were busy with needles and thread, standing over kneeling figures that looked like they could have been praying. The cloaked ones were sewing the eyes of the supplicants tightly shut! I saw no resistance in those who were being so horribly abused.

“What is happening here?“ I asked aghast.

“These figures have the will to do what is right, but they cling to the ancient darkness of institutions which only serve to blind them with it's dogma.“ He walked up to one of the robed workers to more closely inspect his handy craft. The figure kneeling was silent and patiently bearing the painful problem of having their eyelids sewn shut.

“For the weak and timid blindness is a blessing. If they were to open their eyes they would feel the horror of being lost and alone in a strange and difficult world. They give themselves away so freely, just for safe harbor, even if it is an evil foul place,“ Dante spoke in a tone of bitterness. Perhaps memories of past personal conflicts had awakened, I wondered.

From there we walked down a slight slope in the path and hearing the turbulent sounds of a mountain river we met again with Charon. He appeared more refreshed and healthier, like he just had a good sleep. The weather was now pleasant and I noticed a sense of sanctity in the air, or was it the presence of redemption, I thought.

“I shall take you to the light!“ Charon said as he pushed hard against his oar, steering the boat across the dark wave swept river. Water splashed against us but the boatman had my confidence. As I was about to discover, it was a river that separated two different worlds, one darker than the other.

In an expectant mood Dante and myself leaped from the craft as it landed on the far shore and its nose bounced upon the muddy bank. Looking eastward the morning sun was making a subtle appearance in the now calm skies, giving the winding trail a welcoming appearance.

“The next is the Harvest Moon,“ Dante said while walking in front with his back turned to me. Beneath a large fir tree I saw a robed man sitting at a desk with the top half of a human skull resting on it. The words “Remember Death“ were scrolled across its forehead and a burning candle was sitting on top of the grayish skull. “Here is a sincere soul struggling to focus his attention on the eternal questions of humanity; so to open his eyes and better understand the world around him.“ Just then an owl flew out of the forest and landed on the man's shoulder. “See! The Muses favor this man. They reward his diligence, insightfulness and sincerity.“ There was the sound of pride in his voice as he spoke, “Within the nobility of the mind only virtue can awaken the love that is needed for one's redemption.“

“He looks so lost in thought,“ I said almost laughing.

A slight chuckle came from Dante and he spoke, “It is better to lose one's thought than to lose one's soul.“ Just as we were leaving he turned to look into my eyes and said in a whisper, “See the owl? That means in time this man will do well for he has a good heart. Nature has given him a guardian spirit.“

As we continued our walk the woods cleared away and we entered a clearing of thick moist grass. Suddenly there appeared several pale figures approaching one another rather quickly and began embracing, smiling into each other's faces. Then equally as fast they all disappeared into the surrounding forest. But soon more figures arose phantom-like from the trees and again began to embrace one another and smiling beautifully. The figures were flowing like a stream into and out of view. “Here we have the Hunter's Moon. These souls have learned that the true measure of life is love. But it is a love that knows the value of sacrifice so to better bond with spirit, the essential spirit of wilderness.“ Dante spoke bluntly while a look of joy came across his face. A light was reflected there that I had not seen before. “A true human would teach this important lesson. You must remember it!“ I felt a sense of urgency to his voice and a feeling of responsibility fell down hard on my weary shoulders.

“So death and sacrifice is a way of purifying life?“ I asked.

Dante nodded his head in agreement, “It is like a fire in the forest.“

He turned to move on through the grassy, dew moistened clearing. It feels like such a beautiful morning to be alive, I thought while looking out from the mountainside to the neighboring peaks. A bird song could be heard coming from the fir trees.

After the clearing we walked farther uphill through scree of boulders and small firs. The sky had opened up and the sound of geese was heard flying overhead. I could tell that we were nearing the summit of the mountain. The trail turned sharply around a huge boulder that towered up into the sunlight above us. As we continued on to the back of the rock a series of light colored figures were seen climbing a spiral flight of stairs. The silvery steps looked like they were made from starlight, I thought.

“This is the Beaver Moon. These figures are on their way to be warmed by the enchanting goodness of nature,“ Dante explained to me.

“Are they going to Heaven?“ I asked.

“Only if they continue to follow the light.“

Finally after moving on farther we were standing on the boulder-strewn summit of the mountain. The rocky rise had opened to sky and distant horizons. The trail wound around to steep cliffs facing outwardly to the surrounding peaks. It was there over the tall cliffs that I saw the clear colored winged figures floating up and gradually disappearing into the sky. The men among them were carrying long spears and the women had glass orbs. They looked so strong, brave and beautiful.

“They are winging their way to Heaven. This is called the Long Night Moon because from here they will only know starlight. It is like a child returning to its' mother's love. The dark earthly spirits eventually grow up to recognize the celestial realm and they use its light to return to heaven. It is like a harvesting of the virtuous,“ Dante spoke calmly. Then he looked carefully around the mountain summit, admiring the beauty of the setting. Stopping with his eyes still ablaze, he turned directly to me staunchly stating, “Now it is time for you to go back to your people. Tell them what you have seen. Tell them to sow their seeds well and turn toward the light! “

Then I remember a falling star and realizing it was night again. A grey wolf startled me by leaping out of the shadows and disappearing down the pathway. Dante was gone. I felt alone and frightened. Following the trail back down the mountainside and seeing nothing of the past visions, I was back where the journey began, where I had felt those strange eyes on me, in a surprisingly short time.

Feeling tired and perplexed I began walking home. But images of robed figures in moonlight were fixed in my mind and as the days went by they continued to haunt me. In a desperate bid to rid their presence I decided to write about the full affair. So this is my story of meeting Dante.