When the king came again, he knocked at the always-open door, stepped over the threshold, and sat at her table. Philothea prepared the tea.

The silence had remained all this while, but the king, true to his word had returned, more than once. Philothea warmed the tea kettle. As it whistled, she placed the two tea cups and their saucers on an age, dry wood tray without handles. The tea leaves rested in the bottom of the cups. Holding a cloth in her hand, she lifted the kettle from the stove, turned off the burner, and poured the boiling water into the cups. She completed each step with the art of focus that comes only with routine.

The time passed in silence as she removed the leaves. The cups were steaming and full when she set the tray on the table.

“Drink it now,” the king said.

Matter of fact, she responded, “It’s too hot.”

“Then pour the water back and forth between the cups until they cool.” Considering his instruction, she looked at the cups.

“There isn’t enough room them to do that.”

“So you have been with me. In order to cool this tea, you will need to empty one cup, at least a little.” Philothea looked up at the king into his dark steady eyes. “Remember the old days, walking on the hill. I reminded you then to soften a little. You are wise, but you need to step down a little to receive what I have to tell you.” She silently recalled the visions from the old days: the meadow, the forest, the mountain, and now, the desert.

“As you look, you can see the mountain, and the trail that switches back and forth. This is the way life is. Some days you will see the meadow, and other days you will not. But you will have to continue to climb the mountain. Do not go all this way and stop short of the peak. Do not allow your fears to stop you when you have just a few more feet to go. You know you did not come this far to stop now. A time will come when you will see the meadow again, that did not mean the rest of the path did not happen or will not happen again. You must keep climbing.

“And truth be told,” he smiled slightly as he said this, “the very top is a steep climb. To reach it you will need the strength and rest gained along the way. Otherwise you cannot continue.”