This is the second part of Tree Song released on this Blog. Here is a link to the first part: https://www.wonderbk.com/tales/the-silly-the-beautiful-the-exciting-and-the-stuff-dreams-are-made-ofand-something-completely-different/#TreeSong
Here’s a bookish chapter which comes much later in the Tree Song story but stands well by itself: https://www.wonderbk.com/bookseller/what-may-not-have-actually-happened-at-the-2018-greenwich-village-antiquarian-book-fair/
It poured rain all that night. In the morning as I was going to my truck to head to work, I turned and looked up the mountain. The Beech was freed. No longer a captive of the giants surrounding her, she now had her own space. She was now the central focus in a tableau of giant trees around and behind her—but far enough away to give her space and light. Now her neighbors were more like guardians and she glowed silver and sere tan-gold in her own atrium. The forest, rock outcroppings and mountain rose beyond that in every direction.
That was the only tree amongst thousands whose crown covered her to nearly the forest floor. How very discreet! Even the saplings of Oak and Maple and Ash have bare trunks up to their necks.
The crown was, however, uneven.
When spring comes, she’ll likely even out over the summer since she’ll have light bathing her east, north, south.
She glistened in the morning light. The overnight rain clung to her leaves and dappled her trunk.
She was the jewel of the forest, and I felt I rescued her.
Why did that pronoun now seem so natural to me? When did I start considering her feminine?
That night alone in bed I lay on my back and stared up at the white ceiling. I let my eyes close. The tree appeared. It was early fall in my reverie. Green leaves adorned it like a wondrous cloak of ten thousand parts. The gray body was straight, erect lithe but had contours. Shapely. The smooth silver bark was like flawless skin. I exhaled and Lethe took me to that magic universe of dreams.
When I awoke I couldn’t remember what I’d dreamt, but I felt good and new that day. I arose, went through my morning rituals, stepped out the door to go to work. I stopped and looked up the stone steps and over the Dolmen like bench into the woods. The Beech seemed at rest. Almost as if asleep. Below and around her the trees I’d felled for her lay like sacrifices.
“I’ll start to clean that up when I get back home today.”
It was late afternoon when I rolled up the mountain to the level landing that had been scraped next to the house. I parked. I went inside and changed into the heavy work clothes that feel so comfortable outside.
They make the dangerous work of wood cutting a little safer. I grabbed a saw and walked up the rough-hewn stone steps, stepped up and over the Dolmen bench and into the new glade I’d opened up. For that’s what it was! A new forest glade with the Beech as its focus. I pulled the cord, and the machine roared to life shattering the stillness of that quiet place. I felt an aura of fear all about me and it was almost as if the forest shuddered. I set to my work. I soon entered that almost Zen-like rhythm of cutting the burnable wood into carryable four-foot lengths and lopping branches off to drag away to make coverts for small birds to hide in.
There was a lot of wood. I certainly wouldn’t finish before dark this winter’s day. But surveying the logs all about me I felt I had made a good start of it. I switched the saw off and began the laborious task of lifting the heavy pieces up onto my shoulder and carrying the wood down the slope to the landing by my little Barn where it could be cut further. Sawed into lengths that would fit in the stove next winter and rolled into the Barn in a cart to be stacked where it would dry over the coming months. Up and onto my shoulder I’d hoist a log. Then down through the woods avoiding stumps and stones. Down the steps to the drive and over toward the barn door. I’d let the log roll off my shoulder and fall to the pavement with a hollow, almost bell-like, gong. Then back up for another. And another. I’d drag the long branches that were too thin to be effective firewood down 2-3 at a time. I’d find routes down toward the ancient logging ditch which ran like a dry streambed down the mountain. The ditch runs hundreds of feet down the length of my property and beyond toward the foot of the mountain. It is 20 feet across and ten feet deep in many places. A century or more ago mules would be harnessed to logs. They would drag them down the ditch to wagons.
The wagons would take the logs to sawmills. The terrain up here strewn with its boulders great and small made cross-country transport of the big logs impossible. The sawmills would turn the logs into boards. Wagons would take the boards away. Farms and homes would be built with boards. Many still exist around the Valley to this day. I often wonder about the men and beasts who spent so much time on this mountain only to abandon it when there were no more trees worth harvesting.
By tossing the branches into the logging ditch they’d be out of sight and would also provide cover for small birds and animals until time made them part of the earth again. Until then they would make a natural artificial thicket for cover.
After a couple hours I was wet with sweat and covered in sawdust.
“Enough,” I thought.
I opened a bottle of Beamish stout and sat atop the Dolmen and stared down into the valley. My mind wandered to another place. The shadows were creeping to the east as the sun lowered in the west behind the mountain casting shadows across the valley before and below me.
“Beyond that horizon is the ocean and next is Ireland,” I thought.
A fantasy of Tir Nan Nog played in my mind, and I felt a song being sung.
It sounded a bit like The Irish Lullaby:
“Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, hush now, don’t you cry!
“Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, that’s an Irish lullaby.”
But the words were not in English and the rhythm was of a far older type. After a bit I began to understand the words. It was a repeated chorus like the one above. It was a story—a tale of ancient times.
“That would be nice,” I thought. “A land of magic where I’d no longer be a lonely man on a mountain in America.”
In my reverie, my fantasy I thought myself some kind of prince.
When I opened my eyes again, it was dark. Distant lights twinkled in the valley. I felt like I’d returned from… well, more than a dream.
It had been a Suantrai I had heard. An ancient Irish lullaby. Had I imagined it? Or had it somehow been played for me? I had certainly never heard that melody before. And the story was new to me as well.
Images came back in my mind. As the song progressed I’d come through a shimmering gray curtain of rain into a green and gray rocky country. I walked up a grassy hill to a stone cairn. Achieving the top I placed my hands atop the cairn. From there I looked over the other side. About a mile away was a similar mound. An ancient cairn had been built atop that as well. A female figure stood there. She was tall and lithe. She wore a silver gown down to her feet. About her was a green cloak. Because of the distance her features were indistinct. It seemed like I was there for hours looking at her standing motionless across the void. I had felt at peace. Still alone but complete somehow.
I shuddered and shivered. Did I just awaken? When had I been awake and when not? Then I rose, walked down the steps and into the warm light of my home.
When I climbed into bed later, I burrowed under the sheets and blankets and pulled the down comforter up and over my ears. Curled up on my side, I looked out my window and across the valley below. Tiny lights dotted the far lands. An occasional automobile moved across the dark landscape its tiny lights—red sometimes white others. I lay there in the dark and tried to return to the dream I’d had earlier out on my stone Dolmen but nothing came.
The song didn’t come.
She didn’t come.
But sleep came eventually.
It must have. Because what I saw next was an orange red dawn and a swift sunrise.
“It’s beautiful. Another day begins,” I thought…
Over the next week or so I finished clearing the fallen wood and branches around the Beech. I love the work. Well, it’s not “work.” I get into a rhythm, a zone. My mind disengages, and the work becomes automatic. I’m still very safe but the cutting and moving becomes almost Zen-like and part of me can go…other places. The forest floors about her was now natural. Swaths of winter-dead pale tan hay-scented fern carpets lay dormant here and there about her and on up the mountainside. The fern brakes are almost an electric green in the spring and summer.
A few low mountain laurels grew here and there about her like acolytes at a safe distance. Their dark green leaves were the only color in the air above the forest floor. The black and brown of woodlands’ detritus leaf mold, rotting stumps and trees; the gray and black of mountain stone sometimes splattered with lichen’s gray green. Patches of moss fairly glowed here and there with their rich bright green. The Beech now stood framed as it were. An arc of trunks of much taller around her back and sides. But a clear view from my stone throne up the gentle slope to where she stood only a couple dozen paces up the slope.
“I’ve done a good thing,” I thought. “The Beech will now have light and space. It will thrive and grow.”
“She will be here for other long after I’m gone.”
I heard a soft sob in the breeze. It was no bird or woodland noise.
It pierced me.
And emotions welled up at thoughts of my mortality and the too many things I haven’t done. But, most of all, the thought of facing the years left alone. Then the end…whatever that is.
Winter warmed into spring. The days lengthened. As they passed, I found myself sitting on the Dolmen throne often. Rather than facing east down and over and across the valley as had always been my wont, I found myself often facing west and up into the woods toward the cliff which crested the mountain. Of course, the Beech was the first thing I’d see with a train of 50 yards of dormant fern carpet lain before her. She seemed to have strengthened.
One cool evening I found myself there with a glass of Cote du Rhone and I got it into my mind to sing a bit. It had been so long. I hadn’t touched my guitar in a couple years and even back then quite seldom. The instrument used to be a part of me. Why I had I stopped? I began humming, “Oh the summertime is coming…” My voice was tentative and cracked now and then.
“Rusty,” I thought.
Then, I figured, “Why not?”
I rose, descended the steps and went inside. I returned with my old Martin D-28. I’d bought this when I was in school—a college boy—in Connecticut so many years ago.
It tuned quickly and though my fingers were awkward from disuse, they had enough memory to make some sense and music.
A buffeting breeze came up and the lithe tree before and above me swayed.
As the verses progressed, I almost felt she moved in rhythm to my chords and words.
She was anchored to the ground but from about seven feet up her trunk and branches and twigs moved freely.
I played all the songs I could remember.
She moved in rhythm with all of them.
My fingertips got sore from pressing the metal strings between the frets. My guitar calluses were long gone.
I sang until the sun began its fall behind the mountain. Until only a few shafts of white light found paths through thousands of trees. Once found the patch of hay-scented ferns which lay before the Beech tree. They danced in the light, electric green, dazzling in the intricacy of their backlit silhouettes. That ray was the last to blink out when the last of our star—the sun—fell behind the mountain and made its way west. The breeze settled as it often does at dusk. The forest dimmed. Its mood shifted from its day life to the crepuscular interim. Soon the night would change the mountain and the things that come to life in the dark would appear and take their daily shift.
I rose. Descended the stone steps and went inside.
I put my guitar in its case and pressed the clips to lock it.
I padded slowly off to bed.
That night I had lilting dream, heard songs sung to me across time.
The next evening found me out seated on the stone slab again. The old guitar cradled under my right arm. My left hand wrapped about its neck. I sang the old English and Irish ballads I knew best. Timeless songs—mostly sad—lamenting lost things. A few have happy endings—always after doubt and strife.
I’d brought out a bottle of Tuscan wine. Galileo wrote, “Wine is sunlight held together by water.” Indeed, some sun hit the stemmed glass and cast a red diamond light upon the gray limestone next to me. When I’d take a sip and set the glass down, that living light would dance upon the stone until the wine stilled and the fairy glow fixed itself upon one spot on the stone. Rain, grapes, earth and sun from years ago in a far distant land left its mark next to me as long as there was light.
The bottle was empty; the glass full when I started playing and singing Wild Mountain Thyme,
“The summertime is coming
“And the trees are sweetly bloomin’
“And the wild mountain thyme
“Grows around the bloomin’ heather
“Will you go, Lassie, go?”
Verse after verse, the words effortless and the chords as well. When I got to the last verse the sorrow and loneliness that had been ever present but held in check welled up in me.
“If my true love she were gone
“I will surely find another
“Where the wild mountain thyme…”
She is. That she is…but I have no other.
The sun had lowered and an errant oblique ray struck the glass sending a long ruby image along image along the stone next to my leg. Its shape was long and lithe and like the images you sometimes find in clouds. I believed it was a woman reflected before me. A shadow or silhouette cast by western light behind me through the red wine and on to the blank canvas of the flat gray limestone I sat upon. Was it her? The woman at the air across the void between the two hills? Was it her brought to me like Alcestis from Milton’s dream? An ancient tear—held long within me rolled down the landscape of my face. I know the sunlight struck it. I feel the warmth upon my face. The swaying image moving next to me dizzied and hypnotized me. My lost love danced in the burgundy red light before me.
“There is no ‘other,'” some voice inside me spoke.
And then, I swear, I felt a soft hand placed gently upon my shoulder.
The storm about to burst within me was suddenly calmed.
“And we’ll all go together
“To pluck wild mountain thyme
“All around the bloomin’ heather
“Will ye go, Lassie, go?”
Time stood still within me as day became dusk and then dark. The womanly shape reflected upon me slowly disappeared. My eyes stared out into the valley and saw but did not comprehend the greens becoming gray and twinkling lights awakening in homes far away.
Then I was back. The silent guitar in my hands. My mind was disengaged from this time and place. Mechanically I rose, descended the steps and went inside.
But the memory of where I’d been lingered and prayed my dreams that night would let me go back to search more.
Then next morning I walked up to the Beech. I stepped gingerly around the swathes of hay-scented ferns—almost electric lime green in the early morning light. I stepped up to her and laid my hand upon her. The light gray bark was smooth and unblemished. It was more like skin than tree bark. She’s only about 5 inches thick at my eye level.
“How old are you?” I thought.
A breeze set her leaves in motion, and they gently clapped all about me.
Her canopy flared out like a skirt starting a couple feet off the forest floor and tapering up to her crown. Her hem is about 10 yards in diameter. Standing before her I was within her—surrounded by branches and leaves. I felt enfolded and embraced.
“You are so beautiful.”
What?…was that a gentle clapping all about me or just a breeze rustling the leaves?
I looked down. Where met the Earth she broadened a bit.
(The better to grip the mountain.)
She found purchase near a couple large nearly submerged stones. She gracefully flowed over them a bit in a gentle graceful rolling…
“They’re almost like feet!”
I put both hands on her and gently squeezed. I tried to pull but she would not be moved. Instead it just drew me closer. Something caused me to tilt my head up and rest my forehead against her. My mind opened.
And those things left me!
I tilted my head back and looked up her length.
She gently tapered over twenty-five feet more above me. Through her crown, I could see patches of azure blue silhouetted by green and gray.
I exhaled all the bad air within me and drew in breath from within her skirts-span. I withdrew slowly—backing out of her space. Leaves and branches gently brushed my shoulders and back until I was out in the open on the forest floor amongst the ferns.
I turned and lightly strode away down the slope—leaving for my day’s work.
It wasn’t until later in the day that reality returned. I felt my mind was clearer than it had been for…a long time.
In June—summer’s beginning—business took me to the City.
I used to love my visits there. There was excitement at every turn. Energy seemed to flow up from the sidewalks.
This time was different. Even if I’d visited by myself, I never felt alone.
After I’d spent my day working—placing orders, making face-to-face deals—doing the commerce that had occupied nearly my whole life I took a walk along the streets. Buildings or both sides towered above me. And everywhere new buildings were piercing the skies. Unattractive steel and glass boxes mostly. This world was changing. Colder. Crasser.
Or was it me?
I felt hollow. Something inside was missing.
I walked and walked. The beauty of architecture was gone. The buildings seemed dirtier. Filth and trash was at every step.
But it was the same city. Essentially.
Had my eyes changed? Did I just see things differently?
There was no nature in most places. Nothing living but humans bustling. What birds there were scuttled like dun colored mice and rats with wings.
I missed my home—lonely as it was—it was much lovelier than this place with millions of people everywhere you look.
I checked out that night instead of staying over. I drove across New Jersey and Pennsylvania and then down along the Catoctin Mountains into Maryland.
The closer I got the more I felt the urge, the need, the calling to be back there.
It was well after midnight when I drove up the long steep lane. As I topped the crest, my headlights lit the Beech directly ahead a hundred yards away and about fifty feet higher up the mountain slope.
She glowed in that light. The leaves a rich bright green twinkling highlights reflecting. Her body was silver and shimmered in the light.
I stopped and stepped out of the car. I left the headlights on.
I walked up the slope toward her.
My shadow cast upon her.
“I’m back,” I said. Did I say it aloud?
As I got closer I said, “You know me.”
(I’ve known you a long time.)
(I came here in case you needed someone.)
“You’ve known I was alone so long.”
(Yes. I’ve been trying to help.)
“You’ve listened to all the things I’ve said.”
(Yes, and I’ve absorbed so much.)
“What will happen?”
(I can’t see the future.)
“But you’ll be here?”
(I’ll be here a long time.)
I sat next to her and rested my back against her.
It felt warm. And a comfort flowed into me.
I fell asleep, and I dreamed dreams that were full of magic.
When I awoke I was in my bed. Unsure of how I’d gotten there.
Dawn light poured in my window and all over me.
I looked east and over and across the valley.
I wondered if all I’d experienced last night were dreams.
I had driven home. That was clear.
I watched the first of the sun touch the horizon and then more and more rose until the disk was clear of the earth.
January. The new year’s beginning.
I flew to San Francisco. I have an ailing brother and a student son there. I had business there as well. Or rather, I made business to do there. I felt I should get away. Distraction could do me good. I would attend a convention or trade show where thousands of kinds of food and drinks and candies and delights were offered. I could find things that would make people who visit my bookstores happy and glad they came in. I tried to write on the long flight out but no muse came to me. The red wine—the grapes and sun and rain—captured in the bottle made me think of sunny hillsides north and east of the city I was flying too. Like Lethe’s potion it soon had me dreaming.
The dreams were calm but indistinct. I saw things through a mist. First over there. Then over there. I headed into the mist in hopes I would find something. But I just walked on and on. If I sensed something I would go toward it. If I thought I saw a shape in the mist and walked toward it, it would seem to retreat or shrink, become indistinct and disappear. So, my dream went for a long time until I found my self in a museum. I was with a girl I was falling in love with. She would point to an object. Say, a painting like Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party at the Phillips Gallery in Washington. I knew that painting quite well already. But where she pointed, I saw things I’d never noticed in the work before. The flat canvas covered with oil paint took on more dimensions. The people moved forward and back in perspective. The frame no longer held it in and parts of the scene spilled out of the rectangle. The people did not move so much as came alive in their positions. And when she would point to one character or another that person’s eyes would twinkle with life. Animated because of our viewing.
“Thank you, for seeing me.” Each would speak though their mouths did not move. “I’ve been upon this wall for decades and captured here in this eternal party on this cloth for 140 years. It is a joy when love brings us to life. It is so rare. For she sees us too—just as you do. It seems only real love—the love that multiplies the sum of two people many times—can make this happen. For us and for them. A rare blessing. Please come back sometime.”
We walked through the galleries and halls and my eyes saw things they’d never known before.
We stepped outside into a courtyard and sat upon a bench. I pointed to the several roof lines coming together above and before us. They were not just bricks or windows or slate. Not stone or marble or copper. I saw perspectives. Photographs as sure as Edward Weston or … The rising and falling, the angles, the shapes in the foreground or receding in the distance were not just the work of trades men or long dead commercial or residential architects. The shapes blended and flowed together and cut shapes into the sky above.
My love pointed to the paving before and below us. It wasn’t just polished limestone with fossils in it was an ancient sea bed and we saw the fossils of creatures millions of years old come alive and assume the dimensions and shapes they’d had when they were alive.
We rose and returned inside. Steps were not steps. They were designs. The work of each artist or craftsman had a special aura about. People made these things. They conceived and drew or had them cast or carved or formed. Nothing was plain or just a utility.
We entered an ancient wood paneled room. The carvings were hundreds of years old, but where I pointed at one feature or another, she would follow my gaze and see the hands that had sculpted each turn and line. We could feel the spirits of the men who wielded their tools and lifted the shapes that had been held inside the raw planks and chunks. Rosettes and faces, shields and lions and unicorns. They glowed as if they were new and fresh. The designer and his wealthy sponsor stood at our shoulders and saw the work completed as if for the first time. They nodded in assent that all was done to perfection.
We walked into a room made of honey and wax. The walls were smooth and soft and we walked into and through the walls. All I could see was white and cream.
When I emerged on the other side, she was gone and I was alone.
I had passed through the wall and out into a space where all was mist and indistinct shapes again.
I dropped to my knees and tears poured forth. My shoulders, my body shook as I realized I was alone in a shapeless world.
I awoke and found my self seated on the airplane. A voice called out we were there and would soon land. I looked about me and everything I saw was just plain and real and made only for the short life this seat and tray, wall and floor would have. The screen before me with figures moving about it was two-dimensional. Flat figures having no depth.
When we landed, I arose with the other humans about me and we trudged off out into each of the worlds to which we belonged. Nowhere did I see an aura about any of them or the spaces we passed through.
I looked at my hands and they were just flesh. There was nothing special about them. I pointed at a sculpture placed in the airport’s atrium and all I saw was metal and glass and a shape that did not speak to me.
The sadness poured into me again and I wished I could lie down and sleep would take me where it had just a few hours before.
I did what needed to be done. I made my visits. I spoke with some. I wrote to others. I found the car I would have for a few days. I found the inn where I would sleep a couple nights.
I drank until it was time to lay down and put another day behind me.
The next morning I had some hours to spend in any way I chose. I looked at the map of the peninsula. The blue of the Pacific Ocean was only a couple inches away. I decided to head west until the water and the horizon beyond it stopped me. I got to Half Moon Bay, and it was lovely. A beach—sand and water.
I took the coast highway south. I stopped at one beautiful view after another. I took photos, but they were flat to my eyes. The scenes were more like murals or pictures on paper in a book.
I studied the map a bit a green square on it seems to become greener as my eyes focused upon it.
Butano State Park—A Coastal Canyon Redwood Grove. It was just a few miles inland.
This is January, and when I pulled to the entrance, it was not closed. Nor was there a worker in the booth to take my fee. No one was there. Not a soul in the shop or park headquarters. There were no other visitors’ cars in the lot.
I headed up a trail. Where the coast had been bright and sunny with azure skies, the world I walked top into became misty and dimmer. The Redwood trees rose hundreds of feet above me and their canopy blocked most of the skies. This world was circumscribed by the wet moss and fern covered forest floor that slanted up the canyon walls or down ravines towards the little trickling water runs far below. The strong straight trunks rose all about me. Occasional little songbirds, likely wrens, churred or shushed here and there. They would fly in so fast and melt into the colors of the earth that I could never see one long enough to focus on their features.
“I listened to what?”
(The call. This is a special place and a special time to be here. My grand cousins cherish this when there are no hatchets or saws or pots and pans. When there are no camp fires and blades of steel clanging against one another. There is no sound and smell of vehicles climbing the leaf covered path to experience our forest in their human ways with their drinks and food and smoke and noise.)
“You are here? ” For, indeed the voice I heard as my feet silently stepped onto a narrow path soft with fallen needles and brown dead damp growth was the voice I heard in my forest in the East. The Beech.
(I am always with you. I have been since as a slender tender sapling I came to consciousness and found you. Or was led to you. It is a mystery to me as well. I was with you when you fell in love with her. I was part of you both. As was another of my kind.)
“I…I don’t understand.”
(Neither do I. Nor do any of my kind. It just “is.” We just “are.”)
“Your kind? Trees?”
(Some of us. Some of us are far more alive than others. My giant ancient cousins about you are like the whales in the oceans. They’ve been here since the beginning. They’ve been hunted and killed by those whose souls are cold. They hate those who come to stare and point and trod upon the seedlings. But they are glad to share this with you this time. I’ve spoken with them, and they understand you are one of us and are different than so many of the others of your kind.)
I stopped and turned round slowly. Bits of green and browns and gray mists were everywhere I turned. I saw nothing cut or carved or manufactured by the hand of man.
From far, far above I sensed a drop of liquid hang for an instant from the very tip of a pine needle from the very end of the highest branch far, far above. Between me the earth and the sky beyond. It fell and in its long, long fall reflections evolving through hundreds of feet of air captured 10,000 years of this grove’s history. All the sights and sounds for thousands of years were caught in it. For the final few meters it captured a bit of the terror of the last century’s saws and metal powered machines.
The drop landed softly just below my left eye at the top of my cheek. The sites and sounds and seasons, the births and deaths, the light and dark and dry and wet, fires and storms, growth and decline of centuries poured into my body, my heart and my soul.
“What is this? What is happening?”
(It is a gift. A rare gift. A blessing. My cousins have heard your story, my story and our story. The feel you deserve it and perhaps it will help you. Maybe it will come to help many. They don’t know. I don’t know. They are planting a seed in a way. May it become part of you and may it help you with your loneliness and heartbreak. Perhaps, it will help you to rise above all the sorrows and do something important.)
(For yourself, your soul, your heart. Perhaps important for others. Perhaps for us as well.)
The tear did not roll down my cheek as so many had for so long. It rested upon my face just below my eye. It lost its shape. The surface tension broke and spread like a film over my skin. Then, as I tentatively raised a finger to touch where it had been I sensed I should not disturb it. That it would become part of me in moments.
“Can you tell me here? And now? What happened?”
(What happened to her?)
“You know then?”
(Yes. I was there all along. There was another as well.)
“Someone else? Is that what happened?”
(No one else. Something else. For she has a spirit just as you do. A spirit like me in many ways. Sadly, he listened to the voices below the roots. The dark things underneath who never see the light. They do not know air and sky and life and living water. They are jealous and destructive. Their call can be seductive. For they have nothing below. Below where our deepest roots reach there is no life, no change, no season. All they can do is call like the ancients sirens. “Join us in the dark.” is their whisper. “We have hidden knowledge down here. ” And some are caught at susceptible moments or by seducers who have been captured and recruited to find others. He listened—root and branch. And he advised her that the dark below had special secrets. The “other side” was a reflection of the light and love, rain and sun, air and …)
“What is below? What is there beyond the deepest roots?”
(Dark and cold. The one spirit near the beginning of time. He who became intensely envious. He was cast away and descended from the light as far away as he could get. From the skies he fell through the air, through the water, through the living soil past the living things beneath the surface. Beyond the farthest root tendril where he hides and waits today. A bitter angry ugly thing whose only desire is to bring others to join him in his misery. There all you can listen to are his lies and false stories of the knowledge that he says he alone has. He knows nothing. He only took the darkest and ugliest things. He hates beauty and truth. If he can grab anything and corrupt, it gives him the black joy that fuels his black soul.)
“Is that it then? Is she there?”
(She is in between. Her spirit is a young strong Welsh oak. He was poisoned with a vein of ink black taint in his heartwood. He is lost as well. The darkness keeps them from finding one another.)
“I…I don’t understand. Why? What good can come to me of this knowledge? I am lost. She is lost. Are all lost?”
(This is a happy lesson. You have a gift. Every gift is also a burden. Whether you feel it or not, every gift has weight of some kind. Open your eyes! Now! Rub them with both knuckles. Now look at your feet!)
A dozen brilliant yellow darts moved slowly before. Ariolimax Californicus—Banana slugs!!!!
(Are they not delightful? This is the kind of gift the light can give. Here amongst the damp earth tones and soft dull greens bolts of sunshine! Laugh at the absurdity and incongruity. The forest plays a joyful joke. Another gift from my ancient cousins!)
I laughed aloud. Had there been anyone else about they would have surely thought me mad. Perhaps the redwoods thought my reaction funny as well for a shower of millions of tiny drops fell from above—all about and upon me.
I lifted my head to the canopy above and the tree tears splashed upon my face.
(Now go and do your work. Come home when you are done. I will be there.)
“Will I… ever…?”
(I know a lot of the “now.” For we share a lot around this world. I know a great deal about the past. For some of us are thousands of years old. Stories are passed down from branch and root to each new seed that is given life. I do not know the future. My future or yours. Fire could strike me from the sky. That huge Tulip Poplar above me could lose a giant limb and I would be crushed like a matchstick. You could be struck down by misadventure or disease. You could break from this sadness into darkness and madness. But here, now, in this beautiful cathedral of nature we are both alive. We both can see the horizon to the east and the sunset to the west.
(Consider your gifts and use them. don’t let darkness and despair steal too much of your time. But learn from sadness and loneliness.
(Maybe you will do something yet. Perhaps important. Perhaps lasting. Maybe we will.)
(Perhaps she will be found. Perhaps another soul is meant to cross with yours.)
“I don’t want another…”
(I know. Perhaps you will find her. Perhaps we will find them. I have not told you. He was to me as she was to you.)
“No! I am so sorry! I have been so selfish!”
(Come to me. Call to me. “Everyman in thy darkest need I will be by thy side.” But your work is different than mine. I cannot do what you do.)