The Tree of Life
I’d searched for it most of my seventeen years to no avail. To find it here, beside a shack
in the middle of nowhere cracked what little was left of my sanity. I fell to my knees before its brittle branches, its snow-covered fields. How could this be? It looked neither exotic nor holy. My hands clenched inside my gloves, ignoring the frostiness of the day. Once, I’d believed if I could just find it, I would be healed.
Not of any cancer or ravaging diseases, though I suppose in a way both were true. My own plague was more of the bleakness of the soul. The silent plea to let go of life, to just let its canker end things for me, to fall through the hole. Darkness was what I sought, the end of all ends. Not evil, mind you. For I saw no reason to blacken my hands with that. I’d already had enough ill will fill my days. More like the harmony of a grave, to sleep away my grief for eternity.
Long ago, I had wished for peace. The calm, penetrating wash of tranquility over my being but no more. The blood stains on my hands had wrung any serenity I might find from me. I could see the scene of what seemed like just yesterday still fresh in my mind. Twelve when the war had started, I’d been fifteen when my sister’s lifeblood splattered across my face. Not that I’d had any choice at the time. After all, it was kill or be eaten. And the thought of being sliced up alive by someone I’d once, perhaps still, loved and fed on, chilled my bones.
There had been a glimpse of something, just for a moment in her eyes, at the end. A silent, “Thank you.” It had haunted each step I’d taken since. I’d gone everywhere in what was left of the boundaries of the world but still found more of the same: hunger that could not be appeased and the spread of life’s enemy.
Here, now, at last, my journey had come to an end.
No more would I watch helpless victims be dragged away to their deaths, fighting of more of the same at the time, so that I was unable to help in any way. There was nothing more I could do for anyone. I could only ease my pain.
I took one of my gloves off. In the distance, I could hear screams. I shut them out and reached, no longer believing in anything, but hope to let go of existence. To finally be free and over. When my hand touched the burred bark of the tree, a shock rocked through me, a certainty that my destiny was not over but just beginning. My fingers curled around the branches, holding on as a tide of green swept under me, the sprouting of flowers rushed with it along with the hum of bees. Up above in the treetops, an acorn fell done and knocked my cheek as a squirrel tried to haul it away. I stared at the impossibility.
An animal hadn’t been seen alive since the beginning of the war. I watched as around me the cursed winter parted to a spring I hadn’t seen since childhood. I stilled the urge in me to dance, asking the tree, as if it could speak, “Why, now?”
Startled, I listened as a voice broke through the silence.
“Your compassion for your sister, for others, awakened the need of a gentler world. A forgiving world. What you thought of as death brought life back. Go and share with others, the hope, the seed that was planted here today. To love one another as I’ve loved you.”
©Copyright 2010, Oct. 2, tlc.