Saturday, December 25, 2010

the heart of a tree

this day blossomed
like so many others before and afterwards -
thin, cold, and white
under a sky
so tender
so mild
even the birds whispered
in reverent deference
as they crossed it


how many birds
held their songs
in their throats
felt the beating
of their hearts in their breasts
as that sky
spread itself
across the earth

perhaps you can imagine
(possibly even feel
in the beating of your own heart)
how when one small bird sang
in a silent and sacred space such as this
the spell was not so much broken
as it was refined
to an almost crystalline essence


the bird sang a story
of a tree
that grew long ago
a tree
so tall
so ancient
so magnificent
that in all their experiencing
the birds had never
known such a tree
or anytime else

this was a tree
of such wisdom
and such grace
that one bird in particular
could not bear
to be separated from her

he loved her


and so it is
that this story-telling bird
flying alone
across the december sky
caught my attention
as he sang
the story of a bird
who had flown these very skies
so very long ago

a bird
who could not bear to be separated
from the tree to whom he had given his heart

and for those others who slowed

perhaps even stopped
to hear his songstory
this is what they learned


it seems that there had indeed once been a magnificent and ancient pine tree
a tree whose arms sheltered all manner of birds and animals
including one small bird who had been born in the tree
and had known the tree as a place of refuge for much of its life

after having lived for countless years
(for as you likely know tree years bear no relation to human years)
this tree had been taken down by a single man
whose axe had been brought forth from its place in a small shed
where it hung from a small leather strap.

its blade had flashed momentarily as the man had brought it into the light of that late summer's day.

it had slashed upwards
and then downwards
until a soft white v with a pale green heart
was exposed.

the man had been instructed to bring down the tree at the request of his wife
who among other extraordinary qualities,
possessed degrees of intuition that he found difficult to ignore or compromise.
it was his work to render the tree's body into useable portions in preparation for a winter that was
(as her intuitions had suggested)
so deep that few have forgotten its harsh and unremitting culling of man and animal alike.

as the notch in the tree's body became more pronounced
the man stopped for a moment
for between the splintering strokes of his axe
he could hear a bird


and as he looked up to see the bird
a single pinecone fell to the ground
from the very tree whose life he was ending

the cone fell into the centre of a small patch of wildflowers
some of whom bent very slightly
the better to see the newcomer

the cone lay very still of course

the bird stopped its singing

the man stood with his axe at his side

all the forest was waiting

he heard the rustling of late summer leaves
felt a small breeze cross his face
as the wildflowers slowly returned to their upright position

then he wiped his brow
hoisted his axe
and swung it three more times
into the body of the tree

as the axe bit into the wood for the third time
the tree shuddered
almost imperceptably
but the man
who was sensitive to such things
moved backwards
and watched as the tree
with a soft groan
fell to the ground

in the instant
that the tree
was released
from its earthly constraints
the bird flew skywards


a tiny brown speck
against a watery blue sky

the man rendered the tree into smaller pieces
and dragged them one-by-one to his home
where his wife stood watching from the cabin door

when the last of the wood
had been taken away
the bird descended from its place in the sky
and landed
amongst the tiny patch of wildflowers
where the pinecone had fallen

it had settled in underneath some leaves
and was slowly but surely being
drawn into the earth

the bird
moved until it was sitting over the pinecone
so as to protect its tiny body
from squirrels and larger animals,
the first frosts
and eventually
the snow and the ice

in so doing
the bird gave away its connection to this place
and eventually
as is the way with all living things
its body also
returned to the earth

over time
as the pinecone
entered the earth
it opened its body
releasing a trembling finger of pale green
that drew sun and water and air
into itself

and as the little green finger thickened
and grew into a tall and loving tree
it wrapped itself around the bird
enveloping it

such that the tree and the bird
were as one
for the heart of the tree
and the heart of the bird

were one


this is a song
that the birds sing
to remind us
of the great and unconditional care
that exists in the world and between all things


since that time
the tree that grew from the pinecone
so carefully nurtured and loved by the little bird
has had many descendants

look carefully
for some carry inside their hearts
the image
of the bird

happy christmas from steven
and everyone at the golden fish world headquarters!


Suza said...

Achingly, reassuringly, beautiful. "A single pinecone fell to the ground" felt akin to a tear falling. Thank you for words that have given me pause this evening.


Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

I receive this stirring and deeply enriching prose-poem-story as a very, very special Christmas gift, Steven. Thank you so much.

steven said...

suza thankyou for your thoughtful and kind comment!!! have a lovely christmas day! steven

steven said...

lorenzo - you're so very welcome!!! have a lovely christmas day with your family. steven

Bonnie said...

What a lovely gift to awaken to on Christmas morn, steven. Your connection with, and love of, life is palpable. Have a joyful day with those you love!!!

Golden West said...

Merry Christmas, Steven! Your blog is a beautiful gift I unwrap every morning before it's even light. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and impressions and the photographs you capture of how your world looks.

All best wishes to you and your family for a blessed Christmas and a new year of health and happiness!

splendid said...

Thank you so much for this beautiful story, today of all days. Your daily gifts touch my heart and make my life so much more meaningful. Wishing you and yours peace and love.

Butternut Squash said...

Merry Christmas Steven!

Your blog is a safe place to rest and refresh all year long. Thank you for the beauty you share.

Titus said...

Merry Christmas steven. And thank you for the wonder-full story.
I'm nearing the end of Leslie Marmon Silko's 'Ceremony' and there were echoes...

steven said...

thankyou very much titus. that's a heavy duty book to be compared to. hoo boy!!! have alovely holiday. steven

steven said...

golden west thankyou. to be able to escape to a califonrian beach via your blog is a luxurious treat i revel in believe you me!!! i'm happy you find goodness here also! steven

steven said...

hello splednid and thankyou for your kind and generous comment! have a peaceful evening. steven

steven said...

ahhhh butternut - thankyou for your kind words. i'm so fortunate to have the opportunity to share what i see and what i know with such wonderful people as yourself. steven

steven said...

bonnie thankyou very much!!! steven

Jinksy said...

A story to gladden every heart. Thank you!

deb said...

wow, Steven. wow.

steven said...

jinksy i really hoped for that so i am glad you feel that way! steven

steven said...

deb - i was so fortunate to see this and then to have the story appear in my thinking and then to have this forum to share it in. stevenm