Saturday, May 3, 2008

Tree of Life

This Week’s Theme: Write about a Tree

When I wake the dream clings to me. I can’t shake the dream even after the panic subsides and the dog quietens. Staring at the ceiling I avoid looking out at the trees outside our window. His arm snakes across my chest bone, his fingers curled gently over the muscle in my shoulder. Last night it made me feel safe and loved. This morning it imprisons me.

I slip from beneath his arm and get dressed quickly in cold, crumpled clothes. Outside in the crisp morning air bites at me but I don’t go back in to get my jacket. The sting of the wind clears the cobwebs and I can think again.

It was just after my sixth birthday that the dream first came to me. I remember because it was the year I got my red roadster bike, with the high reaching handle bars. In the dream I wheeled my bike to the tree and laid it carefully against the ancient trunk. Staring up into the branches above, I imagined it was the Magic Faraway Tree and in the clouds above wondrous places to visit. I longed to escape up there and didn’t care if the lands moved on taking me with them. But I couldn't climb up, not matter how hard I tried or high I jumped.

For years I stood at the base staring up.

In time I learnt to ride my bike and revelled in the freedom that came with it. My parents and their doctrine couldn’t contain me when I rode down the driveway, out into the street and away. I would pull my long hair from the plaits my mother insisted on torturing me with each morning. The wind would whistle through the wavy mass, tickling and caressing my scalp. At the end of the day I would return home with a grin of pure exhilaration on my face and a banshee’s wig. Not even the scorn on my mother’s face could damped the joy.

In my dreams I began to climb the tree, first pulling myself up into the tree and sitting, feet swinging from the lowest branch. Then further up where I dared to pretend that I was God and that He was a She. Below my parents as tiny people at my mercy.

As I got older I got closer to the top. I forgot about the fantasy worlds I'd longed for and instead explored each massive bough. Sometimes the bark would be vicious against my skin and I’d bleed. Other times there was no bark, and I would marvel at the intricacy and uniqueness of the grain.

The year that I stopped wishing for a brother or sister, I began to dream that the tree was comforting me in its leafy embrace and I felt safe. My rebellion was beginning and I was at a loss as to what I believed in. I begged and prayed to God to release me from my guilt. But it remained and I gave up on Him, retreating to a place where there was no guilt, no shame, no imperfection. I laid the foundations for my escape.

I shudder as I remember. The shock still reverberates up my arm. In my dream the metal axehead finds deep purchase in the flesh of the tree with the first swing - each swing cuts deeper to the tree’s core. And the tree weeps blood from the wound I have inflicted on it ... but I don't notice in my frenzy.

The dog barks again and I instinctively reach for the gun that’s hanging with my jacket on the back of the kitchen door. Walking back to the house, I try to forget the dream and the dog but another memory is surfacing. I crawl back into bed beside him, fighting to forget the tarot reading. When I close my eyes, I see the impossibly young hands of the reader flipping over the final battered card of my spread - the Tree of Life reversed. I pretend that I still don't understand as I drift fitfully back to sleep.

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dailypanic said...

Your story reminded me of stories from native american indians who believe all things have a soul. If they were to take a tree to make a teepee they would "speak" to the tree aand thank it for it's sacrifice.

Paul said...

I can see what you meant in your comment about this being a hard write. It is at times a hard read, and I can guess at the points you found it difficult to write.

That being said, the difficulties add to a sense of unease, which is shared with the main character.

One thing I'm wondering about - the tarot reader. Is that the main character, from her past?

Jodi Cleghorn said...

We really were on the obtuse train this week Paul ... I realised out bushwalking today what I really should have written about ... and will try and get that down sometime this week - more on my Adam and Eve characters.

I'm not completely displeased with this - its exploring a new dimension of the characters I wrote about in Demon Lover - but I realise now that I should have used the same tone and it would have come out more authentic I think. Perhaps if there is time I can play with that also this week (in between taking over the publishing world of course!)

DailyPanic - you are so right here. Which is what made me so mad about the signs in Tasmania proclaming the forests there 'working forests' - like they were prostituting themselves of something (I think I've written about this before) ... there is no understanding of things such as you talk of. No gratitude for the sacrifice of the tree - just an economic attitude that everything must be working - nothing can be just there for asthetics.