In the stolen night, she danced with the fireflies, dressed in dry moss from the ancient tree. She danced to the music of the toads and the wind.She danced under the light of the moon and the old stars. She danced in circles, until she was too dizzy and fell to the soft damp earth that was her momentary stage. She breathed deep, the smell of the forest so strong. She turned to the old man of the wood.
“Was that a good dance?” she asked.
The wind blew through the leaves of the giant tree, its massive trunk creaking and moaning an answer only she could hear.
“Why thank you old man,” she smiled, her voice floating on the same breeze.
To look at her she was dirty. This waif of a girl covered in the dirt of the woods. Her face dark, arms even darker, matched only by the filth over her legs. This was a creature who left bathing to those that cared. To look upon her was almost sad, until she looked back and you saw her eyes. These were the eyes of wonder, of faith and survival. They were eyes that looked into your heart, grabbed hold, and squeezed until you could not breathe. She was innocence and beguile, magic and truth. She was more than she appeared, at least that’s what the old man thought.
The tree was older than the forest. In truth he was the father of the forest. His seeds floating down sun to moon and moon to sun, for a million days. Each tree a son or grandson, or great, great, great…well you understand. He was proud of his dominion, proud of his sons and happily spent the hours being pleased of himself. He never thought of a daughter, never wanted for such a thing, until she came to his roots.
She was small for a tree, he remembered thinking, and moved around too much for one of his kin. She had found a break in the ground between his roots and had fallen asleep to escape the cold. He took pity on the tiny thing and cradled her, warmed her and sung with the wind and leaf. He took her in and as the rain came he did something he had not done in a thousand years. He moved, he willed his roots to close in and shield the sapling from the wet and cold. With that she became his and he became hers and the days were much more exciting than they were before.
The old man knew she was not truly his. He knew the kin of this sapling. His roots were old and went for miles under the soft blanket of the earth mother. He was aware of the trees that moved. He had seen their cities, heard the screams of his children that built those cities. He had witnessed entire generations killed by the walking trees and their tools. He was sad over the loss of so many, but with this small one he would try to understand them.
“Old man!” she snapped him out of his trance.
“Old man! Are you in your past again?” she winked and kicked out her heel. “Don’t make me dance again, cause I will!”
If a tree could smile, then the old man would have a smile 15 feet wide. The wind rustled leaves and his bark cracked and crinkled.
“Well, I love you too old man,” she whispered to the leaves.
Years past, as years do, and the sapling became a woman and the woman became old, but never as old as the old man. her hair got whiter, her dancing got slower and her voice became quieter…
The wind replied, “yyyeeesssss?”
“I am old, I can’t dance. I can hear you, but can’t see. I have lived with you for a lifetime and learned so much. I remember my cradle, deep in your roots and I thank you for your kindness, your care and your love.”
Her eyes, though cloudy, still burned with such life, as she fell to the earth with a sigh as her last breath.
The old man saw her fall
If trees could cry, he did.
The ground seemed to tremble, as the earth seemed to move. His roots came to hold her, bring her back to her home. He cradled her gently, as she was a babe. His roots closed around her as the wind hit his leaves.
Those who could hear it would have spun a tall tale…about the song in the wind that seemed too sad to be real. The forest went quiet as the old man sung. One more of his saplings, but this was no son.
If trees could love…
A tree did love.