Pink sunrise morning
And a little hand in mine
As we cross the green grass
Walking slowly to the elementary school
“Watch out for ants mommy!”
We skip around small red hills
Springing from the southern ground
Just a slight chill in the air
Birds sing and I smile
Watching sunlight bounce on cherub curls
I slow down even more
To take in this happy moment
Just another morning like many more
You may say
But I want to memorize this one
When my heart is suddenly full
I remember, so much to be happy for.
“Coo,coo, coo”. I love the sound of these birds and their song calls me away from my dreaming. I’ve fallen asleep with the window open again, my pillow on the sill. My skin is sticky and warm, but I don’t mind. I stretch, flinging my arms out the window, in no hurry to get out of bed. I lay there, legs hanging over the side of my bed and head in the window, watching as the sun continues to rise. When I decide it’s time to get up I pull myself up onto the sill and jump to the ground. Heedless of bare feet and nightgown I head through the trees and down a trail. There is magic in the air, I can feel it tingling in my toes and fingertips. As I continue I come to a tree that towers over the path. I run to the tire swing hanging from one of it’s great limbs, flinging my body into it. My hair drags the ground picking up random debris as I twirl myself, around and around, until the rope can take no more. I lift my feet and let myself swing in circles until I’m dizzy. Then I jump from the swing and happily begin down the path once again.
When I get to the creek I step into it without hesitation. The delicious chill of the water is welcome on this summer morning. In the Deep South the summer air is a hot, moist weight on your body and in your lungs. The sweet smell of honeysuckle floats to me from the bushes all around. I pick a flower, careful not to break it, and slowly pull the end through until a single drop of nectar is gathered. It’s sweet taste fills my mouth as I continue to follow the water further into the woods. After a short walk the narrow creek opens onto a small pond. In the center of the pond is an island just large enough for a tree that dominates the entire space. As I continue, and the water deepens, I glide into it and back peddle forward. Stopping to float I gaze above and around me. Red and brown blurs flit back and forth overhead singing to each other as they go about their morning ritual. There is a little splash as a turtle, fleeing my presence I assume, hurries back into the water. I turn over and trudge through the red clay and onto the island. There’s just enough room to stretch my legs as I sit with my back against the tree trunk. It’s there that I enjoy my morning with eyes closed and mind wandering. “Leah!” My mother’s voice rings across the distance. I jump to my feet and splash through the waist deep water. Within minutes I’m on the trail my bare feet dodging familiar roots and stones. “Coming” I shout back to her. I arrive before her and she doesn’t even look twice at my dripping nightgown, wet hair, and muddy feet. My current state is nothing new. “I need you to watch your sisters while I go to the store.” “OK” I say as I head to my room.
Dry and somewhat cleaner I head back outside to the front yard. My little sisters are in the woods pretending to be fairies. I can hear their giggles as they pretend to fly and the dogs chase after them wanting to join in on the fun. I smile as I begin to balance on the rail ties that separate our yard from the neighbor’s. He’s sitting on his porch watching and waiting for the little blonde urchin’s toe to touch his sacred ground. Just then mom arrives back from the store. “Mom, can I go play with Jenny?” She nods and in a moment of pure mischievous glee I run across the neighbor’s yard toward the dirt road. “Hey! Git outta ma yard!” He yells at my back. I keep running through the neighborhood until I reach a trailer surrounded by a fence and guarded by the two of the scariest dogs. They bark at me angrily and I’m thankful for the fence that separates us. Glaring at them, I cup my hands around my mouth and shout “Jenny!”. They only begin to bark louder, the scorn is mutual, so I turn my back to them. As I’m waiting I notice some junk out behind her house. One of the things reminds me of the piece of plastic that thread is wrapped around when you buy it. Maybe it’s called a spool, but this is huge so it must have been used to wrap industrial cables around. Finally, Jenny comes outside. “Hey, let’s go see what that stuff is,” I say as she closes the gate on the snarling little demon dogs. I barely repress the urge to stick my tongue out at them.
Upon inspection of the giant spool we discover that the center is hollow and that it would be perfect to roll in. So we roll our new toy to the center of her huge yard and I climb inside. I brace my hands and feet around the inside of the opening and Jenny gives it a push. The yard has just enough incline for it to pick up some speed as it rolls. When it comes to a stop I fall onto the ground and laugh uncontrollably. Jenny runs to me and announces that it’s her turn. It doesn’t take long for all the neighborhood kids to catch onto what we are doing and join us. We spend hours taking turns rolling each other in this formerly forgotten piece of debris. When we are bored of this Jenny and I go inside to watch a movie.
A few hours later after being suitably freaked out by “Silence of the Lambs”, I head over to visit a different friend. I knock at the door of his little trailer. He opens the door “Hi little Leah!” He always has a smile for me. Everyone calls him Tadpole. Tadpole is a wiry man in his 50’s with a long beard. He beckons me inside and I dodge piles of books and magazines as I wind my way to the living room. “So what will it be today? Moses, Krull, Spartacus or maybe My Fair Lady?” I consider for a moment as I search through his vast collection of movies, “I think maybe Anne of Green Gables.” He hands me the movie and we chat about nature and fishing for a while. “Well I guess I better get home, thanks for the movie Tadpole!” He waves as I run down the hill to the little tan trailer I call home. I cradle the movie in my arms as I dodge puddles and jump ditches in my rush to get there and watch it. Anne of Green Gables is one of my favorite movies.
After a shower I’m laying on the floor of the living room watching the movie. I always cry at the part where, the orphan Anne, is talking to her reflection trying to pretend it’s another person who can console her. I know what it feels like to be that lonely and to feel as different and awkward as she does. Outside it begins to storm. The day couldn’t end any better for me, I love thunderstorms. I run outside into the rain jumping in puddles and doing cart wheels. It doesn’t matter to me that I’m now dirty again after a shower. Why should I care? “Time for bed. Come in and dry off Leah.” My mom calls from the doorway. Later, in bed I’m laying by the open window. My arm is outstretched to feel the rain. I love the sound of it on the roof. I can’t explain why there’s a little ball of excitement in my stomach at the flash of the lightning and the boom of the thunder. It sooths me, as if the violence of the storm is a release for the violence in my heart. With my hand open to the sky, welcoming the rain, I fall asleep.
I know what you must think
When you see my barren limbs.
You see an old tree that looks dry and wasted.
It’s true that my leaves had fallen, seemingly, never to return
And the bloom of my youth is a fuzzy dream that
Floats on the edges of memory.
Aw, but you are wrong! I am far from dead!
And I’m not just any tree, I was chosen for a special purpose!
I know that somewhere out there I have not been forgotten.
So sit awhile with me and if you listen,
With more than ears, I will tell you a story.
I will tell you about my girl.
I remember it was a bright spring morning,
And my friends, the birds, were just stirring from my branches.
When, suddenly, they leapt to the air in a flurry of fright
As a man climbed onto one of my great arms.
He shimmied to the center just above an elbow
And began to fasten something there.
In that moment I wanted nothing more than to buck him to the ground!
The man jumped down when he had finished
And stood there admiring his handiwork with pride.
The new weight was strange and unbalanced.
In a furry I wondered why this man had tread upon me
And ruined my beauty with this thing!
The air around me filled with the most horrifying shrieks.
It was as if banshies flew around my head.
I felt a tug and my limb began to sway.
Oh, I could see them then, not banshies at all
But little girls with halos of golden hair.
My furry melted away to joy, as I realized, I had been chosen!
We don’t like the older ones so much.
For they come to tear and hack and take.
But, I had heard stories of the joy little ones bring
When they come to play.
As I watched the happiness on their tipped little faces
I stood straighter and more firm and felt tremendous pride.
Then, one morning I spotted the oldest of the girls.
She walked slowly down the path toward me.
She was focused on a treat in her hands,
But as she neared she licked the last of the ice-cream
From her fingers and smiled up at me.
I knew then that I was her’s and she was mine.
She would swing with her head back and eyes closed.
Her bare feet carelessly brushed the red southern ground,
And she hummed tunelessly along with the birds and cicadas.
I knew she was dreaming dreams. I could almost see them
Floating up and up into my highest branches.
I imagined I could catch them there for safe keeping.
Once, she ran to me, tears falling to trail behind her.
She sat on the swing with her face pressed to the rubber of the tire.
I couldn’t bear the loneliness that rolled from her in waves.
So, I called to my friends, the breeze and birds,
And we conspired to comfort her.
As I gently rocked her the birds sang and the breeze dried her tears.
As time passed her visits grew fewer and fewer.
Until one day she never came at all.
I seemed to drift then into a kind of slumber.
Without the ringing laughter and spontaneous joy of the girls
My focus became blurred and my mind began to wander.
No one came to visit me anymore.
Once, I returned from drifting with a shock as I felt a tug!
“My little ones have returned!” I thought with a thrill!
How wonderful it would be to hear their sweet voices as they swing.
Then, to my horror I realized it wasn’t them at all.
A man with a saw stood below me! I cringed as I thought that
This must be my time, but he began to cut at my rope instead.
I tried to tell him to stop, how sad my girl would be, but he didn’t hear and steadily he continued until he carried it away.
I think I cried then, not saltwater tears like my girl,
But my branches hung low and my leaves fell.
I remained bare then, for I had been forgotten.
Not even the birds or the breeze could lift me from my sorrow.
Sometime later, it could have been days or years,
I felt a light touch upon my trunk and I stirred.
It was a cheek pressed there and I heard a tuneless hum.
It was her! She looked up at me, tears in her eyes, and smiled.
That look I knew so well. She was older, and I could tell she’d
In that moment I felt such pride. She’d grown strong,
Like the strength of a tree. She was sturdy and could weather
The storms. I could tell She had roots that had gone deep.
Suddenly, I wasn’t sad anymore. She hadn’t forgotten me.
I knew that wherever she went she would carry me in her heart.
I would always be her anchor, her dream weaver, her guide, and her comfort. I felt joy again, and began to bloom.
-picture by me. This is my tree.