Tell Me What Love Is
"Tell me where I am to go now. Tell me where I am to find my answers. Tell me where I am to live now. In the life that I wanted or the life I had. Tell me did I take the right path or did I detour simply because I did not have the strength to see through the fog. Tell me!" the woman asked.
"There is no pre-set destiny. There is no pre-set fate. There is only the honesty and the self-motivation to reach beyond to find themselves in the swirls of mists that time has lost." the tree answered.
These thoughts rocketed through the mind of the woman standing in that sun-laced, shadowed place. She stared at the old oak, draped across the ground, the wide trunk twisted with the roots upon itself, and the Spanish Moss waving in an ever-constant green-gold breeze. It stood in silent majesty, a ghost of time past of nobility. The woman faced the tree with two closed fists and ask again.
The tree remained silent!
Both horses shuffled and nosed each other, the mare, the leader, and the gelding just a pace behind. Hidden in amber shadows, the dog yawned and grinned her happy smile, while the cat, the calico, played with a cricket in the sparse grass between the roots of the tree. The offering of fresh ground cinnamon, bay leaves and on lend, the bit of mandrake from Scotland. An offering of enticement to the old marsh live oak. This one she called the "Rain Tree". Growing strong and wild in the realms of the mind. In a green-gold marsh of memory.
"Tell me. I implore you. Tell me." the woman ask once again.
The tree once again remained silent!
Yet, the green-gold breeze blew a wide oak leaf and it settled in her now upraised palm and she studied the lines in its texture and saw, perhaps, a map. A map that could lead to a reality or could lead once again to the safety of banished dreams that had re-awakened to life.
At the leaf's base, at the stem, remained a small drop of rain. It was from clear water falling, and it was the place of the leaf's birth. Where did anything start but at the beginning. Now, the beginning was Shadow Island.
How many times had she come to this place with her friends? How many times had she ridden in here, either one horse or the other, looking for wisdom from the often silent tree. She was afraid the tree's spirit had fled upon the roaring winds of too long ago. This is where she wanted to live, this where she wanted to stay until she knew all the answers but the tree was slow to give them to her. She sensed that it did want to give them to her all at once. There were so many answers to find and so many questions to ask.
The sun dropped lower in a gilded haze, rising blindingly over the brackish water of the marsh. The green-gold wind turned to evening marsh wind and blew cold as summer turned to autumn and the brown edges bit into the sharp lime grass blades and into the paler sea-green. Time seemed to have no bearing in here, with seasons changing with the blink of an eye or the dispelling of a dream.
The mare moved forward, her spirit in her eyes. A warm brush of breath on the woman's forearm and the solidity of truth returned. In a drift, time-shift, things could get misplaced or removed but only focus kept it in straight perspective.
Still, the tree remained silent.
A winter sun rose the next time the woman came to visit the tree. This time she came alone but the two horses and the dog were waiting for her on Shadow Island. The dog moved forward, her coat a pale gold in the weak sunlight. Her apple-shaped head with brow furrowed and her eyes filled with welcome. She nuzzled the woman's hand and love effused from her. It cloaked the woman's uncertainty.
The cat was absent but then, she still lived on another plane.
The woman turned to the ancient marsh live oak, her "Rain Tree", and said.
"Tell me what is love?"
She glanced down at her leaf map and noticed that the leaf had begun to turn at the edges, fading its deep green. She looked at the base of the stem and saw once again how the one main vein went from beginning point to ending tip and all the others were but dead-end splits from it. How many dead-end roads were there in life? Or was it really dead-end or perhaps a path that had to be traveled all the way to the conclusion and then a return to the main road and a new path begun? Or should one walk straight forward, looking not with peripheral vision, but as with blinders...seeing nothing but what lay directly ahead?
She ask the tree again. "What is love?"
The tree answered nothing.
When the woman came again, the sky was stormy. The hot summer rain fell hard upon the blades of grass in Shadow Island. Grass growing in profusion among the now dimly lit patterns of sunlight, masked by a brooding thunderhead. The marsh wind blew moist and humid with the summer rain. The Rain Tree dripped puddles of water in the basins of its trunk. She came alone again and was greeted again by the dog and the two horses who lived within Shadow Island always. The gelding came forth to greet her, his sorrel coat like red jasper in the faded light. His deep brown eyes were full of puzzlement and his muzzle warm and seeking. She comforted him.
"Tell me why does love leave?" she ask of the old oak.
The tree said nothing but sent her another leaf, but only two thirds there with the tip torn away. She looked upon it and the sorrow filled her heart.
The next time the woman came, it was spring; bright and green, flush with life. This time she came with the cat. The little calico walking at her side, with her tail curled in a question mark. The two horses and the dog greeted the cat as family and surrounded the woman as all four. A stroke for each one, a term of endearment, lingering on the red mare, and the four gave her comfort and strength.
She turned to the tree and ask once again.
"Tell me what love is?"
And the tree replied.
"Love lives anyway it can."
She looked around at her friends and saw love. She knew what love was.
The next time the woman came, she brought with her a photograph book and opened each page on glossy paper. She turned to the tree and said.
"Look, old friend, this is what life I have had. Was it better than the life I wanted?"
Silhouetted in the glow of a rising autumn sun, the tree answered with the green-gold wind in its branches singing.
"If you are satisfied, then it was the right choice. Now, do you know what love is? Tell me."