A Christmas Wish
Does anyone truly remember what they came from? What spark in the soil created them? I certainly don’t. The force that chose this spot in the earth, that planted the seed and brought it to germination, is unknown to me.
My first memory is of a damp and comfortable darkness. The slow stretch of my roots into the loam, the bliss of water beneath. As I grew, so did my spirit, breaking the surface of the soil and stretching towards the light.
In the peace of the forest, I flourished. I was surrounded by brothers and sisters. We reached toward the light together, as the days lengthened and the air grew warm. We spoke to each other in a tongue you wouldn’t understand. Echoing wind through branches and sun rippling along needles was all we needed to sing out our joy. Below the earth we spoke in deeper tongues. A webbed mycelium that pulsed through the soil in unshakeable harmony.
It was hard to measure the passing of time then, but I can say with certainty that the days of warmth had passed, the air was turning sharp and sour, the soil cold and hard, when I saw the first of the creatures that would take me away from my family.
I saw that it was taller than the scampering things that sometimes scurried over my roots, and it did not fly like the feathered things that perch on my branches. Its trunk was crowned by a ball that screamed and chattered. It seemed that the creature did not meet its needs for water and nutrients gently and gradually as we do, but instead consumed everything it wanted through the screaming ball, in one terrible ravening gulp.
The roots of the creature were above ground, and it moved quickly on them, swinging each one ahead in turn. It possessed a single pair of jointed branches, with a fringed fleshy leaf on the end of each, which it used to manipulate the world. Its sap ran clear and glistened on its bald, smooth bark. It stank of dead things kept from their rightful place in the soil.
The creature covered its trunk with red and black, and had coarse blue over its roots. It arrived in a growling grey beast, with four great round nuts that carried it along, made of something hard that shone like rock after rain.
It carried the means of our destruction. A flashing sharp that tore the air with its cries, harsher than the crow and louder than any rending storm. I watched it rip my brothers and sisters from the ground. I watched them piled high on top of the growling grey hard-wet-rock beast, their roots trussed and cupped in something soft. And then it came for me.
It’s hard to describe, the desolation that settles on you when you are severed from your home soil. To be ripped from the gentle web of connections that bind you to your fellows. My roots may have remained, confined in a small expanse of dirt, but without the grounding of their own earth, they could not help me. I was lost.
A bump and a roar and chaos as the hard-wet-rock beast rattled us away from our home. I was deaf and dumb. I could feel the bark of my brothers and sisters under me. We did not have the connection of the soil, the language of wind and sun, and so we could not speak.
Finally we were released from the hard-wet-rock beast, propped up on a thin patch of grass next to dead grey ground, where more of the beasts screamed past us.
Every now and again more bald fleshy things, different colours over their bark, would come and take one of my brothers or sisters away. Then, as the sun shone weakly through the foul smoke of the late afternoon, my turn came.
The fleshy creature that took me from that place seemed a little taller than many of its fellows, and broader around the trunk. It stooped slightly, like my brothers and sisters do when they’ve been battered in the storm. It hefted me up, and so began my journey Indoors.
I learnt so much during my time Indoors. I learnt that the fleshy creature lived with another, who looked much the same. There were others too: two pink saplings that squeaked and burbled excitedly when I arrived. Hung with sharp and glittering vines, and shining round pinecones, I gathered that my coming was somehow special to them. I was given plenty of water, and a large pot of soil in which to rest my roots. I stretched and drank my fill. It might not have been home, but it was something.
The time that followed was a one of relative peace. The strange soil-less ground beyond my pot, the squeals of the saplings one morning, when they all gathered round me, passing each other brightly coloured objects. The direct nature of the light in the little hollow Indoors. All of it fascinated me. I missed the forest and my brothers and sisters, but I let myself stand content in the kind beam of sunlight that shone directly onto me when the sun was low.
But there was a sense in my sap that it couldn’t last. The heat of Indoors was oppressive, and though I did not wish to, I found that a few more of my needles fell from my branches each day. Soon, it ended. I was ripped once again from the soil. This time I was taken out into the cold, back to the strange grey ground, and thrown into a cold yellow pit, filled with unfamiliar edges and scents. From root to crown I screamed. I didn’t want to die.
I don’t know how long I Iay there in the yellow pit, feeling myself dry, drop by drop. I do know that just when my hope was almost gone, and I felt my senses dim, I felt a presence, like nothing I had ever felt before.
He took the form of my brothers and sisters, but he wasn’t truly one of us. He was made of smoke, pressed and compacted and the deep blue of the sky on a summer night. He swirled around my trunk and caressed my roots with the blessed clarity of water.
He spoke to me. His voice carried the rustle of the coolest winds and the bliss of the very sweetest rain. What do you want? he asked. He said I could have anything, anything at all.
In that moment I saw visions. Of the little hollow Indoors where the fleshy things lived, engulfed in flames. Of little Indoor hollows like theirs, where my brothers and sisters had been taken. A dancing inferno that would bring them suffering, such as they had made us endure.
But then, as clearly as light though leaves, I saw something else. I saw my brothers and sisters, restored again to their full glory. I saw us all in the forest, back together in blissful union.
The deep blue smoke curled friendly around me. He whispered: why not more? He was right.
The vision shone with the clarity of an undeniable truth. I saw our home shift and grow. Vines wrapping around the little hollow and all others like it. Roots bursting up through this grey ground, turning it back to good earth. The roaring hard-wet-rock beasts drowned by a tidal wave of leaves and twigs and tendrils, as their kingdom comes back to us. I, the blue smoke whispered, could do this. I could bring it home.
I don’t know now what you may have thought, if you had seen me lying prone in the yellow pit. Maybe you would have seen the tremor that ran through me and believed it was the night wind.
But you will know, you will know sooner than you can imagine, that what moved me was not the breeze, but the thrill of justice rising like sap as every part of me, from root to crown, whispered yes.
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