The Land

She stepped out of the tree base. The giant, gnarled oak standing like the sentinel he was above her. The cardinal chirped a hello to her and she waved and chirped back at him. He landed on her open palm and cocked a wary eye at her. Warning her that danger still existed. She nodded sadly to him and he hopped off her fingertips and he stroked his way to the top branches of their mutual home.

She walked along the bank of the stream. The water flowed in a quick tinkle over the small stones, passing around the rock. Her hand grazed the lichen/moss covered surface of it feeling the alternating textures as it went. The pale green of the stag horn lichen contrasting with the deep green of the star moss. The first laying flat and brittle on the surface, the other standing an inch or so off it in a thick, soft mass. This was the place it began, the healing. This place was brought to life in her by the flow of tears along it's surface. This small, flat rock that stuck into the flow of the stream. The opposing bank rose in gently curving tiers to the forest above and a constant flow trickled from beneath the debris cluttering the ground onto the rocks and into the stream adding to it's flow.

She sat on it as she always did, first her hands wrapped around her up drawn knees, chin in between them. Then finally after a time, stretching out full on the rock. She wore her usual garb. A loose fitting nondescript piece of fabric that wrapped itself around her body hugging her close. Her exposed legs shone whitely in the sun whose rays warmed her soul. Then, after a while, he came. The hawk. He circled overhead and scanned the ground below him. She'd been gone long. He let out with one shrill cry and plunged down to the surface. His talons outstretched to grasp at his perch and he landed lightly on the branch of a young maple making the branch bend with his weight. He cocked his watchful eye at her like he always did and she smiled her welcome to him. He seemed a bit miffed at her and she stroked his soft back in reassurance. He ruffled his feathers and hopped off the branch and walked closer to her face. She closed on eye and narrowed the other at him a smile playing on her lips. He pecked at her face, quickly brushing against her cheek with his hard, cold beak. She didn't flinch, she let him do his will to her. And when he was done inspecting her he ruffled his feathers once more and cocked a shining eye in her direction. "I know. I'm sorry." she told him and he looked off into the distance. With one huge burst of energy he pushed himself into the air and sailed off over the tree tops leaving his final call ringing in her ears.

She got up and moved on down stream. The trickle of water had grown into a larger trickle, but still nothing much, to most people. It was fall now. The golden maple, red maple, the deep red of the dogwood and the rusty reddish brown of the oak combined with the deep green of the ferns and stark, black, leafless branches of the honey locust to create a pallet of color. She moved further downstream and came to the small pool. Here the three sat. Three large stones leaning against each other, the last leaning into the eroding bank at it's back. And there in the shallows near the edge of the pool grew the cardinal flower. It's deep, almost blood red blossoms hanging their heads pendulous, alternating in rows of two till they crowned in a pinnacle of green and red at the top. The alternate green leaves stuck out from below the blossoms on a single, thin green stalk firmly rooted in the silt.

She walked over to them and wished she could be this one single thing at this time in it's short life. Then laughed at herself, because she wished this about the Jack-in-the-Pulpit and the May apple and the hoary Puccon and so many others that she couldn't imaging the numbers of them all. She realized she was squatting near the flower and rose on aching knees and moved off down the stream with a sigh. Someday maybe, if she was fortunate?

The stream bed began to change shape and form. It began to fan out. The banks becoming lower on one side fanning out into the forest proper, trees reaching their roots deep into the rocky soil holding the earth in place where they lived. The other began to rise in height. It's craggy surface changing subtly with each step. One section went off level with the stream bed turning into a ledge that narrowed as it went around the curving wall of stone. At about three feet up the wall broke into narrow sections that time had weathered away unequally leaving behind narrow shelves of rock that climbed higher and higher over the stream. Partridge berry grew down in profusion off the ledge of the wall, it's deep red berry's enticing the woodland animal to partake. Tiny fern-like mosses grew in the narrow cracks of stone in the shade where no direct light penetrated through the canopy of color above. Larger canebrake and rattlesnake ferns stood proudly growing in the small bits of debris that collected in the crevices of stone.

The stream bed itself turned to stone and dropped off in small ledges to the small pool below. She slid down the widening ledge until her feet touched the pool. She reached into the water and pulled out a handful of small, round rocks. Sandstone, granite, limestone and tossed them high into the sky. The soared up and quickly disappeared from sight. She knew they would land where she intended. Others that went where they didn't belong would crumple into dust.

She looked up watching their path disappear and saw the hawk once more. He cried to her and she saw him dive and grasp at one. He brought it back to her and as he was overhead he dropped it onto her hand. Cried his long lonely cry once more and circled off again. She bowed her head to him and hoped he and the cardinal weren't right. But if they were, this time she knew something. She had learned.

She walked out of the pool into the light that filtered through the break in the trees. The trees surrounded this place like an army waiting to crush the small at heart. She heard laughter here and there amongst the bracken of the surrounding hills and she knew who it was. Her people. At her feet the pool ended in a small damn of pebbles. She looked to her right and the hill rose steeply in color with huge pieces of stones set into the hillside on the way up to the crest. They looked like they had slipped down the hill face and the trees rooted in their bed surrounding them, holding them for the meetings to come. Seats for the peoples. To the front of her was the other pool fed by the spring further upstream. It spilled through the narrow confines of earth and off the short ledge into the pool below that was crossed with a large dead tree trunk covered heavily in mosses. The ferns surrounded this pool thickly, protecting it from the usual forest debris keeping the water fresh and clear. This pool ended less than a foot from where she stood, each pool separate, but joining together just near her and moving off merrily down the small ravine to be absorbed into the forest floor.

She looked to her left. The cliff face rose above her. A small path wound it's way to the ledge above and she walked it. First to the left, then to the right. Holding the saplings put there to help her navigate the incline that became steep at times. She finally made it to the top and stood on the ledge looking out over at both pools below her. The mosses and lichens were thick here on the ledge. They ended a few inches from the edge. The tree stood overhead. It's based planted firmly in the path below her. It overlooked the expanse of the area, lost in time. It's age was untold, but it's wisdom was great. For it was the elder. It stood quietly accepting all that went on before it, it's only concern being of foothold. Life. She looked over Her land and she saw, once more the dance of the fairies. Small lights glowing in the clearing below, never touching each other, never touching the earth. Dancing and leaving small retinal trails on her eyes when she closed them. This was her religion, her life, her reason for being. This was the land. This was Gaia, live giver, earth mother, peace, harmony and unconditional love.

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