Beyond the Tall Oak Tree

“It had only been a sight”, the boy thought. He had only sat, had watched; he had only hoped and dreamed.

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The boy sat at the edge of his bed gazing stoically through the window and to the hills afar. He was a sharp boy and his mind would often marvel at the scenes he envisioned beyond the tall oak tree.

The tree had grown to mark the river’s bend for early-rising fishermen who arrived on summer mornings with their hearts set on beating the break of a rising sun. Each year the amount of fishermen would grow, despite the disappearing trout who’d grown weary of the danger and wandered the forking river onwards.

“Perhaps fishermen didn’t come for the fish”, the boy thought. After all, men often do things for reasons that are not so clear.

The boy could not quite put his finger on what it was, but he was certain there was something lingering beyond the tall oak tree that caused man’s heart to grow content.

Some days the boy was reminded of a waking giant when he watched the tree stretch its mighty branches above the clouds. The boy would watch for hours at a time, for there was an impalpable fear that he would miss something if he looked away. He took breaks now and then to exhale a furnace of moist breath against the glass so he could draw this same waking giant with his finger. But the giant was sure to vanish and sometimes it would take the tall oak tree along with it when it did.

This put a lump in the boy’s throat and the tree would reappear only after he squinted the slits in his eyes. He concentrated on a single stream of vision until his eyes could grasp each narrow streak of light. Like a painter, he would pick and choose what color each beam would be until his canvas once again bore the tall oak tree that marked the river’s bend.

There was an endless labyrinth of magic moons out there beyond the tall oak tree, but these wondrous places would only find reflection in his emerald eyes upon the distant beams of light that splintered through his bedroom windowpane. In his stillness, one could never faintly comprehend the depths of dreams unspoken that emerged from the young boy’s mind — the most fascinating world took form behind those dark green eyes.

One day, a delightful cloud danced above the tall oak tree and the boy decided he would choose this day to walk to the river’s bend. As the boy rambled through the rolling hills he noticed the pebble stone trail beneath his boots; the trail twisted through the forest and at one point the boy looked over his shoulder back towards his bedroom window — very small now — where he would sit and wonder what lay beyond the tall oak tree.

Screen shot 2014-09-05 at 1.52.39 PMHe thought of his mother who was no longer alive at that point, sitting on the edge of his bed in her yellow night-gown. She left a gust of elegance where ever she would go, yet the boy’s favorite memory was how she read him bedtime stories. As she read, her voice would sail along in the tranquil wave of a breathing sea. The air she inhaled became the sweet surrender of an anchor-less ship during bedtime tales. Each night, the boy and his mother would drift from island to deserted island, all the while walking their giant slender fingers along the ocean floor. She showed the boy a lonely paradise and explained how these islands in fact were peaks that connected in the deepest valleys of an earthly soul.

So yes, she was his songbird and time had taken her, as it always does, but not before she had released the echoes of her endless days. These echoes were strings that never seemed to end and would continue to shape the young boy’s heart long after she was gone. The memory of her planting lilacs in the garden, her insistent mastery of allure, and the distinct smell of basil which she always used when she cooked; these memories left the boy with the boldest intuition that assured in him — his mother had never left his side.

In this fleeting moment of nostalgia the boy looked towards the sky. The cloud he noticed earlier seemed to come alive. It swirled swiftly and he felt vigorous gusts of wind as they shifted tufts of his disheveled hair. While looking out his bedroom window the boy would paint an image of himself as an older gentleman, always with great impressionistic swoops that portrayed the boy as now, but tall and hair flecked with white and grey. He’d walk with a cane and feel similar winds of such, but in the refined flavor of an aging solitude.

As the boy’s thoughts turned his reflections inward, the cloud had formed a spiral and filled the air with a crisp scent of forest pines; a scent that rode upon the same invisible fog of the magical world beyond the tall oak tree. In this world there were lumberjack giants, happy old fishermen that fished all day, and mothers reading in the golden dust of bedtime tales.

Although the pebble path diverged endlessly, the boy would not miss a step in hesitation to choose which path was his to take. He had spent many hours imagining what lay beyond the tall oak tree and he would not dare let his dreams of day fade at the mercy of misguided and inauthentic temptation. “Walk tall my boy”, his mother would say, “Son do not be afraid.” The boy had grown well aware of the cards the devil played.

The boy’s favorite bedtime story his mother used to read him was about a river, blessed by the Goddess of the Forest to flow in everlasting harmony throughout the world. “This harmony”, the Goddess whispered to the river, “will be the torch of life for all creatures of the earth. I bless you to flow in eternal grace as the most supreme, the crux, the elixir of life.” There was only one condition the river was instructed to obey however — to never change the direction of its flow; because it was the current of the river, as the Goddess put it, that would set the natural rhythm of the world.

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The boy often imagined himself as the river. His life was guided by elegance and fluidity as the story of his life advanced. He could aim with a steady eye but the boy had learned through trial and error; to surrender expectations of precision is to liberate the soul. And as the years would teach him, it was in this paradox of letting go that his aim would be precise.

The boy reached the bend in the river, which was known as Bar-Sur-Aube around his village. In this moment the cloud spiraled into oblivion, having served it’s purpose as an omen used by the Goddess of the Forest to stimulate the boy into following his path. The boy however, had only noticed the disintegration of the cloud in his subconscious.

His mind was busy dancing along the fringes of past and future. His imagination was filled snapshots of moment’s frozen in time; ancient lions drinking from the river, his mother placing the blackberries she picked in a basket resting upon his own prenatal womb, and the image of his older self with a cane-supported crooked back returning to the bend in the river. He felt eyes among him in the midst of ghosts of past and future.

The boy began to look for the tall oak tree that marked the bend in the river. He had always seen it so clearly, so crisply from the distance of his bedroom window. This bewildering moment kindled a corridor in the darkest corner of his soul; it was the fusion of an enigmatic world with a world that was prisoner to a false reality.

Nevertheless, the boy searched near and far and could not find the tall oak tree this day. He had only ever seen its branches stretching towards the sky from behind his freshly painted bedroom windowpane.

It had only been a sight he thought. He had never felt the wind. The boy had never smelled the scent of pines or heard birds chirp so happily. He had only sat, had watched; he had only hoped and dreamed.

The boy had planned methodically to leave her at this place. For quite some time it was as if gravity had pulled his every thought to the tall oak tree. His mother often spoke precisely of the peace she found in solitude at the river’s bend, so the boy with valid reason knew he could not be mistaken. Kneeling to the ground, the boy thought of his mother. A single tear fell to the soil and he realized; for a short time they would remain on two separate islands — islands that were simply the peaks of a deeply connected core. Her presence he felt strongly at this moment and so the boy removed a small purple cloth that held his mother’s ashes.

Many years passed. The boy grew into an old man and gained a great deal of wisdom and fulfillment. He moved on from his childhood story and eventually found the love of a counterpart; one that would last for all his days. He raised a family and accomplished things that proved his living had made the world a better place. He thought of his mother often and knew she would be proud of the man he had become; although, as the boy grew older he felt a swelling pang of restlessness coursing somewhere deep within his veins. To feel at peace the boy — now old — would wander into the forest, because this is where his soul would open up and sing.

One day, as the old man was walking through the forest he approached an abandoned path. The man noticed with the faintest recollection of an ancient bygone memory, a pebble stone trail weaving through the forest beneath his boots. The sun shined through the treetops in such a way that the subtle echoes of his story began to emerge from a far off place. It was the kaleidoscopic convergence of all his long forsaken memories; the stirring up of settled dust. All the snapshots of his life began to play as if they were slides in an ancient movie reel. He saw a key approaching a lock, the last piece of a puzzle snapping into place, a hand writing the last sentence of an untold story.

The old man dropped his walking stick and began to run towards the roar of a rushing river current that filled his ear.

In this moment, the Goddess of the Forest shed a tear as she watched the old man discover what had grown at the bend in the river. The boy, now old, felt a familiar gust of wind as he stood beneath the tall oak tree.

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