She ran towards her old friend, tears streaming down her face. They were at it again and she just had to escape. Home was not a happy place for her. But the woods nearby were.
She ran to them, often. She was told to stay out of the forest, that teenagers hung out there, drinking. And, although she was an obedient girl, the calling of the trees were louder. She couldn’t resist entering their world and leaving hers behind.
One day just like this a few years ago, her parents in a horrible argument, she quietly stepped outside, closed the door behind her, and headed to the forest yet again. That day a path she had never noticed before beckoned to her. The sun lit it up like a lamp leading the way. Every twist and turn drew her deeper, the path continuing to entice her to what was around the next bend.
And then, like the surprise of a Christmas morning, she found herself at the edge of a field. Long, green grasses with their airy seed heads blew gently in the summer breeze. Wild flowers hummed as bumble bees gathered their pollen. Butterflies danced in the air above. The sound of birds and squirrel chatter and saw bugs filled the air. Fluffy cumulus clouds floated in a brilliant blue sky. What was this? Had she died and gone to heaven? And then she saw it. A grand old oak with a thick limb practically hugging the ground, longer than any limb she’d ever seen, and low enough to climb. She ran to it, jumped and locked her arms around its girth, and swung her leg up and over. She leaned against the trunk, and hugged her knees, as the tree cradled her like a baby in its mother’s arms. The cares of the world and her sadness melted away, and a loving calm entered her soul. She took a deep breath, taking it all in. This place was perfect.
She visited her friend the tree often. That grand old limb was her reading spot, the horse she’d never had but wished for with all her heart, a balance beam (she never fell), and, most of all, a place of daydreams. The bark was actually wearing down in places from her frequent visits, a sign of their time together, outward proof of their love. What would she be without this tree that had brought her such joy?
Things were changing outside of this little world of theirs, too. Enabled by the love she felt here, she was coming out of the protective shell she’d constructed around her, and life in the real world was getting better. She could even handle her parents’ arguing most of the time, blocking them out until their voices became a distant hum. But today was different. There were money issues, and they were fighting about selling the house and moving in with her mother’s sister the next town over.
They might as well have been fighting about moving across the country. She didn’t care about leaving the house. But this home of hers and her mother the tree, her father the sun, her brothers and sisters the animals – how could she leave them? She wasn’t old enough to drive and come back here. What was she going to do? She could hardly breathe. She swung herself up into her mother’s arms and the tears turned into sobs. Her cries filled the air and the air absorbed them. A gentle rain began to fall. And then she heard a calm, sweet voice. “Don’t cry, little one. We are with you always, wherever you go. We have always been watching over you. We led you here, and we will lead you to a new place. Look for us and you will find us. We love you and your heart. Your spirit is safe with us. Do not be afraid and do not be sad. Go forward and do great things. We believe in you, dear child.”
And then she noticed that the rain had stopped, along with her tears, and the sun shone more brightly than ever before.