Ribbons & Ivy

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Originally published on The Glass Coin on September 27, 2010 under the Title Ribbons & Ivy.

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I am Adotee.  I was not born, I simply became.  I am the spirit of the valley.  I have lived here for as long as the stars have shined.  From this valley comes life.  I am its guardian and protector.  It is all I need.  Yet, there was a time when I longed for your world.   I found a way to become like you.

My magic flowed from an old oak standing in the middle of my forest.  It was the oldest of all the forest guardians.  I brought sunlight and water to the forest.  I lived in harmony in the branches of the trees.

Because of this the humans came, settling at the foot of my mountain.  Four rich streams that began deep in my mountain, ran down through a single canyon into the foothills below.    The sweetness of the water and the abundance of the fish made the humans prosper and grow.

Families lived and multiplied below my valley.  Little girls became young women.  The young women began to stray up through the canyon into my mountain valley.

I watched the human girls grow and play.  Slowly, I became aware of how very alone I was.  I longed to be like them.  Young men would come, taking a bit of wood for their dwellings, hiking into my canyon with horses and tools.

I began to act like the young woman.  Removing the ivy from my hair, I tied it up with a ribbon found among my trees.  Using the cover of night I would slip unseen to the village and watch as human girls brushed their hair and dressed in gowns.

They had taken much from my valley and I saw no harm in removing a dress and some shoes from their homes.  They had cut down my trees to build their homes.

I began to play among the human girls.  Dressed as one of them, I learned to flutter my eyes at the young men who carried sharpened steel called an ax towards the hills.  I would blush as they marched off towards my mountain and whisper about them with the other girls.  I was no longer alone.

The days grew longer into summer, we took a walk together picking flowers in my valley.  I had not been there since becoming one of them.  As we laughed and talked, the sound of steel on wood came ringing through the valley.  The sound waves cut through the laughter and with the sound waves, an agony was brought I had never felt.

A cloud lifted from my eyes and I saw what had been done to my valley.  The grass was burnt and parched and the trees were grey with a cloak of death.  There had been no rain since I had donned my pretty frocks. The soil remained unfed since I removed the ivy from my hair.

I raced through my valley to the source of the pain.  There standing with his ax poised to strike yet again, was the young man I had gazed at with desire.  With each swing his ax bite it my oak.  And with each gash cut into the side of the tree, blood poured freely down my back.  I had sought how to become human and found it.  In humanity I had lost all that I really was.

Gathering the power about me, I tossed the boy from the tree.  The ground trembled with my despair and pain, my oak began to die.

Screaming terror of the young girls echoed through the valley.  They ran in fear from me.  Reaching up into the heavens, I pulled down the walls of my canyon, cutting the humans off from my valley.

I had been selfish.  I had neglected who I was and why I was born.
Turning back to my oak I saw the damage that had been done.  I lay panting at the foot of the ancient guardian.  I had let it down.  All I was had been spent in my rage and anger, now there was nothing inside me.  My strength and power came from the oak.  The oak was dying.  I was empty, I was human.

I labored to breath.  My energy had once been sustained by the sunlight.  Now, I was human and my lungs ached from the efforts of moving.  I could fly effortlessly through the forests. Now, the trees tore at my dress and ripped at my fragile skin.

All around was a death that I had brought.  Not just to my valley.  The death in the valley brought sickness to the humans.  The streams had grown foul in my absence.  The fruit of the forest became bitter and hard.  There was nothing left for me to do.  I lacked my power and was left with the soft body of humanity.

Yet, my purpose remained.  I began to carry water to my forest, using a hollow gourd.  With patience I tended my forest.   My hands, softened by humanity bled as I tended the soil.

As the summer turned to fall I labored in my valley.  What once I did with but a wave of my hand was done with back breaking labor.  My hands became rough and stiff and my body broken.

Fall became winter, and I slept in the earth, giving my human body up to the storms, letting go of what I once sought so desperately.  I waited for what I knew would come.  The winters lighting brings with it the cleansing destruction as dead growth was burned away.  The heat of the fire opened the seeds of the old trees.

The winter sun faded into to spring, its warmth melting the winter snow.  I could feel the power of life thrumming through my veins as the sap awoke in the trees.  The valley awoke and with it my power returned.  As I moved out into the sunshine I found that I had never been alone.

I am Adotee, I am life.  I once longed to be like you. I could not see the magic of my world until I lost it all.

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The artwork in this story is the work of  Lindsey Cormier / http://www.lindseycormier.com

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