| Whispers in the Wind
Standing on the hill, the breeze caressed her face and dried the tears on her cheeks. She closed her eyes, the same shade of brown as her father. The vacant eyes her father, his mouth agape, his raspy breathing, and the last tear that trickled from his eye as he died haunted Daphne. The sparkle and mischief that made him seem forever young had long since left those eyes and Daphne wanted the suffering to end. Now all she wanted was to feel his arms around her and be able to look at his face again.
Three days before her dad died, Jeff delivered his crushing blow. He wanted a divorce. Daphne knew Jeff did not plan it that way, however, such is life. The emptiness consumed her and she needed to escape.
Confused, lonely, and afraid, her father dead, Jeff gone, and nobody to turn to, Daphne wanted to run but she had nowhere to go.
She ran her fingers through her long dark hair and bit her bottom lip. Because of the divorce, the moving would begin again, and those ten years of wandering from place to place like a nomad rose before her eyes. Daphne squeezed her eyes shut against the past but it refused to leave.
Once, the stress of her father and the divorce would have driven her to search the streets for the familiar wink of the eye and nod of the head. “I've got what you need baby.” The needle to oblivion; the nameless, faceless, men; the courage in a glass; and the obsession of mind that followed; Daphne knew the drill. She drove away everyone she ever loved. She worked hard and changed all that.
When she met Jeff, her shattered life was back together. She believed she would never tire of looking into his sky-blue eyes. Daphne believed theirs was a match made in heaven. She believed many things and when they married she believed the gypsy life was over.
What went wrong? The questions went around and around. Insanity could be like that. So in the end it simply didn't matter.
Daphne never thought in her worst nightmares she would watch the brilliant man of her youth descend into a world so incomprehensible. It broke her heart.
As she hugged herself and let the tears flow. She recalled the tender way her stepmother Theresa cared for her father. Her father adored Theresa and she him. Perhaps Daphne would never find love like theirs in this life; Theresa kissed his face, held his hand, bathed him, changed him, and loved him till the end no matter how hard it got. It was important to Theresa that her father died at home and Daphne saw this was true for them both. Daphne saw something special between them that she knew was rare.
All of these thoughts ran through her mind as she drifted down the hill towards the bench.
Daphne loved to come this time of the year for the medley of colors in the trees, watch them blow in the wind, and contemplate life. Here on this bench, she experienced all her: longings, her dreams, her passions, her nightmares, her sadness, her hopes, and her creations. This is where everything began and where everything had ended so long ago. It seemed only fitting that the bench, her first husband Jim, had given as a wedding gift, was the same place her first marriage ended, where she had begun the crusade of self-destruction, and where she came to now.
She came here for solace, the trees seemed to hold the secrets to the eternities in their branches. What had they seen in the canopy of their shade? It had been 12 years since she had been here and the trees were taller and untamed; the bench amidst this wildness appeared as sanctuary.
The trail overgrown after years of no use gave Daphne the privacy she sought. She needed answers to her fears. Why did he die when she still needed him so? Why had she wasted so much precious time all those years ago? Why did that disease steal the best part of him---his mind? Daphne longed to catch a glimpse of her father’s spirit blowing in a breeze or feel a gentle touch to let her know he was somewhere. . . .
Anywhere. . . .
Her heart was breaking. . . .
She sat in the gathering darkness. Ill-omened clouds, inky black, billowed across the sky blocking out the light. Daphne lost herself for the time in revered anticipation of the storm. She could smell the earth and the leaves, made sharper by the growing dampness. A fine mist beaded on her hair and skin. The breeze had turned into a wind that whipped through the trees. Daphne listened. Voices. And they came from the trees. She was mesmerized..... Whispering was all around.
The large oak remarked the wind was coming from the northwest.
The majestic evergreen feared there would be lightening. Both trees recalled sadly the old pine split in two by the last storm. The top to the pine lay haphazardly on the ground and left behind was the jagged and scarred trunk.
The oak spoke at least the last time there was no fire.
And the scarlet maple was sure that lightening was not the worry this day.
The evergreen dreaded with the cold and warm air tornadoes may come.
But the maple could hear the snow and ice coming in the wind.
The oak, however, was more interested in the woman on the bench below. "She’s watching us."
The maple wondered if she could hear what they were saying.
“I don’t know commented the oak but I’ve seen her before long ago. She loves storms - any kind. She would walk in the snow, rain, and ice - it made no difference. It was as if she needed them."
The maple could almost feel her confusion and her pain. It gathered around her like a thick smoke almost choking her with its intensity. She seemed so isolated and alone yet she seemed to be looking for something.
The oak knew that today was the day.
The evergreen looked at the oak with uneasiness. He’d spent a lifetime in his shadow but now even though he was finally taller, the evergreen saw the oak with his limbs reaching, spreading further; he would never be as powerful as the oak no matter how long he lived. He looked again at the pine struck by the lightening, twisted and torn in the middle, bent and hanging, the branches crushed into the earth and then he glanced at the big oak.
Because of the height of the evergreen, he feared lightening and wind. The tops of the trees moved in a circular motion.
He waited in fear; for the wind, the rain, the lightening...It all came with a price some good, some fatal.
The lightening. . .it. .
He looked again at the woman and then at the oak…..
She had abandoned herself for a moment but reality was always a heartbeat away. She wanted something. Anything. Answers. Why did some people suffer while others seemed to go on with life as if nothing ever touched them? Where was her father now? Could he see her? Did he care? Did the oak know she was here? What kind of things had it seen before? Did it have the answers she sought? Was her Father somewhere up there? Where was her faith? She thought she knew the answers to all these questions and yet her loneliness choked her with despair and she didn’t know what she believed or thought anymore.
For a moment she could look up in the leaves of the oak and could almost see eternity there in the branches. The larger limbs branched out into smaller limbs these branched out into twigs, into thin twigs and leaves until it was impossible to count.
She looked at the trunk of the tree.
Did the roots go into the earth the same way? What kind of events had taken place beneath this oak she wondered.
The wind became sharper and she reached her arms up towards the tree feeling inexplicably drawn towards its foreboding beauty.
The pain of the past events felt sharper and more intense with every gust of wind and she wanted only for a peace and calmness in her soul. Was her father somewhere out there beckoning and calling to her? Why was the tree drawing her so? She didn’t really care. She just wanted to go away. Wanted the pain to stop. Wanted her heart to stop hurting. Maybe if she could just disappear……
The oak interrupted. "Just a little closer..."
Daphne was losing herself in the whispering of the trees. She didn’t care anymore. All she felt was tired...
Just so very very tired…..of the ache in her heart.
Just so tired..Then came a favorite line from Shakespeare's Macbeth to her that often came to mind as she drifted into sleep, at this moment all she could remember was... "Sleep no more Macbeth doth murder sleep. Sleep that knits up the care and balm of hurt minds. . .
"Balm of hurt minds. ."
Daphne wished she could remember more but it was all wrong it her head as she felt herself drifting further and further. Like a ship on the ocean. She felt herself drifting away.."care and balm"..
Further and further she drifted...
Daphne transcended to another plain. No longer did she feel....
The pain was gone....and she let her spirit go upward...
She could hear the voices more clearly. One was saying, "See how much she wants; she wants to feel the wind; she wants to stand tall and watch life go by..." All other sounds were drowned out by this voice. The woman thought yes, yes I do want to do those things. The tree drew her like a magnet.
The oak stretched with a mighty gust of wind and said, "It is finished."
Daphne could feel her arms grow stiff as the branches of the tree. She could feel herself bend and stretch with every gust of the wind. She could hear more sharply the rustling of dry brown leaves not yet fallen from the limbs of the branches; her limbs; her branches.
So immersed was she in the experience, she did not even know her fate.
The evergreen transfixed by the oak now believed in the Indian legends of old. He listened for some sound or utterance to come from the old tree.
The soul of the oak entered Daphne’s body and was seized by a pain so sharp that it dropped the woman's body to her knees. The moisture on the cheeks of the face were salty.
When he was able, he stretched the legs and arms; it had almost been a century since he had felt the warmth of human flesh. He tried to recapture what he remembered from before when he had made the exchange.
When he had looked down at the woman's body he remembered the desires of a human but now he was having trouble ridding himself of the unpleasant sensations pulsing through this body. He tried running his hands down her body but her agony was too great too arouse any pleasure and he puzzled over the flood of feelings he seemed powerless at the moment to control. He sat on the bench a dark heaviness upon him staring into space. This is not why he had traded places with the woman.
What could cause such a state in a human?
Fear seized Daphne as she gazed upon her body below her on the bench. What happened? Where was she?
The whisperings were louder. One voice rose above the others and she heard.
The oak traded places with her. I thought it was a legend of Indian children but I see it is true.
The voice came from the evergreen.
Daphne paralyzed by fear and still possessed by this forlorn emptiness could say nothing. And she found no escape from her pain and suffering for still she was aware of her thoughts and her emotions and unable to do anything about them. She found herself confined in a prison with no hope, when her father's voice seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere.
“Daphne have no fear I am here. You have the very best parts of me just as your children have the very best parts of you to pass on and so it goes? A soul cannot take what is not theirs to take and keep it; all living things have a relationship to each other. We are born to be as we are and we have souls unique to each of us. See the power of life in all things; how we are all connected to one another but we all have our place. We need one another to survive. Your connection to me is not over I will live on through you, your children, their children, your memory and your heart. Just like the eternity you saw in the branches of the trees. It goes on and on. Grieve for me, it is part of life, but you must take back what is yours. Do not let a moment of weakness and the power of greed in a soul take what is not his to take."
How Daphne wondered would she accomplish such a task but her thoughts were interupted with the intensity of the raging storm. The limbs of the oak groaned with the force of the howling wind. All of the trees bowed from the relentless pounding of the storm. Lightening lit up the sky and the thunder was deafening. Daphne stood totally vulnerable and helpless. In her fear, she forgot for the moment her dilemma.
Coming out of the stupor, the soul of the oak heard the voice of the father to his daughter and he listened. For the first time the oak had something he did not understand, a response to a situation that was not born out of lust. Perhaps it was the condition of the body of the woman, perhaps it was the words he heard, he did not know but he no longer wished for this body, he wished to return things as they were as soon as possible. He hoped in so doing for peace.
Before the oak could act, the full fury of the storm was upon him. A bolt of lightening hit the oak, Daphne must be returned before it was too late. It was then that a decision was made that surprised even him. He made a transfer with the woman knowing that his oak, the oak for his soul may have been destroyed. At the moment of the exchange Daphne laid limp on the bench then her body arched upward, lay still, and her eyes slowly opened.
The brief encounter with this human brought the oak a brief understanding of something he never before had---compassion. It seemed that the old oak lost only one of his limbs but some other human emotions were left behind. Sadness, loneliness, despair, and love. Yes, the oak received a few things as well. Would that be the peace he was looking for?
Daphne looked up at the trees the whisperings stopped with the calming of the storm. She wondered what had happened to her. Had she imagined it? She glanced at the oak with fear, awe, and something else…. Daphne smoothed her hair held her hands up to the rain, shook the rain from her hair, and laughed. It was a wicked laugh…. Yes indeed she had gotten a little something from the oak as well.
As she turned to leave the bench she saw her reflection in a puddle of water. She saw the same brown eyes as her father staring back at her with the same sparkle. Her hair was the same dark color and when she smiled at the reflection she saw the same crooked grin. Daphne knew every time she looked in a mirror she would see her father looking back her.
She had gotten more than solace that day. She looked back at the oak and smiled. A shiver ran through her. Then she looked once again at her reflection and sighed.
Entombed within the oak had brought her a glimpse of longings she had never known existed. Every time she saw her reflection she would be reminded of her qualities of goodness and yet she felt stirrings warning of a conflict awakening within her soul...