Get a free copy of my eBook “Stories the Earth Told Me” from May 24, 2020 until May 28, 2020 on Amazon.
Paperback copies are also available too.
From the Prologue ~
The Tree of Life is not only for mystics.
The trees around my childhood home were my closest companions. I nestled in their branches sang them songs I heard in my mother’s record collection: Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons,” Kingston Trio’s “Tom Dooley,” Peggy Lee’s “Fever.” Or I’d make up songs of my own about little bugs crawling on my skin or the Native Americans I imagined walking in the distance of centuries.
Unlike my brothers and the other boys around, I shot no one with guns or arrows in my imagination. Instead of crushing, I mended. Instead of burning, I built shelters with stray boards, rusty nails, and a ball-peen hammer.
With a box of ceramic tiles I found by the road, I built a shrine for the Indians who used to live in our woods. I lured a younger, malleable neighbor boy to the shrine for a ceremony. We spoke words to the Great Spirit around the pink tiles I laid in the shape of a coffin.
I nibbled on the sour stems of plants my mother sprinkled throughout her flowerbeds and beneath trees. I held red berries on my tongue that made my mouth ache like lemons before spitting them out for the birds, if they wanted them.
The spider’s eggs looked like saliva on the milkweed, so those I left untouched.
I told the trees stories, too. There was a story about cats from outer space, their tiny, flying saucers descending into the clearing of trees, beams of green light scanning the ground on their descent.
Some stories required research: The Tudor sisters had rooms in my woods. There was a throne room for Queen Bess. Bloody Mary’s room had a floor of broken beer bottles; my brothers decorated her boudoir in shattered glass.
Take heed, all who enter here.
Deep in the woods, in a hard-to-reach place under low branches, I found a shop-class wooden box, buried in the soft-cedar-sprig earth. The pungent-smelling box sometimes was locked and sometimes not. When the lock was off, I’d slide the thin, Zig-Zag rolling papers between my fingers, I’d unstick the pages of dirty magazines and discover hidden wonders. Then I’d return it all to the earth, a secret.
Much of the ground was hard limestone, filled with fossils of ancient sea creatures. I know from experience that you can’t hear the ocean in the fossil of a shell, but they’re nice to touch and ponder.
Stop. Listen for dinosaurs rumbling on the distant shore.
A crystal vein ran through the woods, too. Once I gathered many crystals and put them in a pouch. But I could not contain them. They trembled to escape the darkness. They wanted to be on the ground. They had glittering to do. So I scattered them under the trees, and let them be free as God made them. I didn’t need to own them; looking at them was satisfying enough for me.
A Texas child, I knew of heat. No one told me to come inside—thank God—during the 1980 heat wave. People had T-shirts commemorating how hot it was. To not get burned, I learned to let the water hose run a minute before holding it to my mouth. I’d drink and drink and drink, then drop the hose and get back to the trees, to the real living.
Keeping a safe distance from the water moccasins swirling on the creek.
Digging for crawdads in the mud, placing them across the street and watching them walk back to the water.
It is a strong instinct.
Following the stream to mystic stones.
Vine-swinging can break your bones.
Spotting horned toads, roadrunners, armadillos,
Daddy-long-legs, so many daddy-long-legs,
Daddy-long-legs for days and a lifetime of daddy-long-legs.
A sudden tarantula.
A slither of a snake at my toes.
Singing like the bobwhites, mockingbirds, mourning doves.
A hawk steals a rabbit from the field.
Riding on the back of my brother’s dirt bike, squealing joy till we fell and bloodied my nose.
Running barefoot in the mud; I still have a scar from the cutting glass.
Sitting in the underground fort built by a dozen shirtless teenage boys.
A girl, I am not allowed to be comfortable like them. It is forbidden.
But the Spirits. The Sprits in those trees truly saved me.
One day, I ran to the woods to play like I always did, but on this day the trees put up a wall so I could not pass. All of the woods shook and showed me a man in red shorts. His feet made crunching noises on the rocks. I was afraid of the man I saw in my mind. The Spirits in the Trees sent me back inside, and I obeyed. A day later, I went to a friend’s house, and her mother told us we couldn’t go outside because the police stopped by saying they were looking for a man in red shorts. He’d been hurting children.
Trees for Life
Closest of confidants
Pulling strands of bark slowly from a cedar tree, I weave together pieces
Eating sap from my long brown hair
My fingers blue from fondling juniper berries too long
Waiting for Ulysses to come home from battle at last
This is Breathing.
This is the Tree of Life.
No wonder the mystic traditions feel like home, the metaphors of Nature woven into Everything.
Poetry ~ and prose ~ live in the stillness and listening to Elements.
There are Worlds in the crackling of Fire, in the ripples of Water, the Sky so blue, the crawling Earth.
I sang to trees and told them stories.
And these are some of the stories the Earth told me in return.