I wrote this story all the way back in 2004 when I was shuttling between Sevilla (Spain), Thoiry (France), and Geneva (Switzerland). I was still dealing with acute PTSD at the time, and one healing methodology I was invited into was an Indigenous Sweatlodge Ceremony, an experience that inspired this story. I haven’t edited this piece because it has a marvelous energy that takes me right back to the Sweatlodge. I’ve never written anything like it before or since and there’s power in that singularity. I’ve also spent the entirety of 2021 in weekly intensive trauma therapy, and this story resonates newly with my healing journey in ways I never would have predicted 18 years ago. There’s something magical about this piece, another reason I’m leaving it untouched.
- A systematic, usually extensive written discourse on a subject. A written composition on a subject in which its principles are discussed or explained.
- (Obsolete) A tale or narrative. A story.
Once upon a time, not so far away, there lived a Young Couple who were very much in love. The Young Man had been a nameless soldier in a perpetual war. They were married just before he left, they had only made love once, but with each glance that passed between them were years of lovemaking condensed. The Young Man had never believed in love before he met the Young Woman. The Young Woman had been waiting for him, but never knew until he appeared one day in her village. When their eyes met, they could see the future. But, he was going to war, he had to leave the very next day. Instead decided to stay for four extra, priceless days. They married, they held each other, yet the future so clear had become hazy.
What if he never came back? At least I had him for these days, she responded to herself. These glorious days. He will be back. I will love him forever. I will love her forever. They held each other tightly, afraid to blink, barely breathing, living off the heat of their emotion. I could stay here forever they thought at the same moment, without speaking their one wish.
Then he was gone. To war, to battle, to kill. The Young Woman was alone. I will never love again. She returned to the spot at the edge of the village where they shared their last kiss. She planted flowers there. She treated it as a grave. She brought candles. She spoke to the ground. She prayed. She wished a baby had blossomed. She left offerings of tears, menstrual blood, and honey candies. I will never love again, she sang to the grave, the candles, the trees.
An entire year passed and a garden bloomed at the edge of the village. Each week a new flower, a new plant had emerged. No one else’s roses smelled so sweet or tasted so fine. The wives of the village would secretly collect fallen petals and cook them in stews that became aphrodisiacs. There were dozens of babies born on account of the Young Woman’s roses. But it was not just the roses. The corn was tender on the cob and tasted like rain. Her raw potatoes melted in one’s mouth and brought to mind warm fires. To the Young Woman, everything her garden produced tasted and smelled like tears, a sadness that seeped through her body and empty womb. I will never love again, she sobbed as she planted violets, garlic, tomatoes, sweet peas, cherries, and peppers.
Two years passed. Three. Four. I will never love again. She dreamed of him every night, she watched him as he aged. She did not know if the dreams meant he was dead or alive. It didn’t matter because there would never be another.
And then, on a sultry summer day, he appeared. She thought at first she was hallucinating while planting oleander and nightshade. She thought she was dreaming. She cursed her mind for its cruel tricks. She looked away from her love, swearing at herself, crying into the bed of earth, until his hand touched her shoulder.
She turned. She did not believe. She did believe. She always knew he would return. She always knew.
‘I will love you forever,’ she cried and fell into his arms. ‘I will love you forever,’ she laughed and laughed.
My love, forever, never apart again, never dreams again, never waiting for your touch, your gaze, don’t ever let me go.
And they lay together, amidst roses, pineapples, pears and peppermint, the fruit of four years waiting. Their mouths touched slowly, not even kissing, breathing each others breath, remembering their souls. They began to orgasm. They held onto each other as the earth shuddered along with their trembling flesh. The garden began to glow.
For hours, days, weeks, they lay there, surviving only on love and air, never occurring to the lovers to pluck a piece of fruit or dig up a vegetable. Their mouths would not leave each other.
One day, the Young Woman awoke with a start. ‘I’m hungry,’ she said and began to devour melons, grapes, and cabbage.
‘Let’s move from here, far from here, have children in the woods.’
My love, my darling, my life, my breath, I will do anything for you.
So they moved far, far away, to a village famous for its potatoes. They quietly said their goodbyes. They never visited the garden, the grave, the place where love was reborn.
They moved to a cabin on the outskirts of the potato village, The Cottage owned by a distant relative of the Young Woman. The Young Man carried her across the threshold. He held her tightly. I will never let you go. He looked into her eyes as they made love, tears spilling onto her cheeks, my love, my all, I will never let you go.
‘Stay inside me forever,’ she said breathing into his mouth. He sighed his yes.
And as they slept, tangled in each other, sharing air, The Earth responded to their prayer. Hair turned to vines, arms to branches, two trees twisted, heartbeat, mouth to mouth, breathing together.
There inside The Cottage grew The Tree. It needed no water, no sunlight. Their love was enough. The Tree grew and grew and grew until no one remembered The Young Couple. The Tree grew and grew and life in the village continued. One day, The Tree broke through the roof, reaching, love always reaching higher. Leaves like canvas, thick and strong.
No one had set foot in the house until The Tree emerged with an explosion that shook the entire village. Sleepy townspeople came out of their houses rubbing their eyes and forgetting to check on their children. Old couples who hadn’t kissed in years turned to each other and held on as if this was the end. Young lovers ran to their loves, devouring each other in the town square, not caring who saw or who would tell their parents. As the earth moved, the townspeople understood love. With every cell of their bodies they felt peace, joy and an awakening of tired spirits. Some fell to their knees and prayed, tears streaming down their faces and smiles in their hearts. In the moment of the explosion, the world, life was illuminated. Babies were conceived, faith was found, hope opened.
The townspeople found themselves walking. They didn’t know where they were going, but they felt the pull. The closer they came to The Tree the more aroused they became. Women who had never experienced orgasms felt an unfamiliar tingling deep within their bodies. In that tingling lived wet desire that made their knees weak, their mouths water, and many cried out for more.
The townspeople reached The Tree, growing through the roof of the Young Couple’s house. No one could remember who lived there. They could just barely remember their own names, and they began to wonder why names were so important anyway. They felt it was possible to live without complications. That love is enough. The townspeople stood around The Tree and listened to it grow. Some said they heard pleasured moaning. Some heard a man’s voice whispering, ‘I love you.’ Some heard a woman. Some felt the heartbeat, strong and fast, vibrating through the ground.
‘What is happening?’ a desperate man asked.
‘Does it matter?’ a little girl responded.
The Desperate Man sat down. He thought of all his cruelties towards his wife, his children, his violence. He began to cry in heaving sobs, his howls tearing wetly from his chest. He began to pray for forgiveness. To whom he was praying, he didn’t know, but felt a presence, he felt someone was listening. He prayed and prayed, honestly and like a child. He prayed for forgiveness, he prayed that the love would enter him.
His wife awoke from the daze she had lived in for the last twenty years, since her marriage to the Desperate Man. In that moment she remembered the self she had lost, the self that had been beaten into submission. She climbed out of bed and heard her husband’s prayer, his anguish. She followed his voice and his sobs to the house of The Young Couple, not seeing all of the townspeople gathered around. She went to her husband, wrapped her arms around him. She forgave him.
He breathed into her mouth, told her how much he loved her, had always loved her and would always love her, that he would never hurt her again, that he couldn’t understand how he had ever hurt her, how sorry he was. She believed him. They began to make love, tenderly and sweetly, moving to the heartbeat of The Tree.
On this day, love in its purest sense moved through the townspeople. They wished, they prayed that they would feel this always. That they would never have to let go of anyone ever again. They prayed that they could stay there, in that moment, forever.
And The Earth responded to their prayers. Soon, hair became vines, arms became branches and bodies into trunks. These trees, the green that exists only when it is raining, hearts beating, moaning, whispering, I love you, I will always love you, forever doesn’t scare me anymore, to give you everything would be heaven, my darling, my love, love of my life, I will never let you go.
Villages in the region had a system: one village provided rice, one village beer, another village chicken. On trading day, the villages were shocked when no one appeared from the potato village. They sent a Messenger to investigate, fearing bandits or war. When the Messenger returned he looked as if he had been inside a steam bath for days. His face was flushed, his hands trembled with desire, and he had an erection that could not be sated no matter how many times he orgasmed. He told them what he had seen, which was nothing. That the village was empty and he had heard voices in the woods. He said he followed the moans, the cries of pleasure (becoming more and more flushed and uncomfortably erect in the telling) deep into the woods to a cottage surrounded by trees. But there was no one. He said the ground vibrated with desire, voices professed undying love, children laughed. But there was no one.
‘I would like to find a wife to love forever,’ he said quietly and left the house to find her.
The village council scratched their heads in confusion. The women, listening outside the door began to talk. Everybody talked. The women talked while embroidering, cooking, tilling the fields. The men talked while drinking beer, waiting for their wives to return home. It was said that the village had become haunted by Aphrodite’s spirit, that you could her moans and orgasms, and the moment that you heard them you would never be content alone again. There were a few young lovers who traveled to The Forest on a dare and never came back. Although missing, their families never worried. In fact, they were overcome with such love that in time the children were no longer even memories.
So The Forest grew. From love, my love, my one, light of my eyes, flame of my soul, my love, I will never leave you, my love, it is us forever.
But there were people that grew scared. People who did not believe in love, in spirits, in magic. They began to speak of evil demons, of treacherous phantoms. The Forest and the love called to them, but they would not hear. They continued to beat their wives, abuse their children, scream their rage through lashing tongues and fists. They refused to listen. They decided to burn The Forest to the ground. Burn it!, they screamed, burn it!, they clenched their fists and stomped towards The Forest made of love.
When they arrived only The Leader was immune to hope, love, compassion. So brutalized by his past, his memories, his inability to forgive, he stormed forward and set alight the first tree. What they heard was unimaginable. Screaming, wailing, not only from the tree on fire but all the trees, they smelled scorching flesh and burning hair. Screaming, dying, charring flesh. The Leader fell to his knees with his hands over his ears while the others smothered the flames with their own bodies, their cries melding with the tree. When the flame was extinguished, the cries of pain continued.
The Leader began to vomit, to cry, to pray, he vomited some more. His vomit turned into a black shape with sharp teeth and slithered away from The Forest. His demon expelled, he sat up with a start and only in that moment began to hear the voices of The Forest. The voices saying, I love you, it will be okay, you will heal, sometimes love hurts, your heart will bleed, but it always heals, it heals to make your love stronger, I love you, my darling, my love, my life. The Leader wrapped his arms around the tree he had tried to murder. He wrapped his arms around her so tightly and spoke the first kind words of his tormented life. Forgive me, please forgive me. And she did, and all of the pain stopped, in his love, in his moment of forgiveness, he became a part of her forever.
The Followers watched, tears streaming down their rough faces, raw from a lifetime of rage and the marks of the fire. They thought about their wives and children, their cruelties, and they began to pray. They began to sing, old songs that sounded like the wind and the rain in a language that they had never spoke, never heard before. They began to dance in a circle, slowly, singing with their hearts and all of their souls. They realized they had never been truly alive until these moments. They laughed like children at these miracles. They embraced their Leader, one by one, giving thanks. They cut off locks of their hair and left them by his trunk. They walked home, still singing and smiling.
When they reached their homes they made love with their wives tenderly, sweetly, they shyly smiled at each others’ nakedness like virgins. For many, it was the first time it had occurred to them to kiss. They made love with their breath, their tongues, they breathed each other back to life. Afterwards the women laughed and cried for joy, they went outside to pray, thanking their Creator, The Great Spirit, The Great Mystery for answering their prayers. The men never spoke of the miracles, but everything had changed in the village. No one was the same once the angry ones had turned to love. Everyone dreamed of the forest, they dreamed and knew that never again a harsh word would be spoken. Never again a fist would be formed. Language changed. Violence had been displaced.
There are dozens, hundreds, thousands of these stories. I love you, my love, my darling, sunshine of hope, partner of life, this love is all that matters, it is all that ever will.
Hundreds of years passed and The Forest grew. But so did the darkness, despair, people like The Leader, tormented, disturbed, living in hatred and rage. Concrete jungles grew from that violence, labyrinths of lead, steel and death. The people felt their true self, born from The Forest, but there were few who chose to identify with that love. It was easier in this new world that had moved on to kill, to steal, to harbor such violence, to disseminate poison than it was to be love. The Forest still lived, her children still lived, but they had forgotten how to listen. Cities grew, detachment grew, no one remembered that their roots are in love, save for a few who were still drawn to The Forest, towards The Cottage of the Young Couple, towards the love.
The voices still murmured, I love you, my darling, sweet one of rain and sunshine, I love you until the moon crashes and the sun moves backwards, my life, my one, the one, this love that flows forever with the rivers.
One day, a young man, a Writer, bought the land wherein lies The Forest. He saw photographs, he fell in love, he wanted to make an investment for his future, for his children. The Cottage, precious, with the tree growing through the bedroom, of which the proprietor said somehow never leaked in rain or the cold. The Writer had his doubts, but loved it anyway, and would live there regardless. ‘There’s just something special about it,’ he told friends and family. They shook their heads and clucked their tongues, but knew he was always a bit strange, always off in the air flying with eagles. His love stories, touching but sentimental and impractical. Everyone knows a writer has a meager future. But ultimately, it was his life, his choices, and he had never asked anything from anyone, least of all acceptance. So they humored him, they granted him his eccentricities. They told themselves that maybe one day he would find himself a woman who would live with him in his crazy house with a tree growing right through the middle.
The world was rocking and heaving, yet the eternal lovers in The Forest continued their sighs and moans. Their whispers in love, their dedications, their life, lovemaking, forever. The Young Couple, encapsulated in their embraced, whimpered I love you’s and kissed, kissed, breathed, stretched, tangled their vines together, smiled. They laughed and sang, they pressed their bodies closer and closer, their children grew around them until their trunk nearly filled the room.
When The Writer arrived, he stepped into the sacred forest and began to cry. He embraced every tree being, he left offerings of tears and strands of hair. He understood that every moment in his life had prepared him for this one. Every lover, every caress, every whispered hope had been a prayer answered in these moments. He promised The Forest, The Young Couple, that he would protect them always.
The first night, sleeping around the tree growing through his new home, he dreamt of The Young Couple. In his dream he walked through the Young Woman’s garden, he made love with a dark woman, hair down to her waist and a smile that was a piece of the sun. When they climaxed together she laughed a laugh that shook the plants and called a breeze to caress his face. In the dream they walked for miles until they reached The Cottage. They stood holding hands and watched The Young Couple, witnessed their answered prayer. They watched together the villagers, the creation of The Forest, and all of those who later became a part of her. They wept when The Leader set the flame, and they cried when he was forgiven. The Writer and the Dark Woman gazed deep into each others souls, trembling with tenderness, and a profound, aching love.
‘Wait for me,’ she said and smiled the sun. ‘I’m on my way, I’m lost, but I’m coming.’ He kissed her hand, each and every finger,
‘I will wait for you forever.’
He awoke, shaking.
It was midnight, the moon was full. He went outside and walked through the forest. Understanding. He found the scarred tree, cried and embraced them. He never knew a human was capable of feeling so much love as he felt in this moment. He knew now that every human was capable of so much love. More than this even. For the first time in his life, he had faith. He thought about the Dark Woman from his dream, almond eyes and long dark hair. Skin that smelled of the plains and history, the color of earth. He knew they had been together before. He remembered the sweetness of her mouth, like plums and cedar smoke. How their bodies, their hands, fit together. He felt he had never been alive until his feet first touched the soil, the soul of The Forest. He thought about The Young Couple, whose history seemed so familiar, and could hear their voices distinct among the thousands. He returned to The Cottage to sleep and dream, one arm wrapped around The Young Couple. He believed, he laughed and orgasmed in his sleep. When he awoke he remembered everything that had ever been.
The next day was rebirth. He was infused with love, life. He decided to write, but by hand for a change. But then he thought about the paper, that it had come from trees like these surrounding him. He wondered if it was better to tell stories than to write them. He decided, yes, it was better. He put down his pen and began to speak. To The Creator, to the trees, to his woman who was lost but listening. This is what he said.
I was here before, long before. Long ago. When warm-blooded dinosaurs, our ancestors, prayed to sacred hills. I remember that once we lived only to love, to pray, to create life from that faith. I know we lived in harmony, we spoke to spirits and they responded in waking life and dreams, for what is waking life but a dream we recreate in each moment of being. What is life but the sum total of this same being. Who are we but you, trees, air, water, fire. Life. Who are we but this spark of love, this knowing. Who will we become but love. Why should there be sadness with all of this endless possibility of love. Why choose sadness when love is alive, eternal, in every life breath that holds the key to happiness. Who are we but the sum of our spirits, not just this body, but all that came before it, before blood, before lineage, before the memory of the world as it exists, when we as vapor were created by the hands of God. Who are we but the weight of water, essence of wind, seeds planted a million years ago grown into mammals, body with a name in ether, fire of presence of love of passion, feeling untamed unhinged, incomprehensible and spreading. Who are we but the product of all histories, combined memory in every cellular presence, no different from the air speaking through these trees and the tone of the heart beat drum beat, sacred circles we are dancing down. What does this leave us but everything imaginable to live for. Who are we but being, waiting, praying, seeking answers, being led. Who are we but the reasons you give me, Mother Father of all Creation, all that is and ever will be. Who are we but vessels for divinity, this container for love, receptacle of peace, collectively seeking equilibrium from centuries of remembered violence. Who are we but more than this body, more than this soul, more than memories. Who are we but our dreams, our waking visions, the knowledge that there is more to look forward to, more than what has been recorded to look back to and more than words waiting to become.
His eyes were closed. Silence reverberated. The trees were quiet for the first time, and then they began to speak, each finishing the thought of the next. This is what they said.
With your words you can save the world. Your prayers, your truth, your vision will bring peace for it reminds us all that this is our prayer, our truth, our peace. I see you standing with millions, I see your woman with you, you speak in turns, your love, our love, will awaken hearts sleeping and dying in the poison of that absence. You will speak from here and they will arrive in flocks, alone, wandering. Those aimless will hear their own purpose in your voice which is their voice also. The same voice. This voice will crumble the cities back to the earth, it will free the bondage of enslaved souls, it will erupt volcanoes and angels will sing with you all. Don’t be afraid, never be afraid. You are a part of a whole too large to place a word around. You, They, all a part of the Great Mystery and will be forever. I love you, my darling, my child, you will be with us as the world never stops turning, your heart is stronger than fear, you will never lack love. Listen! Your woman is coming.
So The Writer stood there, arms outstretched and he waited. He waited for hours, days, one long moment, patiently, lovingly, tenderly he waited, living off the love of the forest. The sighs, the murmurs resumed and their lovemaking continued. He hadn’t realized he was holding his breath, he opened his eyes and gasped. She had arrived.
‘I had a dream about you,’ she said and smiled the sunshine beam he remembered. ‘We made love and watched all of these people turn into trees. I have been walking for days. I didn’t even know where I was going, but something told me it was towards you. I knew I already loved you with all my heart, even if we had never met.’ She smiled that radiant smile that was a piece of the sun and shuffled her feet, shyly. He melted into her arms. He could barely breathe. She stroked his hair, caressed the back of his neck. ‘I heard your story,’ she whispered. ‘I felt I had heard it before, in a dream. This is the truest, clearest moment of my life, and I have faith that life will become clearer with every breath we share.’
‘Stay inside me forever,’ he breathed into her mouth. She sighed her yes.
Before nothing there was always the potential that something could be. We are becoming. We leave trails behind our feet with strands of our hair. Our spirits drip everywhere. We diffuse. We begin to live freely. We baptize each other with blessed kisses. I will always run back to you. Destiny, my destiny. Destiny means all roads lead back to you. We are finished running circles around ourselves. Help us to love without expectations, to trust the future, to trust that love always remains even when it is gone or changes form. Let us make love until our legs tremble and our eyelashes flutter. Put your hand over my heart, my womb, think about flowers blooming. I want something to grow. I want to grow with you.
That night they slept wrapped around each other and The Young Couple who had become the eternal tree. But the Writer and the Dark Woman did not sleep peacefully. The Writer dreamed his family had disappeared. Nowhere he traveled could he find them, he began running only to realize he was running in place and an evil shape was gaining on him. The Dark Woman dreamt of the violence in her past, she saw blood, felt it warm on her hands, felt her body stretching out and tearing, she smelled death. They awoke at the same moment, hearts pounding and in a panic.
‘Who are you!?’ the Dark Woman screamed, her lips baring back from her teeth in a snarl, ‘I don’t know you who are you keep away from me you monster!’ She shrank away from him, feral, breathing heavily, a line of spit dripping down her chin. Her eyes blazed with rage and fear. ‘You keep away,’ she repeated, ‘You are not my plan, I plan to live alone, with nobody, ALONE, that way I will never hurt, I don’t know you, you will hurt me, I just know it. Just like all the others.’ Her sobs wracked her body so violently blood leaked from her eyes along with her tears, blood ran from her nose, the pores of her skin and dripped from between her legs.
The Forest was, once again, silent. They waited for him to choose.
The Writer looked at her, doubts creeping into his heart. What if she does this every night, what if she is crazy, what if I can’t help her, what about children, why is there so much blood, I’m disgusted to touch her, why is this such a mess, am I being punished, what did I do wrong, maybe she’s not the one, maybe I remembered her face wrong, maybe the real one is on the way, I don’t know her either, maybe she is the monster, maybe that is why she is still alone.
He felt cold. He felt that part of him had begun to die. An unbearable cold spreading throughout his chest. His feet began to freeze, turn blue, and the icy gangrene made its way quickly up his body until his limbs were stone with infection. He could not move, panicking, struggling, he closed his eyes and began to pray, quickly before his mouth froze shut.
Great Mystery of creation, help us now, be with us now, we call upon you for strength, the strength to love amidst the worst of circumstances, we ask your forgiveness for our own self-hatred, forgive us for all we do to destroy ourselves, making selfish decisions instead of following your guidance, trusting your vision of our life. Forest of Love, please help me for I know I hurt you with my doubts, I hurt my love, myself in these dark thoughts, these thoughts that my chosen one is not good enough, thoughts of running away when life takes a painful turn, and I have pained you with my disgust of what is only natural in its creation by you. Blood is life, tears are life, wounds are life, but this violence is not life, it is not natural, forgive me for the seeds of violence I encouraged, even for a moment, and help me to find the strength, to recognize my strength so I may never have a hard heart. Great One, Great Forest, all beings who can hear me, help me to know what to do to help myself be a better person, help me to know what to do to help this woman I love who is in so much pain, help me to help her, and forgive me my cruelties.
His body was no longer numb, but still his hands and feet were cold. She was quiet in the corner, listening to his prayer. She began to speak.
Please don’t judge me for mistakes I have made in the past. Please don’t judge my choices. Please don’t judge what was done to me against my will. I know I disgust you, I disgust myself, my deepest and truest desire until I set foot in this Forest had been to die, to leave this all behind. I still feel this desire and I can not be with you until I am ready to live, to love myself, to respect myself with a whole heart. Do you respect yourself? How much value do you place on your own life? I saw the vision too, the vision the Forest sent of our future, but I am not that woman yet. I am not so peaceful, I am not so loving. I know that I love you, I know we are to be together for always, but I am not right.
She closed her eyes in prayer. Mother and Father of all Creation, hear my prayer. That I may find healing, that these wounds will mend and I can move forward. Please help me to let go of this hatred, this violence, this anger and especially these towards myself. I hear your voice telling me that all I ever need to heal, all the medicine to put these wounds to rest, is within my heart already. Please help me to find it, to be filled with it so that I may move on, let go. I no longer blame you for all that has happened, I will work harder to not blame myself. Maybe these things were never meant to be, but they were, and they are in the past now, there is nothing to change the past now. Please help me to make better choices from this moment forward, to choose to see the love and miracle that emerges from each passing moment. Please help me to forgive, to put the past to rest, to recognize the gift of each breath as a second chance. Great One, Spirits, all who can hear me, help me to heal, to let go, please help also those who have hurt me, help them to heal for their suffering is far worse than mine. Please help us to understand our choices, to see clearly, to choose wisely. Please help us surrender to your love.
She opened her eyes. He opened his eyes. They spoke at the same time.
In the Spirit of all that is holy in this world, in the name of all sacred spaces, in honor of all who came before us, I promise you that I will never let you go. I will love you forever, no matter what comes to pass, no matter who the world and our hearts may change. Nothing you say will ever change my mind. I have chosen you. This decision remains as long as the sun rises and sets, the moon reflects the light of the sun, waxes and wanes and pulls the tide to and from the shore. I will be with you forever.
It began to rain. For the first time, The Young Couple allowed the rain to fall inside. The Dark Woman and the Writer lifted up their faces to the heavens, they drank, they washed themselves clean of blood and poison. They looked at each other shyly. They didn’t know what to say, so they laughed instead. Laughed and laughed until the rain stopped, and then they began to sing a song that emerged from the Young Couple, The Forest. They fell asleep singing, holding hands. They both dreamed of green plains so flat that lightning miles into the distance looked to be cracking open the earth. They stood on a small hill, holding hands, while the wind whipped around them. Walking towards them was a child, smiling and waving. They waved back and began to run towards her.
They awoke the next morning and smiled, tenderly at each other. They could see their futures in that smile.
‘Someone has arrived,’ she said while stretching.
They walked outside. Yes, people had arrived. They lay curled around trees, fast asleep in branches, a few awake and singing. The Dark Woman smiled and began to dance. She danced her prayers, her dreams, all of the love she felt for her man, the world, humanity, she left offerings of sweat and tears. She danced to always remember that the choice to love would always be natural. A drumbeat, heartbeat surfaced from the sighing forest. The Writer began to dance along, in an ancient love dance, in circles around his woman. Soon all the visitors were dancing, in this dance becoming a part of the miracle that was The Forest.
The danced, sang for hours, days, nourished by love and hope. While they danced they closed their eyes and dreamed the same dream.
The dream was a vision. In the vision they saw the universe as a blade of grass in the great mystery of the universe, the great mystery of life that never stopped turning. They saw, they felt the whole. The whole of history longer than imaginable, longer than wind and stronger than forever. They saw all the worlds before this one, immeasurable, unfathomable. There were a dozen, a hundred, a million people dancing, not just in The Forest, but everywhere, dancing down through heaven, history, the worlds that become and disappear. Spirits dancing, hair flying, voices as one raising up to the heaven so loud the eagles weren’t needed to relay the prayer to the Creator. In this moment, the Earth returned to herself, poison transformed into the cure, cities turned to ash, and we were all free.
When the vision ended the voices in The Forest said: ‘You must dance with your demons until they become angels.’
You must dance with your demons until they become angels. You must love your demons for they are just as much a part of you as love, as wonder. You must realize your demons have the power to teach you the most valuable lessons of life: to recognize the divinity inherent in each being on this earth, to learn how to practice compassion, to see all sides of a life of a story of an experience, to become universal love. You must hold your demons closer to your heart than your dreams, hold your demons tightly with love to make peace. Only then will you begin to feel free. Only then will your life begin. This will hurt, but do not be afraid. You can let go of your demons and still be whole. You are whole, dance with your demons and accept this.
Around the Dark Woman appeared shadowy figures that began to scratch and tear at her skin. Her eyes glazed over. She heard the screaming voices of her mother, her father, the punches thrown by her grandfather, the wet cries of her grandmother, she heard herself screaming no to men she trusted, screaming no and not being heard, screaming no and bleeding, screaming no so often not heard it began to mean yes, screaming this coerced yes until she believed she deserved it all. Her eyes were hard and wet like candy forced from a child’s mouth. Her demons circled around her drawing blood, so she began to draw her own blood also, raking her nails across her face, her arms her stomach. She was on her knees, in pain, thinking about blood, death. The silence that had always followed these tortures. The silence so deep that it had consumed everything she was until only a suppliant shell remained. The silence. The true demon. To be quiet when you need to be heard, to pretend it is acceptable when your words are turned around, to draw your boundaries again and again to include this horrific absence.
No, she said aloud. No, she said louder. No, she said as she used the ground to stand herself up. No, she said and looked her mother in her face. I love you, you are not allowed to hurt me with your silent judgment. To her father, I love you, you are not allowed to belittle my love with your own silence. You will listen to what I have been through and you will know your role in it. You will know how much I love you, that I have forgiven you for it all, but that does not mean my silence is won. That does not mean we start clean because I will always carry these wounds. They will not break open ever again, but they will remind me of where I came from, how far I have come, and the scars will promise that I’ll never do the same to one I love. This includes myself. She held them close to her, closed her eyes and sighed with contentment. Her mother and father turned to white light swirling and dancing, they surrounded her with warmth and love, they gave her the strength to continue.
The Dark Woman turned to her grandmother, her grandfather. From you I learned to hurt the ones I most love, you taught me how to hit with fists and cut with words. You taught me my first lessons in hate. I was too young to know the difference between what was love and what was poison. How long has this violence been handed down? Who did you receive it from? I love you, I thank you for my life, from you I also learned how to survive life’s cruelest moments. To survive amidst the pain, the bleeding. You were together until you died, I love you because you never gave up. I will make the choice you never made, I will end these cycles of violence. The cycle will end with me, this is my promise to you, to the generations that are to come. I love you, I forgive you, I pray you are at peace. I pray for my own peace. And so they smiled at each other, she took their hands and they laughed. They laughed together and she watched as they were illuminated by golden light, they shined so bright and dissolved into her laughter. They gave her the strength to continue.
The Dark Woman could hear the snarling demons at her back, three of them, the worst ones. Tears streamed down her face, red tears. The demons scratched at her back and she felt the blood dripping down. Warm trails down her legs, from between her legs. She watched it pool around her feet. This will kill me, she thought. If I don’t stop them, they will kill me, they will bleed the love right out of me, dry as a parched desert for lack of love. Do I want to die? I don’t want to die, I have so much to look forward to, I survived for a reason, there is a purpose. She looked at the pool of blood submerging her feet, I’m drowning in my own sorrow. If I let them stay, I am choosing to die, I make the choice to die. I don’t want to die. I want to live. I do, I want to live.
Slowly she turned towards the snarling, snapping, biting and guttural demons at her back. Here is what she saw.
Three human figures. Two men, one woman. Three human figures, smiling sadly at the choices they made. Three humans who committed violent acts in moments where they felt they could do no different. Three humans, the weight of their judgment to come heavily balanced on their shoulders, knowing what they have done will come back to them far worse. Three humans, suffering, in pain. Humans who made mistakes.
For a moment, she was surprised. She had become so used to her image of them as monsters, for what are those who rape and murder, but monsters. Are they monsters? She looked closer and saw only sadness, saw only pain, anguish. She tried to remember what they had done to transform themselves into monsters in her mind, she couldn’t find the memories. She realized the memories were no longer important. They were in the past, the past is over. In every moment we can choose to be free from the past. She gazed at the three lonely figures and she softened. She saw them as they were, as humans, imperfect, hurting, hoping, doing what they have learned to survive. She thought about The Writer’s story and she said to them.
Who are we but the sum of our mistakes. Who are we but those we have hurt. I have hurt people too and even though I would like to say I never hurt anyone as bad as you hurt me, I know that it is not true. Who are we to place value, to try to gauge another’s suffering. There is no machine to measure one’s pain against another’s. I have made many mistakes, I made unwise choices, and on those choices also led me to you. This does not excuse what you did, it only reminds me that there are many sides to each event, not one or two or three but hundreds. I am happy to see you not as monsters. I am happy to tell you that I am doing so well, that I learned so much from you and each day I learn more. From you I learned how to respect myself. I thank you, and I forgive you. I forgive you and I forgive me. I ask you to forgive me for holding onto your mistakes for so long. I pray that your suffering will end. I love you.
They looked at each other and wept tears that turned into stars, weeping until there were no more stars to become. The Dark Woman felt free. She wanted to dance but she was tired. She lay down and slept.
The Dark Woman dreamed of The Writer. She watched him as he danced with his demons and made peace with them one by one. His family, a lover, a childhood friend. In her dream she was with all of The Visitors as they danced with their demons, people from their past, their addictions, illnesses, even their own selves. She watched them complete the battle of their lives. She smiled as they won, and then slept, dreamt the same dream.
In their sleep The Forest smiled and sang love songs. The old songs, in languages no longer spoken, with notes that had been forgotten. The moans and sighs of love awakening as trees, lovers, humans turned to each other in comfort, companionship. They remembered their hearts as children and realized they had never lost that innocence, the wonderment of each moment of life, everything new. They remembered that anything imaginable is possible, that dreams are worth believing in, and love has always been worth it. They remembered that love is the only thing that ever mattered. They wondered how it was possible to forget the simplicity a life with love.
When they awoke, there were more visitors. And, The Forest had grown. There were soldiers, some still in uniform, fresh from war, blood oozing from wounds. Businessmen with aching consciences. Teachers who had walked miles to nourish the hope in their hearts. Celebrities who had been empty until they dreamed the dream of The Forest, experienced the love of the Young Couple who reminded them of the humanity they had forgotten amidst material gain. Politicians who had been living with the ghosts of massacres they authorized, innocents brutalized, the murders, the lands they had stolen and raped. Children, with confused parents in tow.
The dance began again. They danced for hours, for days, for years. Visitors came and went, and when they left they took seeds of The Forest with them. The Forest continued to grow. And it still grows, in heart and in hand. It throbs with the heartbeat drumbeat of love, its voice seeping into the dreams of every sentient being, every being in the universe.
The old days are not gone, they all realized, listening to the sighing trees and the words arising from their hearts. We can all know this, feel this, with every drop of rain on our skin, as we hear the whistling hum of wind through the trees. Every glance of fire tells a story, teaches us the lesson of how to bend, to move with the forces, to light the darkness around us with love in our hearts. Flowing water shows us how every moment changes everything, even the most solid of rocks will shift, grow, diminish from one breath to the next. Learn again to see things as would an eagle, from far above, how the Great Mystery weaves our lives into a precious and glittering tapestry.
The old ways did not die with the ancient ones, with elders and shamans who have long passed into the Spirit Realm. When you turn within yourself, where earth, air, fire, water and sprit run at your core, run their course, when you listen with your soul, the prayers and songs, the ceremonies will return to you in your dreams. Everything that has ever been lives within you waiting for you to remember, to smile and embrace that loving memory. This memory reaches out to you, speaks to you every moment of every day. The voices are calling. They tell you everything you need to heal yourself, to teach yourself, to be happy in your heart. The spirits of all those you have lost, the spirits of all those who have influenced you, affected you, moved you, touched your life, those spirits are waiting for you to greet them. Those spirits are waiting for you to open yourself to them, welcome all that they have been wanting to tell you. They wait patiently for you to believe. In them, in yourself, in love, in the Great Mystery that leads us all on this journey.
Know that you always have a choice, in word, action, thought, desire. You must trust in love, even with the chance that others can hurt you, wound you. Is it worth is to become cold, hard at the price of protecting yourself from pain? Doesn’t that hardness hurt? Many of us were raised in traditions of violence. These are the new ways, deadly ways, dangerous ways. We were raised to hate ourselves, to feel guilt, to live with fear, anger, and we were taught how to release our frustrations on others. Too few were raised in the ways of The Forest, to love unconditionally, to trust no matter how many times we are hurt, to never give up hope that love will prevail. Long ago, there were no words for hate, there was no word for rape, there were no curses. The answers our hearts seek will not be found at the bottom of a bottle, at the end of a line of cocaine, the last puff of a joint. The answers will not follow the pull of a trigger, a punch thrown with angry fists, or dagger-sharp words hurled one after the other. The answers will not arise from a one night stand, from answering violence with violence, pain followed by self-destruction.
Once we moved about like the wind, we were heard only though the trees and the ashes of an old fire that scatter with our presence. We lived in harmony, we gave back the same from what we took. There was balance. Greed made no sense. Now we have substituted spiritual bankruptcy with material gain. We think this is the same, that this is the new balance. We used to believe in the weight of a simple promise. Now words are only words, promises are just words. Empty, we’ve made them weightless, there is no honor. But we can change if we choose. We can bring the weight back, we can live with honor, with respect, selflessly. We can choose love, love that will remind of the dream of The Forest. To love with arms and hearts, souls wide open. Love is unconditional, trusting and fearless, the voices of The Forest, the voices of our deepest heart. Trusting and fearless, forever.
We were here before, long before. Long ago. When warm-blooded dinosaurs, our ancestors, prayed to sacred hills. We remember that once we lived only to love, to pray, to create life from that faith. We lived in harmony, we spoke to spirits and they responded in waking life and dreams, for what is waking life but a dream we recreate in each moment of being. What is life but the sum total of this same being. Who are we but you, trees, air, water, fire. Life. Who are we but this spark of love, this knowing. Who will we become but love. Why should there be sadness with all of this endless possibility of love. Why choose sadness when love is alive, eternal, in every life breath that holds the key to happiness. Who are we but the sum of our spirits, not just this body, but all that came before it, before blood, before lineage, before the memory of the world as it exists, when we as vapor were created by the hands of God.
Who are we but the weight of water, essence of wind, seeds planted a million years ago grown into mammals, body with a name in ether, fire of presence of love of passion, feeling untamed unhinged, incomprehensible and spreading. Who are we but the product of all histories, combined memory in every cellular presence, no different from the air speaking through these trees and the tone of the heart beat drum beat, sacred circles we are dancing down. What does this leave us but everything imaginable to live for. Who are we but being, waiting, praying, seeking answers, being led. Who are we but the reasons you give me, Mother Father of all Creation, all that is and ever will be.
Who are we but vessels for divinity, this container for love, receptacle of peace, collectively seeking equilibrium from centuries of remembered violence. Who are we but more than this body, more than this soul, more than memories. Who are we but our dreams, our waking visions, the knowledge that there is more to look forward to, more than what has been recorded to look back to and more than words waiting to become.
July 14, 2004
Sevilla, Geneva, Thoiry