Thursday, 11 August 2016

A Story: The Pear Tree - Part Four

This is the fourth instalment of my story, The Pear Tree. Please click here to read Part One, here for Part Two, and here for Part Three.

The Pear Tree
Part Four

… I stayed with Ruth for a week, regaining my strength, listening to her many stories, and learning about how to find wild food. She took care of me as if I were her own daughter, and in the time I was there my hands began to feel less stiff and my right eye began to see more clearly, with faint colours seeming to appear in my vision. I couldn’t speak though, yet that didn’t matter, as Ruth always seemed to know what I was thinking and she answered all my questions without my even having to ask them. She also took care of the crow, whose wing seemed to be mending. She could now flap about, yet she never flew far from my side. She liked to sit on my shoulder, pressing the warmth of her small body against my head.
I found myself feeling immense gratitude and affection for Ruth and her friendly dog, and I was reluctant to leave the safety and comfort of the little camp, but she told me that I needed to continue on my path, for there were more things that I needed to learn. She also told me that losing my mind was the best thing that had ever happened to me, for it made me step outside my front door and walk into my life with a boldness I had never felt before. I had reclaimed my freedom, and my mind had immediately been restored. 
So, after our goodbyes, tinged with sadness, I walked on, the crow on my shoulder, back into the hills and towards solitude. I was now better able to find food and sustain myself on my journey, and as my vision seemed to be improving, the world looked so much more beautiful. I was glad to be walking again, moving forwards into an unknown future. 
Each day I rose to watch the sunrise, with its faint glow of rose and gold, and then I walked onwards, only stopping again to sit and watch the sunset, gently red and orange, then indigo as night fell, before falling asleep, the colours becoming more vivid to my sight each day. I was starting to feel more at home in the world, more aware of my small place within it. I loved the solitude, yet I never felt alone, for I had the crow, and the passing birds, and the creatures that came to investigate my presence, all participating in the vibration of life around me. 

I felt safe walking along empty paths, sleeping on the earth, tangling myself with the brambles and trees until I felt thoroughly wild, and I did not miss my books at all. I had not even given them a single thought since I had left my home for I was now dwelling within a story of my own making, and I was more entranced than I had ever been by a book. I forgot about my blind eye and crippled hands, even my stolen heart, and I had no need to speak, so I was content. 
I even forgot about the human world, that is, until one morning when I was walking along a road and a shadow reared up in my vision. Someone was on the road ahead of me. A man. I froze and so did he. 

I was suddenly afraid. Not only did I not want to be seen, but as a young woman all alone I was also scared for my safety. It was too late to run away though, and there was nowhere to hide. I had seen him and he had seen me and we looked at each other guardedly. He wore a long dark overcoat and there was a strange shape near his head, but he was still too far away for me to see clearly. I decided that I should just walk past him, calmly, steadily, and hurry away as soon as I could, so I began to walk towards him and he began to move towards me. As we got closer I realised what the dark shape near his head was. A crow! There was a crow perched on his shoulder, just like mine. I was even more bewildered to see that this man had a silvery left eye, crippled hands, and a beard and long matted hair, stuck with burrs and leaves. 

We stood before each other, two wild creatures, staring, and there was a flutter of recognition in the empty space in my chest. It was like looking in a mirror.  
After what seemed like an eternity we finally came to our senses and shyly looked away from each other. The man bent to pick up a stick with his inflexible fingers and clumsily scratched into the dirt of the road his name: Tom. I took the stick from him and did the same: Sarah. After our meagre introductions we went to sit down on the grass and try to make sense of the situation, but as neither of us could speak we sat beside each other feeling self-conscious and awkward. Our two crows jumped from our shoulders and started to clown about together, and we both smiled. At least they did not seem to have the same inhibitions that we humans had. Yet, despite our silence and reserve we somehow communicated to each other, whether by expression alone or some other form of wordless magic, that we should travel together, and we got up and continued to walk, our crows seated on our shoulders once more.

It was a strange journey, the two of us unable to speak, walking in silence, but feeling companionable all the same. Eventually, we turned onto a path that led into the woods where it was darker and harder for both of us to see, yet we both felt the need to enter the shelter of the trees. 

We stopped some time before dusk and Tom cleared a small space, collected some twigs and small branches, and lit a fire with matches he had in his bag (something that I had not had the sense to bring with me when I had left home). Now that my colour vision was returning the fire looked particularly red and golden and it provided a warmth that induced a sense of calm between us. We fell asleep, close to each other to share our warmth, feeling enclosed in the midst of the darkness of the forest.
That night I dreamed a dream about Tom and how he had come to be blinded, crippled, mute and heartless like me. 

Tom’s father had been a cabinetmaker of the highest order, producing work of unrivalled quality and craftsmanship. He knew everything there was to know about timber, what was best for what use, and how to transform it from growing tree to a beautiful piece of furniture or art which would be treasured and marvelled at for many decades, even centuries, to come. He wanted, above all, for his only son to follow him into the craft, to learn the ways of wood and carry on the traditions. Yet Tom wasn’t interested. His head was full of numbers and dreams about money, rather than the smell of wood and furniture wax and the whorls of woodgrain. 

While his father earned good money for his work, he could sometimes take months to complete a piece, so his income was sporadic. Tom hated this. He wanted a life of security, a steady income, money to spend, success to revel in. He refused to look at the beauty, the artistry of his father’s work, and instead got himself a job at a bank, aiming to move up the ladder of promotion into positions with higher and higher salaries. He wanted money and a big house, an expensive car. Success. But then his father had died, and all his wood-wisdom had died with him, gone forever, and Tom realised that he felt guilty that he had not at least listened to his father, or looked closely at the wonder of his work. He had shut himself off and entered his own world of sought-after wealth, which in the end had not made him happy. That’s when the dreams had started for him. Six dreams over six nights, and he had fallen apart.
When we woke the next morning we looked at each other with new eyes, now more capable of true sight. It was clear that we had both neglected depth, coasting along in lives that we thought we wanted, but had actually led to our ruin. 

We had no need for words, for the dreams had told us everything about each other, and we were overcome by our own personal shame. How misguided we had been, how selfish and single-minded and senseless. We deserved to be blind and crippled and voiceless, and we deserved the empty hollows in our chests most of all. How had we been so indifferent to the people that we loved and the things that mattered to them? 

Yet something else began to stir within us. We looked at each other with a sense of compassion and understanding. We both had the same scars, including the long red scars on our chests indicating where our hearts should have been. We were both damaged creatures, like our crows with their injured wings, and we were both on the same journey to regain our lost lives, to rewrite our stories. 
In Tom’s silvery eye I saw myself reflected, as if he carried an image of me within him, and I could feel his image inside myself. Two freaks, two monsters, wounded by our own hollow lives, and brought together at last to make amends. We both cried and reached out to each other, disregarding our crippled hands, embracing in our shared realisation of what we lacked, what we had neglected, what we had lost …

3 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Enthralling....

    (Spelled wrong, the first time....)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Luna. I'm just about to post the thrilling conclusion. ;-)

      Delete

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