Sumi was becoming a tree. She already had as many branches as an old southern oak and was as bushy as any thicket in mid summer. She stretched her leafy fingers towards the sun and could feel it’s powerful force surge through her, strengthening her boughs and nourishing her leaves. As she grew and strengthened, faces bloomed with-in her leafy fronds, popping out like so many flowers. At first they were people she knew, family and friends. Then friends and family that knew the first blooms began to show up so that the population exploded. Soon other species came; bugs, quadrupeds, bipeds, birds and fish. Each found a place in and around her every expanding canopy. Both animal and humans, budded at junctures meant for leaves. The people and animals flourished as they felt the security of her ever broadening shoulders.
Sumi could hold millions of people in her arms and even more animals. It was a never-ending cycle, the more she held the more she grew. By holding them suspended in her new growth, she could protect them from any direct contact with the elements. Their tender feet could step on nothing sharp and the sun, wind and rain could barely reach them through her dense foliage. Because of this protection it was fast becoming shelter to many. The growing number of inhabitants had lives of their own as they nested on her limbs but they all relied on Sumi’s wisdom to abate their fears. Words were never needed; her silent existence was all that seemed to be necessary.
The more life scurried and played around her, snuggling deep into her arms, the deeper her roots slipped through the earth so that she could support them all. Her spine felt unbreakable as it thickened and strained. Her neck was now as thick as her waist and her ears flattened against her head. When she tried to feel her legs, she became aware of how they pointed, digging deep into the soil. They lengthened as she wiggled and twisted. It was a slow process for each time her legs reached a little further she could feel them sucking at the rich earthy nourishment and moisture. Worms wrapped themselves around her long, skinny toes, while other earthy bugs tickled and crawled close to her elongating feet.
The permutation was almost complete. She felt solid, real and permanent. To be a tree was a potent and powerful position that she reveled and immersed herself in. In this unique position she seemed to be giving birth continuously. She held death in her bows as well. She loved them both equally and began to see no difference in the two states of being. No one in her care minded death. Death was inevitable and in fact a cherished. Life and death buzzed through Sumi like a fruit fly. They were on equal footing with her and if she felt that it was natural and normal.
Life and death traveled quickly and beautifully when viewed from the time orientation of a tree. It was like a continuous comet sprinkling life in Sumi’s branches and then taking it away in a ball of fire. From the slow vantage point of a tree, this cycle sped by like so many lightning bugs. She was alive and sparkling. Giving life and letting it go. The cycle to Sumi was magical and the only ones that didn’t seem effected by it or at least in the same time frame as the people and animals, were other spirits, like the one she was becoming. The rain had it’s own spirit, as did the rocks, the sky, the sun and the earth, and each one came to visit Sumi and to give her the gifts they could afford. In turn she made her contribution to each of her visitors.
Her world twinkled with light and it felt balanced and safe. The time that passed was indistinguishable from the time that didn’t pass. Ego and self were non-existent, as were past and present. The only thing that mattered was the other spirits and the support she gave to life and death. Sumi was almost no longer, she was fast becoming Tree, and as such she no longer cared about self or time. She had no thought of how long she had been a tree or how long she would continue to be one. She simply enjoyed the light show twinkling around her, the sun, rain, wind and the rich earth.
One of the little fireflies of life and death began to tug at Sumi, the question was whether to ignore it or not. If she stared too long at the flickering light she knew she might get lost in it. Instinctively she knew this little buzzing light would pull her away from her motionless life and deep inside she knew that it would one day have to be. This new rooted position was fertile, productive and so firm, it was unthinkable that she might have to leave. The thought made her sad. All memory of self had begun to disappear. Yet with the appearance of this tiny spark it was making it difficult to be rational. With the advent of emotions, she felt her ego sneak in and make it’s grab for her. The ego is a strong adversary and it began to reappear bit by bit.
As a spirit, light was always meant as a good thing, even as a human, light has always been preferred over darkness. But now the spark of ‘thought’ had snagged her. With desperation she tried to go back to the process of “treeing” but her eye couldn’t leave the flickering spot. Thought, like ego, was a powerful deterrent from pure existence. It was difficult for Sumi to rein it in and now she found it even more difficult to hold on to her roots.
The light grew a little larger and offered a jewel to refract itself by. Like any animal and apparently like any plant she found herself drawn to the little beacon, which was now the size of a pebble. She became like a deer mesmerized by headlights and her own curiosity drove her enough to take the fatal second look. Spreading her boughs to the side she created a whole large enough to see the light coming from the jewel. Ego had won and taken it’s hold on her as she delighted in the lights glitter and gleam. A smoky topaz diffused the shiny blaze sending soft beams of buttery light to all the remote corners of Sumi’s mind. It felt good, as good as the earth between her toes or the sun dancing on her greenery. She was coming home to something familiar, something else as solid as the tree only not quite as in touch with the balance of nature. In any case her sadness at leaving her new shape was replaced with a deep peace and satisfaction.
For the first time in a long time, she began to feel other things like the coldness of the rock she was sitting on or that she was apart of another world and not the leafy one she had been so absorbed in. Details emerged, like the simple fact that she had ears and a mouth. Her identity was coming back to her. She was becoming Sumi once again, an elderly woman meditating on a granite slab, high above a salty cove that was filled with mussels and seals.
Was it her leaves still tickling her nose or her long, black hair being blown by a briny wind? The internal trek back to reality would take some time. Her neck thinned and shortened as did her waist and her legs. Coming back was difficult; at times she wasn’t sure what was reality and what was dream. It happened slowly and methodically. Reluctantly she let go of her tree family, sadly letting the faces pop back to where ever they had come from. Her majestic trunk shrunk back to her own slender spine, the branches that held the elements from her people, gently folded to rest lightly in her lap and the roots that nourished, retracted to they’re rightful position, tucked beneath her. Though her concentration was on the slow return to normalcy she sensed the presence of a figure, some one stood very close by – waiting. With out opening her eyes she knew exactly who had come to visit. She stayed at ease; some things could not be rushed. Still inside her own world she managed to greet the intruder.
With roots and leaves now a distant memory she opened her eyes, breathed in the ocean air and felt the chill of the late afternoon just beginning to set in. Sumi had returned, no longer a tree, now a complete woman, with a friend waiting patiently to bring her inside for tea.