He speaks with his hands, fingers spread and grasping the air with one palm, the other tucked under his elbow. And he paces and publishes oral language, trusting me with first draft pings and scatterings, a book of mind thoughts expelling loud-furious. His eyes have a smiling, a flashing, inviting. His brow furrows and I can taste the logos he passionately teaches. My iris and pupil focus on details like his nail beds, etched white gold that circles round, his straight tooth, and his deep, dark facial hair against olive skin; animated axis revolving. This anchor that surrounds his soul, his deep thrusting heart, I see it in him, locked in ballast security. A stirring, a rousing of intoxicating thought adventures, winding.
It is a witness I’ve stood to since we were young. This old soul teacher, a marrow-vitality, inviting me to join him in the aging forest with sunlight streaming through. In it, fragile veins stretch outward to five corners, photosynthesis overdrive. Reaching, reaching to heaven. An intense, green shadow populates the slim, smooth arms that grow out of the trunks. Layered, one over other, feather-fanned out in sprawling lime. Transparent, midmorning Light transmits through our paper thin orbs. It is a floating canopy made alive by a freshwater Breeze, a spirit that rustles our growing green like rippling silk, and then the leaves settle again, like a protective mother hen with tent-wings draped over the granules of cold sand around trunk bases. This is my painted mind-picture; us. The Light illuminates and gives Life to what the Planter put in place and motion, and the Breeze rustles. And I entered into the range of trees of this forest with my love when we were still teenagers; young.
Growing up I used to go to the lake house on the peninsula every summer. The Lake and surrounding forest is a captured replica of my childhood grown to adulthood, layers and pages and duplicates and drafts. The blue expanse of ripple-waves, swell-stretching beyond the horizon, further than one can grasp with their squinting eyes, prevailing. The tide, moving in and out like song during the day and leaving little rivulets on the lake floor. A tiny ocean without salt.
It is a real place that permeates a tiny corner of the world, near the rock-caves my cousins and brother and I used to jump from into the clear, cool water, and also lives and moves in my memory. A treasure place of comfort-clutched, swaying repose. I can close my eyes and hear the lake lapping the sand shore littered with footprints and tiny, transparent, white shells, breezing through the cottage windows in summer twilight heat, smell the musty oak of the walls, lulling me to sleep under vintage floral sheets. Because it is seared to my soul, cauterized.
It is aging, and fermenting, this bound together love we own together.
And I surge backward to him when we were young, sitting in class and scribbling on paper, prompted by teacher: he journals exposed thoughts in my peripheral vision, scrawling with lead and smudged eraser. Sometimes I wish that my today self could go back in time, to him in the past.
One day my daughter asks her Daddy, solemnly, how chopping down with axes, how divorce, can happen. Why, Daddy? And he looks into her eyes, and talks calmly, always so calmly and articulately, smooth fluid like wind-whispers through leaves, explaining to baby green ears that have been planted and growing– explains to her pain and hiding and running. And then he reveals this: that it can’t happen to her parents because vows braid together like tree roots deep, and they once bound a man and a woman forever to one another. Only once and forever, to grow intertwined. One cannot live without the other. They have scars, and rivuleted gash-trama lacerations, visible on bark. I know that wounds alone do not cut down, but heal. They will drown together, burn together, die together if they must, to a fresh new life but not to expiration. A rebirth, a saving rescue like Christ and his Church. Like Hosea and his bride. Melding and melting together to refined. Soft, smooth gentle in the universal God’s hands. Planted strong and planted deep.
I translate his words spoken out to her and it jump starts me again, pushing up to the surface and gulping oxygen and buoying. I know I did not chose this on my own. It came to me and owned me and took me inside, enveloped, and pulled him in too, and he and I will forever be two persons, but one existence. A picture of the reality of our Lord.
And our children grow up high and strong beneath us, and our siblings grow round us, our parents and grandparents grow above us, harmonious unity, this forest. And all of our trunks bear the mark of the Planter.
And a drum beat-pounds deep in my gut, up through the hollow of my ribcage and surge-charges my insides with a voltage, a stomp-pound marching, a battle-cry Gospel that rips out the disease and lays out slain the despair that latches to me black and malignant. And it rises up and up, a shout and cry of war that bashes my devasted and dead insides apart on boulders before God’s hands refashion them back together in Life; hope-waves undulant.
I watch my grandmother’s broken heart bleed rivers at the passing on of her beloved; I know it comes for us too. It will come all too soon.
I move to invent independent and his voice jerks the string, placing his hand over me and says, “No”. I remind him to etch out his despair with the Truth of cross nails of the Savior and he wades out of the murky depths. From shifting sand to solid rock and lifts my hand to beside himself. Iron that sharpens iron. I am not to run sideways out from him, but to latch hands and hearts and minds and souls and walk with him. This William I am locked to, even his name means resolute protector. This Erin he has been made to grow intertwined with, her name means exalted peace. And when I suffer exposed he is angered and comes to fulfill the essence of a bulwark, and we are given Peace over and over and over that does not wear out. Because our Savior secured it and now it lives and breathes in our lungs.
It keeps aging, but it doesn’t wear out, this love. Like thin, web-roots that thicken and fatten and deepen to strong. That weave to unbreakable. A wild and comforting forest of sanctuary, commitment, rescue. Ransomed, and bought, and owned always.