It has been a good month at Full Moon Cottage. Aches have been healed, beloved friends have been visited and entertained, and gardens have come to their fullness and are currently aflutter with butterflies. Last night, rain fell with such force and velocity that flood warnings were rampant, but here the thirsty earth drank in over an inch, eagerly and happily. She deserved it.
The thunder and lightning made such a show of it that several pups asked to leave their crates and join us in the bed, not because they were afraid, of course, but to reassure us. At any rate, today, with more rain coming, I’m dedicating time to reading, watching a movie I’ve saved for a rainy day, and–seriously possible–napping, to recover from all that 4-legged reassurance.
I’m also sharing a story I wrote last winter. I hope one day, in some form, it will be a published book. I can just imagine the beautiful illustrations a gifted artist could create. But for now, I hope it pleases you, just as it is. (Clothilde [klo-TEELD] is a family name I’ve always loved, from my French/French Canadian Lessard ancestors.)
Become what you love.
Gentle Peace, my friends.
Miss Clothilde and the Trees
For all of her life, Miss Clothilde lived in the stone cottage in the forest beside the river. She had many friends. Some had two legs, some had four, some had wings, and some, like the river, just flowed. But the trees were always her dearest friends.
When she was a little girl, her friends came to her parties beneath the willows. They played hide and seek, running through the forest. The trees’ leaves whispered, and their branches waved in the wind. “Here, Clothilde, here!” And she would hide behind their massive trunks, high in their branches, or in the holes used for nesting by the squirrels and opossums.
At sunrise and sunset, she sat privately with one of the trees, usually on a low-hanging limb, so they could have quiet conversations.
Clothilde asked the oak, “Do you miss traveling to distant lands?”
“Oh, no,” it answered, “I love being rooted, watching the seasons change and all my saplings slowly, slowly growing. And those who nest in my branches and forage beneath carry my acorns to distant forests. So, you see, I do travel, in the way of trees.”
Clothilde stood very still and watched the cottonball clouds puff across the blue sky. A squirrel friend sat at her feet and climbed to her raised hands. The owl flew into his nest high in the oak. “I learn so much when I am still,” she said.
She asked the maple, “How do you breathe?”
“Through our leaves, mostly,” it replied. “Trees breathe in what you breathe out, and you breathe in what we breathe out.”
“You mean, we are always breathing trees,” said Clothilde.
“And we are always breathing you,” said the maple. “And so, we become what we love.”
Clothilde breathed in and out with her tree friends. “I love you,” she said.
The hushed rustling of leaves murmured, “We love you, too, Clothilde.”
She asked the beech tree, “How does it feel when your roots burrow into the earth?”
“Infant roots are shy and cautious. But then they grow stronger and more confident, seeking water and tunneling toward the roots of others. There’s quite a lively kinship of roots, fungi, insects, and soil all working together underground.”
Clothilde wiggled her toes, pretending they pierced the earth, digging, and probing all the way to water. “It tickles,” she laughed, “like my fingers in the garden, when I help my parents!”
Clothilde asked the pine tree, “Why do trees’ branches reach up to the sky?”
“Our branches rise to the sunlight and raindrops, so our lives will be long and healthy, but we also raise our limbs in praise.”
“What do you praise?” asked Clothilde.
“Life. The Earth. The beauty of the world and our part in it. The goodness of which everything is made.”
Time twirled the Earth through its seasons and years, and a day came when Clothilde was grown and alone in the cottage, tending her garden, the river, her friends, and the trees.
When she went to town for Market Day, she always took time to sit in the village park to be with those trees, too, and to feed the birds and listen to the music of people bustling with life. The village children called her Miss Clothilde, and they loved to hear her stories about the trees. They raised their arms with her and praised life, the Earth, and the beauty of the world. And when they grew up, their children listened to Miss Clothilde’s stories, too.
She said, “Each of us must tend and protect our Earth. Every part of it, the animals, the water, my dear trees, and each other, too…all of it is precious.” And she taught them how to plant trees and flowers and care for them. “It is an honor to participate in the mystery of life becoming more life, and to do it well, we must offer our attention and love.”
Every spring, she readied her garden, sowed seeds, and greeted the tender unfurling of leaves in the trees. When the migrating birds returned from warmer lands they had flown to in autumn, Miss Clothilde welcomed them with food and fruit as they settled in new nests. And to all the new life around them, Miss Clothilde offered her attention and love.
Her days grew longest in summer. At dawn, the birds sang the forest awake, and Miss Clothilde went out to tend the garden, weeding and trimming its growing vibrance. And in the afternoon’s late purple shadows, Miss Clothilde sat with friends beneath the trees, and they shared stories. At moonrise, the trees’ branches swayed to the lullabies of the frogs, crickets, and owls. “Sleep sweetly, dream deeply” whispered the forest.
“And you,” said Miss Clothilde, “you sleep sweetly, too.”
In autumn, the low bronzed sunlight drew in from summer’s bold expanse, the garden earned its harvesting, and the trees dropped their brilliant leaves to ready themselves for the season of cold and silence. The trees stood bare and brave, awaiting winter’s embrace.
Miss Clothilde asked the maple, “Why, oh why do you drop your leaves when you most need warmth?”
“It is an interplay of love, Clothilde. The leaves feed us sunshine all their short lives, and our roots draw up water for their health that flows through trunk and branch to every leaf. But leaves are too frail for winter and we cannot offer energy to sustain them. We must release them to remain strong enough to withstand winter.”
“Such brief lives and gone!”
“Not gone, Clothilde. See how they cover the forest with nutrients that will feed us all for generations. Forests and animals survive because leaves are willing to fall. Look for all the ways they rise in new lives.”
Winter brought its deep stillness and rest. Everything lived within itself, listening, it was a time of recollection, sifting, and gently opening dreams to plan how they might live. Miss Clothilde pondered what she had learned of the world’s goodness and beauty, and how her gifts could best offer praise in the new year. She sometimes sat beneath the oak as snowflakes sifted down, sparkling in the moonlight. “May I open my dreams to you?” she asked.
“Of course, Clothilde, and I will open mine.”
And, in the way of friends, their dreams already knew each other. They dreamed of a world where all the Earth made music of its gifts and relationships. And Miss Clothilde and the oak whispered how they wished to be always together, falling and rising in new lives.
And so the years danced in their circles. Because they knew one another so well, Miss Clothilde and the trees often sat in silence together, sharing their peace. Sometimes, she stood in the middle of the garden, lifting her arms, breathing with all the life around her. From a distance, it could be hard to tell them apart, the trees and Miss Clothilde. Her arms raised skyward like branches, and the trees’ branches reached for her in tender embrace. Her long white hair shook like dancing leaves and the trees’ leaves waved like long, flowing tresses. And the wind gathered their songs and made them one joyful melody.
Now that she was very old, Miss Clothilde could no longer run in circles with her friends. But one morning every week, she gathered pails of river water, and then nuts, berries, and vegetables from the garden. She opened the door to the stone cottage and set the table for a feast.
There were dishes of sunshine for the tree limbs curling through the windows, and a little channel in the stone floor, so the river could flow through the party, too. Everyone came to Miss Clothilde’s parties, friends from the village and friends from the forest, and each guest brought something to share. As she looked around the table, all she could see was joy. “We’ve become what we love,” she smiled.
Miss Clothilde had grown too frail to climb the trees, but every day she placed her chair beneath one of her beloved friends and they would listen to the music of the river splashing over stones.
“I am so tired. Why must we grow old, dear oak?”
“So that we can rise, young again, in new ways,” said the oak. “Everything we are and have been feeds the Earth.”
“Life is truly a circle, isn’t it?” asked Miss Clothilde.
“One that doesn’t end,” said the oak. “We travel the circle of loving and becoming forever.”
“Like leaves,” said Miss Clothilde.
“Like leaves,” said the oak.
One summer night, as the stars twinkled and twirled, and the great moon danced its light across the flowing river, Miss Clothilde came outside to stand with her trees. Together, her arms and their branches raised in praise, as the trees had taught her, so long ago.
Miss Clothilde could feel her toes lengthening into roots, tickling down through the soil, stretching and curling across darkness towards moisture. Her body tightened into a firm trunk, all her years forming rings bound by silver-brown bark. Her hair fell into winding limbs, joining the strong branches of her arms, reaching up and up, as green leaves sprouted, uncurling in the moonlight, through fluttering moths and the soft scents of nightfall.
In the morning, the wind sang through the lifted branches of all the trees in the forest. Miss Clothilde’s friends gathered in her shade, breathing her as she breathed them. Together, they raised their arms, paws, wings, branches, and songs in praise of life. They praised the Earth. They praised the beauty of the world and their part in it.
And they praised the goodness of Miss Clothilde, the goodness of which everything is made, how everything that falls rises, how everything becomes what it loves.
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