The second story of three for our final Photo Flare. Please enjoy:
The Sunset Tree
by Savannah Hendricks
Olivia lay under the mossy branches, watching as the sun set its final rays against the leaves. Her husband thought she went there to contemplate divorce. Her friends thought she went there to mourn her recent miscarriage. She went there to contemplate the meaning of what it all meant, and why she could not live a happy, simple life.
Olivia’s favorite story as a child was “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, which is why she felt the answer she needed could be found here. Her childhood was filled with more joy than most of her childhood friends had. Olivia was raised as a princess, nothing bad ever happened, and the word “no” was never uttered by her parents. Due to such a privileged upbringing the reality of life was something she had no idea how to handle.
The sun continued to mark its rays on the branches as it filtered light above her. Olivia’s sigh was deep, her chest rising and caving back down.
“Something on your mind?” an elderly voice said.
Olivia’s eyes widened as she sat up. “Oh,” she said. Olivia stood up, draping moss brushing her hair. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know anyone was here.”
The area was rather remote. The tree grew within a moat of sorts, rising high above the thin line of stale water. Its roots of life kept it upright.
“Child what is troubling you?” a lady with a hunched over back, slow gait and quad cane asked.
“Again I’m sorry, I will go,” Olivia said embarrassed.
“Be still child,” the lady said. “I used to do a lot of thinking under this tree myself. There was a swing that hung off to the left.”
Olivia looked up and over, noticing the remainder of a rope knot she had never seen before.
“I hope you are not looking for answers in a tree,” the lady said. “It’s just a tree.”
Olivia’s eyes met the lady’s gaze. She could see so much of life lived through this lady, yet she looked at peace.
“I guess I was hoping that the branches would allow me to hang my problems from them so I can sort them out,” Olivia said, looking up.
“Child, there are no answers to your problems. You are the answer to your problems.”
“My childhood was perfect, happy, and peaceful. I became an adult, and everything went south.” Olivia sat down in the grass.
“It did not go south, it became real,” the lady said, tapping her cane on Olivia’s knee. “Life is not to be perfect, it is to be lived.”
“Living is heartbreaking,” Olivia said with a chuckle.
The sunlight was now on the trunk of the tree as it lowered more in the sky.
“Have any advice for me?” Olivia asked the lady.
“Yes,” the lady said, turning and starting to walk away. “Don’t fall into the water below, it is muddy and smells foul.”
Olivia smiled and laid back down. The memory of the miscarriage floated into her mind. The tears welled in her eyes, before they dripped on her shoulders, soaking into the ground. Olivia thought maybe others had come here and cried. She moved onto her faulty marriage, the fights, the hate, the distrust. Tears ran into the outlines of her ears as she lay looking up at the mossy outstretched branches. Olivia considered what she saw above her. The branches were not perfect; they were broken or bare at the bottom. For the first time Olivia noticed the trunk looked near death, the middle had some green life, but the top was abundant with green leaves.
“Is my life starting at the top and growing down into death?” she thought aloud. “Or is it that my childhood was not really living and therefore death…but growing into an unseen abundance of real life?” Olivia closed her eyes, the last of her tears stuck to her lashes.
When Olivia opened her eyes the moon’s light filled the area around her as though it was a light hanging from the tree. She came to the tree for answers, and this time she received an answer she strangely understood. Olivia passed a house on her way home and noticed the lady from earlier on a rocking chair on a patch of worn grass.
“Find your answer?” the lady asked.
Olivia smiled, “Actually, I did.”
“And what is that child?”
“Life’s struggles and pains are ugly, but it’s what makes beauty so astonishing in the end. Without facing reality we don’t learn how important it is to be strong.”
“And you didn’t fall into the muck below.” The lady laughed. “It was not always that way of course.”
“What wasn’t?” Olivia asked.
“The land around the tree,” the lady said. She stopped rocking. “It was solid, but over the years the ground eroded, and water filled in around it.”
“That must have been some years,” Olivia mentioned.
“Childhood years. My childhood,” the lady said, looking up at Olivia. “You, my child, are not the only one that has added to the mucky water.”
Savannah is the co-author of Child Genius 101: The Ultimate Guide to Early Childhood Development (Vol 1, 2 & 3), with her first picture book Nonnie and I releasing this fall. She holds degrees in early childhood education and criminal justice, and is a member of the SCBWI. You can learn more by visiting her blog athttp://theseashellsoflife.wordpress.com/