Culture

Bernie Bell’s Stories :Strays

Olav's Wood

photo B Bell

Once upon a time, there was a tree.  She was young, slim and fresh and was growing up in a forest.  The trees around her were terribly grown up and austere.  They were very settled, sombre, and, in a way, serene.  They tended to watch over the little tree.

In appearance, they were mostly tall and grey and sprucy – but beautiful – as sometimes they seemed to have a grey mist under them, sometimes silver, sometimes green, and sometimes an early morning dancy, shimmery scattering of dew – not cobwebs.

Because, you see, though they were so very grown-up and superior, they still had a sense of fun, which sparkled out at times, if you caught them in the right mood, at the right time.  For, you see, they were complete in character, each had their own definite spirit who lived in them and had done so for a long time.

And in the midst of these stood our tree.

Now, I’d better describe her more fully.  She was only little, not at all sprucy, more birchy, a slim, silvery stem – I know that’s wrong, but you could hardly call it a trunk – crowned by a mass of shivery, shimmering, nervous little leaves.  She fluttered continually, at the least bit of wind, and always seemed to be chattering, indeed, she seemed like a pretty silly little tree at times.  But, the other trees loved her, as they knew why, and the cause of her restless nature.  She didn’t have a spirit.  As yet, no spirit had come to live in her, which was strange, as she was a very attractive proposition! but she was a stray seed.  Her appearance gave it away – and the sprucy spirits who wandered about that part of the world, though they liked her, as she was a loveable, amiable little thing, couldn’t really settle in her.  A few tried, but it just didn’t work, they couldn’t fit into her or settle with her.  They’d stay for a time, but then they’d have to leave.  She’d understand and thank them for helping her for a while, and they always went away with fond feelings for her.  No bitterness on either side.

But with each one, the tree became a little sadder.  When each one came, she would feel happy for a time and think this was the one, her spirit, yet, really, she knew, all the time.  Then, when they left, she went down, each time, a bit farther.

This caused some concern among the other trees.  They watched over their little charge, and were distressed to see her former innocent freshness slowly fade.  She didn’t flutter as much, hardly chattered at all, and would stand for hours, silent.

There was a pause.  No spirits came to her for quite some time.  Many of the wandering spirits would stop by to see her on their travels.  She had many friends among them, but none attempted to enter into her, as she was no longer open.  She was becoming inaccessible, they knew not to try.  So, what was to become of our little tree?  The others could do nothing but watch, as, after all, it was her life, her spirit.
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One morning, a sun-risey, clear-bluey, cloud-shifty, fresh-breezy kind of morning, the other trees shook themselves awake with a clattering of cones and a rustle and bustle, stretching, stretching – right out to their twiggy finger-tips- to find………A spirit in the tree.  She was just standing there in her own clearing, with them.  Very quiet, but, somehow very self-possessed, very sure, quietly confident.  This one was here to stay, but – what was he? the others wondered – was he good?  bad? indifferent?jolly?sombre? Most important, would he be good for her? Whatever he was, he was here to stay – he was her spirit.
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I don’t know how to finish this.  I have an idea of this spirit being strong, tremendously strong; of the little tree growing, with the spirit inside her, forcing her way upwards and outwards, ’til she shadows the forest and covers the other trees which had protected her – but in a hard, fierce kind of way, not watching over the forest in a benevolent, motherly, caring way, but in a brooding, malefic way, with POWER as her centre and her life.  Though, not hers, as she ceases to exist and is merely a vessel, a container for this spirit.  And so she lives, or rather, dies.  The spirit, which was a stray spirit as she was a stray seed, and it’s tree, live, brooding……..

But…..I don’t want to end it like that, but then again, somehow, I don’t want an insipid ending of…….”So the tree and the spirit lived happily ever after.”
Though, when a stray spirit, finds a stray seed, they should do, shouldn’t they?
Olav’s Wood, Orkney


Bernie Bell is a regular contributor to The Orkney News where you will find many more of her stories in our archives.

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