She had work to do, and no office to do it in. They had outgrown her old place. The tiny house where she had raised her family. It had been home for her children, and accustomed to it, they no longer remembered the larger house that had been part of their early childhood.
But Gia knew that she needed a bigger place to do her work. All her life she had drawn people to her who needed healing of some sort or the other. And now she felt the call to help the walking wounded more effectively. So she had begun opening her home and her heart to the friends of her children, and the people who wandered into her life like stray pups. Often so emotionally battered by life that they snapped at everyone, even the hand that fed them.
Gia had never thought of herself as a gentle woman, yet in her heart, she tenderly took these lost souls in and through patience and hard work, brought them out of whatever private hell they had been in. She would have laughed at anyone who said that she was really a softie, but she had a secret place in her heart for anyone who tried, failed, and picked themselves up to go again. Her children knew a bit of this secret, but they did not understand the depth of her fire, for they had not been through the hell that she had growing up.
Hands that should have been tender had been brutal. Words that should have been spoken in love were used as whips on the young Gia. Chores that should have been easily accomplished were made infinitely more difficult by their unceasing demand.
And yet, in spite of hiding her wounded heart behind walls and hardness, she had these tender spots. She found enough courage within her to change how she talked to her children. Not playing head games with them, she learned to ask for the behavior that she wanted. Though in order to do that she had to figure out what she wanted. It was an interesting journey for the wounded Gia, peeling one layer of pain away to reveal a sweeter, stronger woman, just as one would peel an onion.
She knew that part of her healing was to help heal others who had been wounded just as she had, with words, with fists, and with cruelty. And so she stood there, looking out over her land, having the time, the space, and the willpower. Missing only one thing, the money. And no money meant no materials.
She had been clearing the land the hard way, the old fashioned way. With an ax. Pulling up the scrub, using it to create fences and foot paths through the woods, fill in the low spots, and cover over the muddy ones.
But finally all that preparation was done. She stood in the midst of the clearing, ax in hand and realized that there was nothing left for her to cut. The trees around the area had ribbons around their middle. These ribbons marked the edge of the yard that would surround her new home and office. They would shade her home in the hot summer sun of Arkansas. They gave protection from the winter winds too. But it was the fierce heat that she was most worried about. In the winter you could wrap up in a blanket or put on another sweater, but in the summer it was hard to take off enough clothes to keep cool. Trees helped that tremendously, which was why Gia didn’t want to cut any more of the tall sentinels down. Besides they made her feel safe. Protected, watched over. And she had never had family and friends who did that for her.
But there she stood, ax in hand, uncertain what came next.
Sitting carefully on the ground, she crossed her legs and just enjoyed the peace. Once her home was built, it would not be quiet in the clearing again. And so she enjoyed the silence. A silenced filled with the stirring of mice and voles, fluttering of butterflies wings, twittering of the yellow and blue songbirds, as well as the harsh cawing from the neighborhood crow. The silence was anything but.
As she listened to the cheeps, and whirring, the knocking and the clicking, she began to hear a pattern, a song really. And hearing it, she began to hum along. It began tentatively at first. Just a quiet humming. The song of the Forest seemed to quiet momentarily, as if listening to her song, and then it began again, quietly at first. In her heart she heard the melody of the greenwood and allowed her voice to grow, adding a harmony, tentatively at first. Gradually, the sound grew, echoing through the forest. Eerie, haunting, and soulful, her song echoed the Forest, and the Forest echoed through Gia. Each note sliding up and down the scale, harmonizing, shifting, swooping and diving. The song drove on. Harmony interweaving with melody, until she was not sure which was which.
Eyes closed Gia sang from the heart, pausing only to breathe, listening to the excitement growing within the Forest. It had been many years since anyone had sung with it. Enjoying the playfulness of it. Stretching here, singing close harmony there. The only dissonance came as a pick-up drove up the gravel road nearby. Radio blasting, momentarily silencing the Forest. Only to have the shifting melody start up again as the dust settled. The song returning stronger than before.
Eyes still closed, Gia found her self lying down in the center of the small meadow, feeling that her body was alive, perhaps for the first time. As though she were larger than her skin. Weaving melody and harmony, into Forest and home. Bringing each separate sound into the melody much the way a builder would add each board when creating a building. A home.
Totally focused on the swelling symphony, she didn’t hear the quiet rustlings around her. Didn’t feel the wind dance, ebb and flow, enveloping her lifting her. Didn’t feel the earth move as the clearing reshaped itself.
So totally focused on Listening and Singing, she didn’t see what was happening around her. Didn’t notice until the melody wound down to its end, gently slipping into silence as the last note faded away.
Eyes still shut; Gia felt vibrant and alive, wishing it could go on and on. Knowing that soon enough she had to return to everyday living, she allowed herself the luxury of a short nap in the dappled sunlight.
Finally the sound of a dog barking in the distance drew her back to her body. Sighing, knowing that she still had to figure out how to build her home, she struggled to a sitting position rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
Confused briefly by the buildings that confronted her, she thought she was still dreaming. For right in front of her was the home and office that she had envisioned. Her hands had been unable to draw what her heart had wanted. Her words a poor substitute for the vision she had carried all these years. And yet it was before her. She’d even managed to dream the guest cottages that she’d seen one time in a movie, so that the people who came to get her help wouldn’t always be underfoot. There was lush thick grass, and as she looked down, even the dirt under her fingers was different from the poor sandy soil that had been there before. It was rich and black, and the plants growing in it were strong and healthy. Everything she had ever wanted, down to and including, the flower garden underneath the front windows.
She knew she must be dreaming. None-the-less she stood and went to investigate. The house of her dream didn’t include furniture. Nor did it include window screens. Amused at the missing detail, she started to laugh. And began to run through the house looking at everything. She wondered why the wood of the window sills looked as if they had grown up from the ground. The kitchen had just the kind of faucet she had seen at the hardware store and wished for, knowing it would never happen because of its expense. In her dream it had happened.
Gia joyously spent the rest of the day wandering through this new home and office. The guest cottages were tiny, but as exquisite as the rest.
When Nathanial came home, supper wasn’t ready, hadn’t even been started, and Gia wasn’t in her usual places. Worried about her, he decided to go the only place he could think of – the clearing. She had been working herself near to death to clear the land. And he was concerned for she had never stayed so long.
She heard him call through the woods, as he hiked up the path toward the clearing. Positive that she was still asleep, that when he stepped into view, Gia greeted him as if she were a mere girl again, skipping across the yard. Puzzled by the look on his face, she peered into his face. As tears ran down his face and he pulled her into his arms, Gia realized that she was not dreaming.
(Written for a friend in 2008.)