Monday, June 23, 2008

The Olive’s Embrace –Andalusia, Spain

June 18-19 2008:

Midnight chimes across the valley. The mother moon looks down upon a still and sleeping world, save the bloody dogs! They have just begun their chorus of barking which spreads from dog to dog, like a necklace across the quiet countryside. I block out their noise and pretend I am alone in this beautiful place.

I creep slowly along the path, treading carefully; swinging my stick silently in front of me, lest I disturb the sleepers, snuffling, snoring and muttering somnolently behind each door I pass. I am bent on meeting the lady of the olive. Her tree, older than time itself it seems, stands squat and bulbous in the grassy courtyard and gazes quietly across the complex, past the green man by the fountain, the oval swimming pool, the rough stump of the great palm tree beyond, and the dark orchard below.

Here she is. Fat, rugged and ancient. Propped up by thick metal cords, she sits, her lap spread invitingly in the form of rough carved benches. I stroke her gently and rest my hands upon one of her buttresses as I climb up onto the grass in which she sits.

Her bark is dry, cracked and old, yet she is filled with life. Clusters of cascading slim pointed leaves move gently in the night breeze, tenderly stroking my hair as I pass beneath on my circumnavigation of her. I walk clockwise then stand and bow.

Here is a seat, slightly crooked but firm enough. I sit down and lean back against her bulbous trunk, my feet firm on the ground. She is warm and I feel her heat enter me as I relax into her strength.

I breathe and listen to the night beyond the barking dogs. The undergrowth rustles; I hear the sound of small paws scurrying through the grass, and I imagine the stalks tall as trees to them.

Dry twigs pop as something heavier than an ant moves across them. Leaves drift gently to the ground with a sigh of release. The txya-tzya-tzya-tzya-tzya of the cicadas plays a continuo to the night sound symphony. I wait, breathe softly and cast my circle.

I rest my cheek against her rough warm bark. She is humming! I can hear deep down in her trunk, a dark rasping breathing growl. I breathe with her, growling deep in my throat in answer.

A bird flutters busily in a nearby tree. Behind it, I know I can hear the soft velvety paws of Ramona the cat, prowling through the herbs in search of a midnight snack. I wait. The cat waits, the tree waits.

In front of me, at first just a flickering but then gradually growing more and more distinct, a tall fire dances, a fire with swirling red hair and skirts, her arms flung up, palms to the moon as she spins and spirals. I see her behind my closed eyelids but know that she is there in front of me and as I trace the shape she dances in my mind, she is gone.

The hill is a patchwork of browns sloping down into the valley and then up again to the great tall mountains beyond. As I watch, its bareness greens, plants rise, trees stretch up to the blue sky and the land evolves. The earth turns.

Rubbing my cheek against her roughness, I feel a heavy pressure across my chest and stomach, a pressure which; pins my arms, holds my hands in my lap as I sit. She is holding me, pressing me to her. Her touch is gentle but focussed.

Allowing the embrace, I lean closer into her bulk, curl up and rest. I am cradled. I feel her pulse beating steadily through my flesh that touches her tough old flesh and we breathe together, both growling deeply in a wordless song of love and contentment.

A cacophony of yowls hisses and spits rend the air. By the sound of it, the cat has met her match! Something belts crossly across the lawn. Shifting, I feel my kaftan catch on something sticky exuding from the old tree. I touch it, bring its resinous discharge smeared on my fingers up to my nose, smell the slight sharp bitter tang, and taste its sourness.

I climb to my feet. My fingers explore her cracks and hollows, her bulges and curves. Rough hewn by wind and rain for perhaps a thousand years, she submits silently to my loving examination. I want to know her and remember her.

I walk around her, delve into the gaps behind the seats of her skirt. My fingers find a rough piece of bark, a long slim twig, incongruously a large pine cone, and finally a fragment of painted tile. Pocketing these, I edge carefully round her, thanking her for being here, for being the place to which I bring my sorrows, the place in which I dream and connect with the spirits of the land. I ask her to continue to watch over this magical place and provide comfort for those who seek it. And I remember my chosen sister, she who died when I was here and in dying brought me to the trees. It was to this great grandmother olive that I retreated when I first learned of my chosen sister’s death, and from this beautiful old tree that I found strength to go on afterwards.

Bowing, I whisper my thanks to this great old tree and returned, creeping quietly and surreptitiously back to my own room.


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