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For many the years the hermit poet lived out his life as a
recluse, as hermits are inclined to do. He lived in contentment
in a cabin on the fringe of the wood. And there he thought out
his days and dreamed his nights; profound thoughts which
sometimes troubled him, and which he found difficult it commit to
paper ,these he set aside until he visited his tree in the wood .
It was not a particularly inspiring tree of all the trees in the
forest . It was in fact dead and had been so for many years.
Nonetheless the mystic came here when his thoughts were turgid
and difficult to unravel. He would speak to the tree as if it
were an old friend
He confided his deep and intimate thoughts to this ancient skeletal remnant of a once glorious riot of verdant greens , and the timid yellow buds of spring and the carpet of weeping leaves which floored the forest in vermillion and ochre and all the colours of autumn.
He knew the owner of the forest . He was an affable man and asked no inquisitive questions about the poets hermetic life. He went about his silent ways in the solitude of his own thoughts , Once the poet he had asked him about the tree. The farmer said he had no particular feeling about it . He had no intention of cutting it, but if it was on any use to him by all means he was welcome to fell it.
One day whilst deep in his writing he heard the persistent sound of sawing deep in the forest . He was much engaged in the higher thinking a man attains when he has been cogitating something for very long and has been too timid to put words on his conception yet that morning he had been inspired . He had risen early, and without a breakfast other than a mug of tea , he took to his desk. Even now as the knawing sound in the forest persisted , he was too rapt in thought to be distracted . he was almost at the summit of his thiughts . if he hesitated now the moment would be lost . And so he continued to write furiously and copiously .He was beside himself in the ecstasy of thought. He daren't stop lest he disturb the very air in the cabin , as he set aside one page after another. Some men strive for such moments as this through the persuit of wealth or beautiful women. To him it was the attainment of reaching an understanding as he beheld now. But for now his writing continued to flow as a mountains stream, fresh and sweeping downstream . He thought and wrote and one thought dragged another forth from the great cavernous brain which had held back these thoughts as locks do a river ; but now they were open and he wrote in exhilaration He wrote until well into the afternoon , when exhausted he fell back on his desk .He had finished. He had finally put to paper his hitherto unarticulated thoughts. It was as if he were a bird caught in the deep shrubbery unable to see out . to find the light when after a long winter of bramble weed and spiked thorns he emerged into the glorious sunlight .
. No hunger nor thirst assailed him ;nor did fatigue beset him,
until it was time to light the kerosene lamp , and stoke the
Now there was silence. There had been something- he
promised [dm1] he would explore later
. and now even that passing pestilence eluded him . Then he
remembered the sawing sound he'd . It was dark when he went
outside to fetch fresh logs for the hearth , but he sensed
something in the air which stopped him in his tacks as he stepped
back into the cabin, the smell was of freshly cut timber.
He thought no more of it. For today his work was done . He could now luxuriate in the silence of the night and watch the constellations pass over his windows .
In the morning he felt invigorated . He had done well . A score of pages neatly written despite the flurries of the thought stream which descended on him; it came in single flakes and then in pairs , then a flurry of thoughts assailed him . But he disciplined his work. He wrote with all the diligence he could muster , against the squalls of myriad thought patterns which seemed to leap up from the page - despite these urges to surge forward he restrained his mind and tried to focus ..
Darkness had fallen .he stacked the stove for the night and retired to be, . He brewed up his potion of laudanum , drank it and lay down . He was asleep within minutes .
He awoke early and refreshed .He breakfasted well ,but there was
some thing troubling him as he headed into the forest , and
followed the path to his old tree. He stood aghast and trembled
with a wave of fury and melancholy .
His old tree had been felled . !! He sat down in a weakness looking at the macerated stump, all the branches , some cut already as logs ready for the cart . Tears welled up in his eyes and he went to the old amputated stump. It was about 3 feet high. He put his long arms around the trunk and pushed his forehead against the wounded bark.
- old tree , you and I have shared much . I have seen some , but you much more. What wisdom have you held. You have been dead for many years , but your being has been my closest friend ; in all my times of anguish and torment, trouble and woe . I have come to you and you have listened to me. Yes I too have lusted , vented anger , raged in jealousy , been unfaithful . I have sinned in so many vile ways … and you too have seen other sinners like me beneath your boughs these last 100 years or more .''
He wept as he went back to his cabin. He thought about who might have felled the tree. And why . The farmer had no desire to fell her. Yet someone did. How odious a thing to do. Such disrespect. He wept and was in deep melancholy all day. On the following day an inspiration occurred to him. He took to his bicycle and headed to the village plant nursery. The people looked at him with an amiable curiosity, with his coat held together against the wind by bailing twine .
The assistant was a pretty girl and patient too . But he needn't demur. He knew exactly what he wanted
- An ash tree sapling
Just the one .
Oh ye just the one.
He was waiting beside some garden crockery - fountains with tumbling amphorae ; dolphins with spouts . and an array of elves .He was not long sitting there until he saw coming up the drive a man dressed much as he was. He was walking his bicycle and it was carrying a sack . His attention was alerted . When the man came into view he saw that he was carrying a sack of logs.
The attendant seemed to be expecting him. She directed him to a shed and told him to bring the rest in. It would , she told him ,dry there over the stove. The hermit's curiosity was drawn and he approached the man as he stacked his timber in the shed.
He saw that the wood was old , dead. Sodden. .
Eventually his curiosity overcame his wrath - his unjustified much suspected wrath..., He did not yet know that this was his tree, he called on all his resources to put the thing as diplomatically as he could , for he was lumbering and gauche in social discourse. He struggled for engaging words despite his deft articulation of the written word
He interrupted the other man with a rehearsed cough.
- I don't wish to sound accusatory .. To pry.. , he corrected himself finding himself speaking as if reading one of his texts. His own voice sounded strange to him .
- Yes , ? " -the two men faced one another like to like two scarecrows , neglected now even by the crows
- these logs .. Did the come from the Fermoy wood
- whose askin then ?
- I'm just curious .. I live on the edge of the wood .. I saw a tree was cut yesterday and I wondered .
- yes sir ! that's her .He looked at his likeness and rather than take an unnecessary hostility to a vagrant he spoke more calmly
- I had permission from Mr Fermoy She's dead now you know
- I know and I wondered what use would she be to anyone. And why she was felled
- dead yes .. But to boat makers she is just unwoven - awaiting the hand of the craftsman…just what they want . The sap is drained out of her. And when she dries she will make a sturdy keel or gunnels, or even a mast. They'll be very pleased with my lot.
- but why did you cut her down .I ask only because of my contemplations….. Because I used to admire her ..- he said trying with his awkward inelegance . The spoken word , it seemed had become unfamiliar to him in his isolation.
The other man now introduced himself
-My name is Andrew and yours ..
- You are the hermit who lives in the forest ? I know you to see..
Mathew fell into a reverie and Andrew listened , as he detected in the other his almost mechanical engagement with his thoughts : as if he processed the words framed them then carefully articulated them punctiliously ,
He listened as the Mathew gave a slow and seemingly well rehearsed commentary of his thoughts - as if he were not really speaking to him but rather summarising and giving him a synopsis of his thinking . - a running commentary of what was on his mind -His life in solitude and his little use for conversational language or dialogue made the whole ordeal of conversing intriguing . Andrew he had to struggle to grasp the smallest observation .He listened with rapt attention and he seemed to see the other's his brain churning the words over , clicking and releasing the them selectively to his voice ,which was merely like a flute carrying the message .
''I have seem that tree through all the seasons , sometimes I heard the four seasons of Vivaldi playing in her boughs, pushing with the storms , the searing cold through the winter, the jauntiness of spring when the other trees show their buds to her as the elder matron of the forest . The torpid days if summer beating down relentlessly where she was naked to the flare of the sun.. ''
He trailed off and seemed to emerge from his trance
- you make me feel guilty . I never knew a man could feel so much for a dead tree..
"But I don't feel guilty. I don't own such luxury..
He felt at ease , now talking to his new companion . He had not talked about his fall .He knew it was pride which prevented him from doing so, but in Mathew he saw no pride. No hubris, no driving ambition ,to get to the top. Had he not climbed so high so fast his fall might hot have been so drastic. His circumstances changed in a week ,His shares , futures , commodities, investment products fell like a pack of cards before his eyes and he was too paralysed by a sense that some order would prevail before his last stocks crashed . He saw no reason not to tell this old mystic something, not from a sense of victimhood .but because he had nothing : never did nor ever would . The arc of their lives might intersect here : in this one instant,then each would continue his journey : along the allotted orbit or circular journey out into the chasm of space and time . He eyed him keenly.
''You see Mathew .. Last year I might have owned that farm , that forest and that fine house.. Today I have nothing. Less than nothing ..I have debts which are unplayable. And I forage now to put something on the table every day. .-I had property , many properties .. Many would call it greed .. But I made money .. For myself but much more for others . I don't want pity . Who would pity a city banker. Good lord it's almost a shameful term now… and here I am now ..successful city banker - I was referred to in the Financial Times as a banking supremo .. When it struck I couldn't believe that it could all crumble so fast.. And in that week my life changed . I thought of going into the wood to that very tree .. With a rope Mathew .. !- "- He paused
"What saved me ?" For a moment he thought he had lost his
companion in his reflective reverie which he'd never indulged in
telling others, partly from shame and partly because he himself
thought deep down that if he never admitted it , it never
actually happened until he did so. He was diffident even
broaching the subject of his downfall , but to have confessed
almost all to this stranger suddenly mystified him.
He sought his eyes for the first time now. He saw before him not the man he thought he'd met .but one with a mystic's eye , pale and fragile , wide but intense , penetrating now , but not judgemental ?
What saved him that day.. The rope was still there . Where he left it in the overgrowth.
He seemed to be transported even reluctantly into the others world ; his thought drawn from his brain with an arrestingly powerful force. He was about to say that religion had saved him . But it had not , neither had antidepressants or all the psychiatric sessions nor all the groups he'd joined . None of these brought any solace to his desolation .only the focus of providing food and shelter for his family so preoccupied his mind that he lay back exhausted towards evening , thinking what he might turn to in the morning .
Each day was a new struggle , but somehow he found the resolve and perseverance to get up and face the coming day and whatever it brought .
The pale eyes turned in on his , studied the harried face before him then turned slowly away again , always focused in that far away place .
Andrew , he began -
'you have suffered . I can see that your circumstances have brought you in to a realm of consciousness unfamiliar to you.'' Again he found himself speaking in his written word voice. He adapted .
''I have lived through all of these things , I have lived outside this world of finance . Mine was the preoccupation of the mind and I was inured - spared the vagaries of the markets . Spared the turmoil in souls such as yours . I have indulged myself in things beyond the here and now where you have to strive each day to face them ; new challenges ; further disappointments , and ultimately a bankruptcy of the soul .
I have been living outside of society now for almost 6 years . I too had a business , a wife and a happy family. Mine was inherited wealth .;not mine you understand , but my wife's family. A plush car , gardens ,lawns and a pony for my daughter , until one day I saw the futility of it all .I struggled on with my life as director - a sinecure they created for me to justify giving me a large and grossly undeserved salary. I was living the lie .
I was then 56 years of age . My children had grown up and found lives for themselves. Only my wife and remained in the big house.
We had not been in love for many years . We were house companions , that's about as much as it was . I knew she was still sexually wanting. She needed sexual consummation and .she was entitled to it but I was no longer able to offer it .. I felt she was seeing someone . One day I asked her and she admitted it to me frankly .We parted over the following days . And no tears of remorse flowed . Only the sense of liberation ; of getting out from under the falsehoods I'd been living under .and I have not looked back since. My children have lost touch with me . They didn't believe their mother when she told them how I'd been living . I have been camped up in other places before the woods. But I never returned to the house and none of the family sought me out . And that is where I am.
I write about life but don't face that life . I write about the great mysteries of the heavens the cosmos but only see the constellations pass over my window in the night . Is this also a false life ? I ask myself …is that what God would have me do ? Many men do the reverse of what I've done.. Leave the priesthood to follow a truer love they've found.
A silence fell between them now. Mathew finally got up and went to the door and looked out at the falling light.
- I'll need to be heading back soon..'' he looked awkwardly at the other man then held out his hand
''Nice to have met you . I'm very sorry about your tree .. I'm sure you'll find another ..
- No Need .'' he said with a quiet resignation. He too had finally confessed his inner weaknesses to this stranger . A man whom he had already passed critical judgement upon before he ever saw him, He felt guilty as he shook the hand.
'' I hope you get something decent for your labours .. '' he indicated the stack of wood
''So do I Mathew. '' he said looking too at the hulk of timber '' you know they'll dry her out over the spring and then the boat builders will be around, - who knows ? in another year she could be sailing the oceans of the globe '' he said with a trace of a smile on his sad face.
Reborn '' -said Mathew..
''in a sense " Andrew added , but elegant trees like this one once was were destined for great works , in shipping , furniture … statues , wood carvings ,, who knows . Maybe her destiny awaits her but is already determined ,.. Maybe she was always made to come to this ..
''Maybe so said Mathew " , a slight frown furrowed his brow: No he didn't think trees were meant to be anything .anything other than an elegant tree
He had turned into the bracing wind .
"Mathew ! his acquaintance called after him
He turned back
" Did they always call you |Mathew ? I just wondered "-
He thought about this for a moment
" Yes _ Always
" Never Matt , or anything like that
" why . No actually . Never
" Me too…Never an Andy….. Isn't that strange ?
The pale eyes were streaming with tears against the wind . He
studied him for a moment longer than was necessary, then thinking
of nithing to say that he could say in a casual manner he bade
farewell to his strange acquaintance. He'd just turned out the
path from the nursery when he suddenly stopped and went in to
the little shop ,The same girl was still there.
'' I wonder '' he said haltingly ..If you might have another sapling ..like this one ..
Oh gosh ! I don't know ..let me see .. '' she went behind the shop and emerged with two saplings ..
'' he last two ''she said ..' you're lucky.. Which will you choose?!
" you know .. I think I'll take them both''