When Someone Takes the Time to Color in the Trees
Camille had been dead for billions and billions of years, so to speak, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it. This is because there was no inconvenience for her to suffer on her journey through everlasting existence. After her first life living as a toddler, and then as a girl, and then as a woman, and finally as grandmother on the planet earth she died and started her venture through a kaleidoscope of various existences until she was once again born anew in Fiddlewood, where this tale of glorious nonsense and true love begins.
Camille bloomed from a sprouting Camellia when the sun was highest in the sky. She was the only flower to bloom that fall, and word of her birth spread to every ear in the forest. For a whole week the leaves did not change to their autumn colors, because they all refused to fall to the forest floor and miss out on the prospect of seeing such a beautifully unique flower. She, unlike the other flowers, was a curious one – born with a million questions on her mind, but she had learned from her many lives that she not only had to ask the right question if her curiosity was to be satisfied, but that she also had to ask it at the right moment and to the right creature. Camille was not like the other flowers in Fiddlewood, because roots and stem did not confine her to an idle existence – one of the perks of being born an October flower, no less. No, she was certainly one of a kind, and resembled more of a girl than a flower. The soil gave her long legs that allowed her to venture wherever she chose, a set of big brown eyes that allowed her to see the world like no one else, an intoxicating smile that attracted even the lamest of creatures, and long golden brown locks that smelled of stardust. She had a peculiar mind that compelled her to learn all she could from every facet of Fiddlewood, and to make it a more interesting place for her having been there.
So off she went; a flower like no other flower, eager to take in her new existence and find answers to questions she had not even pondered yet.
Creatures of all shapes and sizes, and different types of hair, of course, fell in love with Camille at first sight, or first word depending on which came first. They hopped, skipped, and glided on the wind to offer their love to her, promising the stars and the universe in return for her love. But Camille knew the stars and had played throughout the universe for billions of years during her journey through everlasting existence. “You can’t promise to give me something that isn’t yours to give, and the friendship of the stars surely isn’t yours to give, silly goose.” She said this to all the suitors that promised her such outlandish gifts of the heavens. She did not even spare a single syllable when a Goose, who was suffering from some odd vitamin deficiency that genuinely rendered him silly, promised her the Horse Head Nebula for a simple kiss. She concluded her refusal to this Silly Goose by saying that she had spent a lifetime singing with the Horse Head Nebula, and that it would not appreciate such frivolous guarantees, especially coming from a silly goose. The Goose was quite shocked by Camille’s bluntness, but it was Camille’s nature to tell things as they were without sparing a single syllable for the sake of trite politeness.
Camille did not have a compass to navigate Fiddlewood, nor did she fully trust her heart to take her where she needed to go, because she did not fully understand what her heart wanted in this life. Where was it she needed to go anyway? Even she was not certain, and she knew it was not time to ask that question nor was her heart the right thing to ask; not at the moment at least. Instead she followed the music that only she could hear: a feint tune that tickled her ears and gave her goosebumps up and down her legs. The tune started playing days after her birth, begging her forward as if it was the answer to some question on the tip of her tongue: what does this life mean for me? She followed the tune, walking day and night under the lover’s pursuit of the Sun and the Moon. Life can be unique in its cruelty, however, and every time the Sun or Moon got close enough to reach out to Camille their cycle would end and they would set before being able to touch her heart. The Sun tried to convince the Moon to allow daytime to stretch on longer than usual, and the Moon tried to convince the Sun to do the same, but neither would give in and agree to provide the other a shot at Camille’s heart, so the days and nights continued to flow as they always had; however, the days were far more beautiful and the nights far more romantic.
On the days when Camille’s feet would grow sore from walking the Wind would scoop her up and gently float her onward towards the pleasant tune. She would glide over the blades of grass and stare at the stars with her limbs sprawled out in every direction ,reminiscing on past lives and dreaming of the joys this life would bring. The Wind would go out of its way to do this for Camille every night, even if that meant changing directions from north to south, or east to west; it was simply happy to carry her heart warming fragrance through the forest for the trees and ordinary flowers to smell. The Wind never proclaimed its love for Camille. It had seen and heard of the influx in silly gooses now roaming Fiddlewood, and just wanted to enjoy her company as genuinely as it could. The Wind proclaimed nothing and for that Camille gained her first true friend in Fiddlewood.
“Stop!” said Camille, one night. The calm trees that warmed the night were gone, replaced by a forest of dead wood that hung in the atmosphere and stretched its morbidity in all directions. “What is this terrifying place?”
The Wind howled with displeasure to where they had wandered. In all actuality it was the Wind’s fault. It had become so enthralled with Camille’s company that it unintentionally veered off course to a place where the music that lulled Camille forward could not reach. They had stumbled upon the decrepit, colorless expanse of the forest where no creature dared venture. The trees rang out with a hollow shudder; forever stuck in a petrified state of pale whites and grays. They stood like ghosts forgotten by the world yet left behind to haunt it. The trunks of the trees were a crude collage of pale shades that dulled the atmosphere with an unpleasant vacancy. The branches crisscrossed from tree to tree and though they bore no leaves they succeeded in blocking out both the sun and the moon. The ground was cold to the touch – too inhospitable for even an earth worm to make it its home. The Petrified Forest creaked and swayed at the sight of Camille on its frontier, rebelling against her trespass, because it had been surrounded by death and had cultivated so much sorrow over the years that it could no longer feel warmth – her warmth – the warmth of the prettiest of the flowers.
Camille did not know the history of the Petrified Forest, and was therefore unaware that long, long ago it was the most gorgeous section of Fiddlewood; an oasis of color that sprouted from the core of the earth and exploded towards the heavens. Its colorful fragrance was so potent during spring and summer that it could be smelt during winter. It was one of the great joys of Fiddlewood until it met its destruction after the Witch Queen, who reined dominion over the land, demanded its knowledge of the world like it had from all other creatures in Fiddlewood. The trees denied her, refusing to succumb to her tyranny by granting her access to their hearts and minds, and thus paid the ultimate price. In her anger she stripped the forest of its essence of beauty, rendering it cold and incapable of offering shelter to anything. She petrified the trees where they stood, leaving them to stain the forest and stand as a reminder of what would happen should she be disobeyed. And warn they did, for from that instance no creature in Fiddlewood refused to satisfy the Witch Queen’s demands; no matter how terrible they were.
“You poor dear,” said Camille. The white tree she spoke to hissed when she pressed her hand to its bitter cold trunk, but, unlike the other creatures to venture to this lugubrious border, she interpreted the rumble as a plea for help rather than a warning. “Who would have the heart to do this to you?” The better question, however, is who would have the heart to undo the curse. She walked ten paces out of the Petrified Forest and spoke to the wind, which refused to blow past the trees. She told the Wind about her responsibility to save the forest, concluding her explanation with a favor, “Please fetch me a flower of every color, but do please be gentle . . . and ask their permission first!” she added, as it swept to the east to help a friend.
Camille was still waiting for the wind to return by the time the sun peaked over the horizon and illuminated the sight of a purple object gracefully gliding through the forest. As it came closer it resembled the shape of a flower, so she snatched it out of the air by its stem and cradled it in her palm. “Glad you could make it!” she said, before looking up to see a sea of color floating her way. Dozens of flowers floated overhead pausing in the wind just long enough for Camille to snatch them out of the air. She bounced up and down, and left to right, catching every flower as it passed until she was holding a large bouquet of variously colored daisies, orchids, lilies, tulips, sunflowers, and so on.
“Alright, lovelies, we’re going to color in the trees.” And color in the trees they did. And the more they colored in the pale and white stains, the more sunshine invaded the once dark expanse… Camille could hear the music once more…
She rubbed the flower pedals along the petrified scars, coloring in every inch with purples, yellows, reds, browns, greens, blues, oranges, and violets until the trauma of the curse was no more. A collage of color gradually grew up each tree in such a precise manner that the same colors never touched. Camille took her time when coloring in the trees, as any artist would. Once the trunk was painted to perfection the wind would scoop Camille up so she could color in the branches and the twigs until there were no longer any petrified stains to be seen. She spent day and night week after week coloring in each tree, and once she was finished restoring the former beauty of a cursed tree she would plant a flower at its base, so it could grow and sprout more flowers to warm the forest floor. The landscape was coming back to life, welcoming squirrels, canaries, blue jays, raccoons, beavers, and any other creature with a smile on its face to join in and decorate the colorful canopies with neatly crafted nests, happy music, floods of dandelions, green grass, laughter, and all sorts of signs of life. Leaves of every color spouted along the once dead branches and welcomed the sun to warm them. By the time Camille planted the last flower at the base of the last tree the once petrified forest had regained its former beauty. Animals from all around came to make it their home, and the music that called to Camille could finally dance with the trees.
Fiddlewood’s newest artist retired to her hammock that night with a peaceful heart, and closed her eyes for the first time in weeks. She awoke the next morning to a tickle just above her lip, but when she opened her eyes there was nothing there but the forest she had saved.
To be Continued…