I approach the sentient sentence trees at a dignified pace. I am nervous, but reverent, unarmed as seems appropriate. Under these sentence trees, I am in the moment, every sense heightened. People, places, things stack together, combining to become new shoots or already massive boles, the tops lost from sight. Like birds, tastes, sharp, illusive; sounds, loud, raucous, soft, menacing; colors, bright, dull, primary, secondary and tertiary appear in all shapes and sizes, flit among the branches. I feel blessed to be here, though I don’t know where I’m going or what I will find.
I’d journeyed far, trekking across my landscape, searching, before I came to the faceted plane which led me here. I’d struggled and hoped, fasted and prayed, trying to discover myself or those like me. I thought, at last, this is where I will find answers. I strode onto a sward filled with rows, copses, orchards, dark woods and isolated groups of family trees. My steps slowed, so my progress nearly ceased. I never anticipated how difficult my struggle here, which nearly ended my quest. I had believed myself equal to their mesmerizing properties. They drew me in. Each discovery proved more intriguing than the one before. Their stories grew around me; some had many branches and leaves. Some grew small, twisted, with little life and perhaps only one or two branches. Some, once mighty, stood, black, dead, in mock tribute to their passing. I succumbed to the allure of these trees, lost following paths which sometimes led to dead ends or simply vanished. I might not have escaped, had not the vicious googolplex charged me, driven me away, so I had to move on.
I breathed an incantation, my silent offering of thanks, as I moved further into the darkening woods. Being verbs, crawled through the undergrowth of stunted paragraphs, essays, abandoned fiction. They held little promise, except, perhaps as bait. Bait that might lead me to their running, jumping, scurrying, hiding, talking, calling, eating and killing sisters and brothers. Yet all of them hoped, loved, caressed, cried, argued, procreated and excreted as well. More tense than I realized, I marginalized them as gerunds, consigned them to the past. Suddenly, they all disappeared and the forest became quiet. I knew that terrifying thesauri and wild lexicons lurked in the shadows. They awaited chance opportunities, but wouldn’t exert themselves of their own accord.
A startling scream. High-pitched. Desperate, sends the sounds, colors and shapes aloft, in cacophonous, luminous chroma. Then, they settle again on the branches. I fear it may be a dangling participle, hoping for rescue. It makes me feel alone, unsure, though now the trees seem to guide me. I wend my way where they lead me. Disconcerted by this turn, I see no way but to move forward. Pebbles of doubt drop away beneath my feet and I stop just in time. I teeter at the edge of an embankment, trouble rushing rapidly below me. Searching around me with my eyes, too afraid to move quickly, I discover the perfect branches to rapidly build a bridge across this unexpected split infinitive.
I sense dangers all around me as I inch my way over my makeshift support. Stepping ever more cautiously as I continue my quest to find the illuminating conclusion, the satisfying narrative closure, the glorious denouement. Trudging on into stygian darkness, I become aware of a faint glow in the distance. Ethereal light, soft, multi-hued, grows to fill the top of the sky. Around me and below, remains black and forbidding. Like some vast mountain, I draw no closer to this tantalizing luminance, though time passes as I strive to reach it. I tramp on, hours, days, weeks, years, yet still it eludes me. I do not stop. I will not stop. I cannot, must not curtail my quest.
I am weary, so weary. Punch-drunk, stupefied, I stagger onward toward my grail. Asleep on my feet, I slam into a barrier. I reel backwards, confused, instinctively raising my arm to shield my eyes from the brilliant, blinding bright above me and before me. It emanates from a vast sun-dappled meadow beyond this fence of failure. As my eyes adjust, I realize I’ve been stymied by a tangled wall of fallen trees and branches. Many retain dead leaves and murdered sights, sounds and smells, as if clinging in desperation. A memento mori to other travelers who have tried to reach this wondrous destination. Others who have tried and failed. As well as the death and sorrow encompassed within this morbid monument, I see the broken tools and broken dreams where others have attempted to surmount, break through or even tunnel under this daunting dam before me. Still, luminous bits of verbiage, brilliance and lucidity flash their brief glory from this twisted mass. I see no place where any other has succeeded. This, at this moment, is my task alone. I know I must attempt this impossible feat, or forever brand myself a failure.
I step back to study the tangled, intertwined trees, limbs and the life great and small which perished within it. Looking for any hidden way or weakness, I dash suddenly toward this barrier. Perhaps, surprise and momentum will carry me over it. Trunks tremble and roll, branches snap beneath my feet and I am thrown backward, landing in a pile of shame and longing. Time moves at a pace it chooses, sometimes crawling, sometimes racing away on the wind. I plan and pray, seek magic, incantations or circumlocutions to help me reach my goal. I’m relentless, though my hair becomes silvered and my scraggly beard grows to my waist. I neither eat nor slumber, unflagging in the pursuit of my dream. In time, I can imagine no new ploy, have no original thoughts of how I might surpass this wall.
Depression envelops me in despair like wet seaweed and drags me down. I am defeated and bereft. I hang my head and sob, wracking screams consume me. I tear at my hair, my clothing, my skin, hoping to feel anything other than the pain of my defeat. I know no measure of time, pouring forth all that I have, all that I am. Empty at last, I become aware, controlled if not content. Though I am lost in the wilderness, no food, no fuel, no drive, I begin to search for another path to follow. Desultory, I seek some new way forward in my retreat. Finally, frustrated, exhausted, but no nearer to finding another path, a different quest, I know I am undone. Without hope, I turn to retrace the steps which carried me to this place, this moment.
My eyes snap open, wide in shock, surprise, wonder. Never imagined nor expected, a glistening glade glows before me. It is rife with fecundity, promise. Majestic trees grow in untended groves and poetic flowers, lush paragraphs, opinions and stories fill the perimeter. Sights, sounds and colors of all shapes and sizes frolic everywhere. Hope springs from a small hill in the center and flows outward, infusing everything. I shake my head in disbelief. By giving up, giving in, turning to retrace my steps, I’ve come home. For on the hill in the center sits a little yellow house with a little yellow door. My house, where the outside is small, the inside more.