The Green Man

The Green Man

A Story by Heidi
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I got the inspiration for this little story from Martin Donnelly's excellent song (aptly named) "The Green Man." Check it out! It's on Mr. Donnelly's CD "Stone and Light." Enjoy!

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            With a sickening feeling I watched the ground rush up until my face was full of mud and my chin was sharply aching form the rock it had just landed on.  My toes were curled beneath my legs, frozen in their attempt to spare me the fall but now just cursing themselves.  The cold watery earth began to run down the neck of my soaked shirt and jacket.  It took me a few seconds to attempt to stand.  I was so exhausted, I wasn’t sure that my limbs had the strength to pick me up.  However, after assessing the risk in spending the night in this dismal forest in a downpour, I finally struggled to my muddy feet. 

            The trail seemed to stretch for eons more, and now I had a horrible, throbbing headache and my chin was bleeding.  I looked down at the random slab of granite that I had landed on and saw a small puddle of blood on it and only imagined what amoebas were swimming in my bloodstream just now.  My hands were filthy and I hadn’t thought to bring any sort of first aid kit.  I was just going to be gone two hours.  Look!  This has turned into an all-day thing., I thought, angry.  Eventually, I made my feet move and grudgingly kicked through the muddy trail towards my cabin.  I had just planned on a nice, quiet, easy hike to the Silverfish Falls, probably a mile from my cabin.  Instead, somehow, I got off the trail and found myself going miles and miles off on some vector.  Luckily I knew the lay of the land enough that I wasn’t lost, but it was irritating to know that now I was going to have to try to find the trail again from where I suddenly found myself, on what my dad had called Owl’s Mate rock.  I did find it, but by then the clouds had begun to cry and now the forest was a mess.  I stomped along, wishing that I was home and not shivering and wet to the bone.    

            All at once, a flicker of movement to my right arrested my attention.  Imagining a pouncing mountain lion, I crouched low and readied myself to spring or sprint.  Instead, a man walked out of the forest, almost as though he left the large trunk of a pine that looked like it had giantism.  I slowly straightened and tried to smile, but the urge to do so quickly faded as I realized that he was walking toward me, slowly, no hurry, as slow as the growing trees.  I would normally have said something stupid about being out in the weather and hurried on my way, but something about him absolutely rooted me to the spot. 

            He looked young, about thirty-five probably, but then fine wrinkles around his eyes and lips betrayed a much older age.  His eyes were heavily lidded, but they sparkled fiercely, also betraying an exceptionally old age.  His hair was a rich, dark brown that hung shaggily over his face.  He wore a soft-looking sage-green button-down shirt and weathered jeans.  He walked like a cowboy, slightly bowlegged and stooped shoulders that accentuated his lean, wiry physique.  His skin was weathered and tanned, and his hands were large and strong. 

            I wasn’t sure how to react.  He stared at me with a gravity I had seen only in some of the old Indian chiefs I had interviewed for some of my magazine articles.  I wondered if he was a hermit in this forest, and it wasn’t until I brushed my long, waterlogged hair from my eyes that I realized he looked bone-dry.  I opened my mouth to remark, and he held up one of his hands to silence me.

            “Follow me,” he said, his voice low and rolling, like  falling logs.  I didn’t answer, but as he took off into the land, my feet followed him, leaving my brain still on the trail, puzzling him out and wondering if I was going to make it home in one unviolated piece. 

            He walked slowly, but his long legs covered a lot of ground in one stride that after a while I was puffing, trying to keep up.  He walked and walked, and as I seemed to just get wetter in this rain, he stayed dry.  Not even a drop on his shirt.  His boots were dirty but not wet. 

            We walked for a long while, and I was about to protest this march, or else turn around and once again find my way back to the trail, but all at once we were going up a steep hill, slick with the mud and fallen flora.  We climbed the hill, mastered a ridge, and then began hopping like goats up a stack of rocks.  In my mind’s eye, I kept seeing me reaching for the next rock and then slipping backwards, tumbling end over end back down the hill and landing in a broken heap at the bottom, a muddy, unrecognizable hunk of humanity.  To my surprise, I didn’t fall.  I was a slow climber, though, and as he was already at the top, I was struggling to get a good grip on a large boulder that would put me level with him.  He leaned down and took my hand in his warm, powerful grip, and holding as steady as a boulder himself, pulled me up next to him. 

            I’m not sure I can write this.  My hands are shaking and my eyes are full of tears, I can’t even see the paper, but I must tell this.  It’s hard, and forgive my poor manner of narration, because it can never do it justice. 

            With the cap of rainclouds as thick as fat on a seal, I could see beneath it a sloping valley that I was aware existed but had never bothered to visit.  Directly at our eye level I could see the setting sun, where it kissed the horizon, peeking in a small break in the clouds far, far to the west.  Or east?  My biological compass was utterly failing me.  I was pretty sure it was to the west that we faced, but upon saying so, the stranger shook his head.

            “No, we face east.  Ye behold the rising sun.”  I hurriedly checked my watch, only to watch in dismay as the three needles inside spun in all directions.  I shook it, tapped it, took it off and examined it at all angles, but it never ceased its amazing activity.  My heart was racing, but something in the man’s demeanor calmed me. 

            The valley beneath us was bathed in golden and silver light, golden from the firey sun and silver from the glistening clouds that wept over the valley.  The whole area had been clear cut, and a small stream at its base was clogged with debris and dead plants.  Many trees had not yet been cleared out, the weather probably not really permitting, or else the area had been abandoned.  After working our way through the healthy forest to our rear, the flattened valley was strange to look at, but not surprising.  I wondered if the man thought I could offer an explanation, and I readied one, but then I realized he was looking at me.  His dark eyes were glistening themselves with tears.

            “You see?” He said. 

            “Yeah…” I said, unsure of what sort of answer he wanted.  He shook his head and moved a hand across his eyes, and then jumped down from the rocks and motioned again for me to follow him.  I jumped down as well, and we set off through the valley. 

            As we stepped gingerly over the dead trees, I could see a herd of white-tailed deer prancing away, their brilliant tails standing erect in the air as they deserted the valley.  One doe stopped to allow her frightened fawn to catch up to her, and I watched as she regarded me and the stranger, and to the stranger, nodded her head.  Then her baby caught up and they both leapt away.  To my right, I saw a row of field mice, all lined up and staring, as though perplexed at the sight of the felled trees.  I noted that all these animals were sitting out in the rain, a behavior not normal in most woodland critters, but what befuddled me more was when each mouse, in succession, bowed to the stranger and disappeared off the end of the tree. 

            A great white pelican flew over our heads and alighted several yards away, near what looked like a lump of matted fur.  The stranger regarded it with solemn eyes, and before us the pelican transformed into a lovely girl with black hair and dark skin, swathed in a white feather gown.  She didn’t look up at us, but knelt beside the pile of fur and began to weep and sing, a rigid, high wailing song that made the small hairs on my arms stand straight up.  The tears in the stranger’s eyes spilled over, and he took my hand.

            “My wife,” he said, indicating the girl, who all at once was joined by a pack of wolves who had slinked from the lines of fallen trees from another arm of the ridge.  It took me a few seconds to realize that the lump of fur was a killed wolf, and the swan-girl who had so fantastically appeared was joined in her mourning song by the chorusing throats of the wolves, indigenous Gray wolves, probably some of the last surviving.    I felt that my mouth was hanging open, and the stranger smiled.

            “You see?” He asked again, and slowly, I nodded.  Flocks of birds tittering in the trees surrounding the valley began to perform aerobics among the raindrops, but I felt a vague feeling of melancholy in their acrobatics, as though they were dances of mourning because the birds were born with forever happy voices.  The sun began to close his eye, and the clouds closed around it, the rain falling even harder.  The songs of the girl and wolves rippled through the air, ringing off the dead wood all around them.

            “They take the lives, they break the land.” The stranger said to me, and that was all he said.  I nodded.  I had worked with environmental agencies all over the country, but never before had I felt so deeply the cost of our culture, of our lives, on our roots.  “Tell them.” He admonished me, and I nodded again, unable to speak. 

            After a few moments of drinking in the mourning, the sad landscape and the breaking spirits of the animals who had all of this before the two-legs forgot their place, the stranger gently grasped my elbow and led me back to the pile of boulders.  He helped me over, and carefully led me back to the trail.  The sky was darkening, the water sliding from the trees hissed on the ground.  I didn’t say a word as we walked, and neither did he.  He never let go of my hand or arm, and I felt free to cry as well. 

            At the foot of the hill leading to my solitary cabin, we stopped, and he turned to me.

            “Don’t forget your sight.  Have care, and tell them.  Please, please tell them.” I nodded.  “Return now from exile deep, back where we…where you and we, belong.” He whispered, and I nodded again.  He patted my hand and finally released it, and stood back into the green embrace of the forest as I mounted the hill.  When I turned again, he was gone. 


© 2009 Heidi



Author's Note

Heidi
I didn't edit this at all, I was just bored and wanted to write something. I hope you liked it! If so, leave me a lil note, please!

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Added on January 18, 2009

Author

Heidi
Heidi

About
Whag, I am just a person who overloads herself on things to do and people to love and goals in life. I'm still young but then not so young, in that though I want to go out and literally see the world.. more..

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Hidden Deep Hidden Deep

A Story by Heidi