There once was a Goddess who preferred to talk to fully grown trees rather than people. While searching for a splendiferous tree, she instead encountered a gnarled tree stump–a whole forest of them, actually.
The Goddess, named Marsha, was quite young. She was one-hundred-and sixty-two years old, which, in Goddess terms, is merely a teenager. Her parents, Atara and Gringold, lived in another quadrant of the galaxy. They had not heard from their daughter in over one hundred years. Obviously, they were very concerned about Marsha’s welfare.
Since there isn’t space in a blog to artfully parse out Marsha’s backstory, I will give you the bare bones and then move on.
For starters, Marsha really isn’t Marsha. Atara and Gringold gave her a proper Goddess name: Savasanti. It means “Beautiful Peace.” Like almost everything her parents tried to give her, Marsha discarded the name in favor of something else. This is not to say there is anything wrong with the name Marsha. I am only pointing out that it is unheard of to refuse a given name in the world of Gods and Goddesses.
As the dual suns beamed down on the idyllic world of Aleya, an argument ensued between Marsha and her parents in the parlor of their majestic mansion built on the highest bows of a giant Grazanga tree. (The fruit of a Grazanga tree resembles a football-sized pasticcio nut, by the way. They make a delicious and nourishing grab-and-go meal for a God or Goddess, either raw, roasted, salted or unsalted).
Shouting on Aleya is a rare event, especially between parents and their children. Nevertheless, the shouting between Marsha and her parents was audible on the marshy plain thirty feet below and outward to the neighboring tree mansions. As the conflict escalated, Atara and Gringold reddened with embarrassment and anger while Marsha’s spirits soared. Marsha always felt powerful when she irritated her parents.
Whereas they had every right to lose their tempers, Atara and Gringold, like the good parents they were, did not. However, the decibel count of the exchange increased to a level where it became necessary for a peace abiding neighbor to call the tree police to restore the tranquil vibrations of the neighborhood. The arrival of the tree police only served to heighten Atara and Gringold’s level of frustration and embarrassment with their daughter.
Exasperated, Atara cut Marsha off in the middle of a tirade. “As long as you live in this house, you will obey our rules.”
Marsha looked back at her mother, literally fuming with her long auburn locks ablaze.
“Our patience with you is at and end,” Atara added. “Your father and I expect you to curb your insolence, your selfishness, and your complete lack of gratitude.”
“If your behavior doesn’t improve,” Gringold said, “I will send you to Marsh Point where they will teach you discipline and how to act like a proper Goddess. This is your last warning, Savasanti.”
Marsha, as she was known to herself and a handful of insolent friends, glared defiantly at her parents.
After a few tense seconds, Atara implored, “If you won’t listen to us, talk to the trees. They are wise.”
“The trees are stupid. They say the same things you say.” And with that, Marsha stormed out of the room trailing behind her a long mane of smoke.
The next day, Marsha abruptly left home for worlds unknown.
Due to her premature departure, Marsha never learned the arcane secrets of navigating billions of light years across the galaxy and landing gracefully at a pre-determined destination. She arrived in Earth orbit, because the planet looked inviting from outer space, only to plunge like a meteor into the sands of the Gobi Desert in a failed attempt to land smoothly. I assure you that “failed attempt” is an exceedingly kind description of the event.
Marsha spent nearly a century at the bottom of a deep crater gouged out of the shifting and scorching sands of the Gobi Desert. The immense force of the impact left Marsha in a coma for most of this time. To be exact, the impact left Marsha’s cells in a coma because she no longer had a body. Her tissues lay scattered across a concave pit in the darkened depths of the crater. Over time, Marsha’s body reassembled, cell by cell. When her body was whole again, it still required a decade to recover from the shock of the explosive landing.
And then one day, Marsha’s eyes blinked open. She remembered nothing. She wondered, Who am I? What am I doing here.
For days, Marsha lay in the pit of the crater. Memories fluttered into her brain, slowly at first, and then quickly, like a drought stricken lake fully restored in a deluge of spring rain. She knew who she was and where she had come from.
With every beat of her heart, Marsha grew more curious about the planet she had landed on. She knew there was more to the new world than the desolate hole she found herself in. She remembered seeing lush land masses and vast oceans from her orbit in outer space.
Without another thought, Marsha jumped into the embrace of the darkness and flew out of the crater into the harsh sun and endless sands of the desert.
In any new situation, the first thing to do was to talk to a wise tree. This was especially true if you were not fond of people, as in Marsha’s case. Any dummy knew speaking to a tree first in a new situation was the smart move. And Marsha was no dummy. She had told her parents that trees were stupid just to aggravate them.
She kept flying until the land below turned from deathly pale sands into thriving shades of verdant green. After several clumsy and near catastrophic attempts to lose altitude, Marsha managed to ease into a cruising altitude near the planet’s surface. Ahead, she spotted a menagerie of trees in all shapes and sizes. Perfect. It appeared to be some sort of tree garden.
She landed in a field of pink roses. There were no people or houses of any kind in sight. Marsha figured she had come to a public park, or perhaps the reserve of a very rich family. Whatever the case, Marsha felt safe enough to lie down and take a nap. The long flight combined with a century of bodily dismemberment and reconstitution had taken its toll.
Marsha had no idea how long she had slept. She awoke in the dead of night staring at a canopy of stars overhanging a ghostly full moon. The sight reminded Marsha of the museums her parents had taken her to as a child. Those were happier days, centuries ago and billions of miles away.
It was time to begin her new life. No sense laying around and reminiscing. Lifting herself up from her bed of roses, Marsha marched towards the tree garden. And then, Marsha saw something grotesque. She had never seen anything like it before. A ring of tree stumps surrounded the tree garden. Upon reaching the ring of stumps, she stopped suddenly. “Who would do this and why?” she wondered aloud.
“It’s unfair,” the nearest tree trunk replied. “We grew too tall and blocked the view of the garden. So the humans cut us down.”
“I know. It’s abominable. The humans can’t communicate with us. Don’t ask me why. My name is Earl, by the way.”
“Marsha. Pleased to meet you.”
“Are you from around here?”
“No. I’m from the other side of the galaxy. I’m a Goddess.”
“You don’t say.” The tree trunk made clicking sounds, as if it were thinking.
“Maybe you can help me,” Earl the tree trunk said after the clicking stopped. “I’ve heard that Goddesses have powers. Is it true?”
“I’ve just met you and it sounds like you want something from me.”
“I need help badly. Look at me.”
“I suppose you want me to restore you to your former glory. That’s a big ask.”
“What can I give you in return. I once had powers of my own.”
“Can you show me what I look like?”
Like most Goddesses, Marsha’s outer beauty was beyond compare. She was, however, unaware of her looks. You see, there are no mirrors on the planet Aleya. No one needed mirrors because the Gods and Goddesses on Aleya were all astoundingly beautiful. And looking at oneself in a mirror was frowned upon.
“I can do that if you restore me to my ‘former glory,’ as you said so poetically. How long has it been since you’ve seen yourself, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I do mind. Do we have a deal?”
“Yes. Absolutely. If I could pinch myself, I would do it, to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.”
“You aren’t dreaming. I’m sympathetic to your cause. Where I come from, no one would dare to cut down a tree.”
Earl breathed a deep sigh. “That’s reassuring.”
And so, Marsha raised Earl the tree trunk back to his former glory as the other tree trunks looked on in astonishment. They all began to clamor, “me too.”
Marsha ignored their cries. Business was business. It was time to collect her boon. She flew to one of Earl’s uppermost branches where she made a graceful landing.
“Alright, show me what I look like,” Marsha said impatiently.
“Happy to oblige,” Earl chirped. “Come closer and look deeply into the knot.”
Leaning forward, Marsha gazed into the whorl embedded in Earl’s skin, or more correctly, Earl’s bark. The whorl transformed into a mirror. Upon seeing the image in the mirror, Marsha gasped and turned away. “That can’t be what I look like,” she said in a tremulous voice.
“It’s what you look like on the inside,” Earl sneered. “Best case recalcitrant. Worst case, evil. I’m leaning towards evil. You don’t deserve your powers. I’m going to take them. Then I’ll rain hell down on the humans who reduced me to a stump.”
Before she could move, Marsha watched the bony ends of branches enter her arms and legs, and then her mouth. She tried to scream, but it came out as an impotent gargle. The pain was excruciating. It felt like the invading branches had set her blood vessels on fire.
As her strength ebbed, the same thoughts pounded in Marsha’s mind like a kettle drum, over and over again.
I should have listened. Why didn’t I listen?
A faint voice whispered in her ear. It sounded, no, it couldn’t be, but yes, it did. It sounded like her mother, Atara, speaking to her with some good advice for a change.
Marsha set herself ablaze. The torturous branches inside her body recoiled and withdrew, setting Marsha free.
Free to fall.
Marsha spread her arms to avoid another crash landing.
“Without anyone nearby to dowse the fire,” Marsha screamed at Earl,” “you will surely burn to ashes for the wind to scatter into oblivion; a fitting end for a criminal tree.
A nearby tree in the garden called to her.
“What do you want?”
“To apologize,” the stately tree said. “The humans cut down the circle of trees for a reason, but not because they grew too tall. They were infected with a virus that would have killed us if the humans had left them alone. I’m sorry your path led you this way.”
“Thank you,” Marsha said. “I, too, regret finding my way here. No offense to you.” She waived at the tree. “Live long and prosper, as someone once said.”
Then, Marsha looked skyward, and flew far away, determined to find her way home.