In the Company of Trees
by Robert Eugene Perry
“What are you waiting for? The sun is almost down. If we don’t reach the other side of the forest by nightfall we’ll have to sleep here.”
Lucy kept her eyes closed and leaned back against the ancient oak. Her brother was so neurotic. He hated the woods. She had tried to get him to relax while they were walking by describing the different genus of trees, how each flowered and grew fruit, how all the creatures of the forest used them for shelter and protection. Nothing seemed to make a difference.
She tried speaking calmly to him, with her eyes still closed. “Ben, why don’t you come sit next to me for a little while. Sunset isn’t for hours yet, we have plenty of time to make it to the other side. Please, try to trust me.”
Benjamin looked down at his sister. It was so easy for her. She was always a carefree person, skipping through the daisies and laughing at whatever life threw at her. He loved her with all his heart and he knew she felt the same, but she could never fully understand his fear.
He sat down on a rock next to the tree. “You know I can’t do that, sis.”
She opened her eyes and frowned at him. “You’re not even trying, Ben. You promised to come with me and try to relax. This should be a fun afternoon, we haven’t seen each other in forever, and look at you! City life has made you paranoid.”
He sighed. “I know this is your favorite place – that’s why I agreed to walk with you. I thought maybe I would feel different this time. I don’t. I ‘m still as scared as I ever was, I feel like everything is watching me.”
Lucy reached out and took his hand. “You took a big step in just coming out here, I know. Now you need to take the next step and trust that the forest is a safe place.”
Benjamin squeezed her hand and sighed. “What do you suggest?”
“Close your eyes and keep hold of my hand. Trust that I will not let anything happen to you.” She stood up and gently guided him to lean back against the tree while still holding his hand.
Benjamin’s breathing grew rapid and his eyes wanted to shoot open. He clenched his teeth and tried to slow his breathing.
“That’s it, Ben, now try to relax your back against the soft moss at the base of the tree. Let the tree’s strength support you – yes, that’s very good. Keep one hand on the moss, isn’t it warm and soft? Breathe in the fragrance of the forest now. That’s right, nice and slow, you’re doing just fine.”
Benjamin was amazed at the transformation that had taken place in just a few short minutes. He had no idea where his fear had vanished to, and for the first time in many years he felt free. He wondered where his sister learned this technique, but he was not going to spoil the experience by analyzing it.
Her voice was comforting and reassuring, he let everything go and just floated in an ocean of safety, allowing his anxiety to melt away and sinking deeper and deeper into…
Benjamin found himself standing in a lush green forest, similar to the one he had been walking through with his sister, only this one seemed more alive. Everything around him seemed to glow with a shine that came from within.
The path that lay at his feet was covered with golden leaves. He bent down to pick one up and marveled at the intricacy of the leaf, each vein seemed to stand out in stark relief against the leaf as a whole.
“Come”, he heard a voice call from somewhere down the path. He walked down the path until he came to a field. He felt something stop his body as he tried to enter into the open area.
“Wait”, the voice enjoined him and he stood motionless.
A child entered the field from the other side of the forest. He was running and laughing, rolling over rocks and making whooshing sounds while he brandished a large stick, vanquishing unseen foes.
Suddenly, a shadow emerged from the far end of the field. Without making a sound it moved rapidly towards the unsuspecting boy.
The boy looked up, but it was too late to run. The shadow pierced his heart and left him in the field for dead. The bright colors of the forest drained away, leaving the grass brown and the trees bare. The child still lay there motionless.
Something stirred inside Benjamin. He began to feel anger, then sadness. Still, he was unable to move. He waited for the child to stand up, but nothing happened.
“Go”, the voice whispered. Benjamin began walking towards the child, a new feeling rising up within him. He wanted to help the boy; compassion moved his feet to run to the child in the middle of the now frozen field.
He rolled him over and saw that the boy was himself. He picked him up and embraced his own frozen form. He began sobbing for the lost child, his tears falling upon the lifeless face of his youth.
The child awoke in his arms and smiled. “I ‘m so glad you came for me, Benjamin. I‘ve been here all along. I knew you would come back.”
Benjamin could not control the pent up flow of tears. He held himself and kept repeating, “We’re okay, we’re okay.”
He opened his eyes to see that his sister was still holding his hand. She helped him up off the ground and held him close.
“I love you, Benjamin,” she spoke into his ear.
In between the tears he returned, “The trees saw everything, Lucy. They saw everything and they never judged me.”
She pulled back from the embrace and smiled. “Welcome home, Ben.”
Robert Eugene Perry is a native of Massachusetts. In 2007 he published his first novel Where the Journey Takes You, a spiritual allegory combining poetry and prose. This was followed by three collections of poetry The Sacred Dance: Poetry to Nourish the Spirit in 2008, If Only I Were a Mystic, This Would All Come So Easy in 2011, and Surrendering to the Path released by Human Error Publishing in 2020.
Perry hosted a poetry group for disabled individuals at the former New England Dream Center in Worcester MA, and has emceed the monthly Open Mic at Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster MA since May 2017.
Three of his poems were included in NatureCulture/ Human Error Publishing 2021 anthology Honoring Nature. Two of Perry’s poems were published in Poetica Magazine’s 2020 Mizmor anthology. His poem “Quest” was the January 2019 Poets of Mars winner.
A metaphysical poet, he draws inspiration from nature endeavoring to reveal connections between our higher selves and the natural world.