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I walk through the forest today for one reason.

I don't take time to roam as usual, and pay little attention to the bugs and birds and leaves that I usually study. I'm searching for one tree. She stands a bit taller than some and shorter than most of her fellows, with no distinctive landmarks to guide me to her. There is no path that leads to this one tree. But I always know where to find her.

Rhythmically I walk between the trees, with twigs crunching under my feet. Still cool and damp from a recent rain, the trunks steady me as I walk, but my hand does not linger. I press forward, aware of the water dripping intermittently from limbs and leaves. My step does not slow or quicken as the place draws near.

The tree stands palpably before me, the same today as every other day. I walk directly to her and place my hand on her smooth trunk. Pausing there a moment, my finger gently traces the scar, small but deep, in her flesh. Then I sink down with her broad trunk at my back. Turning my face toward her crown, I gaze at the weave of branches and dappling of leaves, studying the familiar pattern. Occasionally a drop of rainwater graces my face and arms. She weeps over the wistful child sheltering in her bosom, the wound in her pale flesh throbbing in sympathetic rhythm with my heartbeat.

Closing my eyes I breathe deeply, inhaling the balm of wet bark and woody earth. I sit very still for a long time, allowing thoughts to meander. Soon they all wander away, unpursued. My mind sheds remnants of silent thought as the leaves drip residual rainwater.

Gravity has shifted. I am firmly rooted, solid, yet floating indiscriminately. No longer feeling my limbs or skin, I have no concept of my body, though my senses are fully alive. I feel dampness and solidity. The rustle of a distant leaf and every drop that meets the ground. Deep earth, reaching down for miles and out in every direction. The presence of other trees, the soil, the breathing creatures of the forest. They are within me; they are me. . . .

Time gradually returns like a distant tock. . . tick. . . tock. . . . I am slowly aware of my own breath faintly rising and falling. I inhale slowly, deeply, and sensations gently begin to press in. They do not rush at me and I allow them to come. Once again I feel the skin encasing my body and my back against the damp toughness of the tree trunk. Sitting for a while, I take in the sounds and odors and sensations. Slowly I rise, my heart beating steady and strong. My grateful hand lingers on the constant trunk for a few moments, and then I make my way back home.

Erin Metcalf

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