Tree

Photo Credit: Nasser Osman

Photo Credit: Nasser Osman

A tall lone ash tree stood in the valley equidistant between the east and west mountains. No other trees or bush of any kind except for this lone ash tree and its shadow to eclipse the valley. Forks of red lightning splintered the indigo black sky, otherwise clear, as thunder rolled down the hillsides as if filling the valley solely to strengthen the ash tree. A woman walked towards the ash, across the valley from the north, with arms raised as if summoning the lightning herself.

She walked unhurriedly and when she stood under the ash, and the lightning struck once more, a dark cloud of ravens burst from every branch, cawing to each other. Rain finally fell, as if called by the ravens, even though visible stars still sprinkled the sky. The woman leaned against the ash, watching the lightning dance across the sky, and waited for the rains to fill the valley. As the rains dropped like big fat tears she felt the wind rise, first in gentle breezes then quickly swirling into gales strong enough to snap the strongest pirate sails.

She waited calmly feeling the water begin to trickle in small rivulets and streams until they joined together becoming one large river that sliced the valley, north to south, between the mountains, like a dagger ripping flesh. The waters roiled and swirled, with white peaks and an angry grumble almost louder than the thunder that continue to roll down the hills. The birds all disappeared, the crickets long stopped their song, leaving nothing but the ash tree, the woman, and the water that raged through the valley.

Her long hair wet, strands plastered to her face and shoulders, blew wild with the wind while her toes dug into the muddy soil at the base of the ash. She breathed deep, filling her lungs with the violent winds, tasting the tang of salt and soil in the water while the thunder vibrated in her heart. She kept her face upturned, eyes unblinking despite the bright flashes of lightning, feeling the electricity burn the air and raise the downy hair on her arms.

The water continued to rise and build, threatening to fill the valley and dwarf the mountains, but the ash tree remained as an island amid the turmoil with the woman at its base. Drops ran down her cheeks, rain mixed with tears or simply rain only she could say, but she remained with her face turned upwards. As the clouds moved overhead, dark and tumultuous, the thunder bellowed incessantly, filling her chest with a thrum and vibration that infused with her voice, slowly rising, a single note, strong and clear, deep and emotional, calling all the ravens back to roost.

The birds returned, slowly, like ink drops tossed on a roiling sea, their feathers wet and ruffled, finally gripping a branch in the midst of the storm. They eyed her, silently, with puffed chests, blinking with curiosity as she continued the one note. The valley was gone, now filled with water, the mountains peaks barely visible among the crashing waves but the ash tree remained untouched, barely a leaf blown out-of-place. As her voice crescendoed then fell silent, the thunder boomed to silence and the lightning flashed no more. The clouds squeezed the last few drops of rains before breaking apart and revealing the indigo black sky once more.

When the woman’s voice was silent and the river valley water calmed, an eery silence filled the void. The ravens shook their feathers, preening each one dry, then looked towards the sky as she raised her arms once more. They waited, watching, anxious and curious, but no sound or light flashed, no rains or thunder echoed, only an occasional splash in the distance occurred. The woman stood motionless, with arms raised, until the edges of the sky began to lighten. The sun rose in the west tainting the sky a strange bruised purple before fading to hints of lavender and blue. When the warmth of the sun touched the ravens feathers, the birds began to caw. Their voices rang out across the water, echoing and reverberating, like fish playing in the sea.

She lowered her arms and the birds rose up, filling the blue sky like dark gray smoke, diving and twirling in the doldrums air. They rose in columns of black feathers like soot, twisting and rising higher before falling, like stones, dropping as the rain had only hours before. When it looked like they would smash into the water, breaking the surface and drown, they opened their wings and sailed across the ocean before coming to rest on a mountain peak.

The woman then climbed to the uppermost branch of the ash and breathed deep once more. She let the sunlight dry and warm her skin and hair. Once dry and warmed she looked to each crow perched on the mountains ridge and blinked, slowly, before bowing. She bent at the waist, deep, folding in half, then stood again with a bright smile lifting her lips. The crows blinked and tilted their heads, watching, waiting. She slowly rose to her tiptoes, lifting her arms once more, then pushed off, arching over the edge of the ash tree’s island, and diving deep into the waters and disappearing.