She stood on the edge of the cliff and looked down into the water below. One by one she plucked the arrows from her heart that had been embedded in the flesh of her wound for a century. As she pulled an arrow from her heart blood poured out in a torrent and ran down the orange yellow red sandstone of the ancient burial cliffs and into the red river below. Another arrow and more blood poured down to the river below. And as the blood from her heart flowed, the arrows turned into seeds and the seeds became a circle of oak and birch and maple that grew around her feet. With each arrow a new tree grew as her blood poured down into the river below.
The woman reached for the last arrow, grabbed it with both hands stained with blood money and the upheaval of an era and as she stopped to look beyond the stars, beyond the moon, beyond the horizon she looked straight into the heart of the child standing on the clouds.
The child smiled and said, “It’s okay, Mama. Don’t worry. I just want you to know, I’m fine. You don’t have to hurt anymore. I never really left you even though I had to go away far away from you. Even though you haven’t been aware of it, I’ve been watching how you speak to the wingéd ones, four leggéd ones, the trees and the flowers. How you tread carefully upon the stones, sing to the rising morning.”
“Is it really you?” the woman asks the child.
The child nods. “Do you remember where we were when I first heard you? Listen….”
Smelling almonds roasting in the oven, their soft crackling tickling the air, feeling sunlight upon skin and the rhythm-rocking of grandmother’s chair, the woman remembered the suddenness of something new. She stilled and when the aching inside stilled, she heard the song of the child’s heart. Slowly, carefully, she cracked hers open and merging with the child’s first heart beat song, watched their song drift toward the clouds and then sing within the wind.
And the child reached across the vast expanse of time space and pulled the last arrow from the heart of the woman and she bled no more. The child threw the arrow to the heavens and the pine resin became blood and the arrowhead became bone and the hazel shaft became body and the feathers became two wings and the red and blue paint became all there is and the woman watched as the eagle soared up into the starlight. The moon glistened on the wide regal wings of the eagle, and shimmering stars of dewdrops fell from the sky above the cliffs below. Then the mighty bird swooped down toward the child waiting on the clouds on the other side of the ancient burial cliff, and the child jumped onto the back of the eagle. They flew into the moonlight and as the stars trembled and the woman trembled, the child and eagle disappeared behind the rabbit on the moon.
The woman watched all of this in wonder as she stood on the edge of the cliff. She looked out over the great expanse and the wounds of her heart covered over, healing, closing the sorrow to be no more. She looked over the cliff and down into the river below. The river was full of life. Blue was the river, a breathing river of life. She waited until rumbling beneath her feet shook her breath alive.
“Ah, roots, they are growing, slowly, yes, but growing,” she whispered.
A cool wind blew leaves from the trees. She reached upward and outward, grasped a red oak leaf, a yellow birch leaf, an orange maple leaf, and reading the map of life written in treelike veins, listened to what they had to tell.
Like an arrow…
To their songs…
Far and wide…
Walk straight, the three trees said together.
A shadow fell inside the circle of trees. Something tickled her nose. She sneezed and watched the sun walk across the sky as the oak and birch and maples’ long shadows quelled the fire burning within. Opening her hand she gazed upon an eagle feather, and smiling for the first time in a century, she looked up once again and saw the child riding on the back of the eagle circling above her, starlight shimmering upon them.
With courage and hope she carried the words of the child inside her heart and they grew into the words of stories that spread across the land and healed the hearts of the childless mothers who roamed in search of the child within.