The Wishing Tree

In my younger days, I was something of a spiritual nut-job. If you went out into the wilderness and saw a fool being shamanic or playing a spirit drum, that might have been me. Over the last few years I got away from that. I didn’t exactly lose faith. I never had much to begin with. It’s just that the feeling had gone away. I needed to be more practical, so I kind of put the drum aside for a while.

Today I took the drum on a hike up a ‘hill’ to do an old style vision quest. I wasn’t expecting much, because nothing much ever happens. It’s usually whimsical stuff that makes me notice something no one else would ever see (or care to), or it’s something that makes me smile at the absurdity of coincidence life can deliver. Supposedly the beating of a drum can heighten awareness and create an altered state of consciousness, open up the spirit world.

So I lit a smudge and took a spot next to a tree and started beating the drum. I was thinking about love and how getting that in your life can be such a chore. We really ration those feelings for ourselves for some reason. As I beat the drum I thought of putting a rock on top of the burning sage smudge I had set in a branch of the tree. I didn’t want it to fall and set the grass on fire. The wind kicked up and I stopped drumming, deciding to set the smudge on a rock on the ground, then I got back to drumming. After a little while, as my awareness heightened, I noticed a rock in the tree on a higher branch, underneath it a plastic baggie. Seemed strange that someone had put a rock in a tree to hold something there. I kept playing, wondering if I might have found someone’s stash.

So I took a break from drumming and got the rock and bag down out of the tree. The plastic had weathered and was falling apart. Inside the bag I found a folded piece of paper. I unfolded it and a lock of very blonde hair fell out. The paper was weathered and fragile, and the ink had faded. A date at top showed it had been hidden there months ago. I slowly made out the words. It was a vow of love directed at someone…a wish left at this tree.

I thought about the person who had left the note. Isn’t it strange, I thought, to take this written vow of love, stick it in a plastic bag and put it under a rock in a tree at the top of some hill? Stranger still, why did I come to this spot and find it while playing my spirit drum? And stranger still, the name I made out on the paper was an unusual name I had given a character from an unpublished satiric story I wrote some years ago called “The Saddest Unreciprocated Love Story Ever.”

With what I know about making wishes or conjuring, you are supposed to release the message into the wind or burn it or something like that. So why did this person bury it under a rock? Maybe they didn’t know, or maybe that was symbolic of the fear they had professing their feelings. With the wind and the dry grass, I didn’t want to burn the note and start a brush fire, so I ripped it into confetti. I tossed it up just as a strong wind came up. It carried the pieces of the note into the air and off over the hill hundreds of feet and out of sight. I threw the lock of hair too and it quickly blended into the golden blonde grass on top of the hill.

So I released this person’s vow of love from under this rock. I hope it finds its way to where it needs to be. Maybe it needs to come back to you so you have the strength to speak what is in your heart.

Such is the life of a writer.


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