A painted turtle blinks, stands, and plops into the lazy murk of Curry Creek. “When I was a boy that tree touched the sky. Look at it now, lying there, can’t even tell it was a ponderosa. pffft.” Jacob’s hand indicates a broad log stretched across a colony of deadfall floating stuck, from the shore to turtle island.
“Jacob, it’s beautiful, why make a face like that?”
Jacob looks at her with that sense of calm running through his eyes that tells Justice he wants to listen to her ideas. She wishes she would learn to keep her mouth shut. Jacob has a way of making her spill her soul into words. Jacob is ancient—older than her grandfather. He raised her when a flood stole her folks. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Justice, tell me what you see.”
Justice starts slowly, “Not too long ago, Jacob, this tree touched the sky, beauty is its legacy.” Her eyes lose focus on the world in front of her as she continues, “When you were a boy, this ponderosa housed squirrels and bugs. Deer relieved itches on its bark, birds nestled in its branches, chittering chipmunks devoured its tiny pinecone seeds, and little boys? They looked up at this tree with wonder in their eyes, because this tree touched the sky.” Justice throws her head back and sweeps her hands overhead. Jacob’s eyes spark with life, and a smile plays its way about his mouth.
“See those branch stumps?” Justice points at spots where branches have broken off with time. Jacob nods. “Every one of them has moss growing around it. Moss is made of cells, Jacob, just like you. Just like me. Just like that dead ponderosa. It died, Jacob, but look at it now—it is greening over with life, Jacob!” They both grow quiet, as a turtle elder pulls itself to a basking site on the jam. “It’s not just the moss, but the turtles, too. This logjam slows down the creek. Imagine their home in the muck, Jacob, it’s dark, it's quiet, it’s safe. The ponderosa protects.” Justice falls silent when a breeze eddies up pine needles along the path, and swirls out over the creek making reeds dance circles.
She opens her hands over masses of grass poking up through the creek, and the logjam, where several turtles eye them, “Up here? They sit in the sun on this old dead tree, worn smooth by water and time, this incredible dead ponderosa. Can you see it Jacob? How seamlessly woven it is?” She looks him in the eye. “The ponderosa is a gift, Jacob, a beautiful gift.”
“Beautiful? Yes. I see it now,” he answers smiling, “But a gift? No. You are the gift, Justice, you.” Jacob’s big hand ruffles the hair on her head as Justice wraps an arm round his waist, and nuzzles in the familiar scent of his buckskin coat.
Shout out to Writer's Island for this prompt: The seventh official re-opening prompt is: THE GIFT… What is it that comes to mind when you think of the concept of a gift — given or received, large or small, personal or on a broader scale. Tell us in your words (poem, prose, flash fiction) the why, who, what, where, when, or how regarding the gift — whatever it is that moves you to write…
Shout out to the universe for turtles and ponderosas!
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