By Karen Ingalls
Why did my life spiral into darkness in a second? One minute I am married to my soulmate, a mother to a beautiful daughter, and owner of a successful bookstore. My friends asked me, “How do you have the perfect life? It is so easy for you.” They were right. I had the perfect life.
My husband was an engineer, and I opened a bookstore naming it Mile High Books offering old and new books, coffee or tea. Leather chairs and couches provided comfort to the patrons. Classical music played in the background. I loved going to my store enjoying the smell of books, coffee, and leather.
We had our first and only child, Lynn who also loved classical music and dreamed of being a ballet dancer.
One Saturday morning, my life changed forever. I had awakened with a migraine headache, which was intolerable. It was best if I stayed in a dark, quiet room until the medication relieved the blinding pain.
My husband, Miles volunteered to run the bookstore that fateful day. “Lynn and I can manage the bookstore today. You stay home and take care of the headache.” He leaned over and kissed me. “I love you,” were the last words I would hear him say.
I curled up, closed my eyes, and waited for the pain to go away.
A pounding on the front door and the continuous ringing of the bell awakened me. “This had better be important,” I muttered while staggering down the stairs. Two police officers with grim looks were standing on the porch. I collapsed when the words, fire, death, husband, daughter floated around my confused mind.
My once perfect life was unbearable with the memories of it everywhere. I sold everything, bought a second-hand Volkswagen Beetle, and drove west with just the clothes on my back and a photograph of Miles, Lynn and me. I didn’t know where I was going, but I didn’t care.
The small cabin in the foothills of Costa Mesa, California overlooking the Pacific Ocean was my new residence. It was not a home. It was a place to sleep, eat and try to escape from my past.
The land was arid with brush, oak trees, scattered thistle weeds, and clay soil. Every evening, I walked down a short path from the cabin to a flattened area where I sat under a large oak tree and watched the sun dip into the ocean. One day at dusk, I leaned against the tree, closed my eyes and dreamed that Miles arms were around me while we watched Lynn ballet dance on a large stage. I could hear the music of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
When I awoke there were two limbs embracing me, and leaves and acorns were swirling around creating Tchaikovsky’s music. “Am I still dreaming?” The bark of the trunk and the limbs was rough and uncomfortable. I squirmed and pulled at the limbs. “What is happening? This is crazy.” I yelled for someone to help me, but the only words I heard were not human.
Ginny, you are a strong woman. Use your strength to get through this storm in your life.
I pulled the limbs off, jumped up, and looked around expecting to see someone nearby. “Is anyone here?” I yelled again. Everything was quiet. A full moon radiated light around me.
Staring at the tree, I brushed my clothes, scratched my head, and said, “That was quite a dream, but how did those limbs wrap around me?” I shook my head trying to clear the confusion. “It was a beautiful dream of Miles and Lynn. I miss them so much.” With the sleeve of my sweater I wiped the tears. “I’ve got to get hold of myself. I’m losing my mind.”
The voice said. That was not a dream. I am here to help you.
“Oh, my God, I am going crazy. Trees don’t talk.”
Ginny, you are not going crazy. All trees talk, but humans do not listen. Do you remember your friend, Meredith who told you she talks to trees?
I nodded. “How do you…?”
I saw a friendly face of a kind, elderly man etched in the trunk. Every flora and fauna communes with humans, but they are too busy or unbelieving to listen and learn from us.
I fell to my knees, grabbed a handful of soil, and watched it slowly stream out of my clenched fist. “This was my life. Time was going by with no troubles.” I opened my fist and let the soil out in one burst. “Then everything changed. My life was never the same. It is now an empty hand.” I sobbed and my whole body shook.
You are strong. Your faith is like my roots: stretching wide and going deep.
The limbs stretched out, wrapped around my shoulders and leaned me against the trunk. Miles and Lynn are speaking to you through me.
Then I heard them say, We love you and will always be with you. Follow your heart.
The limbs were gentle and comforting. The rough bark was now smooth. My tears dried up, and I drifted into a deep and peaceful sleep.
The warm and bright rays of the morning sun radiated through the tree’s canopy bringing warmth to my body nestled against the oak tree. Standing up, I stretched and looked out at the blue waters of the Pacific marveling at its majesty and beauty. I smiled as the words follow your heart floated around. “Wow! That was quite a dream.”
I walked a few steps on the path back towards the cabin. I stopped and looked back at the oak tree. “It might have all been a dream, but thank you.”
A thistle plant with its purple flower in full bloom was further up the path. I stopped. “You are beautiful, but your spikes are sharp.”
The spikes turned inward. Do not let fear hold you back.
I couldn’t believe what was happening. “Now I hear a flower talking to me. I am going crazy.”
The thistle plant swayed back and forth though there was no breeze. It bent forward bringing its flower near my hands. Touch me and accept my gift of peace.
I placed my hand on the purple flower and a deep sense of serenity swept over me. For the first time since the deaths of my family I was at peace. I whispered “Thank you.”
A short distance from the cabin porch, I saw the white silken top of a trapdoor spider’s home. I did not remember seeing it before and bent down to get a closer look. The trapdoor opened and a dark spider poked his head out. I stumbled as I tried to jump back.
The spider was small and ugly with fine hairs covering its dark brown body. He was frightening to look at, but his kind words put me at ease. You have walked by many doors, but you didn’t open them.
“What is going on? I am hallucinating with all these voices in my head.”
You are not hallucinating. Your family is talking to you through the oak tree, the thistle and me. The spider moved back into his home and closed the trapdoor.
For days I paced around the cabin, reliving each moment and the words about strength, peace, and opportunities. I prayed and cried. I read about mysticism and nature.
One morning, I awoke and saw Miles and Lynn standing beside my bed. We will always be with you in your heart. Let nature continue to teach you.
The magnificent oak tree taught how to be strong of body, mind, and heart. Staying healthy and opening my arms to others became my ways of living.
I found beauty in my life and other people after removing my thorns of bitterness and self-pity.
My cabin was a trap shutting out people until I opened its doors and made it a home and retreat center. I added rooms for guests to stay and classrooms for teaching.
I called my new endeavor Nature Speaks, helping people to commune with and learn from all aspects of nature. When people open their hearts and minds to nature there are opportunities for a richer life.
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