Although the gesture was intended as a show of respect for the ancient plum tree, to her this became a sentence of imprisonment. With her roots deep in the heart of the hill, she’d grown to maturity in the mountain lea and well understood her part in the ongoing cycle of changes. For a thousand years prior to the arrival of Wu and his followers she’d made the hilltop her lookout abode. Quintessentially a seamstress of time, she gathered threads of the eternal present and stitched them into a tapestry of the past. Watching and recording as the generations of her fellow creatures dwelling in the valley came and went; layers of information compiled and compounded in her memory. Her knowledge, like the rings of her heartwood, expanded with each successive season.
By the Grand Mother’s imperative, with every return of summer the Plum would release her surplus of fruit from over-burdened branches. Enriching the surrounding soil, this bounty also provided a feast for much of the wildlife native to the heights and from the beginning she’d developed a fondness for her smaller kin. For all their color, vibrancy and prolificacy in number they were tragically ephemeral; leaving in their abbreviated stay only tell-tale hints of their impermanence. Using her extended span as a gage by which to measure, it was only through the continuation of species that free-ranging life-forms achieved any tenure at all.
It wasn’t until much later in her life that she became familiar with the ways of men. In her experience, their prior acts exposed them as cunning and opportunistic nomads descending periodically from the mountains upon the backs of beasts. Seeking the flesh of any animal less fierce than themselves, they came smelling of smoke, blood and death.
The arrival of this new clan however afforded her the opportunity to observe these humans more intimately and they seemed much changed from those who came before. Mere saplings, they appeared to honor the gift of soil and recognize their dependence upon it. This did not halt them from altering the land, but they did appear to exhibit some reverence for the connection, even to the point of involving themselves in its nurturing. Even so, the construction of their temple and the raising of a constricting wall to surround it effectively separated her from the flowing fields and creatures within her domain.
For seemingly sentient beings, and all their thoughtful cleverness, they were still sadly afflicted with a misconception common to nearly all of their kind. They believed themselves dispossessed of the essence, the source from which compassion, understanding and wisdom sprang. Ironically, they devoted much of their abbreviated lives to the pursuit of reuniting with that from which they were never truly apart. Strangely blind to candid verity they could see little beyond themselves, but this was a paradox that could be easily dispelled.