Heart Wood Essay, Research Paper
Heart Of The Wood
The mole reached his porch by late afternoon. The door was neatly built into the hollow of an old tree, with double steps fitted into the thick roots, upon which new fallen leaves lay in all shades of green.
He swept them away with his foot and turned the key. The entrance hall was round and wide, rising twenty feet to a second hollow. Warm sunlight shone through this window, dusky rays of soft gold. For a moment he saw her there, gliding in, downy wings of purest white.
He sighed and turned to a wide stairwell, spiraling into the earth. Down he stepped, down and round, lighting lamps with a taper as he went. Flame by flame the underground mansion slowly emerged from the darkness, a work no mole before had ever dreamed of, let alone built.
First, a vast open space, miles of emptiness all around, neither wall nor root breaking the breathtaking expanse: the sky underground. Then the peaks of stone mountains, gray and black rock catching gold lamplight. Then the roof of a strange and beautiful wood, then the wood itself, hundreds of trees sculpted out of earth, down to the last detail of individual leaves. Then a lake, spanned by a bridge, into which an underground river sang. Then a score of tunnels, each scarcely begun but wonderfully planned, aimed at all points of the compass. Above four of the archways words of destination were cut: Canyon, Mountain, Vale, Ocean.
Down and round he went, lighting lamps. He paused often, gazing, sighing, reminiscing.
He touched the taper to a stone lamp at the foot of the bridge and started across. Halfway, a soft splash drew him to the rail. Peering over, he saw streaks of silver gliding just beneath the smooth surface.
“Were there fish before?” he asked his reflection, who shrugged. “Welcome all the same. Bring your friends. Raise your families. No fish eaters here.”
He crossed and entered the wood. “Fish in the lake. Perhaps I’ll find sparrows in the trees.”
But the wood was silent and empty. He lit every hanging lamp until the earth trees glowed with ruddy light, then made his way to the heart of grove.
He came to a small clearing set with table and twin chairs. Upon the table, parchment scrolls lay partly unfurled, revealing maps and diagrams and plans. He sat, shoulders hunched, hands tapping at the scrolls. “To think I once kept in a den with room enough only to turn around; dreamt of nothing higher than a soft root or branch of berry; lived only to eat, sleep and forage, each day an echo of the day before. And I was happy.”
He lifted wistful eyes to a thousand leaves that had never felt the wind. “How changed I am, and what made me happy then would break my heart now. Well, there’s no going back, that’s certain. Our feet are put on the way they are for a reason.” He sighed sadly. “But how can I reach the horizon without her?”
He sat in silence, cradling his head in his hands. “Too new at dreams, and the dreams too new and too many. My poor pate is cracking. I cannot hold the old pot together, nor can I pour the dreams into my hands for building. Without her belief, I am a heretic to myself; without her fire, I cannot be made. I will shrink down to my true size and look back on these heights as a dream that never happened.”
At that thought, his jaw tightened, his eyes misted. He swept all parchments from the table and ran from the wood.
Breathless, he stood mid-bridge, palms flat on the cool stone, gazing at his reflection in the dark water. His image, occasionally obscured by a passing fish, stared back. Neither approved of the other; both shook their heads.
“Coward!” they accused one another. “Will you shrink down to your old size? Become a sleeper in a dank den? Forget that there are oceans in the world? Shrug in the very eyes of love?”
A fin cut the surface and his image soundlessly shattered into soft fragments.
“There you are,” he said darkly. “As easily broken as water. You are too timid for such brave dreams. What does one such as you have to do with white winged love and moonlit nights and midnight winds and faraway seas?”
His reflection steadied, gazed into his eyes and answered, “Nothing.”
That night he dreamt of the white owl, flying within a dark net, sorrow bright in golden eyes. He reached to untangle her soft wings: a great hill rose between them. He went to climb the hill: a wide lake opened at his feet. He started to walk round the shore: a swift river cut him off. He tried to cross the river: a field pushed him away until he stood with his back to the wood. In his hands he held his embers of courage. Knowing now what lay ahead, they faded and died. Seasons turned, years gathered, and still he waited, holding ashes. Then, on a winter evening when the moon was full, she came from over the horizon, gliding across new fallen snow. Untouched by wind, pierced by moonlight, she floated through his trembling arms, a sister to the spirits and shades.
He woke with wide eyes and fevered brow. That very night he dimmed every lamp, leaving only one halo of gold in the heart of the wood.
And there, on the stone table, lay a message written on new parchment: “Gone in search of you, come what may.”