A tree. A bear. A sorceress. A shepherd.

Type: Free write | Genre: Fiction/Fable | Date: June 1, 2022 | Author: Lala Jackson

A tree. A bear. A sorceress. A shepherd. 

First, I was a tree. I first felt wonder then. I started out as a sapling. I suppose I actually started out as a seed, then a small shoot from the ground, but my time as a sapling is what I first remember. Then the seasons turning. How cold the snow was that first year on my bare limbs. The deep warmth of summer afternoons, how beautiful my greenery shimmered in the fading autumn light. Sunbeams danced with the dust that floated between my leaves. My bright golds before the seasons turned again, next spring’s buds hiding under grey-brown bark, waiting to burst forth when it was time. How magnificently simple that time was. My only job to grow, then to rest, then to grow again, then to rest again. Perfectly in tune with the cycles of the earth. Unbothered and unburdened by anything other than my place within them. 

Then, I was a bear. I first felt fear then. In the early days, from never quite knowing when my next meal would come. I was scrawny, the runt of my litter, cast aside by my brothers who roamed the forests, their brazen growls rumbling through the woods, no fear of who or what they’d attract with their huffing. I first saw humans then. Scrawnier than I was, but with far more power than their forms indicated. The humans cut down the trees and my soul ached for my former kin. They killed my brothers for their magnificent furs, leaving their bodies to rot in the late summer sun. With no regard for how much the rest of us fought to stay alive here.

Next, I was a sorceress. I first felt power then, but I hungered for more and more and more. It felt fleeting. Like any moment it could slip from my grasp or be taken from it. It wasn’t the easy power of nature’s cycles, the comfort I enjoyed as a tree, moving with and through nature’s cycles. This power didn’t allow me to feel my place within the earth. It made me feel separate from it. A freak. A sideshow. Someone or something gifted me this power but then I was ostracized for it. I wielded fire and was bored by it. Harnessed air and dismissed its strength. Could raise earth from the ground and wept anyway because this power made me Other. Immediately disqualified me from community—I was too strong, too feared. What is power when there is no goodness for which to use it?

Last, I was a shepherd. I sat with the trees. Watched them move in the breeze. I watched a mama bear and her cubs sidle down the mountain, mama turning and huffing at her progeny to keep up, but never leaving them behind. I visited with the town sorceress, downing endless kettles of tea over decades, our time together marked by belly laughs and a private language built between friends. And I wandered, from village to village, town to town, sharing my wares and tinctures and stories. I meandered through mountains and valleys, forged rivers, laid in fields looking up at the endless stars and I felt wonder, total awe for this planet and its people and the seasons and the universe it sits within. I ran and hid—from howling wolves and screaming men and those who wished to harm me, fear taking hold in my throat but always able to get away. I moved through the world with strength. It was a gentle power. It was my own. 

A tree. A bear. A sorceress. A shepherd.