Hanging in Mohonk

“Phoenix should be home soon Grandfather,” Skye smiled apologetically to the old man who appeared oblivious of her nervousness. She gathered her long silky black hair braiding it loosely before winding it up into a bun.

Skye glanced at the clock wondering if it had indeed stopped for each passing moment felt like an eternity. She exhaled deeply looking at Grandfather who simply sat in the kitchen gently blowing the steam off of his cup of coffee. She smiled as she listened to him hum softly; remembering how she had loved listening to his stories as a child.

The loud slam of the front door jerked Skye out of her memories. She glanced at Grandfather who hadn’t moved an inch. The sound of feet stomping up the stairs caused her to knit her brows. Mumbling an excuse to her Grandfather Skye scurried out of the kitchen only to find her husband staring up the stairs.

“Hi honey?” Skye kissed her husband in greeting searching his face for answers to her unasked questions.

“He got into the car already angry and wouldn’t talk about it.” Luke threw his hands up in exasperation in explanation.

“I’ll talk to him.” Skye started up the stairs. “Grandfather is in the kitchen.” She smiled back at her husband.

“Great!” Luke threw his hands up again.

“Shhh!” Skye put her finger to her lips in a silent laughter.

“I never know what to say to him.” Luke smiled laughter twinkling in his blue eyes. “I’ll think of something, we have a long ride up to the campsite tonight.” He smiled at his wife as she disappeared up the stairs after their son.

Luke took a deep breath before entering the kitchen. Grandfather in his simple wool coat and plaid shirt somehow seemed out of place enveloped by the cold sharp lines of the stainless steel, granite, and cherry wood cabinetry.

“Good afternoon sir.” Luke put on his best smile. He had long since stopped attempting to shake Grandfather’s hand. He wasn’t quite comfortable with the silence, but he was learning not to bother filling it with endless chatter.

Grandfather looked up at his son-in-law just long enough to give a barely audible grunt.

Luke smiled back at the top of the old man’s head. “I’m going to get the car ready. May I get you anything? Heat up that coffee perhaps or even a new cup?”

Grandfather simply raised his hand and resumed sipping on his coffee.

Luke took the dismissal as the opportunity to leave the kitchen. Taking on the task of packing the car would be a welcomed exit strategy.

 

 

Skye knocked on her son’s bedroom door lightly.

“Go away!” a muffled voice responded.

Skye pushed the door opens slowly. “Nicky… It’s Mom. What’s wrong?”

Phoenix smiled cautiously as he sat up in his bed. He knew his Mother was using his American name to get on his good side. He grabbed a pillow hugging it to his chest to make room for her.

Skye slipped into Phoenix’s room quietly and sat down on his bed smiling. She stared lovingly into the deep brown eyes of her son as she moved a wayward lock of hair from his naturally copper kissed skin. “Fi, what happened?”

Phoenix stared at his mother, only she called him that; with water threatening his eyes. He clutched the sports themed pillow closer to him. “The kids at school said that I suck at baseball. They said that I’ll never be good at anything.”

Skye smiled gently as her heart ached for her son. “Fi… you cannot believe what those other children said.”

“I do!” Phoenix spat back at her. “They are right. I do suck. I’m terrible at baseball… and everything else too! I’m no good at anything.” He threw the pillow onto the floor angrily.

Skye pulled away to give him a little space. “So do you want to give up because other people tell you to?”

Glowing embers still blazed in her son’s eyes as he glared at her silently.

“Well perhaps this weekend will help you sort things out.” Skye smiled hopefully.

“I don’t want to go!” Phoenix mumbled.

“Neither does your Father, so you’ll be good company for each other. Your Grandfather has come all this way, so you’re going.” Skye’s eyes flashed a warning at her son. “Be ready, you have five minutes.”

 

 

Skye paused at the huge door of the Brooklyn brownstone watching her husband pack the truck. He waved at her happily, she reciprocated with a little wave of her own and a smile she knew would always catch his heart. Consciously she undid her bun and let her hair down to play in the faint New York breeze.

As if on cue Phoenix came stomping down the stairs. The old wooden staircase complaining loudly at the abuse from Phoenix’s feet.

Skye’s eyes averted to the hallway seeing Grandfather approaching. She smiled seeing the old man’s seemingly emotionless face. Glancing at her son she beamed fondly seeing her Father’s face etched in the younger generation. As her Father reached the door she stopped him to kiss him on the cheek.

Skye smiled softly as Grandfather grunted resuming his trek to the front seat of the waiting Range Rover.

Skye tousled the hair of her passing son who just raised his hand and grunted a goodbye as he made his way to the back seat behind his Grandfather.

Luke ran up the steps to his waiting wife. “I guess we are all packed.”

Skye nodded.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come? There’s plenty room.” Luke smiled pleadingly.

“You’ll be fine.” Skye smiled at her fair haired husband.

Luke looked at the waiting Range Rover and inhaled deeply. Grandfather looked as if he were already asleep and his son had his headphones stuck in his ears; it was going to be a long silent drive to the Shawangunk Mountains. An audible sigh escaped his lips.

 

 

The mist clung to the water caressing the earth as it moved over the land.

The scent of a fire long burned out hung in the air dampened by the misty fingers that touched sound and scent alike.

Phoenix jumped out of his sleep to find Grandfather’s gnarly weathered finger plucking his headphones from his ears. Phoenix’s eyes softened instantly seeing his Grandfather. No words were exchanged, but he jumped up to follow the retreating old man being careful not to make a sound. He threw a look at his sleeping Father as he left the campsite. Phoenix scurried over the ground avoiding the crack of old wood and crunch of dead leaves. He was careful not to bend any of the branches as he moved after his Grandfather. He made sure he kept an eye on the rapidly disappearing old man as the mist threatened to envelope Grandfather and separate them. He realized that his Grandfather moved quickly and quietly through the woods for an old man. Phoenix slowed his pursuit as Grandfather seemed to have stopped. He paused watching as Grandfather was greeted by other men who just seemed to form out of the mist.

Phoenix peeked cautiously out from behind a tree staring at the men whose faces bore such great resemblance to his own. Naturally copper kissed skin with angular lines marking the darkly featured faces, framed with hair that danced with the wind. He strained his ears to hear what the men were talking about. He decided that they weren’t speaking a language that he knew.

Phoenix approached his Grandfather slowly as the men left. The fog was starting to lift and as Phoenix’s eyes adjusted with the light he could make out a canoe lightly bobbing on the water. Grandfather waded into the water with a slight movement of his hand which Phoenix knew to be his signal to hurry up.

Breathless with curiosity, Phoenix waded into the water and climbed into the canoe with his Grandfather.

In silence they paddled through the morning’s mist. Phoenix took in the wonders of nature as the mist unveiled them. By mid-morning the mist had fully lifted and Phoenix found that he and Grandfather had paddled along a river flanked by two mountainous cliffs. The sun’s light hit the cliff lighting up the mineral ore like diamonds set in their most natural element.

“What do you see?” Grandfather’s voice broke the silence.

“I dunno.” Phoenix instantly recoiled inside. A great fear welled up inside him.

Grandfather didn’t respond. Phoenix knew that he was still waiting for an answer to his question.

“Rock I guess and a tree.” Phoenix mumbled.

“What about the tree?” Grandfather prompted.

“I dunno… Well it sure picked a stupid place to grow.” Phoenix looked up the craggy mountainside at the single lonely tree outstretched towards the heavens in a majestic glory. The only apparent life the craggy mountainside supported.

“Hmpf.” Grandfather grunted in disapproval. “Sometimes we do not decide where life will take us. Sometimes we have to live the life that we are given. Do you think that the tree would grow so tall if it listened to the likes of you?”

Phoenix didn’t answer his Grandfather, deep in thought about his issues at school.

“Grandfather, how does the tree know what it is good at?” Phoenix realized how stupid his question sounded and closed his eyes biting his lip.

Grandfather chuckled. “Every tree has a purpose as do we. But not every tree can grow apples, only the apple tree can do that.”

Phoenix smiled whispering. “Exactly… I just have to figure out what tree I am.”

Grandfather grunted smiling softly.

“Grandfather, who were those men?”

“Lenape”

“They look like us.”

“We are one people.”

“Maybe you could teach me?”

Grandfather grunted.

Phoenix smiled satisfied.

 

 

The kiss of earth sounded as the nose of the canoe nudged the riverbank. Grandfather got out first to steady the craft until Phoenix exited. They anchored the canoe smiling to each other at their renewed bond as they made their way back to the campsite.

“Oh good God you are ok!” Luke’s eyes searched his son for signs of damage in relief. He dropped to his knees grasping his son tightly to his chest.

Lenape were waiting with him. They slowly faded into the woods after the slightest nod from Grandfather.

“Hey Dad you’ll never believe where we went this morning.” Phoenix wrenched himself out of his Dad’s protective embrace, excited to share his experience.

Forcing himself to relax Luke rocked back onto his heels releasing his son, quite curious himself. “Where did you guys go?”

“We took a canoe and went up the river…” Phoenix recanted everything he saw until he came to the tree. He took a deep breath. “… and we saw this tree.”

“A tree?” Luke looked between Grandfather and his son quizzically.

“Uh huh.” Phoenix went on excitedly.

“A tree?” Luke was clearly did not understand why his son could be excited by a tree.

“Uh huh. Can I call Mom?” Phoenix was too wrapped up in excitement to notice Lenape men acknowledge Grandfather before leaving the campsite. He ran off to the Range Rover to call his Mother from the cell phone.

Luke looked at Grandfather still visibly confused. “A tree fixed this?”

Grandfather looked at Luke and patted him on the shoulder as he passed, wandering after the Lenape, and smiling as he listened to the eager banter of his Grandson.



Comments:
 
StarPoet   StarPoet wrote
on 9/30/2009 3:45:39 AM
Something so simple as a tree that we see daily, but the power that it has is awe inspiring. And for it to change the perspective of a boy to teach him a lesson. I look at a tree and think of how it grew in spite of all the harsh conditions. And now it helps us as humans to breathe by making oxygen. I like that your story has a lesson that no matter how simple something is, it still has the capacity to teach a deep lesson. "I am reminded of true greatness when I see the tall oak tree, and know how it grew".

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Synopsis
This was written in response to an original artwork depicting a lonesome tree growing from a cliff. The backdrop is the Mohonk Preserve of the Shawangunk Mountains.
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