Bullfrogs and Lily Fairies:
The Grove of the Whispering Pines
the sunshine of orange oaks and yellow maples, where Sunbeams courted Wood
Nymphs with brass trumpets and accordion ballads, a grove of solemn Pines stood
cool and gray like Gaelic warriors prepared for battle. Garbed in mails of tarnished silver,
their limbs were knotted with black fists and broken fingers, their petrified
roots thrust into the iron ground like Arthur’s sword. From evergreen helmets they whispered
the cosmic secrets to the watchful breezes, secrets they had won like prizes
over the eons as they fought – firm and resolute – against the
invasions of time. The wisdom of
the Whispering Pines was known to all.
Though the glade was dark and alien, it hummed with the sentient
energies which rule all things. In
the white light of midday, even as Sun’s anger boiled with flame, dark shapes
and shadows danced with the imperious Pines: The ashen grove was possessed.
was the sanctuary where the wild creatures gathered for the Truce of the Oak
Seedling. Who called the Truce no
creature could say. Deep within
their hearts, the spark of their ancient genesis called them like a maternal
flame. To some, though they could
not have articulated their sentiments, it shone like a beacon of hope in a sea
of wild despair. They departed for
the Whispering Pines with great haste.
Others simply lifted their weary eyes and – with hearts bowed and
souls subdued – marched with the pain of the unloved creatures they had
become. While all knew they were
being drawn to a place most had never been, none were surprised. There were many omens of late.
the Mulberry Fairies danced the Ritual of the Mulberry Leaves they fell out of
step. Mulberry Tree no longer shed
her leaves. Beaver found nowhere
to whittle a wood home with his great white teeth. The Water Nymphs complained of their diminishing powers. But when Pine Grosbeak failed to return
to the Whispering Pines on the warm breath of spring, a shiver of fear ran
through the old Pines, shaking their pine needles loose, leaving trunks raw and
exposed. The pine needles pierced
the earth like spears, driving off the visitors who came seeking wisdom from
the Whispering Pines. Only the
wood snails, protected by the armor of their shells, dared venture forth in
this pine needle storm: Sticking a spongy foot out in foot out in front like a
tongue, glistening with spit, they carried their shells of polished turquoise
on their backs like crosses.
Change visited even the drippy corridors of darkness where Termite and
Maggot and Worm churned Life out of Death. The omens raised a stir in the ashen grove.
came the day when the Pines whispered to the Watchful Wind: Let the Truce of
the Oak Seedling begin. Then, and
for the time that it took young Acorn to split and sprout, and Oak Seedling to
climb as high as Forest Toad could leap, the Truce of the Oak Seedling would
protect all creatures as they gathered to gain wisdom and strength from their
nascent bond to Mother Earth and to each other. For this brief and solemn rite, the great hunters and their
many prey met eye to eye with an absence of fear or malice.
the great hunters came. The
Wing-eds, with eyes of polished diamonds to focus light and burn through night,
talons to grip and tear flesh. The
Four-leggeds, hooded and masked, stealthy and sly, whose teeth flash like
silver daggers as they scheme and plot to swallow the moon. The Fang-eds and Fork-eds, whose
tongues spit the bloody juices of their victims as they slither through mud and
moss, whose greasy bodies coil and sleep with the patience and stealth of the
millennium. The Gill-eds, whose
teethy hearts cease to beat as they lurk unseen in watery pools as black as
blood. And the Webb-eds, whose hunger
skulks in silk houses spun in the drippy shade of surprise. All the hunters respected the Truce of
the Oak Seedling, and they and their prey gathered together in the Grove of the
it was when dewdrops gathered on forest leaves cascaded downward and spilled
into streams trickling with Polywogg.
It was then that the blue fins and bloody gills of Trout broke water to
join the creatures gathered in the ashen grove. It was then that Oak Seedling was born, as Acorn split her
heart and sent a tiny root into the soil, a tiny shoot into the sky. Forest Toad watched over her like the
silent sentry that he was.
Intruders are stalking the wilds,” spoke the gray Pines, after welcoming each
of the many creatures by name.
“All must beware. They are
taking the forests. They are
taking the wood. Streams have been
sullied. Creatures been
bullied. The Intruders are
coming. And no Being is safe.
Pines spoke at length of the siege of the Wilds, the constancy of Change, the
twisting of Time – and the many omens which arrived like the screams of
Hawk on the Watchful Wind.
Strangers have come who are not Intruders,” said the Pines, at last. “They stood amongst us, inhaling the
scent of our souls. They broke
none of our reaching fingers, scuffed no root. As they lay together on the pine needles shed from our
bones, they spoke at length of the magic of the Wilds. Their communion, here, has filled these
Pines with a warmth not seen since Pine Grosbeak departed forever. Like the pale white breasts of the
Seraph in the golden sunshine of spring, these Strangers brought truth.”
crushed no Wood Snail,” shouted the many Wood Snails, nodding their turquoise
shells in unison.
spirits were pure energy,” said White Wolf, her voice as sexy and calm as the
flesh of Wild Strawberry. “Though
they did not see me, I followed them from the forbidden place, where no
creature sings and no wild thing grows, through the shattered souls of the
Broken Wood, to Honeysuckle Meadow and on to Whitetail Bog –
true, it’s true,” shouted Emerald Butterfly. So excited was Butterfly that she lifted from the Bluebells
for an impromptu offering of the Dance of the Quartz Rainbow. The many creatures watched in awe as
Emerald Butterfly danced the sensuous but chaotic dance with the Sunbeams. The Caterpillars crowned her Princess
of Light as her stature rose even in Hummingbird’s eyes. Of all the Wing-eds, only Hummingbird
could rival the beauty of Emerald Butterfly on the wing. The animals loved her. The young Flycatchers were enraptured:
They imagined consuming this succulent Princess, much as they imagined
consuming the lovers to whom they would give their virgin split-tails. For Emerald Butterfly, the Dance of the
Quartz Rainbow expressed her belief in the fatalism of all life. It was the meander9ing of Fate,
Butterfly knew, which had synchronized the Strangers’ energies with her
own. She was meditating in the
blossom of Last Lonely Ladyslipper, painted with sweet cream and lavender, when
the Strangers passed nearby. “It
is a good sign,” said Butterfly, shyly returning to the Bluebells from which
she had alighted.
Wolf praised Emerald Butterfly until Butterfly flushed as pink as
Flamingo. “I followed as the
Strangers splashed through Red Rock Brook, and on to these Whispering Pines,”
said White Wolf. “Goldenrod glowed
and nearly fainted as they passed.
From here to the icy heart of Aurora Borealis, I have seen no others
Lies! Lies!” bellowed Crow, able to contain herself no longer. “They are Intruders! They must not be trusted!” Her wings outstretched, Crow was choked
with rage and sorrow: In the cornfields of her life, the kernels of her memory
grew bitter with the many lovers she had seen fall from the sky, never to rise
again. Her lonely heart trembled
as the last words of her fallen lovers burned – “Why? – Why?
– Why?” – unanswered.
hearts went out to Crow then.
said gentle Pinecone, after a respectful silence. “Though they are Strangers, these two are not like those
others. They touched me as gently
as First Snowflake hails the coming of Winter. They spoke in hushed whispers. I know they can be trusted.”
then Black Bullfrog spoke.
“Chigger-dee, chigger-dum,” he moaned, in a voice as black as mud. “Chigger-ree, chigger-rum.” And all the creature waited.
every creature knew Black Bullfrog well – senile old Bullfrog, gnarly and
cynical, snorting and huffing and snapping at Fly – they all knew that
none knew Black Bullfrog well-enough.
Mystery and magic rained over bullfrog pond. The same cancerous tongue with which Black Bullfrog lashed
out at his peers, his friends, his enemies, even at his own kin blood, lashed
out with a vitriolic maelstrom of unpardonable and portentous truth, bitter as
the wart-rot between his toes, a scandal to the wisdom of the Whispering Pines,
was the same sweet tongue with which Black Bullfrog – senile old
Bullfrog, gnarly and cynical, snorting and huffing and snapping at Fly–
had drawn the virgin Fairies out of the lily blossoms for all to see. And the Lily Fairies showered him with
the sweet candy of honey buttercups and raspberry daisies. And the Fairies danced, naked and pink
and sensuous, like tiny ballerinas, wings of red silk stuck to the soft flesh
in the small of their backs with Honeysuckle and Sagetree. And the Fairies had lain with Black
Bullfrog, holding him with their tiny arms as only lovers hold lovers, while
cuddled in his black-backed arms, on a belly as slippery as
eggwhites. And the Lily Fairies sang the most
beautiful song the ashen Pines had ever heard. In the morning they were gone. After that night, with each full moon which cast the shadow
of Old Blue Spruce over his pond, Black Bullfrog uttered poetry – for
which creatures gathered as never before – of Edenic bliss and eternal
love. Old Black Bullfrog lived
those nights in ecstasy. And while
all things around him decayed as the season’s passed, Black Bullfrog’s eternal
flame burned away half his age.
But when Black Bullfrog spoke at the Truce of the Oak Seedling, his
portentous voice was a black and as deep as the blackest whirlpool in the
hair and slaver’s cotton,
the suffering e’re forgotten,
heart shines white as sin,
gargoyle’s lip, the blood drunk in.
rosy cheek red nectar stings,
of bluebells, black tongues ring,
star in twilight’s mate,
lies of former hate.
mist on crimson thigh,
precious love, for you would die,
in gangrene world,
in sandstone’s omen furled.
soul for you with hurried gate,
end of time together wait,
song, no curse, these rattled bones,
your flesh, my humble throne.
Black Bullfrog stilled his strange tongue, he Forest squeaked a collective
squeak of terror. None could
interpret Black Bullfrog’s black words.
Not even Wise Old Owl. None
tried. Like a startled animal
frozen in its tracks, ears up straight and eyes open wide, sniffing the air but
unsure which way to flee, the Forest stood in terror. The creatures found no solace in the silence. The words of Black Bullfrog passed
undigested through the bowels of the many creatures’ hunger to interpret the
here and now.
an ominous pause, all eyes turned to Birch Spider. It was Birch Spider whose tiny words the creatures had
gathered to hear. It was Birch
Spider who had seen what no other had seen. It was Birch Spider who urged the Pines to call the Truce of
the Oak Seedling. And so White
Wolf and Trout and Centipede and Red-tailed Hawk all pricked up their ears and
sniffed the Wild Wind once again, and listened as Birch Spider spoke. Oak Seedling had grown. Forest Toad jumped over it with ease.