inside the tree trunks, bleached white and spotted with age, kneel old men. Even though they are creaky, their limbs are sinewy and well defined. They genuflect inside the trunks, feet rooted into the earth, toenails tangled with roots until one is not discernible from the other, heads bent. They have beards, knotted and dread-locked, that dangle between their knees, clumps dancing forward and back with each inhale and exhale. The old men are tired, and wish to retire.
from a distance, a reedy and melodious whistle floats along the breeze, teasing ears and quickening minds long passed into a meditative state. The dawn comes, and spring breaks. The whistling dances closer, and becomes a song. The old men do not move, except for their faces, where smiles spread and break through wrinkled cheeks. Celestina comes.
she pirouettes through the dappled light on the muddy ground, arms extended in graceful arches, gliding as fluidly as water around a rock. The dirt does not bother her; she revels in spinning on tiptoes in the mud, the soft and loving squelch and the smell of good, clean earth drifting up. In her wake, trailing in the notes of her music as surely as the rats enthralled by the Piper, are the children.
Their voices remain hushed and reverential, but within those boundaries of respect bordering on awe, is the joyful shriek and commotion of children everywhere, the ecstasy of being alive. Now that they are in sight of the trees, they are freed from their restraints and run towards them, somersaulting and leaping over each other, good natured shoving and tumbling, laughter everywhere. They dive into the soft ground at the trees bases, wiggling and squiggling until they pop up in between the feet of the old men.
Dirty hands on old cheeks, the children place kisses on each eyelid of each old man, bidding them to open and to see again. The old men smile wider as they welcome the youth to their new homes, returning the kisses with gentle, scratchy bearded pecks before rising slowly to their full heights. Arms elongate and fingers stretch as they lift their hands towards the sky, gnarled knuckles inhabiting branches and twigs, mixing and merging until all is one and the same.
In the heady rush of becoming temporary guardians, the children go wild. They sing and scream and holler back and forth as they dance around their tree’s trunk, inside and out, to the edges of the smallest, barren twig and back. Budding and growth, color seeping into leaves until a riot of color blooms across the forest like a rolling wave crashing across the horizon.
Celestina dance. Spring comes.