This is my entry for the 2011 Earth Day Contest. Please READ, VOTE, COMMENT, and Enjoy! Please respect, protect, and nurture Earth Mama. She's the only one we have! Thank You! :)
Hamadryad: ham·a·dry·ads or ham·a·dry·a·des
1. Greek & Roman Mythology: A wood nymph who lives only as long as the tree of which she is the spirit lives.
William leaned on the hoe, wiped the sweat from his brow and glanced up at the midday sun. He pushed his mop of sun-streaked blonde hair off of his face and turned his chocolate brown eyes toward the pasture. He couldn't believe that his grandfather had put him to work like this.
In the past, he was called in to help with the feedings, waterings, and tending of animals; not this back-breaking, tilling and getting dirty in the earth. He had taken off a semester of college for this? Working on some podunk farm in the middle of nowhere, with only cows and horses to keep him company.
College had been treating him better than he'd ever expected. He was having a blast and learning the art of seduction from his new buddies. He thought about all the things he'd be missing out on for a whole semester: parties, girls, wild nights, gaining experience. While he was no longer a virgin, thanks to the little hottie Kelly Slavel last semester, he was still inexperienced. Too bad Kelly had transferred to a different college.
“Grandfather needs help. All the years of manual labor and toiling in the fields has screwed up his back. He's promised to pay you for work.” He recalled the conversation he'd had with his mother before leaving last week.
“Just think about the money he's going to give you to go towards next semester.” She tried to reason with him.
“Look Will, I wish I could give you the money myself. I'd rather you stay in school than work on the dusty old farm again. Escaping that place was the best thing I could have done for both of us.” She sighed deeply. “I'm sorry that I can't keep helping you with college. Things are tight. I don't...”
“Mom, it's OK.” William jumped in. “I've never expected you to help me with college. That's what school loans are for. I can always postpone Europe. It'll be fine. I enjoy Grandfather's company. He's a quirky guy.” William laughed.
“That's what I'm afraid of.” He heard his mother mumble.
“Just exactly how much is Grandfather planning on paying me?” He stopped his mother in mid-sentence. She quirked her eyebrow up.
“Enough that you might be able to put some of it towards that trip to Europe you are always talking about.” She was trying to sweeten the deal.
“Where did he get all that money from? What about his farmhands?” He had inquired, sulkily.
“William, you know the farm has been in the family for generations. Even if it doesn't look that way, Grandfather can afford it. Anyway one of his farmhands has a wife who just had a baby. There were complications and he had to go to the hospital to stay with them. He should be back in a couple of weeks. The girl that helps with the horses just returned to her semester at college. You remember Janey, right? Sweet girl.”
Oh yeah, he remembered sweet Janey.
“His last farmhand ran off and eloped with an older woman. Supposedly, after the honeymoon he will be returning.” His mother supplied.
He did want to go to Europe. It had been his dream. And unlike all of his roommates, he was paying his own way through college and didn't have any rich relations to help him out. At least that's what he had thought, until he learned about the farm. But he knew his grandfather would make him work for every penny he earned. So, he'd grudgingly agreed to this trip to the old farm. He recalled his mother's parting words to him, as he revved his truck's engine in the driveway.
“Try not to let your grandfather's fanciful tales sway your intelligent, logical mind. You aren't a little boy at his knee anymore. He's a doddering old fool who sometimes let's his imagination run away with him.” His mother warned.
He had thought this statement of his mother's odd. But nodded his head and gunned the engine, speeding off down the road.
His grandfather had a wealth of knowledge, mostly to do with tending the earth, plants, milking, and breeding animals. But he was an engaging storyteller full of tales of wood nymphs, giants, dragons, and the stuff of fairy tales.
His grandmother on the other hand, had been the one to teach him about trees, herbs, flowers, and their medicinal uses. He had long since forgotten much of her teachings. He had preferred the animals over the elements.
William also remembered when he was a little boy, while his grandmother was still alive, he spent the summers on the farm. She made the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. They would drink milk fresh from the cow, before he learned how unsanitary that could be. He helped nurse baby kittens when their mother had died and he also helped bring a newborn foal into the world.
That all seemed so very far away now. At one point he had believed he would follow in their footsteps, take over the farm, and become a right old farmer himself. Either that or become a veterinarian. He wondered what had happened. Oh yeah: University in the big city and girls. Lots of girls. He chuckled to himself. Well, not lately.
Maybe little miss stable-girl Janey was single and in need of some lovin'. He made a mental note to himself to ask his grandfather if she came home on the weekends. He'd always thought the petite brunette was a charmer. Too bad they'd both gone off to college before they could explore anything more than tentative touches and hurried kisses in the hay with each other. He licked his lips, still able to taste her sensible strawberry lip-gloss from summers before. If only he'd been more sure of himself back then.
Ah well, if college was teaching him nothing else, it was teaching him what he needed to know about pleasuring women. He had his roomies to thank for that. Outwardly, he prided himself on his sexual prowess. But, girls quickly found out that he was sensitive to them and as such, he ended up turning into the best-friend and not the lover.
He'd had plenty of girlfriends and plenty of dates and one hot fling, but had not yet been in love. He was beginning to grow tired of the no-strings-attached, party girls though. He wanted a girl with substance. If his friends ever heard him say that, they would have gone out and paid for a whore for him to get his manhood back. Assholes.
Good thing they couldn't see through him. Lots of lonely nights in front of the computer screen for him. The farm had no internet service. He'd have to find other ways to get some tension out.
He glanced at his watch just as his stomach was complaining. He dropped what he was doing, walked over to the paddock, swung his lanky form over the wooden post-fence and landed on the other side. The past few days he had taken his lunch break in the field with the horses, sharing his apple with a sweet little filly. But today he felt the urge to explore. He breathed deeply of the fresh air and let the scent of wildflowers fill his nostrils as he strode for the edge of the woods.
During breakfast conversation, his grandfather had pointed out that today was Earth Day. Earth Day had been Grandmother's day. They would work in her garden together, plant a tree, and make a special treat for the animals. It seemed his grandfather missed his wife more on Earth Day than any other day of the year, even their anniversary.
He bent down and picked a handful of wildflowers of varying colors from the field. A riot of yellows, purples, and pinks spilled over. He hoped it would cheer up his grandfather. He was thoughtful that way. If it did the opposite and made his grandfather even sadder, maybe he'd open up a bit about his emotions more.
William continued to the woods. He tucked the colorful bouquet between the cracks of a large boulder and sat down. He unzipped his lunch bag and removed the plastic bag with his sandwich in it. He popped the top of his soda can and guzzled the fizzy beverage. He then worked the aluminum tab back and forth until it came loose from the top and pocketed it.
His grandmother might still not be around, but he would forever collect the tabs to donate to Ronald McDonald house. She had instilled in him a sense of charity and volunteerism. It was the reason he helped her bake all of those cookies every Christmas when he and his mother would come for their week-long visit. The cookies would go to a fund-raising for the needy. William took a bite of his sandwich.
He saw the girl before she noticed his presence. Her back was toward him and she was standing against a large oak tree, her hands splayed against the bark, her body wrapped around it in an embrace. She was whispering to it. He could hear sobs break the hurried whisper. He strained to listen as he inched himself behind another tree, transfixed.
All thoughts of; Janey, Kelly, sorority chicks, and every other female fled his mind as he gazed upon the enchantress. She was tall, willowy even. His eyes swept her from head to toe. Her bark brown hair was wild and wavy, small twigs seemed caught in the long tresses. His fingers itched to remove each small stick. The delicate curve of her back enticed him ever closer. The soft swell of her bottom beneath the strange garment caused him to gulp air into his lungs. His eyes followed that sweet curve down her muscled legs, pausing at her sculpted calves and down to her bare feet. Her lithe body was standing on tiptoes and the delicate arch of her foot was almost too much for him.
He sidestepped until he was behind her. He had no idea what was compelling him, nor what he was doing. Tingles of magic whispered up his spine to tickle the base of his neck as he reached out with his hand, his fingers brushing against her hair. She squeaked, startled. The silk of it surprised him. Upon only observing it, he would have thought her hair to be coarse, or at the very least feel thick in his hand. It was the complete opposite.
Her hair slid against his hand and wrapped his wrist. He glanced down at it in wonder. It held him as she spun around. With a startled gasp she crashed into his chest. Her lashes were lowered and he still could not see her eyes. His fingers tried to gingerly remove a twig for her and she cried out. She was looking down at his sneaker-ed feet. He reached out a trembling hand to her chin and gently tilted her face up to his - needing to connect with her.
A warmth infused his body. The need to be close to her, to hold her, to feel her soft lips open to his, a force he could not understand seemed to impel him ever closer. Here was Wonder and Magic and it flitted like butterfly wings in his chest. As he leaned his body into her, he felt his erection stirring to life. He tried to wrap his arms around her, to bring her closer to him, but the vine-like hair held his wrist. Another tendril slid down his shoulder and held his other wrist captive. Her face held no expression. But her moss green eyes gazing into his seemed to answer his unasked questions, while leaving more questions in their wake.
Who was she?
Mistletoe didn't know what was happening to her. She had only just been released from the tree and was begging her Mother-tree to change her mind; let her step back into her embrace and be whole again. But Mother-tree had told her this was her path. She was to go out and do what was set before her. She was crying and pleading when she heard the snapping of twigs on the earth. She knew someone was behind her. But she didn't dare turn around. What would she find?
She thought perhaps if she closed her eyes, wished them away or even wished herself invisible, enough earth magic would rise up within her to make that happen. She was focusing on the words, chanting, and calling forth the power, when a touch froze her to her spot. Something had grabbed at her leaves and she went into a defensive mode. She allowed the leaves and vines to reach out and protect her. When he had tried plucking a twig from her hair the leaves and branches stayed his hand.
She told herself maybe he didn't know they were a part of her. How would this human boy know something like that? For that was what he was, right? An uncomfortable feeling roiled in her stomach as he leaned his head close to hers. His lips were a breath away from hers and she arched her neck away, trying to avoid him.
William recognized the defensive gesture and tried to back away from her, but his wrists were still held by er hair. Her hair? Was that even possible? They were like vines holding him firmly in place. She took a step back and danced out of reach. Her eyes held his, unblinking. The ropes of hair around his wrists tugged him forward and turned him around, so his back was to the tree.
The girl stalked forth backing him against the tree. She braced her hands on the sides of his head. The whole thing put William in mind of one of his favorite ways to take a woman. Well, his favorite way he took Kelly Slavel last semester. She had been patient with his inexperience and had guided him to what felt good to her. He wasn't sure what to do with this seeming role reversal. He opened his mouth to speak, but her eerie hiss startled him and he quickly snapped it shut.
Her liquid green eyes considered him. Her gaze swept down his body, noting his erection with something that sounded like a giggle. He reddened in the face and tried to look away, but her soft hand held his chin between her fingers. She trailed one hand down his neck, feeling his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed a breath. She paused and leaned in close, as if never having seen one before. Her fingertips squeezed the fleshy protrusion.
“Ow.” William complained, wishing his hands were free so he could stop her. “That doesn't feel good.” She let go and continued down his chest, pursing her lips in appreciation of the planes and angles, resting both palms against his taut abdomen. She was so close to his face he could smell her. The earthy scent of her filled his nostrils and he closed his eyes. Her lips hovered in front of his lips for a second before connecting.
William's eyelids flew open at the contact. He was glad for the support of the tree. Lavender. Lavender was all William could think about as her petal soft lips caressed his. He re-closed his eyes to enjoy the sensations flooding his senses. She pulled away. When her lips broke contact, William actually whimpered. He opened his eyes to empty air. She was gone. Like the fringe of a dream, he tried to gather the memory to him. But it was as though she had never been there. He groaned in frustration.
A shadow fell across the noonday sun.
“Will. Will, wake up!” Someone was shaking his shoulder quite hard. He grumbled and opened his eyes. His grandfather was standing over him.
“Sleeping on the job?” The roughened voice asked him.
“Sleeping? No I was just- she was- Where did she go?” William surged to his feet, looking all around the forest.
“Where did who go?” His grandfather helped him to his feet, noting the glazed over look in his eye.
“Lunch. I was having lunch.” He repeated. “There was a girl here just before. She was...” He stammered to try and explain.
“I think you've been out in the sun enough for one day, boy.” His grandfather put his arm around his shoulder when William wavered unsteadily. He shook the arm off.
“The girl. She was beautiful. She had the greenest eyes and dancer legs. And God, she was gorgeous. She kissed me.” He touched his lips in wonder. “And her hair. Her hair was alive.”
William held his head, feeling a pounding headache coming on him. He sought his grandfather's face for an answer, for reassurance. His grandfather wasn't paying attention to him. He was gazing out into the woods, his eyes scanning and searching.
“No Will. I see no girl. Come on back to the house. I think I've worked you enough for today. I forget that you aren't used to manual labor.” His grandfather chuckled good naturedly when William scowled at him.
“I've worked with my hands before.” William argued.
“I'm sure you have. But I doubt you've worked with your whole body, like you do on a farm." His grandfather answered back. Will sulked.
“I swear she was there.” William looked back over his shoulder.
“It was a dream.” His grandfather assured him. “Live in the moment, William. It's all we are given.” But William noted that his grandfather was also looking in the same direction with a wistful look on his face. He wondered about it. But before he could question him, his grandfather made an announcement.
“We're finished for the day. We have just enough daylight left to plant a tree in Grandmother's honor. What do you say, Will? I know that was a special task that you shared together with her. But, it would make this old man happy to take on that tradition with you.” His grandfather was gazing up into the sky.
“I think having a tree planted for her will make it a little less lonely on this old farm.” His grandfather's confession surprised and warmed William's heart.
“I think Grandmother would be pleased with that idea, Grandad. I'd be honored to plant one with you. Do you have a spot in mind?”
Mistie watched from the shadows as grandfather and grandson exited the woods, conversing and reminiscing easily. She cautiously made her way over to the boulder that straddled the border of their world and hers. She reached her slender hand into the crevice of the boulder and pulled out the bouquet of wildflowers. She brought the flowers up to her nose and breathed in deeply the fresh scent.
She frowned seeing that the blooms had closed up and were wrinkled. Dying. She wondered why the human boy thought it necessary to kill such beauty. She gently cupped her hands around the blossoms and blew warm breath onto them. The blossoms unfurled and nodded their bright heads in her direction before closing again. She acknowledged them with a kiss as she dug in the earth and placed the broken stems into the ground, patting dirt over them. She cried with sadness when the flowers did not respond. Fresh teardrops slid down her cheeks, falling to rest on the flowers. She turned away forlorn, knowing she had done all that she could. She didn't see the dying flower open its petals and drink in the sunlight.
“Why Oak?” William asked his grandfather as they nestled the sapling into the whole in the ground.
“Your grandmother loved Mistletoe.” His grandfather patted the earth around the tree's roots, ensuring it would weather storms and winds. William furrowed his brow.
“Mistletoe?” He wondered what Mistletoe had to do with oak trees.
“Yes. Mistletoe is a parasite that grows on trees.” His grandfather supplied.
“A parasite? Are you talking about the Mistletoe that we kiss under at Christmas time?” William was confused.
“That's what I mean. Birds carry the berries of Mistletoe and drop them onto various trees. The plant attaches itself to the tree and can weaken the growth and even kill it. I chose Oak because of the strength and steadfast nature of it, like your Grandmother.” His grandfather massaged his shoulder.
“That sounds like a nasty plant to have around.” William pondered.
“Oh, William. While it can be damaging to its host tree, Mistletoe has plenty of uses, including healing. It is a symbol of rebirth and of awakening vision. It is a powerful plant with a powerful message. Your grandmother knew this. She was connected to earth. I believe she still is.” He sniffed into his dirty handkerchief, covering the sniffle with a gruff cough.