Leading Me On Through Endless Trees

Leading Me On Through Endless Trees June 9, 2024

green maple leaves with sun filtering through them, under glimpses of blue sky
image via Pixabay

 

Sixteen years ago, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, a naive young woman who wasn’t yet called Mary Pezzulo tagged along for the first time with a nice young man who was going to daily Mass. The man said he wasn’t going to Mass on campus; he was hiking on foot to the Mass at the great big traditional church downtown, and Mary said “I’ll go too!” The two of them hurried down the hill past the municipal swimming pool in the park, up Woodlawn and down through the rattier parts of LaBelle to the ritzy part where there used to be a cult. To her surprise, he skirted around the remains of an old public school building near a house that looked like a big stone mausoleum and past a sign warning that the paths were closed. There was a concrete staircase there, not a very well-maintained one.

They went on for awhile, ducking under low branches of mulberries. The man kept chattering about his comic books, and the silly girl kept getting her long modest skirt entangled in wild blackberry bushes with nasty little thorns.

“Where are we going?” she asked after awhile.

He laughed and explained that we were going downtown by a shortcut. “Wouldn’t want you to think I was leading you on through endless trees.”

That phrase gave me an autistic glimmer, before I even knew what an autistic glimmer was. It was such a pretty phrase to say out loud. Endless trees. Endless trees. Leading me on through endless trees. 

One way or another, we did get to Mass. I remember being so sure it was a sign from the Sacred Heart of Jesus that He loved me.

Sixteen years later, we’re still in LaBelle. I wish I could say I was always sure of the Love of God, but you only have to read my recent work to know I haven’t been. I did finally get rid of that terrible skirt.

I was sitting outside convalescing from a nasty case of food poisoning– at least, that’s what I surmised, since Michael and Adrienne never caught it from me. That sudden sickness I had this week was probably a bit of E Coli I caught from absentmindedly touching my face and licking my lips when yanking those moldy strawberry plants and arranging them on that compost heap over and over again. We’re going to be much more careful about microwaving eggshells.

I had gotten over the nausea completely. I’d nearly gotten back into the ketosis my poly-cystic ovary syndrome treatment depends on: after two days of not being able to swallow anything but Jello and bananas, I’d nibbled an overcooked hamburger for breakfast. But I was severely exhausted. I felt like I had to huff and puff to catch my breath just walking up and down the stairs to the porch.

Lady McFluff the guinea pig was keeping me company, nibbling the remaining healthy strawberry plants under her laundry basket.

I was listening to the sounds of LaBelle– somewhere, a police siren as usual on a Saturday night. Somewhere, children playing loudly. Somewhere further off, a mother calling for her children to come home to dinner, in that harsh Appalachian bray.  Those irritating little motor cars that children drive in the alleys even though they’re not supposed to; the ones that look like race cars. The crackle of somebody’s bonfire.  Here and there, an early firework ahead of the July conflagration.

I thought I could pick up the sound of the trees rustling, even though there was barely any wind. There are messy little maple saplings all around my house, and a great big maple that’s going to eat up the porch if the landlord doesn’t fell it soon. Its trunk has a big gouge in it from the bricks of the porch pillar, but it just keeps growing. I will be glad when it’s gone, because I don’t want the house to fall in, but I’ll also be sorry. I love trees. I love the sounds they make when the breeze blows, singing to me: endless trees. Endless trees. Leading me on through endless trees. 

I started to daydream, as I do when I’m lonely which is all of the time, and when I’m half asleep which is usually.

I pretended to be a saint and a queen and a witch. I pretended to be that Tolkien elf again, the ridiculous Mary Sue fanfiction character I made up when I was twelve– an effortlessly beautiful tomboy elf with her ash-blond hair up in a bun, running around the Misty Mountains in a terrible snowstorm, slaying orcs. I have slain hundreds of orcs, but they just keep coming. I keep fighting them off. I have to keep them away from the innocent people on the other side of the mountains. Eventually they all swamp me at once and drag me down into their lair at the base of the mountains and interrogate me, but I won’t tell them anything. I keep my mouth shut under the worst torture, until Elrond and his sons arrive to rescue me. They admire me for my courage and triage my broken bones. They carry me out of the cave and get me on one of their horses, and we ride down the mountains to Rivendell to safety– on through endless trees. On through endless trees. Leading me on through endless trees. 

The laundry basket beside me jumped; Lady McFluff lunged at the side of the cage closest to me. I looked up, and no one was there.

I almost went back to my reverie, but the basket jumped again. Lady McFluff  made herself as small as a portly rodent can be, which isn’t very. I looked harder this time.

That’s when I saw the orc.

There was a dark shadow crouched at the other side of the laundry basket. A neighborhood tabby cat had stalked across the strawberry patch as I was sitting there, only half conscious. He’d been jumping at the side of the cage, trying to knock it over and abduct the easy meal inside. But I could barely see him in the twilight, because he was the same gray as a shadow.

Normally, I welcome cats, but this was the first cat who had tried to eat Lady McFluff.

I stood up, forgetting my exhaustion. I was that elf for sure, facing down the enemy to save a tiny mortal. I jumped at the cat making the loudest threatening bellow I possibly could, which must have looked ridiculous. The cat took a few steps back. I lunged again with a battle cry. I jumped as if I was going to hurl the cat off my property, and the cat got the message. She fled into the alley.

I picked up Lady McFluff. She was furious, panicked as only a guinea pig can panic. She chattered and squealed at me in a panic, and I comforted her. “It’s all right. Mommy’s here.”

She came in for an apple slice and a cuddle upstairs under my quilts, until I was sure she was quite relaxed. She helped Adrienne and me play a video game together, by providing moral support, and then I went to bed.

I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive God for stranding me here, but it’s better this year. It’s much better.

Maybe it’s even good.

Maybe He hasn’t exactly stranded me. Maybe the road down to our destination just took a few strange turns, and we’re almost there. Maybe this is really an adventure and I’m a hero in some way. Maybe He’ll come and rescue me at any moment and take me back to Rivendell together– leading me on through endless trees. Leading me on through endless trees. Leading me on through endless trees. 

 

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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