They invited me into their circle of dance; the women of the oaks. They are flexible and carefree even though they are frozen in mid-movement like the people of Pompeii covered in ash from Mt. Vesuvius.
The gentle wind whispers for them to dance again, but only rigid arthritic motions produce creaking from their stiff limbs. Arms to the sky, knees up with glee, the strong line of their curved backs and buttocks are firmly grounded. They are part mermaid mixed with forest nymph. Goddesses who delight in the dance of life, they still reach for one another.
Even in their slow 800 year decay, they are graceful. I accept their invitation to dance between the limbs and fluttering leaves among their memories of song and fluid movement. I am delighted to attend and take great pleasure with my new friends.
The sun was fading but I was still filled with warmth from the joyful choreography they shared with me as I left them in the shadows of the hillside.
In the next few days my beautiful memories were suffocated by blistering pain. Red, angry and inflamed. Lashes of poison bubbled to the surface of my skin on my legs that no longer held the memory of the beautiful dance.
Such pain from the same source of such pleasure.
The people we love and who give us such joy at times can also be the ones to cut us so deeply to our core. We've been vulnerable with them, let our walls down to invite them in.
We didn't know they'd bring weapons.
As I tended to my own wounds, I reviewed the scars on the women of the oaks, carved from others. I felt the pain of the knife piercing her innocent fiber. But I also observed the scar has healed over and she is stronger and wiser.
The scar is part of her past, an invitation to share her story with another who may have a fresh wound. But she does not become defined by her wounds and her scars are visible reminders of her resilience.
I reflect back on my memories of the pleasure and the pain. I realize I need them both. When I'm too lost in the perfect past, I need to recall the unpleasant realities so I don't wallow in sadness. At the same time, when the painful memories surface, I must temper them with the sweet impressions to stop myself from thinking all that time was a lie.
I suppose we can only do our best to identify poisonous elements - and even though we may recognize the pattern, we are still human. We may think we're impervious, we may not recognize when we've gone off the path, we may experience several bouts of blistering pain.
But from each of those experiences, let us gain wisdom. And let us be willing to share our story with another. Talking about a common experience is a salve for the wounded soul.
And of course, let us continue to dance with life.