Nature and Nurture
by Jennifer Sturch
The soil is rich where I grew up. It captures a seed and nurtures it until the seedling thrives, and even then it doesn't let go. It continues to cultivate the growth through its lifetime. I suppose that's nature's pact: to foster and bloom until it's necessary to die. But still the roots remain buried beneath the soil. Dead or alive, something will always endure, holding its own memories.
Sometimes nature hides its beauty because of pain. Some call it hibernation. Some call it depression. It's the in-between place - not quite alive, not quite dead - just giving pause... because to do otherwise in either direction would be too painful. It's not your time. Not yet.
Being around death often as I was in the early days drained the life from me. I sagged lackluster and rarely had visitors, except when it was killing time.
Life at the moment that it was taken screamed out with a longing to keep on going. And when it bellowed, the energy reverberated and carried through space and time for all eternity with a never-ending cry, "Why?" And it burrowed within me and festered and turned and wallowed. And it never stopped...
...until the next hanging continued the cry, "Why?" and bent me down, still further.
And one day I was bent so low, a little girl touched my hanging limb and said, "Why, you look so sad. Where did all your leaves go?"
"Maybe you don't get enough water like the other trees do. Maybe the water rolls down the hill and feeds the other trees more water than you? See?"
She pointed out toward the yonder trees, so full and lush, basking in the warmth of the vibrant summer sun.
What was she saying?
"I know! I can bring you some water," she squealed in childish delight.
She trotted away, pony-tail prancing behind her.
Wait! I yearned to know, "Why?" My bare branches reached out with a gust of wind toward the young child in a desperate attempt to find understanding, to find.... what?
And, as if in answer to my plea, the echoes of so many falsehoods heard at the myriad spectacle lynchings reintroduced themselves to me:
A father, his strong arm around the narrow shoulders of his young son saying, "You see there, son? This is proof of their inferiority. You remember this."
His son looking at the tears rolling down the negro face as the noose was placed over his head like a crown of thorns and the white boy snickering, "Cry baby!" exclaiming his superiority, noting the proud puff of his father's chest.
The rope being flung over my limb as I heard clearly through the ruckus, "Adam and Eve were white, sugar. And on the sixth day, God created the animals... it's in the Bible, sweetheart, you remember that from Sunday school, don't you, child?"
Feeling the burn of the rope as the poor man was strung up, the rope slicing through my flesh and through his in tandem, both of our souls screaming, "Why?" and my limbs embracing him as he left his body.
And the ancestors of my ancestors spoke to me from the Garden of Eden and uttered only words of love as the little girl watered my roots.
"There," she said. "Now you will feel better."
Closed up in my sorrows and fears, I hadn't noticed that time had continued without me and that the hangings had stopped. Nurturing comes in many forms and in surprising ways.
My leaves began to grow in earnest when I noticed the cruelty had ceased. The spectacle lynchings had turned into joyous occasions of holiday picnics and celebrations. The rope burn on my flesh was now the rope of the tire swing as children gleefully swung each other back and forth feeling the exuberance of life, using me as their support, not their executioner.
And my low-lying limbs, which once resembled and felt like crooked, arthritic fingers, were now transformed and moved in the gentle summer breezes, sounding like soft feathered whispers to anyone who would listen.
At 40 years old, I am taking more time to write and enjoy life. After an exciting career in professional theatre as a stage manager on the East Coast - working with some of the most revered and talented people in the business today - I decided to bow out and exercise my own creative side. I am also relishing having evenings and weekends to myself! My story, Under the Influence of Gravity, was published by Short Story Library. Contact Jennifer.