“The Tree is the heart of the Forest,” they told me. All of them, the old Mothers, the old Wives, spun me their tales of loyalty and devotion, betrayal and desolation, love and loss, and time.
“The Tree is the heart of the Forest and the Mother is the heart of the Family,” they elaborated as the years went by and my marriage remained a barren one.
Despite my long years of adulthood, they spoke to me as though I were a child. They never say it outright, but their tones all imply the same thing. I, who have never carried a growing fetus within my womb, who have never pushed a mewling infant into this cold world, am somehow less.
Less of an adult. Less of a wife. Less of a person.
At home, sitting in front of the fire, I rail and rant and cry, and my husband wraps his solid arms around me, and assures me I am not less, but that I am actually enough.
He kisses away my tears and fury and we make love by firelight, our bodies coming together with no less of a thrill despite the familiarity of decades.
When he brings me to completion, I let my exultation resound, willing the Others, the Old Ones, the Grandmothers and Great-Grandmothers with their brooding eyes and clucking teeth, to hear it.
“Listen,” I think. “Hear this. I am full of Warmth and Joy and Love.
“The Tree is the Heart of the Forest, and the Mother is the heart of the Family.” I hear them chanting it in my head, and I banish their wavering voices and frowning mouths. I cast away their sorrowful faces etched with ancient worry lines.
They’re right, though.
The Tree is the heart of the Forest.
But its roots and branches dwell within me.
I will never be the Mother.
I am the Tree.