I first published this story almost two years ago. In honor of Earth Day 2013, I am republishing it again with a few minor alterations. Enjoy, and Happy Earth Day!
Green Man and the Holy Child
The Little Girl leaned in close staring at the mass of upturned earth and roots that had formed at the base of the fallen birch. There it was: a face; a man’s face, green-hued, eyes closed, sunken deep into the vast system of roots, soil, and lichen. She looked at the face for several minutes, both fascinated and horrified (more fascinated than horrified though). She studied it; wondering just how it got there. And when he suddenly opened his eyes she fell backwards into the ferns. And when a moss covered arm stretched towards her, she screamed. And when he spoke, sending bits of earth and lichen scattering into the air, she couldn’t believe her ears.
“Please,” he whispered, his voice soaked with earth and shadows, “I mean you no harm. Our world will be doomed if you do not come.”
She stepped closer searching his gold-flecked eyes. They were ancient and filled with a sorrow so visible it cut right through her fear and went straight to her heart.
“Why do you need me?” she asked.
“You know about circles,” he smiled, little white moths fluttering from his mouth as he spoke. “You are careful where you walk. You touch with your eyes and hands with reverence and kindness. You give my people secret names and run your fingers through the tops of the ferns like your mother running her hands through your hair. I’ have heard you telling stories to the salamanders and to the stones in the creek. I heard you use foul language when you found the pile of beer bottles and fast food wrappers by the pond. I saw you carry the trash home. And,” he said, lowering his voice, looking into her eyes with a smile, “my bride saw you lay your hands on the wounded deer and heal him.” The Girl blushed.
“OK,” she said, “but that doesn’t answer my question. Why is your world doomed? And who are you?”
“Forgive me, I am Green Man, Father of the Earth. And I misspoke a moment ago. I should have said, “OUR worlds will be doomed if you do not come.”
“But why?” she said, almost shouting, “Why will they be doomed?”
“Disillusionment,” he said with bits of leaves falling from his lips. “There are so few in my world who believe in your kind anymore–so much destruction, poisoning, and senseless ravaging. There are many in my world who want to destroy your race. But they don’t understand the circles like you and I. And so I thought you could teach them.”
“Yes. They hardly listen to me anymore. So I thought if they heard about the circles from one of your kind—one they can trust—then perhaps they would reconsider their plan of destruction. Besides, my bride, the Green Woman, or, as you call her, Mother Earth, thinks it’s a good idea. After she saw that deer spring back to its legs and bound away into the woods, she told me if anyone could save us—it would be you.”
The Little Girl closed her eyes for several minutes. The woods hushed to hear her reply. She knew what she would do. She took a deep breath, opened her eyes, and then reached out placing her hand in his. She half expected his arm to crumble like a rotting log, but instead it was strong and powerful. He smiled and she noticed tears forming in the corners of his eyes like dew forming in the grass.
“Now what?” she asked.
“We go in,” said Green Man, “this is a door.”
“Will it hurt going through? It looks so crowded.”
“No child, the door will widen for you. It will not hurt. Tickle perhaps, maybe a few little scratches, but nothing serious.”
“Shall we?” He asked.
She nodded and then he pulled her through the roots and earth. She felt sticks and cool, moist dirt pass through her. A few twigs got stuck in her hair and more than one stone bumped her sides. The finer roots combed through her body and her soul, removing any last doubts she may have had about herself.
When they arrived on the other side she saw a world of brilliant green infused with golden hues. There were eyes everywhere—every leaf, flower, tree, rock had eyes. All of them watched her curiously. Most looked suspicious. Some filled with tears when they saw her.
As they walked hand in hand she saw Green Man’s full body for the first time. It was completely draped in moss and leaves. It trailed vines and clumps of earth and stood over 9 feet tall. His arms and legs were covered with lichen and sticks, leaves and bits of white, curling bark. His hair was one big mass of ferns and his back was dotted with mushrooms. She smiled and somehow felt safer than she had ever felt before.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“To the council,” he said, stopping suddenly. Someone was running towards them.
“My bride,” he shouted, “what is it?”
“It’s begun,” Green Woman said, her voice trembling.
“What?!” Green Man shouted, “I was not there for the final vote!”
“The council did not want to wait for your return.” Green Woman said. “They did not think she would come.” The Green Woman looked down at the Little Girl with eyes dark as night. “But I knew she would.”
The Little Girl looked up and felt as if she were looking into Mother Nature Herself, which indeed she was.
Green Woman looked a little like her groom, only her hair was studded with morning glories and her dress of vines and leaves flowed like an elegant river of a thousand shades of rippling green.
“We must hurry,” said Green Man.
“Is it too late?” the Little Girl said.
“There is no such thing as too late,” Green Man said, “nonetheless, we must hurry.”
He swept down and lifted the Little Girl onto his shoulders. She felt as if she were riding a walking tree.
They ran along the grass covered street. Flowers and trees ran after them on their legs of roots. Rocks tucked their faces in and began rolling along side them. Frogs, toads, deer, bears, and many other animals followed with them. When the Little Girl looked behind them she even saw a river flowing towards them with fish leaping in and out of the water as it moved.
Meanwhile, back in the Little Girl’s world, trees were snatching unsuspecting hikers and hurtling them down mountains or devouring them instantly in gaping mouths. The ground was opening beneath the boots of loggers. Roots with inescapable grasps were grabbing the ankles of fishermen standing along the riverbanks. Backyards with swing sets and swimming pools suddenly disappeared in massive sink holes. Entire rows of houses lifted, heaved, and feel backwards into the waiting crunching mouths. Storms ignited over lakes and golf courses, sending lighting’s death-inducing fingers crawling everywhere like electric spiders. Within minutes thousands world over were gone.
Green Man burst open the doors of the council.
“How dare you!” He shouted. “How dare you dishonor me by acting without my voice! I demand you stop the destruction at once and hear my witness!”
The room was filled with enormous mushrooms and trees—all with staring eyes. Some of the members bent over scratching crooked letters in tablets of stone.
And when the council saw the Girl it fell silent. She scrambled down Green Man, brushed herself off and walked confidently into the center of the room. She looked back where Green Man and Green Woman stood. They nodded. She bent down and all eyes followed her as she lifted a small stone the size of an almond to her face and whispered something to it. “Thank you,” she said to the stone and then stood up, and to the amazement of the council members, walked behind their chairs and began drawing on the smooth, hard wood floor.
“Is this OK?” She asked the floor.
“Yes,” it whispered like a snake, “Yesss.”
Slowly and carefully she inscribed a huge circle around them all. And when she was finished she stood and turned, looking each council member in the eye.
“You are blind,” she began, “for every one of my kind that you remove, you lose one tree, flower, or stone. And my people are just as blind. For every tree we remove, a person somewhere, someplace, dies. And so it ever shall be. You see,” she continued, gaining momentum and strength as she felt Green Man and Green Woman watching her, “we were spoken from the same Word. The same Word that sang you sang us. We are formed from the same soil and when the Creator breathed Spirit into us, He breathed Spirit into you. We are bound with unbreakable bonds. And so I say again, if you destroy us, you destroy yourselves.”
She paused looking around the great room, and before anyone could respond to what she had just said, she started again.
“The opposite is also true. When one of my kind plants a tree or a flower, one of my kind is born in some other part of the world. When one of my kind is born one of your kind blossoms or hatches from a seed.”
“Is all of this true?” interrupted one of the members, “why were we not informed?”
“It is.” She replied, “and you were informed. You knew. Everyone and everything knows we are connected. It is just so many of us refuse to believe it.”
Just then the doors to the council room were thrown open and in strode an army of silver and white birch trees, each one carrying a dead tree in its giant branches.
The council members rose and gasped.
One of the birches held a dead sapling, and cried, “Stop the destruction! For every one of the humans we destroy one of our kind falls.”
“So it’s true,” whispered the council.
And as the council members erupted into loud discussions, the Little Girl began walking from dead tree to dead tree, touching their petrified faces. One by one the dead trees rose up verdant green. Each one she healed bowed to her and began forming a circle around her. The council fell silent as they watched her resurrect the fallen trees. She laughed as the trees entwined their branches and began dancing in a great circle of green around her. The spruce trees began playing violins that they formed instantly from their own branches. The bamboo trees kept time clapping their hands like claves. The rivers flowed around them in rhythm to the music. All of the animals joined in. Green Man and Green Woman joined hands and spun around sending twigs and leaves and butterflies sailing around the room. And the council rose as one and sent word to all corners of the earth to stop the destruction. It also sent out all the rivers to begin flowing backwards until time turned back to just before the destruction began restoring everything and everyone to its proper, living place.
And while there was still work to be done, much progress was made that day by Green Man, his bride, and a Little Girl who knew a great deal about circles.
Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog