She could see the great oak wood from the garden, swelling into curves of deep green above yellow gorse and gray heather and the flat wheat fields. In the night, she listened to the wind playing the forest like a harp. When she was tending the flock, she often let the sheep wander towards the oak wood on the hill. Sometimes, escaping from chores, she joined other girls in tracking one of the fevered or rheumy pilgrims who struggled up the hill in hopes of healing at the ancient spring. It was more fun to follow the young men and women who made love nests in the woods, bedding down on heaped leaves. Sometimes the young bucks brought antlers to hang on the branches, to invoke the unquenchable ardor of the true stag in his season.
At the heart of the oak wood, on the crest of the hill, was a grove of beeches. One beech towered above the others. Though its roots showed through the soil, like raised veins on an old woman’s hand, this tree had survived wind and storm for countless generations. There were people who feared this tree, and saw living serpents in the sinuous weavings of its roots.
Everyone knew it was a place of the Old Ones. It was whispered that the fairies still danced around the tree at the great turnings of the wheel of the year, especially around May Day and All Hallows. The water of the spring was the gift of an ancient power of the land. It soothed away fevers, rinsed off blemishes of the skin, and gave the gift of vision and inspiration.
She loved to touch the skin of this tree, smooth and silvery. While a nearby oak was clearly male - fierce and craggy with limbs thrown out in a boxer’s stance – the great beech, rounded and silky, was plainly female. The Lady Tree she was called in the village. To the seer, the tree herself was a lady.
The Lady Tree was loveliest in her springtime unfolding, when her reddish buds opened to release fresh soft leaves of pale and vital green. Her sex came alive on the same branches, the tasseled catkins quivering on their long stalks, the flower-balls putting up delicate tendrils that waved in the air, seeking pollen.
As spring ripened into summer, the Lady Tree dressed herself in heavier and darker greens. Under her canopy, it was cool and shady on the warmest day. Yet through the dark came bursts of brilliant light that could catch you full in the face, as if a star had leaned down to touch you. When the breeze moved among the leaves, the lights danced, the veil of perception thinned, and airy things took substance.
Did the Lady first show herself in spring or summer? On in the fall, when the tree was dressed in russet and gold, and the deer munched fallen beech mast, savoring the oil, in between their courtship displays and the thrusting passion of the rut?
The eyes are spring green, and I will trust them.
They are the exact shade of the soft and vibrant green of the new leaves, the same green reflected in the spring water that bubbles into a stone basin under the beech. When I first saw those eyes, I was awed by the greenfire of growing things that glowed in them. The face in which they were set was nut-round and nut-colored, marked with a curious pattern of lines and dots. The top of her head was concealed by a tight cap.
The green eyes hold a history of the world, and memories of the future, that are deeper and different from those known to my kind.
In my awe and amazement, I did not realize until after that first encounter that it was not only her irises that were green. There are no whites to her eyes. Those eyes, huge as a deer’s, are entirely green.
Cycles move in them, and centuries. The fall of the leaf, and the fall of the antlers. And a secret forgotten among my kind, which we are yet mad to possess. Regeneration. The promise of growing green again.
Drawing: "The Green Seer" (c) Robert Moss