Ironwood was born here, on the north side of Outer Clearing, two decades and seven years ago. Her feet are deep into Earth now; sharp claws on her gnarly toes dig deeper every day. And so, you see, Ironwood’s roots are part of Earth.
Ironwood is small among trees, but she has a reputation for strength. Her wood is hard as iron, and it burns a long time in campfires. Ironwood is also well-known for her ability to keep secrets. Yep, you can tell her anything. She’ll keep it inside.
Ironwood is good at guarding secrets; she is hard and strong, but there is a way into her heart. It’s simple. It’s a door on the lower south side of her rough trunk- an entrance and exit all in one place, a place that feels Sun all day long. In spite of Sun’s beams, the door is hard to see because Ironwood’s bark is shaggy and shedding.
Lazy Lynx knows of it. She can even see the tiny knocker. Lynx can see everything. She sees through things like covered baskets and closed doors and lies. Lynx can even see the future, although she doesn’t comment on that much. Lynx is no chatterbox. Silence is one of her closest friends.
Indeed, it was with Silence that Lynx celebrated Winter Solstice. On Day’s shortest workday, Lynx and Silence sat together on Cedric Cedar’s long bough just across the way from Ironwood. They had been waiting a long time in Falling Snow for Dusk to arrive. At the exact moment that Dusk sat down in Outer Clearing, Ironwood’s trunk door cracked open. Lynx didn’t startle, but Silence jumped back, shaking Cedric’s green leaves.
At first, the bark door opened just a little. It didn’t open more until Silence got ahold of himself. Then, bit by bit, it opened wider, and a nose stuck out. Of course, this was not suspenseful for Lynx- she knew who was behind Ironwood’s south door- but Silence was just beside himself. Was it an animal nose? It was a sharp nose. Bird’s beak, perhaps? Crow?
Silence waited, but Lynx knew. Lynx knew that Ironwood was a type of holding place. This long nose had been kept in a golden cage inside Ironwood’s heart. The golden cage had been too small in the end, perhaps because the captive had grown over time. When the golden cage sprang open, why, that too, was because its prisoner had outgrown it. It was time to be freed.
The long nose that emerged from Ironwood’s south door was attached to the face of a thin man with long shiny black hair. His eyes were deep blue. He wore a long black coat to his knees and black pointed boots- shiny and sharp. His black beard was scruffy.
Lynx didn’t move a muscle as Long Nose scanned the area and fully emerged from Ironwood’s trunk. He stood only nine inches.
Long Nose took in his new surroundings: New Powder Snow clinging to every trunk, branch and twig made Forest white and bright, even as Dark arrived. Dark and Dusk fought for power a bit longer than usual, only because of New Powder Snow everywhere, even piled on evergreens like bright white pillows.
Soon, of course, Dark had complete control. After all, it was his night- Longest Night.
Long Nose knelt down in Snow. He bent his head, his dark hair falling about his face, and he spoke aloud: “Welcome Dark, the colour of my heart, the state of my mind. I welcome your rest and peace.”
Black feathers scattered about him on New Powder Snow.
Lynx knew that Long Nose had been through trauma. Poor thing, he’d flown too high, too close to Sun. He’d been saturated in Light, too much Light, and he’d become manic. He hadn’t been able to sleep- he was that busy- and he hadn’t had time to eat- his work was that important. In the end, he’d become too thin and frantic to take care of himself, so one night, under Corn Moon, when he flew through Ironwood’s branches, she trapped him. Ironwood had hugged him with seven branches at once, held him tight, and squished him right into that golden cage in her heart. It was one way to still him, to dilute his light. Ironwood had held him there until he slept and ate and grew.
When Long Nose emerged from Ironwood’s strong embrace, he welcomed Dark, and then he journeyed a short way through New Powder Snow until he found Twigs attached to Small Bush.
“May I take you?” asked Long Nose. “Will you be my heat and light?”
“Yes,” twittered Twigs, “take us.”
And so, Long Nose put four Twigs in Snow. “Thank you,” he said.
Lynx watched from her new place- behind Maple King. It was her nature to stalk with Silence. Her paws were wide as snowshoes, her black-tufted ears were radars, and Lynx’s yellow eyes saw everything.
Long Nose stared at Twigs with his blue eyes until they began to tremble and twitch. Soon they shone blue and then PUFF! They sparked into fire: Small Blue Fire.
Long Nose sat by Small Blue Fire. He breathed in Smoke. He washed his face in Smoke. He stood and washed his body in Smoke. He shook his long black coat. He cleaned the last of old trauma away. He grew larger, much larger, until he was standing by Small Blue Fire in New Powder Snow, his four legs long and lanky, taller than Snow.
Lazy Lynx opened her yellow eyes wide. The nine-inch critter- whether fairy or small human hadn’t been clear- had now suddenly grown tall with 2 additional legs. Why, he had become a soft brown colour with a long snout- why, the thing had become Moose! Full grown Moose!
Lynx knew it was magic. She’d seen Moose change to Tree many times (much like Turtle becoming Rock), but she’d never seen anyone become Moose. As Lynx stared, she suddenly sneezed, causing Long Nose to turn towards her.
“Ani,” said Long Nose, “Hello.”
“It’s an honour,” answered Lazy Lynx. “You have amazing powers.”
Long Nose smiled. “And you.” He bobbed his snout respectfully.
“Can you teach me about transformation?”
“It’s a simple matter,” said Long Nose. “Clear trauma using one method or another.”
“Swim in River or smudge with Smoke. Release Bitterness and all her little friends like Regret and Rage. Then you can create whatever your heart desires.”
“I want to fly,” said Lynx. “I’ve tried, sometimes from very high places like Cliffs, but I always fall to Earth. I’m blessed, I know- because I always land on my feet- but I want to fly like Eagle, like Dragonfly.
Long Nose looked at her with soft blue eyes: the eyes of a nurse… or teacher, perhaps.
“I know,” Lynx’s ears and nose turned pink. “I’m too big to fly like fairies or butterflies… but oh, how I admire them.”
“Mmmmm,” said Long Nose, “You might be having trouble getting off Ground because of your emotion. You can’t fly without Love. Stop jealousy. Step outside of sadness. Try this: Focus on long slow breaths. Notice Love in your heart and stir it up however you can- by looking at clouds and hearing birds or maybe by remembering your mama… or your babies. Build Love in your heart, and then push it out in front of you.” He smiled at her. “That’s it.”
“Yes, just follow Love. Your heart is attached to it. Love leads, and you follow.”
“Up to Blue Sky?”
“Yes, that’s flying. Practice in Dreamtime. Lean forward, heartfirst – not headfirst- and never look back. It’s that easy. Watch.”
Long Nose lumbered away from Lynx, heading down Dirt path. His big moose shoulders and hindquarters rolled with each step forward. He moved faster, his four legs hoofing it until he lifted from Dirt Path, four hanging legs with hooves became two hanging legs with claws. His body shrank and darkened; Moose’s long snout became Crow’s long beak; and strong rolling shoulders became wide flapping wings.
Long Nose flew ever higher into Dark and away from Small Blue Fire, away from Lynx.
Now, I can’t tell you everything; I don’t know myself. These lessons are sacred; they don’t belong to me. Sometimes though, if you are observant, if you are as quiet as Lynx sitting with Silence, you may witness some things that your eyes won’t believe.
This is Crow’s lesson: No matter if we swim or fly or trudge through Deep Snow in big boots, we must move heartfirst, creating our lives with each conscious step. Take rest with Winter; create with Summer. And if you are one of those people who become manic, let Tree root you and hold you until you find sleep, and if you become depressed, stir Love in your heart, and let it lead you until you find Sun and Blue Sky again, for Sun and Blue Sky never disappear for long.