by Jennifer Tiemann
When the man came into her sphere of perception, she had almost not realized he was there, concentrating as she was on the new nest of cardinal chicks that rested high on her south side. So occupied was she on shifting her branches just so to protect the nestlings, it wasn’t until the male cardinal reacted with alarm that she turned her awareness down from her branches to her roots.
At first, she thought he was a sapling – he was so very small. Then she remembered that no, that was the size men generally came in. What was startling to her, though, is that she perceived that he was colored much as she was; his body was a rich green and there was a tuft of bright red at his top end, almost exactly the color that she herself became when the cold winds began at the end of the Summer.
She understood that this was a male man, and not a female man, because deep inside still lived the memory of the part of her that had once been human. She and all her siblings were female; there were no males in her family- except for her father, whom she saw but seldom.
The man put his hand out and touched her body lightly. She shivered – this had never happened before. She had perceived men near her in the past, mostly their small ones, (children, she suddenly remembered they were called) but none had actually touched her. She wondered if he saw what some other men had seen when he looked at her. Much had been sung and written of her kind, particularly her mother.
All of her sisters were slightly different, but they had this in common; tall, straight trunks with heavy crowns of leaves; the crowns representing their sovereignty in the sight of the gods. Their gently curving trunks and twin upraised branches hinted at the womanly spirit hidden within. She doubted that this man saw anything but a birch tree. Most didn’t.