“What is truth?” asks my Father. (Read part one.)
“You.” I pause. “The forest?”
“And why did it die?”
“It wasn’t the whole truth.”
“A partial truth will never sustain a forest.”
“And there were rocks underneath.”
I think. “No? Yes? I couldn’t tell. The roots might have got to them. They were buried.”
“A buried truth will keep the water from sinking in.”
At this, I squint at him. “But there wasn’t any water.”
“You didn’t get far enough for anything to change. What was the petrified wood?”
“What do you mean, I didn’t get far enough?”
“What was the petrified wood?”
I sit up, affronted. “No, what is this about not getting far enough? What do you mean?”
Gentle: “What was the petrified wood?”
I squint again, but it’s clear he won’t say anything about that until after I’ve answered his question so, with a sigh: “It was the forest.”
“And what is it now?”
“Do you see the cycle?”
Fear and confusion.
“What’s the petrified wood?” I ask.
“Death,” he says.
“What breaks that cycle?” I ask.
“I knew that.”
“If you already knew that, then why did you ask the question?” he says this not as a reprimand. He really wants to know the answer.
“That feels like the forest.”
“The mountain is falling,” my Father says, “and it falls to pieces. Those pieces grow a forest, but the forest dies and its bones are bleached by the sun-”
“They were bleached by the wind,” I remind him.
“Its bones are bleached by the sun,” he continues, “and I bring those bones to life.”
“Is that the only part of the cycle where things can change?”
“I haven’t finished the cycle.”
Eyebrow raised, I say nothing, but I listen. He has caught my attention.
“I bring those bones to life and they form a mountain. The mountain falls and, by my life, the forest grows, bigger than before. It is a process, you see.”
“But I feel like I’m missing something!” I cry. “This can’t be all there is! How do I know the forest will grow into a whole truth? How do I know the mountain won’t fall?”
“Why does the mountain grow?”
“It comes together to protect itself. And then it gets hurt. What do you think it’s trying to protect itself from?”
“The sun,” I say nonsensically. I don’t know where it comes from.
“Who is the sun?”
“You,” I say, just as nonsensically.
“And who are you?”
“Where are you?”
“In your arms.”
“Is the cycle still going?”
“It’s on pause.”
“Do you want it to stop?”
“Then hold me, and let me turn your mountains into forests that will never die.”
“Will it take a long time?”
“It doesn’t have to. But that depends on you.”
“What do I do with the mountain?”
“Give it to me, and I will face it for you.”
“It can’t be that easy,” I tell him. “That feels like the forest, too.”
“A full truth partially received becomes a partial truth in the heart of the receiver. What was missing in the forest this time?”
I bury my face in him. “Animals.”
“So let me sing animals to you.”
And he does, a melody sweetly filling the emptiness that once was a world, the emptiness that is paused time, for to pull out of time for a moment is as if the world no longer exists. Softly spreading tendrils of white, yellow, gold, turning to scarlet, the notes twine the air around us. Notes of green and blue follow, the vanguard of a rainbow profusion as vines bloom and tender leaves open to brush against my cheeks. The buzz of insects chase after the ever-unfolding fragrance, bringing the blossoms nearer to fruiting. Butterflies thread through the space, purple wings vivid as though made of light, but it is the Father who is the sun.
I close my eyes and breathe in the music.
But how do I stop the mountain from falling?
“No,” says my Father gently. “That is the wrong question. How does a tree live?”
It takes in the sunlight. It takes in water through its roots, nutrients from the ground. It is made strong by the wind that presses against it.
“What does the tree do to make sunlight come to it?”
Nothing. “It draws near to them?”
“Where do you find life?”
“How close am I to you?”
My arms tighten around him in answer.
“And how does the tree draw nearer to the sun, when the sun has already reached close enough to enter its veins?”
I open my hand to see a tree sprout from my palm. Light pours down on it; it opens its leaves to drink and, in so doing, raises arms to reach back.
“If you try to stop the mountain from falling because you yourself are not connected to life, the ground will not become ripe for a forest. If you tend a forest of partial love, that forest will die. And its death will grow into a mountain until it falls. But none of this is the path. Does a tree walk?”
“No.” I resist the urge to tell him the forest was about truth, not love. His hand in mine was knitting together something in my heart and the distinction became less important. Where else is truth found, if not love? If not him?
“So where does it go?”
“Come to me.”
But we’re together.
“Come to me.”
As the tree and the sun are together, yet they each continue to reach.
“Come to me.”
The mountain rises before me, a gnarled mess of ancient wood-become-stone. As it falls to dust and the forest grows up around me, I find myself surrounded by butterflies.
I stand in my forest, holding hands with my Father. As I lean against his shoulder, we begin to sing.