In the days of old, on an isolated icy mountain, far up the Northern belt of a place that now boasts only of ruins, of debris, of poetry – of the essence of a great love that once existed; a great battle, that once was fought; and the low, pining rustling of the suspicious, secluded, surviving leaves, as some droning excuse of a wind blows by; there lived a lush green forest, a paradise, a kingdom of sorts, ruled by the great Pines, that claimed the very sky, not just by stature, but by the thick, delicious, intoxicating, yet meditative fragrance they cast over the vast firmament – a fragrance, enhanced and brought to its splendid wholeness, by the strong, tempestuous, bold Winds that blew in from the East…
It was just another cold day in the mountain when the Winds called to their young, wild brother – it being time for them to blow back East-ward – as he spent longer than usual rustling in the leaves of his Pine Tree, wooing her and shamelessly flirting, as the mother Pines watched.
“Reckless, restless breeze”, they whispered in quiet rustles, lest their beloved daughter, their Princess, hear them, “He comes here carrying the stench of those Firs, and has the nerve to pollute our lands and the young leaves of our daughter!”
Yet they never dared accuse him, for they needed the Winds, they feared the Winds and yet, they even loved the Winds, for these were their only companions, their only guests and their only visitors; and in his turn, the Wild Wind never confronted them, although he knew of their fears, (through his brothers, of course). The East Winds were a reckless, restless group, as the Pines complained and feared. They had stumbled upon these lands some months ago, and since then loved blowing in these areas, exploring the vast, virgin lands as vagrants finally tempted to set up their fire and make a home.
Being wanderers ever since they were born, they had seen most of the world; yet they were amazed at how untouched these lands were; amazed, at how a forest had managed to break free from the destructive clutches of mankind and survive, nay, thrive, in the face of degradation… as though in secret, like Gods watching over the Earth, like a rumor, an illusion, believed only by those who dared to.
“When will I see you again?” asked the Pine Tree to her Wild Wind.
“I’d stay here if you like,” he whispered to her.
“You know that’s quite impossible… but I shall wait for you to breeze against me, when we meet again…”
“So long, my love, and let me take a lock from your leaves, to carry with me wherever I go…”
“But not too far-‘’ she began.
“-never too far”, he finished.
He breezed and swirled against her, moaning and swiftly taking a lock, and as he left her, she sighed heavily and stood in a trance, feeling taller than ever before, longing for his touch and presence…
Yes, she’d known him only a few months, and yes, the mothers had warned her against him.
“He’s a wanderer, they never settle down; do not attach yourself to these moody Winds, tempestuous one moment, calm, the next. We’re a quiet, select breed of vegetation, mortal, nurturing. He’s immortal, shapeless, form-less, like the spirits… One does not go making friends with what one cannot see…”
“But I can feel him, and see him in my spirit…” she had replied, proud, confident- defiant. “Isn’t he a nurturer too? Does not the wind nourish us, bring us the Eastern heat in this cold mountain, comfort us, whisper to us, and bring us closer to the world?”
“The heat you feel is false heat, the whispers you hear are silly sweet-nothings which these wanderers know well how to conjure up… take heed, put up your guard, if you’re left without your lovely leaves, and colder than we are now when he deserts you- as is in his nature- do not come pining, do not-’’
“I will hear no more of this mother- I know the ways of the Winds, haven’t I lived long enough to? I’m no young, growing plant anymore. I am a Tree. I know only of giving, and so does he, and as long as we can give to each other- we shall and will.”
And so the mothers spoke no more of this to their dear Pine… hoping for the best, hoping for the wind to settle, to see her evergreen youth and vitality per se, for as long as was to be; hoping for their Princess not to be melancholy, to not brown before her age, to not face what every Tree that had ever loved the Wind had faced – abandonment.
Days flew by and months passed, and the East Winds grew fond of the North Mountains, which seemed to come alive with chatter, rustling and love.
The Winds were welcomed as awaited friends each time they paid one of their long, dear visits, growing louder with their whistles and moans. One dared to think that these were to be ‘East’ winds no more!
Life in the mountains grew greener, the sun kissed them oftener and the birds of winter flew and nestled there in the migratory season- and softened with love, the proud Pines welcomed each new guest, feeling no sense of intrusion, but rather, invitation.
The Wild Wind felt calm and tame in the leaves of his Pine Tree, and loved her like no wind had loved a tree. He told her tales of the lands he’d been to, the trees he’d met, the temperatures he’d been and the fragrances he’d carried. He said he’d bring her the fragrance of the roses someday, which he loved. He’d have to travel far, and alone, since his brothers wouldn’t go with him, but he would do it. She longed for it and told him so.
For her, patience was not something new. Patience was a quality she was born with and had grown with… waiting for the wind, waiting for the rain, waiting for the sun were all part of her life. She knew she had no cause to worry even if her Wind did leave her… for who knows the art of letting go better than a tree?
Yet now she had begun to fear for herself in case the worst did happen… She knew she could not keep him forever… He had other places to travel to, to do his duty… A wind cannot be tamed, cannot be caged or rooted.
A wind is free, a tree is not…
Yet every time he was with her, these fears blew away. Nothing existed, save them both; nothing mattered, save their love. The Wanderers knew that their time for blowing away to newer lands was impending, and they told their Wild one, but he would hear none of it.
One cold afternoon, the Pine Tree asked him about it, and he confessed that it was his time. He groaned melancholically, as the disappointed Pine comforted him.
“You will return with the fragrance of roses someday, won’t you?” she asked, hopefully, longingly.
“Of course I will, my dear, but let us not speak of parting, for I will not.” He whispered.
“But you must go, my Wind. It is your destiny… and I shall wait when it brings you back to me.”
The droning Wind knew not what to say… he circled around her in swift, blustery motions, taking her leaves with him, not just one this time, but several…
The forest cried that day, a loud, loud wail, as the Winds took their leave.
“Not too far…” whispered the Pine Tree long after her wild Wind was gone.
“Never too far…” he whispered under his breath somewhere on the outskirts of the solitary Northern Mountain.
The Wanderers travelled far and wide, blowing across the deserted terrains and stony paths, across the moors and hills, over valleys and gorges.
It was the season of the mighty Rains, and they were to join the ranks for the storms. It was the time for renewal, rebirth and regeneration; washing out the old, lashing and breaking the useless weak, only to leave the concrete, the whole, the strong.
Survival of the fittest- the law of nature.
One day, during the dusk, the Wild Wind noticed a troop of armed men, headed towards the north, with axes and razors. He roared in panic to his brothers.
“What could they be doing in these barren lands?” wailed one.
“They’re headed for the forest in the North Mountain, no doubt”, breathed the other.
“We can’t just sit back and do nothing…” protested the third.
“Survival of the fittest, my brother, the law of nature –Stay put. We must do nothing”, was the answer.
“I will not travel any further. I must go back and warn them” said the Wild Wind.
“You cannot, it is the advent of the next season; we must be on our way. You stray now, you lose us forever”, said the oldest wind of the lot.
“To the North!” grunted the greedy, hungry, ecstatic ax-men on their way.
“To the North,” repeated the Wild Wind quietly and whooshed away as loud and fast as he could. He was not followed.
The melancholy Pine Tree, watched her leaves brown bit by bit… losing her green, her warmth and happiness. Her roots felt weak and she longed to rest… She pined for the Wild Wind every day; she looked to the East and longed for the return of the one bearing rosy air…
The mother Pines tried to calm her down, her companions rustled to her all day long, shuffling their leaves, asking the birds that nestled in them to cheer with song their forlorn Princess… but all in vain.
Today was different though… today she felt his presence… and no sooner than she dared to hope, the Wild Wind blew in, in fury and angst, troubled and satiated at the same time – yet bringing a nervous energy with him, as opposed to the frivolous light-heartedness that he carried usually.
And he came alone.
“My dear North Mountain, and my love, I come bearing grave whispers… There come from the south, an army of ax-men intending to uproot you and destroy creation -’’ he wailed.
The forest chattered and the leaves crackled in chaos. They muttered and rustled in unison, and the birds took flight in alarm. An uproar ensued.
“How can they do this to us?-’’
“And to think, we give them the breath of life!”
“Don’t they realize that they’re made of us- the elements? They survive because of us!”
The Wind rushed to his Pine and reassured her that he would protect her.
“Our time has come, dear immortal one,” she said in pain, “I cannot express how glad I am to see you before I go… I have no desire to live without you. I was wrong in thinking I could.”
“Do not speak of mortality, dearest, for as long as I live, I shall blow to the ends of this earth and work up into a cyclonic state, to prevent a beastly ax from daring to hack your beautiful bark.”
“Speak not of such agitation, O Wild one, for in conjuring up a cyclone, won’t you be destroying other trees too- ones you have seen and known in your travels?”
“Nothing – no one– is more precious than you, my Pine-”
“You’re mistaken. Every tree, every flower, every copse, every bush, every little seed of vegetation is precious, my love.”
“How will I live without you?” he groaned in agony.
“You will, as you always have…” she rustled to his warm, passionate breeze.
“Wait for me, dear Pine, as you have these past weeks…” he breathed softly to her, and then blew away as swift as he had come in, without waiting for a reply.
Later that day, the Pines asked the Birds to take their little ones away, for they were safe in these boughs no more. The birds promised to return with their legions. The North Mountain was their sacred Haven, and its sanctity would be preserved at all costs. The Pines thanked them and gathered courage.
The Roots drew in from every reserve of water, every ounce of liquid they could, to absorb and stand firm.
The Soil crept in closer, thicker, concrete-like, set to protect.
An occasional thunder was heard in the skies the following week, but with no relief. They knew that it would rain only when all the winds had joined the ranks and the East Winds had reached the station too. The wait felt excruciating and the water reserves depleted. The Pines tried to put off the warning and hoped for showers of relief…
Only a miracle could bring ample rainfall to this isolated mountain now…
The Wild Wind blew with all his might and reached the station.
The Thunder roared loud at him, reverberating in the entire expanse of the atmosphere. The Wild Wind explained to him, and every natural force there, his plight.
He asked the Storm to fight for the beautiful North Mountain, to save the Pine Trees.
He did not want them to battle for his love, but for all of nature. The purpose was higher.
He pleaded in all honesty.
His brothers came to his aid and implored at his behest too.
The task was set. The legions ready. It was the hour for a storm-fight and the army left for the warzone.
Hooting and grunting, and howling in hungry delight, the hackers came running up the north mountain.
Beasts of nature, the calamity of the Earth, out to uproot all that was good, all that was bright and beautiful; out to make barren the fertile, the death of life…
The sharp blades cut at the very roots of the young little trees, sap oozing out of their bodies as they shrieked in torment. The mothers groaned in anguish, their stronger barks making them hard to fall. Their branches were chopped off; the nests were down in dust, as the men trampled the forest land and went about their task with horrifying joy, jeer and satiation.
The bodies of logs and wood were dragged down the hilly slopes to the lone river below. The forest had carpets of needle-leaves by now. The earth lay unearthed, disrespected, dug.
The Pine Tree cried seeing the army near her, and shuffled her leaves in distress and panic. She tried to breathe and hold firm her roots, but felt panic within her wood. She looked to the skies away from the sounds of death, in blind hope, when suddenly, a drop of water met her leaves.
Fresher than the morning dew, heavier than her spirit, lovelier than diamonds and crystals of icicles, and more awaited than warm sun, the droplet couldn’t deceive any tree – The Rains had arrived.
Marching in his grand glory, came the Thunder, leading clouds that threw in shards of silver rain, lashing upon the North Mountain.
The flustered ax-men wiped their brows and hacked and chopped relentlessly, with greater effort.
The Lightning crackled and flashed in pale-pink hues, cutting the skies open as if for more water.
The barracks of cumulonimbus Clouds came rolling in, to fulfill the role they were born to play.
Darkness and gloom loomed over the North Mountain and the hackers looked weary and fearful now.
The majestic Winds from all over the land whooshed in, in all their brilliance and power, against the hackers, uplifting the boughs to prevent them from being reached by the blades.
And finally, with the East Winds, came the Birds of the North, with their soldiers from all over, picking and gnawing at the very opponents themselves.
It seemed as though all life had taken a backseat, and only the North Mountain was alive, fighting to stay that way.
The Storm was intense and the Wild Wind looked for his Pine Tree. The scent of the rich Earth, let off by the rain, was mixed with the smell of sap oozing out of almost every tree in the forest.
The Wild Wind spotted his beloved and rushed to her, helping her breathe. He was heavy with moisture and she, with sap…
Her leaves had carpeted all around her. They met feverishly, excited and crying, moaning, and dying…
The Wild Wind wailed and groaned in a furious roar all over the forest, expanding into a state of cyclonic proportions.
The ax-men couldn’t see as the leaves of the pine blew in their faces, the rain and mud made it harder to stand firm, and the logs everywhere reduced mobility. A few ax-men lay buried under fallen trees, their heads smashed into the earth, in red rivers, their flesh exposed in cuts similar to those they had inflicted on the innocent trees. The storm flooded the mountain and polluted the river below.
The Mountain had put up a great fight to the armed men, yet the battleground showed no victor.
The Birds and Winds circled over the forest when the Clouds had dissipated along with the Thunder and Lightning, and the ax-men had retreated wearily; and saw the overwhelming, disastrous mess of fallen trees and fallen men, of leaves and ice and blood and blade; of rage and defense and hope and pain.
All was lost… No tree survived that would not die soon, no hacker remained that would return anytime soon, to this mountain of death. All was lost.
The East Winds couldn’t comfort the Wild Wind, their brother, who had loved and lost. They took to road in hopes that he would follow them, but he never did.
The Wild Wind had settled, the Wild Wind had been tamed, the Wild Wind had lost his all, for the Wild Wind had loved in vain…
On an isolated, icy mountain, far up the Northern belt, of a place that now boasts only of ruins, of debris, of the low, pining rustling of the suspicious, secluded, surviving leaves; a droning excuse of a wind blows by, carrying the fragrance of the roses from the faraway lands, circling around a stub of wood, that still smells of fresh Pine leaves.
© Isha Garg
Doodle by Isha Garg