The trees are laughing today.
The wind rushes through them, scattering pine needles and adding a roar to the forest’s throaty chuckle.
I walk along the quiet path alone, the sand soft and pleasantly cool beneath my bare feet as I wander aimlessly through the forest that borders Waikawa beach.
The trees tower above me, dominating the sky as far North as the eye can see, thick trunks making a labyrinth around me.
The branches sway and in twirl in the wind like the graceful arms of a dancer, nothing like the reaching, greedy skeletons of my childhood fears, so long ago.
The shadows don’t scare me as much anymore, and the creaks of the branches sound more like the sighs of a tired old man than the mocking laughter of the monsters that lurked just beyond the shadows of a small child’s mind.
When I was younger, the forest scared me.
I would cling to my older brothers’ hands, flinching away from the dancing branches and falling pine needles.
Now, I find beauty in it’s age.
As a young child, every shadow that flitted from branch to branch, and gathered in hushed conversation at the roots of the surrounding trees harboured a bloodthirsty monster.323Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡbjr9IgszIl
Sanddunes hid trolls and ogres, tree-trunks guarding troublesome pixies, and the beautiful pine needles were faerie swords.
The shadows’ mocking laughter would always send me scurrying back to my father, who would laugh and hold my small, trembling body tight, gentle voice and warm hug reassuring and comforting.
“See that big old tree over there?” He would kneel to my tiny height, arm around me strong and sturdy, and point it out. I knew the tree he was pointing out - it was the tallest, widest of the bunch, with thick roots that writhed through the sand in tight coils and branches as wide as my intrigued smile.
“That’s the Forest King.”
“If you ever get lost, wait with the Forest King - he won’t let anything happen to you in his forest.”
Of course, now I’m older, I know he was just telling me where to go if I got seperated from him, in such a way that my young mind would remember.
But, back then, my mind was enticed with the idea that the very trees around me were royalty.
Now, nestled in the King’s embrace, his roots my throne, I survey his Kingdom, the beautiful forest surrounding our small silence, and remember my many adventures under his watchful gaze.
The day is hot, but under his cover I am cool, and I watch in wonder as the thin shafts of light that make it through the thick foliage above me swing and dance in tune with the wind, sending dizzying patterns swirling across the sand around me.
Trees cluster close, whispering resounding around me as if they guard a close secret. I can hear the river singing in the background, and it’s bubbly laugh sets a fond smile on my face, remembering the days spent beside it’s silver ribbon; days of rope swings, and tree-climbing, wrestling with my brother in a futile attempt to get him in the water, only to fall in myself, with an icy shock and a breathless laugh.
Oh, what these trees must have witnessed.
Memories spring from clustered branches and time-worn bark, where eager hands and innocent laughter has worn the bark smooth; Carl and I, running full tilt down the sandy path towards the Forest King, laughter bouncing back and forth as we scaled his heights.
Me, imagining myself the covert assassin, hiding behind the King in waiting ambush, only to be frightened by my brother sneaking up behind me.
Lydia and I, sitting high up in the king’s branches, discussing makeup and boys, giggling hysterically as we pinky-swore to each other to never have boyfriends.
The childhood days of laughter and light, of smiles and sunshine. The childhood days now gone.
But, now, it’s just the King and I.
Lydia, Carl, Dad - the Forest King is just a tree to them. Always was. Always will be.
I was the only to stay, to believe. And so I sit, alone with an audience from the King.
He seems older now. Tired.
His branches droop and his pine needle hair is no longer as bright as my innocent laugh, tinged with age instead. His rough bark breaks away at my searching touch and his roots seem withered, old veins in wrinkled skin. His laugh doesn’t chime in tune to the melody around us, hollow instead of vibrant and he groans like an old arthritic man.
Around us the trees still laugh, oblivious to their King’s distress, but we sit and remember the good times, just us.
The King and I.ns 188.8.131.52da2