Happy is he who...writes from the love of imparting certain thoughts and not from the necessity of sale-who writes always to the unknown friend.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)





Saturday, September 29, 2012

Entry # 15


"The Swamp Vine"
by Matthew C. Nelson

And so the legend goes....

A long time ago, before the land across Europe was greeted by Ponce De'Leon and his crew, smaller shadow-filled swamps surrounded the much larger Okefenokee. In one hidden swamp, a small village lay nestled within a circle of cypress trees, one which the local people called Turtle's Shadow. Along the edges of the village, a little girl by the name of Swamp Flower, used to play for hours. One day, her grandmother, Sand Crane, approached and sat beside Swamp Flower.

"Swamp Flower", Sand Crane looked to her grand daughter as she spoke, "I know you are growing faster then the vegetables in the garden, and faster then the swamp deer along the edges of our village, but I hope I need not remind you to stay away from Grandmother Cypress."

Swamp Flower looked at Sand Crane directly in the eye and replied, "The large tree that sits with its roots deep within the earth over there?" She pointed to what was perhaps the largest cypress tree in the area, it's roots so massive that they began to erupt out of the ground and back in, forming loops all along the ground.

Sand Crane nodded without looking to where Swamp Flower pointed, for she knew better then most of its direction. "Child, only those who are ready to take the first steps towards womanhood are allowed to approach, and you still have several more seasons to go. Though you might think you are ready, trust me when I say that you are not. My sister...your great aunt, Water Weed, thought she was ready and approached well before her time, and vanished without a trace. We have no wish for that to happen to you as well.

Now, "Sand Crane slowly attempted to rise, "help your dear, old grandmother up, would you?" Swamp Flower placed her hands beneath her grandmother's arms and slowly lifted her up to her feet. Turning to head back towards the center of the village, Sand Crane looked back at her granddaughter one last time. Removing a freshly picked flower from her pouch, she gently placed it within Swamp Flower's hair.

Swamp Flower silently watched in amazement as her grandmother headed back towards the village. How did she always have the knack for reading her mind? Why, also, was it possible for her grandmother to say something that always made her frustrated? She slowly began to count off her fingers until all of them were stretched outward. That, plus a few fingers, were how many seasons she had already seen pass by. How was it, then, that she was not ready? She had heard rumors of women as young as two hand's worth of fingers, and almost one other complete set, had gone before Grandmother Cypress, and successfully completed their steps towards being a woman. Surely, one or two years shy of that was good enough...right?

Swamp Flower looked at the grand tree, and slowly found her feet walking towards it, all the while thinking about her grandmother's sister, Water Weed. Maybe she was just not ready. Maybe she had performed the ceremony wrong. Yes! That had to be it! Smiling, her feet began moving faster towards the tree, her gait increased to match her steps. Within minutes, she stood directly beneath the branches of the massive tree... and stopped.

Slowly getting down onto her knees, she looked up above into the hidden branches and tried to follow with her eyes all the patterns of the vines that wove into and out of them...that is, until one of them moved.

Swamp Flower blinked several times and directly stared at the odd-shaped vine. It was no false sight, or trick of the eye; the vine really moved. Then, having unfurled itself a bit from the branches, a set of reptilian eyes opened and gazed at her. Beneath the pair of eyes, the vine gave way and appeared to crack in half, only to reveal a matching pair of glistening white teeth shaped in the way of a half-smile.

Opening wider, the mouth yawned a few times before speaking. "I know your name, child...just as I knew your kin before you...Water Weed. Are you prepared for the ceremony, or will you succumb to the same fate that Water Weed did? Hmm?"

Swallowing once before speaking, Swamp Flower whispered, "I am...ready."

A chuckle erupted from the alligator's mouth before speaking, "We shall see...we shall see." The "vine" slithered down and appeared along side Swamp Flower. "Before going before the great spirit, Grandmother Cypress, you must give up something of great value...a sacrifice. What will your sacrifice be, child?"

In that moment, Swamp Flower understood why her grandmother had given her that flower. Try as she might to persuade her granddaughter to not go before Grandmother Cypress too early, Sand Crane realized that Swamp Flower had already made her mind up. So, Sand Crane gave her the gift of a swamp flower, in hopes of ensuring her granddaughter's success.

Picking the swamp flower gently from her hair, she set it down before the "vine". "I give you this token of my faith, as well as my belief, that I am ready."

The "vine" looked to child's sacrifice and nodded before leveling its eyes back at Swamp Flower. "You offer a token of love and family. It is accepted, child. Let me lead the way."

Turning back towards Grandmother Cypress, the alligator guided Swamp Flower towards a small opening within the tree and entered it...and vanished.


Resting now back at her hut, Sand Crane sat brewing some tea near the fire, when a lone, damp cypress leaf came fluttering in through the window, and gently stuck to the side of her face. Reaching up to grab it, Sand Crane gently smiled at it as a long tear rolled down her cheek.

"Good luck Swamp Flower...good luck."

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