Evelyn Podunk was miserable at the advent of her twilight years. Everyday reality had become a bore. She withdrew from all social interaction, isolating herself, because she saw Death grinning behind every face. She felt her own body had become a weatherbeaten bag of jangling bones dangling from a tree branch. To forget her condition she often looked up into the sky, losing herself in it for hours dreaming of her childhood.
As a girl Evelyn Podunk often climbed into a large antique chest in her parents’ bedroom, closed the lid, feeling warm and protected inside like a chick in an egg. She loved being in the tightly enclosed dark space, imagining it to be a birdhouse high in the sky with the keyhole being an opening slightly larger than her silhouette. She imagined having hatched recently and hopping out through the opening for the first time, positively frightened then unexpectedly thrilled after unfurling a pair of beautiful wings, fluttering up and landing on a tree branch.
In the beginning her parents were delighted by her playing and encouraged her. They gave her materials with which to make paper mache eggs. They laughed when she pulled over her head a large rubber glove to which she attached feathers, wrapped long lengths of tissue paper around her arms, tied over her nose and mouth a beak she had made out of cardboard and painted yellow, and ran around, singing and flapping her arms.
It was the best time of Evelyn’s life and she never wanted it to end. However she instinctively knew by being around adults that it couldn’t last. The older we become, the less we fly in the Sky Mind and the more we dwell in the Earth Body. Evelyn struggled mightily against the gravitational pull of terrestrial life. She loved her parents but couldn’t help but wonder if she came from elsewhere, if maybe she had dropped out of the sky.
. . . . . . .
While alone in her bedroom, she cut a hole in one of her largest paper mache eggs, then slipped a favorite doll inside, fitting the piece back in place and applying moist, pasty paper-strips over the curved seam and over the egg’s entire surface, smoothing it out. She so liked the result she did the same with several of her other large paper mache eggs, smoothing them out, so that when they were all finally dry they appeared untampered with and whole. She kissed the finished eggs, cradling them one by one in her arms, imagining at her touch each doll inside had come to life and started to grow wings. She felt like a protective mother and hid all the eggs under her bed, keeping them secret, because she felt if anyone knew, including her parents, the spell of her enchantment would be broken and her babies would never hatch. She planned on sneaking out and hiding all the eggs in the woods behind the house, burying each in a specially chosen place, covering each with dirt and leaves and twigs, but managed only to bury two before she stopped in fear that her parents had become suspicious of her behavior.
One evening when her parents returned home from a night out, walked upstairs and entered their bedroom, they found clothes from their closet neatly folded and arranged in a circle around the antique chest. In the chest Evelyn had made a large nest, weaving together long strips of cardboard and newspaper, tying in old socks and rags, and overtop she spread soft downy feathers from a cut open pillow and dry grass and leaves she had collected from outside. She was curled up asleep in the nest with all of her paper mache eggs around her, except for the two which remained buried in the woods behind the house.
Now her parents were seriously worried about Evelyn. After a long and intense discussion they agreed it would be best to find professional help for her. After a battery of tests and thorough evaluation, she was put into a Special Program in which her behavior was closely monitored and she was trained and guided into developing the more practical aspects of her mind.
. . . . . . .
Evelyn gradually succumbed to the ways of the world, doing what most everyone does, working at a job she hated while pretending not to mind it, maintaining a modest residence, paying bills and taxes, having opinions of current events, blending in as best she could. She was never believed when she said that during her childhood a seed had been planted in her and ever since had been growing. She believed the seed was planted in her that time as a girl she was curled up asleep in the nest she made in the antique chest, before her parents discovered her and woke her up. She felt the roots digging into her bowels and a branch scraping against the inside of her belly, the tips of the twigs sometimes tickling her ribs, causing her to giggle. She wasn’t necessarily uncomfortable or in pain, feeling what was in her body belonged there. By how she carried herself and behaved a rumor was spread by locals that she was either crazy or a witch. The more she tried to maintain her composure, insisting she was as normal as anyone else, occasionally breaking into a giggle, the more polarizing she was, the more mystique she had, the more curiously attractive she became. She dated in her late teens and twenties, had her share of boyfriends, was even married for a time in her thirties. But despite her allure she was unlucky in love. Something was always off when she became intimately involved. That she was never believed and always seemed to be hiding something led to arguments. Finally she tired of human relationships. By the time she reached fifty she resigned herself to being alone and no longer cared what anyone thought of her.
. . . . . . .
She staged phony ritualistic scenes to feed the rumormongers around town, imagining by so doing she was fattening up some lumbering beast for sacrifice. One time on a busy street corner she dropped to her knees, lifted up her hands and with theatrical zeal prayed aloud for fire to ignite in the pit of her stomach, for flames to lick and purify her innards, for heat to rise through her cold heart, warming it, and to thaw out her poor brain. Many persons couldn’t help but look at her; and they collectively gasped when she grabbed her stomach, groaning, then fell forward and, letting out a scream, began thrashing and rolling around as if she had just caught on fire. After about a minute of this, she sat up suddenly cheerful, wiping fake tears from her eyes, and exclaimed, “Good Heavens! My prayer has been answered! Ho Ha!” She jumped to her feet, grinning while massaging and shaking out her limbs, then curtsied and scampered away, again shouting “Ho Ha!”, leaving everyone who witnessed her bewildered.
Another time on a moonlit night in the center of town where a few restaurants and bars were still open, she arranged twelve large flat stones in a circle, dragging them into place, upon each one mounting a white tapered candle, lit all the wicks, then stepped into the circle of flickering flames and improvised a kind of chicken dance while chanting and squawking. Most passers-by glanced and continued on, but some lingered and couldn’t look away. When finally she exhausted herself, huffing and puffing, she twirled around after snuffing out each candle-flame, announcing, “One o’clock! Two o’clock!” and so on; and when she reached the last candle-flame, she twirled around and announced,” Midnight! End of the World!”, then snuffed it out and collapsed like a puppet whose strings had just been cut. After remaining still for about a minute she jumped to her feet, then curtsied and scampered away, right before disappearing around the corner turning and shouting through cupped hands, “Ho Ha!”
The next time Evelyn was spotted was during the day. She trudged into town with a handkerchief tied around her head and knotted under her chin, dragging a large burlap bag behind her by a long rope fastened around her waist. She deliberately and exaggeratedly talked gibberish at the top of her lungs while gesturing at the air, occasionally stopping to scribble words in a notebook. When each page was completely filled she tore it out of the notebook, crumpled it up, carefully wrapped tape around it, forming it into an egg shape, and shoved it into the burlap bag. She then checked the rope around her waist, making sure it was fastened above her hips, and continued trudging along, pulling the burlap bag behind her. “Crazy woman Podunk,” an old-timer shuffling by said to onlookers, shaking his head. “I knew her parents when she was younger. Fine people. What a shame.”
. . . . . . .
The last time anyone in town recalled seeing Evelyn Podunk she was living in the doorway of an abandoned old house. She slept there nightly in a large nest she made out of cardboard and other discarded materials she had collected in alleyways. Little did anyone know it was a replica of the nest she made inside the antique chest in her parents’ bedroom when she was a girl. Those who recall seeing her around this time said she was somber and withdrawn, no longer speaking a word, her eyes sometimes turned inward, sometimes looking far in the distance. She no longer staged phony ritualistic scenes and was occasionally spotted walking slowly through the streets, looking around as if she had lost something but was close to finding it.
Then she disappeared and was never seen again. It’s unknown if she went somewhere and curled up and died. People in town regarded her anyway as more a part of the natural landscape than a member of the community, and joked that she probably either melted into the gnarled roots of some knotty old tree or shape-shifted her way into the Afterlife, and there climbing up into the branches of the most wonderful tree she ever saw made another nest, but this time with such exquisite skill and craft that it rivaled a nest made by any bird on earth. Tall tales were spun about her which became part of local legend. Some said during her earthly life the branch growing in her whispered to her with a voice of rustling leaves, beckoning her to return to the woods, and that before she disappeared she ceased speaking only because her throat was all scratched up from coughing up bits of bark. Her earthly life, it was said, was but a long preparation for the revelation that the branch growing in her had always been a part of that wonderful tree in the Afterlife. Those who were more philosophical-minded and compassionate speculated that the roots of that wonderful tree were planted in the Collective Unconscious and everyone, whether they were aware of it or not, fed and nourished those roots and helped the tree to grow. Rare, however, was such a one as Evelyn Podunk who contained a seed from that otherworldly tree as it grew into a branch and even as it sprouted leaves carried it through the trials and tribulations of earthly life from youth to old age. In her last days on earth it was surmised Evelyn lay on her back deep in the woods, looking up into the sky and dreaming of her childhood, her agony dissolving into bliss as the branch finally broke through.
. . . . . . . . . .
The opening of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus:
“A tree ascended there. Oh pure transcendence!
Oh Orpheus sings! Oh tall tree in the ear!
And all things hushed. Yet even in that silence
a new beginning, beckoning, change appeared.”