|In my dream the cherry tree was dying. I wrapped my arms round the trunk and hugged the tree, begging it not to die. I slipped to my knees. Gray bark scraped my cheek, and as my knees sank into the earth between the roots of the dying tree, tears begin to pour from my eyes.
|And then I'm awake, rain pelting down on the tin roof dripping from a leak beside my bed. And still weeping tears as hot and futile as those in the dream, I feel abashed, weeping for a cherry tree in a dream, as though there were no borders between sleeping and waking.
|Among the fragments of Heracleitus which have survived, there's one which claims the waking have a single world in common, but that each sleeper turns away to a world of his own. How is it, then, that tears which started in the privacy of my dream wash over into this common world, are wept here, too? I smell a god in this, some prankster of a god who's tricked me into the maze of passageways between the world of dream and the world we agree to call real.
|THE GOD VANISHES. Or better, the goddess vanishes, for these tears are filled with the honey and salt Aphrodite of the many wiles mixes in tears. I'm alone in a dark room halfway through a rainy new-moon night, watering a stricken cherry tree in another world with my tears.
|It grew within earshot of the sea, beside an old farmhouse set among pastures ringed by redwoods. I lived there with a woman who could make the sun sneak over the horizon, shoes in hand, so as not to wake anyone. Mustangs roamed her hair, and when they cantered through the night this half-lit ball of earth would spin underneath their hooves, and meadows winking with yellow tansy turn their faces to the dawn. Her eyes were blue. The sky knelt down once upon a time and begged the gods to get that blue. But the gods have their own sense of what's right, and fitting, their own plans for us and this haunt of beauty we pass through. The gods gave that blue to her eyes instead.
|At night the chant of the surf, winging its way through the bedroom window, would lodge in the shells we brought back from saunters along the beach. We were blessed by the bark of sea lions whooping it up in coves down where the leas with their lush grasses spill into the sea. In winter storms, wind clawed the caves, and the groaning of the cherry tree's branches would urge us on, deeper and deeper into the heart of the brief symphony lovers play with their limbs, their whispers and biting white teeth, the one that shuts out the racket of the world and causes the starry animals of the zodiac to prick up their ears and listen.
|It was just a rickety old farmhouse. It was just a cherry tree. But in February, when it was in bloom, you could see it far across the meadows, flaming like a pink torch against a sky quite happy to be wearing the second-best blue. And I was weeping for its passing in a dream.
|Another fragment from Heracleitus claims even sleepers are workers and collaborators in the business of the universe. Maybe dreams are a kind of lost and found of the soul. Nothing can be found which isn't lost or hidden first, and nature loves to hide. Maybe the immortals use dreams to reach into the clock of the cosmos and snatch back a moment lost in the intricate snarl of gears. They rip the moment out alive and hand it on, its pulse still beating loud enough to wake the sleeper.
|I'M AWAKE, caught in just such a lost moment. It's Valentine's Day, and I'm driving a pickup down the road to the farmhouse after working in the woods. I see a blaze of pink blossoms as I angle the truck into the final turn, and my heart dances the humble jig hearts dance when they know they're going home. I switch off the ignition.
|The truck rolls, noiselessly as an old beater with worn bearings and races can roll. I want to be quiet so the women inside the farmhouse near the ivy-eaten barn won't hear me coming. I'm planning to creep up on her while she's writing a letter at the table or washing dishes in the sink, hoping to nose through the cloud of hair and sneak a kiss on the back of her neck so soft my lips will make sunlight feel kind of heavy.
|Alder shavings drift like hand-made wooden snowflakes from my hair onto her shoulders as my lips brush her skin. My mouth glides over to a freckle on her cheekbone. She turns her head to kiss me. My lips slide past the kiss, seeking out the hollow under her chin, the place where my tears would be falling now if they could, collecting in a pool in the sweet curve of her throat.
|Then our mouths meet. Hands greasy with chainsaw oil reach for her breasts. The heft in my palms tells me I'm home. My fingers stroke the buds to coax them into bloom. Her teeth chew my lips. If only a kiss really was a home two people could live in till their hair turned gray.
|She laughs because she's grubby now, too, black smears like zebra stripes on her white breasts. Water's short in the farmhouse beside the cherry tree reaching up to brush the sky with its flowers, and we never waste a drop. We'll be taking a bath together.
|There's plenty of room in the old-fashioned tub with its lion paw feet. She lies against my chest, puzzles her body into place in the soapy water. We fit together easily, exactly, as if Aphrodite were a carpenter expert in the mysteries of joinery. With a sigh we connect, down there where all our tears begin.
|THE CHERRY TREE stands outside the window. Late afternoon sunbeams slant through it, picking up pink as they go, splashing roses crafted from wet light onto the floor beside the tub. We can almost smell them. Cradled together in the warm water, we embrace the moment, savoring the quiet, before the longing in us unfurls its sheets and sends our bodies madly sailing into each other's seas. It's so still it seems we can hear the cherry blossoms letting go of branches, that we'll hear them this way forever, pink petals drifting through the light of a sky performing sleight-of-hand with scarves of blue.
|The moment the gods hand back is slippery. We step and do not step into the same river twice. The enigmatic philosopher is right. Neither the river nor the we exist anymore. I'm stuck with the heartfull of blossoms the moment melted and no place to bury them.
|Our cherry tree that afternoon, somewhere in the years to come we lost it. We left it behind, forgotten under a table in a cafe by the harbor where an old woman was beating octopus against the rocks of the breakwater. It fell out of our pockets in a crowded square by a mosque, where the handsome devil of a fellow, juice running down the long blade of his knife, handed us each a slice of watermelon, for djaba, for nothing, for a smile. It tumbled overboard, sank to the bottom of one of the black, rocking seas we crossed at night on ferries. It could've fallen anywhere. Years pass before I miss it, and then it's dying in a dream and I begin weeping, and wake with tears burning my eyes.
|Heracleitus guessed that all things become fire at some time. Maybe they do really all burn like tears at some time, even our dreams. And if tears burn and fire weeps, maybe the cherry tree on the north side of the old farmhouse with peeling red paint is nothing but a wet flame weeping in a dream and the end of it all is ashes and the song called silence. Each note of the song is a home some jay has pecked in the flesh of a cherry, and in each little white cave of a hole about the size of a tear there lives a smothered cry from a heart that's gone mute, that's forgotten how to sing its pain. If all the cries broke the conspiracy of silence at once, the howl of music would be enough to make the cherry tree lie down and die. And I'd dream about it, and I'd slip to the ground clutching the tree in my arms, my knees sinking into the soft earth.
|I'm awake now. We step and do not step. It was just a cherry tree. It was just an afternoon. We were lying in the bath, back in the days when we still got smashed on sunsets, clinking them together like glasses of fine, ruby-red wine. Light was hastening down through the branches of the cherry tree in its hurry to get to us.