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Fiction by Jane (Cohen) Stinson
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Becky positioned her body on a reasonably flat rock on the north side of the Tree. She opened her sketch pad and tried again to capture the nature of its disconnectedness. How many times had she tried? She had lost count. It wasn't a big tree. Its bark was abused and thin. It had few branches and they were but fragile imitations of themselves. It hung out on a high bluff above Lake Superior, unprotected from the iced winds that screeched straight down from the Arctic Circle much of the year. There was a root. If you looked behind the Tree down on your hands and knees you could see it, a single, slender root that had worked its way down past the rocks into the warm earth, searching out a home, finally anchoring itself tenuously in the rich soil. The lake lay beyond and below the Tree, a great ocean of water deep blue under the late winter sky, the perfect backdrop for the Tree the Ojibway called the Witch Tree. They were quite correct. It was pure magic, not just its precarious, unexplained existence, but something in its nature that was magic, that spoke to Becky, and drew her back to it again and again. Joe was tolerant of her obsession with the Tree. He could have been unpleasant about it and called her a fool, even forbade her trekking off by herself in the wilderness. She knew she should let Joe come with her once in a while to reassure him that he was a part of her life with the Tree. But it would have been a lie. He was not part of it. He was part of the real world where he was a success with his paintings. Before that he had been a success as a teacher at the university. Before that he had been on his way to success, marked from the beginning by his talent and ambition. The Witch Tree belonged to Becky. It was the one thing in her life that was hers alone. Joe's smothering love had no place here in the high, rough grasses of the bluff where only an occasional gull dropped by out of curiosity. Becky sketched quickly with her charcoal, her eyes almost closed. She had no need to see the Tree with her eyes. That was the problem. It was her soul that hadn't quite yet seen the Tree and until it did she would not understand it or herself. She pulled the paper off her pad and crumpled it up, stuffing it in her big tote so as not to litter her sacred place. She opened a cigarette and spilled its contents of shredded brown tobacco around the base of the Tree in solemn remembrance of its sacred nature, repeating the words taught to her by the old women in town. Joe would be back tonight. She had promised him a fish and wild rice dinner but she knew she wouldn't bother with it. There was enough laundry to keep her busy for days but she wouldn't go near it. She had promised to clean the house and she hadn't done that either because she didn't care whether the house was clean or not. It was too big to begin with. The cathedral ceilings were unreachable except by ladder. The wide wooden floorboards were eternally

The Witch Tree - page 7