A Tale of Two Virgos

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There was an old woman who lived on the ground floor of an enormous Redwood tree. Her home was nestled into the heart of the ancient giant where living vines decorated the walls and lush green moss carpeted the floors. Mushrooms emerged out of the walls here and there, and spider webs created lacy designs across the ceiling. Her shelves were filled with jars upon jars of dried herbs… Yarrow, Stinging Nettle, Burdock Root, and Mullein to name but a few. Each jar was neatly labeled and carefully arranged on the shelf in alphabetical order.

When anyone in the forest was feeling ill, the old-woman-in-the-tree knew precisely which herbs they needed. She was well-respected as a healer and midwife. She was also skilled at shaping clay into beautiful bowls, weaving delicate threads into fine cloth, and bending willow branches to form baskets. She loved all of the animals of the forest and they loved her in return.

One day, the old woman answered a knock on her door and there was her sister who lived many miles away in the city. The city-sister never could understand why her nature-loving sister would live inside a damp, musty tree. Now that they were both getting on in years, the city-sister worried about the old-woman-in-the-tree living all by herself way out here, deep in the forest.

Only a few minutes into the surprise visit the city-sister launched her campaign to rescue the old-woman-in-the-tree from her crazy wild life. “My dear, how can you live in such a mess? Look at those spider webs. You really should clean them up. And look at all the rotting logs lying around in your front yard. They’re crawling with bugs and must be a constant reminder of death and decay, right at your doorstep. You can do so much better than this. Mother didn’t raise you to live in a tree. You’re a disgrace to our family!”

The old-woman-in-the-tree took a breath and felt her roots connecting deeply with Mother Earth. She felt the tendrils of her heart connecting with all her relations here in the forest… the birds, the squirrels, the trees and wildflowers… the mushrooms, the rocks, the bugs and worms. She glanced at her shelves filled with healing herbs and thought about all of the people she had helped and all of the babies she had birthed in her many years of living in this forest community.

The old-woman-in-the-tree looked at her city-sister with compassion and said, “My dear, I know that you think you want what’s best for me, but your idea of neat, clean and tidy is not a world I wish to live in. My world is pure… purely natural. The way I am is perfect… perfect for me. I embrace the whole of life, including death. Why should I be ashamed? I live with integrity and offer my gifts in service to my community.”

The city-sister felt flustered. She never expected that her shaming tactics might not work. She tried to come up with more criticism to hurl at the old-woman-in-the-tree, but she could see that her forest sister was not susceptible to manipulation and any further attempts to control her would surely fail. For the first time, she could see not only the strength but the raw beauty of the old-woman-in-the-tree. The city-sister’s sense of righteousness began to crumble and she felt ashamed of herself for trying to shame her sister.

“I’m sorry, please forgive me, I love you,” said the city-sister.

“Apology accepted,” said the old-woman-in-the-tree, “Now come in and I’ll make us a pot of licorice tea.”

Note: These characters are fictional and are not based on anybody’s real sister.