by Kristine Ackerman
Second Place Winner
It all started the day I began praying with a white pine tree.
I had taken to long walks
along deserted country roads,
trying to piece together the puzzle of my mundane existence,
stopping now and then
to visit a grove of towering white pine trees.
It was there I first noticed her.
She was a majestic white pine,
at least 75 feet in height.
Greener than the sun-kissed grass of a nearby meadow.
Much taller than the rest of the trees.
I laid down beneath her,
closed my eyes, and bathed in her sap and pine needle aroma.
She stood elegantly in all her wisdom.
One could tell she had endured much.
I named her "Woman."
Woman stood apart from the rest of the grove.
She'd grown up quietly, calmly, assuredly.
An outcast without the comfort of
trees nearby to give her shelter.
But that was all good.
She learned adversity in the midst of storms.
Struck by lightning on more than one occasion,
she did not yield.
She had found her home, her solitude,
in the sun and in the soil.
And she thrived, this pine tree I called Woman.
My visits with Woman became
more frequent, more meaningful,
as did my prayers.
It was a ritual.
I prayed some more.
Still she listened.
She never tired of me.
Nor did I tire of her.
My prayers became more intimate
without fear or hesitation.
I began thinking more positive thoughts.
Things started happening in my life that before
I could never have imagined possible.
A new job.
A new home.
A new life.
Why had I thought those things impossible before?
Because I was a single woman.
Because I held in my belief system that THIS single woman
could not dream, be, or succeed the way that a man could.
That was my truth.
Because that was my truth,
I had limited myself, and my life,
until that day when I found solace beneath a white pine tree.
And that was how my prayerful life took hold.
Strongly, bravely, reaching towards the sky
with a beautiful Woman.
Not unlike myself.