I went over to see a friend of mine, Andrew, not too long ago. He had some new plants to show me.
“Merry Christmas,” I said.
“This is a dangerous time of year,” he said. “The seasons are changing.”
We went outside. It was sunny, and the wind was strong.
“Check this out,” he said. “I merged a tobacco plant and an oak tree. I don’t know whether to call it tobacc-oak or oak-bacco.”
Sure enough, there was an oak tree a couple of yards high with tobacco leaves coming out of it.
“It’s not a graft, it’s more like a merge. One plant just invades and takes over another. It’s like one crystallizes inside the other. It only takes a minute, and it’s done.”
“It’s only possible to do this because it’s near the solstice and the full moon—the time of greatest carnality. Nature is tied up into everything, especially now. The reason it’s so windy today is because of reaction to the unfair redistricting plan.”
He stopped to roll an oak-bacco cigarette.
“Nature has emotional needs at this time of year,” he said, “just like us. Everything is changing, and our emotions are changing, too. That’s why the ancients had human and animal sacrifices at the solstice. When people witness suffering and death, it generates a lot of emotion, and it helps the bioenergy field adjust to the change. Better that way than to let nature make its own suffering. Sacrifice gives the whole community a sense of peace and harmony.
“You can merge a plant and an animal, too,” he said. “Look at this tree.”
It was shaped in a strange way, with four small trunks coming out of the ground and merging into a big trunk, with branches and leaves all over it.
“That’s my dog. I merged him with a tree, a possumhaw, Ilex decidua.”
Up close, I could see the outlines of a head covered with bark, with knot holes for eyes, a knob for the snout and a deep cleft for the mouth. I could see teeth inside the mouth.
“The bones and teeth stay pretty much the same. The wood’s more flexible, though. He can move some. Scratch his head.”
I felt bad about what he had done to his dog. It wasn’t right. I rubbed the bark around his head, and the long branch at the tail end started to wag slowly, back and forth.
Andrew came closer, and the wind picked up, the gusts growling in the trees overhead. The mouth of the dog-tree began to drip sap.
“Yeah, he’s kind of slavering.”
The wind rose to a snarl, and the tree bent forward in a lunge, closing the jaws on Andrew’s hand. The more he pulled to get free, the harder the wind blew, until he screamed and yanked it out, all bloody and smeared with sap.
He looked surprised and raised his arms over his head. He never moved again. I watched his skin get dry and rough and crinkled like the bark of a tree. Branches and leaves began to sprout. His face merged with the curve of the trunk, with knot holes for eyes, a bump for a nose and a deep crease for a mouth.
Some things don’t change. People do need to get together and share emotions and sacrifice—that’s the Christmas spirit.
They look good now, decorated with little red berries against the green leaves, like a family dressed up for Christmas.
Everytime I think about them, I get a sense of peace and harmony.
Like what you just read? Support Flagpole by making a donation today. Every dollar you give helps fund our ongoing mission to provide Athens with quality, independent journalism.