The Stone Pine

Symbol Of Resourcefulness

Haido sipped from his tea cup; a tea cup steeped in age, older than his eldest child, Hanna, he sipped his tea. The tea cup had been a gift from his mother in law, one piece making up a set of two, a set of two gifted as an engagement present. Each hand made by his mother in law, Haido’s was a beautiful scape of stone and rock, greys and earthy stone, texturised by the rough finish to the ceramic. With no handle, it was to be sipped from with calmness and control. Haido’s late wife, Ja, had the complimentary tea cup, with no handle, it was to be drunk from with calmness and control. Ja’s was a scape of natural greens; a delicate interaction between pale and dark tones yielding a beautiful collage perfectly reflecting the colours painted across the Japanese hillside. A landscape for which Ja had always had a particular fondness and a landscape which their humble home offered unbroken and uninterrupted opportunity to appreciate. Here, Haido and Ja had spent the twilight years of their love, in peace and calmness, drinking from their tea cups and sharing in each others tranquility.

Having finished his last sip of tea, Haido placed his tea cup onto the table next to his pruning scissors. The scissors were a dark metal, thin and long for delicate work, handles wrapped in thin twine for comfort and grip. Picking up the scissors he began examining the tree in front of him. An 80 year old Japanese Pine, it had been left by a close friend, Akito, to his son on his departure from this world. When the son had come knocking, asking for advice, Haido couldn’t resist but invite him in for a tea. They would find themselves losing a whole afternoon, deep in discussion of events the pine would recount, were it possible. The pine was privileged to have witnessed, descried and over heard many tales from it’s vantage point in Akita’s life. Delicately balancing a tray of tea on her arm as she entered the room, Ja had joined them for the afternoon,  and endeavoured to entertain the young man no end. In the 3 years since his father had passed he had not allowed himself the freedom to talk about the light Akito had bought to the world, as a father and, as he was quickly learning as a friend.  After the tea was drunk and an inspection of the pine presented a thorough to-do list, the son had decided it best that he leave the pine with Haido for a few weeks while he undertook some much needed reparations for the years of uninformed care.

A knock at the door snapped Haido back, away from his wandering thoughts, back into this hour, this minute, this second. He waited to hear Ja’s footsteps down the hallway, floorboards creaking with a light and joyful tone. He remembered there were no footsteps coming. He placed his scissors back down next to his tea cup and headed towards the door, his footsteps creaking the floorboards as he went. With the door open he was greeted by the bright eyes of Hanna shining back at him, 

“Father,” flinging her arms around him, “I’m so sorry. I tried to get a late train last night but I couldn’t. The only sleep I could get last night, I dreamt I was travelling down here, getting a ride on the clouds, roaring through the skies with the power of the wind behind me. Even that wasn’t fast enough,” she trailed off. It was as if her sentence had more to come, but she couldn’t find where it was leading her, 

“Don’t be silly, Na, you are here now,” ever since Hanna was a young girl, she had always thrown her arms around her father and held him as if someone was trying to snatch him away. On her first day of school she had held on so tight, he had carried her into her classroom before she would release her grip. On Hanna’s first day of University, Haido had foreseen that he would been the one holding on before she was snatched away, but she had held just as tight.

“Is he here yet?” Hanna asked, anticipation in her voice, 

“No not yet, he called as he got off the bus at the bottom of the hill, that was about 45 minutes ago so I suppose he has stopped by every house on the way up” Haido released a chuckle, 

“Well I’ll put the kettle on, we’ll have a tea when he gets here” Hanna slipped off her shoes and back pack. Haido nudged her left shoe neatly inline with the right and followed her through to the kitchen, gentle floorboard groaning.

“Smells wonderful father,” Hanna said as she stirred the pot boiling on the cooker, 

“Miso, your favourite” He said with a smile, as there came a second knock on the door, this time it creaked open, 

“Father, Hanna, are you there?” Called a voice from down the hall, 

“Hiroshi, we’re in the kitchen” called Hanna, 

The footsteps down the hall were calm and slow, the floor boards creaked, but not with the light and joyful tune that Haido remembered of Ja, instead they sounded peaceful, soothing and serene. 

Hanna launched herself into Hiroshi’s arms as he came through the doorway into the kitchen, with no need to exchange words they released each other and Hiroshi embraced his father. 

“Tea and miso?” Asked Haido, wiping a tear from his eye,

“Of course, as long as you didn’t make the miso” jested Hiroshi, rousing another chuckle from Haido at which Hanna joined in. 

“I’m just going to put my stuff on my bed, I’ll meet you in the garden” 

As he walked down the hallway, floorboards creaking, he passed his father’s workroom. He slipped in, as he had many times as a young boy. He remembered his childish amazement, bewildered by the beautiful tools and the sculpted bonsai trees that were always passing through the work bench, and adorning the room. Hiroshi ran his fingers along the edge of the worktop, the soft wood smooth to the touch. Lined up on the bench was a pair of pruning scissors, a small rake and a spool of wire, a small empty bucket and one full of soil, pine needles scattered the spaces between. His father’s tea cup sat to the side of the bonsai, he picked it up and ran his fingers over the rough finish. At the other end of the bench was his mother’s tea cup. He knew the greens well. He picked it up and turned it in his hands. A tear rolled down his cheek. The green’s no longer flowed and mixed, they were split and fractured by gold. Rivers of gold running over length of the vessel, forking and splitting, diverging and converging. His father had said his mother had fallen. Hiroshi never imagined she was holding the tea cup. He had not known his mother’s tea cup had broken with his father heart. He had not known that while he lay awake the night before, while his sister had slept, dreaming of flying home on the clouds, his father had been at his workbench, desperately trying to mend his broken heart.

1 thought on “The Stone Pine”

  1. A simply piece of writing that bought a flood of emotions. I especially liked the description of the tea cups, ‘to be sipped with calmness and control’. The story and description created a very wonderful image. Thank you x

    Liked by 1 person

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