In this desolate place, oppressive heat stifled nature’s workings. Barren rubble offered no sheltering shadows under overhanging slabs or leafy boughs. No breeze to brush the remains of life. Vultures floated overhead, effortlessly circling ever closer. The still silence was broken only by the scraping boots of the woman unsteadily climbing the steep craggy path. Unimpeded by clouds, the merciless sun beating down relentlessly caused shimmering waves to shape-shift the trail before her.
The woman staggered on the rugged terrain, her falling prevented only by her well-worn walking staff. Taller and stronger than she, its sturdiness lent her strength on her ascent. As she climbed she increasingly relied on its force to inch herself forward. Panting from the exertion, she paused and leaned heavily into the staff for support. Her eyes traced the myriad shades of green and copper in the wood’s grain. Her mouth hung open as she desperately gasped for breath.
Gradually, her wheezing rasp and panting subsided. Her head still resting on the shaft, she inhaled deeply of its sweet green essence. She stood straighter. No longer grasping, her fingers gently caressed the sleek recesses of the staff’s handholds, gliding over the roughness of the intricate patterns incised between the smoothness. She looked up at the carved raven atop the staff and said, “Lignum vitae, you are well-named.”