Song of the ironwood tree

In going back through old documents, I am finding things I wrote quite a long time ago. This is one retrospective I wrote as a catharsis nearly 30 years ago:

Funny what will imprint on the mind when the waves of life come crashing in on your shore. 

Ironwood tree
An ironwood tree – By Ethel Aardvark – Own work, CC BY 3.0,


A young woman stands under an ironwood tree on a remote Pacific island and the sound of the wind through the ironwood is neither melodious nor discordant.  It is the sound of her precarious hold on her marriage flushing down the toilet.

What makes a person so intent on controlling both the horizontal and the vertical that she will put herself in such a position?  Her husband was to go and visit with his lover to tell her he is going to try (once more) to make his marriage work.  His wife, the young woman, stands under the ironwood tree feeling alienated and out-of-control as she watches him clasp the “other woman” into his body to say good bye.”  


That scene just isn’t working. 

The truth is, he can’t say good bye.  He is in love, or lust, or whatever and it is not with his wife.  Try as she does to “make” the marriage work, it is not “working”.  She is sitting in the hut in the evenings after the communal dinner, waiting for him to return from his tryst with his lover.  This is not a positive situation.  As the people around her speak in tongues, Tagalog, Chamorro and never in English, she knows they are trying to guess what is going on in her head and what she is feeling.  The burden to excuse what he is doing, to paint a favorable picture on why she is still sitting there, weighs heavy on her shoulders.  Why is she still there?

She lies in bed waiting for his return and when he does, he crawls into the bed beside her, still smelling of his lover.  It infuriates her. She orders him to go shower.  He rolls over with his back to her and falls asleep. 

The question of why she is still there remains. Gazing at the yellow stain on the three tiles in the ceiling above her bed, she thinks that the stain is as unchanging and unchangeable as her fate. Her imagination says the tiles and her inability to leave are somehow intertwined.  She lies there looking at that yellow stain, thinking that the two of them are rather stuck in this time and place, related by misery.

His employer shows up out of the clear and sits them down for a counseling session.  The young woman is told she has brought great pain and suffering to the community on the small island because she will not give up on her marriage and husband, leaving them to their fates.  They either need to patch up the marriage or she needs to leave the island. 

Which brings us back to the initial scenario….standing in the breeze, listening to the now sorrowful song under the ironwood tree,  she hopes to control and patch up the relationship.  Watching the man and his lover tearfully part, she hears that ironwood tree song, knowing it is a mournful dirge to which she is marching to the funeral of her marriage.