I had a splitting headache. The doctor looked into my eyes, shone a light into my ears and shook his head.
“I’m afraid this pain will last. You have a tree growing inside you.”
“What?” I said as a branch pierced the back of my eyeball. “What kind?”
“A maple, I think.” He scanned a chart on the wall. “But we won’t know for sure until it leafs out. Can you come back in the spring?”
I frowned. I felt the force of branches stabbing the roof of my skull.
“Come on,” he said, “we can’t cut it down. Yesterday I saw someone who had an elephant inside her. A huge tusker. Imagine the damage those tusks can cause. She kept it.”
I rubbed my temples. “How tall is it?”
“Fifty, maybe sixty feet tall.”
“You know,” I said after a thoughtful pause, “what I really want to do is climb it, see the view from inside my head. Is there a way I could do that?”
The doctor shrugged. “Try taking a yoga class.”
I signed up for a yoga class and was soon able to put my foot behind my head. Then, with breathing control, I squeezed my foot and entire leg into one ear. I was making excellent progress – my instructor even said so before offering me privates – and next made room in my ear for my arms. My head was starting to feel funny with a leg and two arms inside but it was nice to be distracted from the pain. With some pushing and tugging and several deep relaxing breaths, I squeezed my other leg into my ear, followed by my torso, and my chest and shoulders. Finally, after a flurry of admirable facial contortions, I pulled in my nose and face. I had climbed inside my head!
The maple towered above me and I began climbing with the confidence of a teenager. How long had it been? And now to be climbing the one inside my head… Life is full of surprises. As I ascended I noticed many branches pressing directly into the top of my skull and it hurt to see them stuck like that. One by one, I bent them so they would curl along my ceiling instead of pressing in. The pain evaporated. My whole head opened up and I felt I could see all the way to Africa. To my surprise, the full moon floated into view, so the entire tree began to glow.
On my way down, I saw a woman waiting for me by the trunk.
“Who are you?” I called down. “How did you get in here?”
“My doctor told me about you,” she said. “I’ve been having trouble with my elephant.”
My first thought was that she was worried about poachers. Then I realized who she was and said, “Perhaps he just needs to go for a walk?”
She smiled and took my hand to help me out of the tree. “Wait till you see him,” she said. “He can be a little wild, but he’s beautiful.” ♦