Rust

“Maybe forgiveness will find me somewhere down this road”

I’m Moving On – Rascal Flatts

As the rain began to slowly fall on the the trees in the big green forest, the tin woodsman looked up to see if the clouds were getting darker, for maybe he could continue on with his labor of clearing trees for a new road to the city. Years before, he had traveled a similar road paved with gold, but now he was back to his old habits of being a hired ax. He covered his brawl to shade his face from the small specks of water that had now begun to come down a bit harder, and then lowered his head, shaking it slightly side to side, in one part anger, and the other part sadness, knowing all along that he would continue his work, regardless of the forecast. 

The tin woodsman labored on, the rain falling harder and the sky getting darker. The others had quit long ago, but he would continue to chop, for his worth was based on his work, not on his soul, or so he thought. Even though he had a new heart, it was broken now, and yet he began to feel a heaviness coming from somewhere behind his chest. “It’s just the rust settling in again” he told himself, “I must keep my axe moving, I must finish my job”. And so he continued, chopping away at tree after tree, never once realizing the rust was getting thicker, the movements slower, and the end nearer. 

“I wish I wouldn’t have spent so much time working” the phrase spoken over and over again by people at the end of their days. They realized too late the fruits of their own labors were as poisonous as the apple from the witch, and that the only real fruits their loved ones desired was born from the heart, not from the hands. 

After what seemed a long while, the tin woodsman finally rested beneath a great oak, the rain still falling gently and his chest still feeling heavy. He sat and thought, about the last time he was in a similar situation, when he rested and eventually rusted, and would have to wait for a full year in the big green forest until he was finally rescued by the girl with dark brown hair and ruby slippers. She saved him then, and it was her memory that would save him now. 

He thought about the journey they made together, and the love he developed for her along the way. “It’s not every day that someone comes along and saves your life” he would think to himself about the way she saved him from a life of rust and isolation in the big green forest, and all the while thinking about how for someone with no heart, he sure did learn to care about her. He thought about the day she clicked those ruby slippers, and disappeared back to a place she held so dear in her heart, not knowing if he would ever see her again. She was happy to be going home, and he made every effort to seem happy for her, but deep down he was sad and broken, too afraid to tell her how he really felt, too afraid to beg her to stay. “A girl like that was probably looking for a knight in shining armor, not a woodsman in rusting tin”, he would think over and over again, convincing himself that the axe was right all along, that the only thing he excelled at was chopping trees, and he should return to the big green forest and do just that.

As his body stayed wet from the rain, his cheeks began to follow suit, the water not coming from the skies, but from his eyes this time. His friend the scarecrow was the thinker, but on this particular day, the tin woodsman thought, and thought and thought some more. He thought about all the things he had missed in his lifetime. Instead of spending time with others, he spent time among the trees. And like the trees, he would cut away at his relationships until sooner or later both laid on the ground and in the past. He realized he was a slave to the axe, thankful it  gave him a means to live, but angry that it had also taken his life away. He noticed all the different rust spots and could tell the story of each one, where they came from and sadly what he missed out on for them to be there at all. The rust was his eternal reminder that he chose his work over his life, and the axe was there to falsely remind him that one was more important than the other.

He looked at his axe leaning against the great oak and stared at it for what seemed like the entire day. He noticed nothing special about it, the wooden handle and the metal head. He thought about the strange marriage of the two parts, how the axe’s job was to destroy the very thing it was made of, and in doing so, supply more wood for more axe’s to be made, and thus continuing the cycle of slavery towards labor.  He again looked down at his spots and began to chuckle to himself. Here he was a man of metal in a forest of wood, swinging a device made of the same two things. Two different substances brought together for the soul purpose of destroying the very thing it was made up of. Such a parasitic relationship. And yet, if he was to leave this world tomorrow, this axe would just find another to take his place, 

Finally the rain came to a halt and the Tin woodsman stood up. The sun began to warm the air and the blue birds began to fly high in the sky. In the distance he could see the faint outline of a rainbow forming, the end somewhere near the city. It was at that moment he was reminded of a song the girl in the ruby slippers would sing to him when they were together, about a place where dreams come true. He turned and looked at his axe still leaning against the great oak  and said goodbye. The time had finally come for him to move on from the one thing he loved the most, but betrayed him the greatest. The city that gave him a heart could perhaps save him again, help him remove the rusted reminders of a life he was no longer proud of. Maybe he will see the girl in the ruby slippers again, or maybe not, either way, he had a new task at hand and he would need a new heart to do it. Before he began his long journey, he took one last glance at the axe, he gave a gentle nod, turned back to the road, and began to whistle a familiar tune, one that carried him to that wonderful place, somewhere over the rainbow.