…surrounded by prickly-pear cacti.
The prompt said to linger with an image, perhaps the image of my feelings. I saw the bird in the tree and added the cacti so it felt like ‘me’
Imagine an olive tree (or google several and mentally composite).
Imagine the tree ringed by prickly-pears (google them, mentally edit them into the painting). It’s a painting, now.
The sky can be a pale orange seen shortly after dawn, facing southward. The sun isn’t visible and the realism is fluid. A background that suggests twilight but isn’t so dark; suggests daylight clarity but doesn’t overpower the foreground. It’s ambiance.
A painting can show the passage of time: on the left margin the cacti are all-green and no olives appear in the tree. In the middle, the cacti flower. On the right margin, pears and olives in ever-greater density.
Imagine, also, the roots cascading into the ground. I don’t think those could be painted without a scrolling canvas that dwarves the growing plants above. Maybe there could be an inset box but it would be distracting. KNOW that the roots reach deeply, tapping last winter’s rains.
I’ll describe the Phoenix I saw
S/he isn’t orange and blazing.
S/he has white plumage speckled with flecks of black, reminiscent of a snowy owl or a snow grouse in winter. S/he seems to be a game-bird, too, not a raptor. Her beak is for for picking seeds and berries. Her legs are strong. S/he’s as large as a turkey but not so necky, nor so bald.
S/he’s relaxed; dovelike, despite her size. Despite her repose, a glowing eye tracks our gaze; she knows we’re here. The eye is pale blue, the pupil isn’t visible. S/he turns her head slowly, subtly, gaging depth as she shifts her weight. Then s/he relaxes again: what can threaten her?
Her tail-feathers are long and folded neatly. She is not a snow-grouse or a turkey but not a pea-fowl either. Imagine her taking flight, sailing to another tree or hilltop. While S/he roosts, it’s difficult to imagine her soaring into the horizon. A few wing-beats and a long glide, she could easily bypass houses and alleys below without gaining too much altitude.
S/he most certainly is a phoenix. S/he’s alight but not like a bonfire. The only smoke or steam I can see is from the singed olive leaves, not quite aflame but starting to char. Some embers linger on the ground (are those ruined cactus lobes? blackened egg-shells? glowing droppings?); but nothing catches– nothing rages.
S/he wears perfect little points of smokeless combustion. Each black speckle has its own pristine flame of blue. Like stove-burners, they’re near-stable tear-drops of blue light. Her presence is modest from a distance but her plumage must be impossibly hot to the touch. S/he is a paradox of fire and ‘chill’.
Her feathers form a crest, too, but it’s folded flat against her neck– a line of black with a wriggling worm of flame on it, blue here and yellow there, flickering. The flicker is so slight. It’s not obvious but I finally understand.
Every Hidden Feather is Meant to Explode
S/he’ll unleash a backdraft when she fans her tail-feathers. Whatever gas or spirit keeps her camouflage aflame is building for that moment. Those broad black stripes will erupt in yellow and orange, a mushrooming column of flames, a display that launches swirls sparks into the morning air.
The crest, too. And the flight feathers as well? Her wings are tucked benignly against her side; S/he shifted so effortless on her legs, she didn’t need to ruffle a wing. Now I can’t imagine her flapping along like a turkey. What if these are more than burners? Her wings could contain after-burners, even rockets.
Does the tree immolate, then? Or is S/he conscious of that, willing to hop onto the rubble-strewn ground and around the cacti before launching. I want to see.
S/he roosts and makes heavy eye-contact. S/he rests, now. Imagine that.