mêkwayâhtik ᒣᑲᐧᔮᐦᑎᐠ

When I was growing up trees were precious.

Almost family. They were cherished. Loved.

Each year on the bare plains we’d plant them.

Hundreds sent from the government program.

“Shelter belt” planting they called it. We just

said it was hard work. Planting trees in the soil

that wanted nothing to do with their roots or

needs. The soil wanting to grow grass and blow

across the skies in the summerfallow winds.

Little dams, shelters of cedar shakes and water.

We watered and weeded. Watered and weeded.

Some lived. Most died. We kept trying.


Fast forward some years. To river valleys. Full of

trees. Trees growing tall sheltering herons, hawks,

eagles and water fowl. Felled by winds, and dragged

down by floods. Each one a cottonwood of rotten

heart or a bended stubborn willow. No spruce or

pine to scent the air. Cottonwood fluff, sticky

pods everywhere in spring. And leaves.


Seeing them for the first time, red woods, was awe.

I looked up and up and up and the tops swayed.

Vertigo took me and I reached out to hold on.

And it was then that I felt the heart of the tree.

The warmth of sun on bark, the hum of insects.

The chatter of birds. The smell of pitch. Sticky.

Pinching bruised branches of cedar. Chewing

on willow bark. Brushing the branches of silver

willow as we ride looking for the cows.


Trees grow here at the drop of a hat. Sometimes

they drop the hat and grow if you are to slow

in mowing the lawn or grazing the pasture.

They grow and grow and wait to take back

their land from the humans and their cutting

kind. Like the Ents they surge ever forward

waiting to take back what was once theirs.

Even the bedrock is not immune to their

seeking roots. Massive rocks crack, fill

and then the seed sets. Grows. Cracks.


Dams abandoned. Indestructible to the

tools of human kind, fall stone by stone

to the roots of a maple sapling, to the

questing reach of the trailing roots of pine.

Four pages of words about trees in Cree.

Phrases, sayings, things we do and eat.

Women chew birch bark patterns.

Their mouths telling stories in each bite.

Art work for all to see and so few to

understand. The vast plains ache for the

trees that were taken from their coulees and

draws. Pioneers desperate for wood, dug

deep and made due with sod and dried

manure. Longing for the luxury of trees.

Ukrainian settlers chose the lands with trees.

After all in their homeland the trees

were the property of the rich, the important.

Their value stood tall and proud, rooted.


The big farms hate corners. They hate to turn.

The plow down the old homesteads. The

carefully tended old windbreaks and shelter

belts burned and rolled under. A few acres

more to put into grains and oilseeds. And

yet each spring their kind spring up, early.

They tangle up the implements and I quietly

cheer them on. Go trees! Grow trees! Go!


A tree hugger to the core, I adore them from

root to thorn, bramble to bloom. sap to fruit.

Trees must be a part of my genetic memory.

They are wound tight around my DNA like

the tangled roots of a spruce tree. Holding

on to the side of a mountain. Taking it down

one crack at a time.  Breaking it into soil.


Bjorn has us writing about trees over at dVerse. And I’m afraid this got a bit epic. I was overwhelmed with ideas and just started writing, letting the thoughts and ideas flow. This is my rambling poetic thoughts about trees. And I may do a part two or three, even four!


mêkwayâhtik ᒣᑲᐧᔮᐦᑎᐠ

Among the trees.


Birch Bark Biting


  1. brian miller said,

    January 18, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    very cool title….
    and this is epic…and i bet you could keep right on going too…ha.
    i adore trees as well…we have a forest out back…we had to take out 4 trees a couple years ago and i was sad…but it probably saved our house from the derecho….i so want to see the redwoods sometime….

    • shanyns said,

      January 18, 2014 at 10:43 pm

      The title, I forgot to add in my postscript, means ‘among the trees’ in Cree. 🙂

      Sometimes they have to go, for us to be safe, but it is sad when they go for someone to have a straight line to farm in a section large field!

  2. Laurie Kolp said,

    January 18, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    You love trees, too!

    • shanyns said,

      January 18, 2014 at 10:44 pm

      I do. A lot. And those critters that live in them too. I love them. 🙂

  3. claudia said,

    January 18, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    Go trees! Grow trees! Go!… oh i like shanyn…i can feel your heart for the trees in every single line… son wonderful that they don’t give up…hey we can learn from them… trees are so magical… we had a little foster walnut tree in our garden, saved from the bulldozer and it grew with our kids… when we moved away it was majestic and our kids loved to climb it…and esp. my oldest daughter wept lots of tears because of the loss of “her” tree….

    • shanyns said,

      January 18, 2014 at 10:45 pm

      I’ve loved trees like that! It is amazing how much we can learn from them. I hope your daughter plants many more trees!

  4. Grace said,

    January 18, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    Goodness so much passion oozing from here ~ Go trees Go ~ One day, they would reclaim their lands again ~

  5. January 18, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Such passion of trees… and it seems like it’s growing and growing… Love it..

  6. grapeling said,

    January 18, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    it deserves epic, and you’ve done them justice, Shan ~

  7. Mary said,

    January 19, 2014 at 12:02 am

    I really liked your ‘rambling poetic thoughts,’ Shanyn. It is nice to read such a passionate poem!

  8. January 19, 2014 at 1:46 am

    I adore this poem, Shanyn! I love your rooting for the trees……
    Go, trees! Grow, trees!” LOVE your closing stanza………I live in an area where corporate interests are allowed to lay waste our hillsides. In any hour on any street, I can see trucks taking the trees away and it just kills me. Such lack of concern for humanity in the name of profit.

  9. kelvin s.m. said,

    January 19, 2014 at 5:25 am

    …’we kept trying’ is what touches me the most when it comes about birthing a new shades of greenery… an delightful & enjoyable read… smiles…

  10. January 19, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Such wonderful images… I certainly liked your lovely thoughts about the trees. My favorite was the stanza where you felt the heart of the trees. Beautiful writing.

  11. billgncs said,

    January 19, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    it was epic, good epic

  12. coalkissed said,

    January 19, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    It is a great in its “epicness.” So many beautiful images and a wonderful message.

  13. ds said,

    January 19, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Go trees! Grow, trees! Amen. I love all of the tree lore you wove into this. Fascinating stuff. Thank you.

  14. Bryan Ens said,

    January 20, 2014 at 3:38 am

    It’s truly amazing the strength in trees that can indeed shatter mountains. Beautiful poem!

  15. Anna :o] said,

    January 20, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Go trees! Grow trees! Go!
    Excellent sentiment. I do so love trees!
    Anna :o]

  16. lynndiane said,

    January 20, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Yes, trees growing are a powerful, positive force, Shanyns…and so is your poem! We’ve planted many new trees in our grove – it certainly is a lot of hard work and we cheer their survival and growth.

  17. January 20, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Cottonwood trees are a part of my growing up, too…all kind of trees. “My tree” was a pepper tree where I would climb and hide for hours. I cherish your poem for the memories they engender especially.

  18. Doug French said,

    January 20, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    It is our life Shanyn. . . caring for our trees and their critter friends. A great poem that brings out a heart of compassion and resolution.

  19. January 22, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Wow. I am doing a journal project this month which is called Root, and trees come up a lot! I feel the same way, and was thinking of LOTR when you got into the middle just before you said that! I mourn when I see the trees stripped of their dignity and bones, for another strip mall. It is a heinous crime. I am with you, my friend. Speaking of , I still have my Christmas tree up but that is another story, altogether! Hugs! Beautiful pondering, rambling and prose!

  20. Ed P said,

    January 22, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    a heartfelt tribute to the trees. lovely.

  21. January 22, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Wow! Epic indeed! Isn’t it wonderful when the thoughts just don’t seem to have an end?! 🙂

  22. Joseph Hesch said,

    February 12, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Sorry I never got to this when you posted it, Shanyn. You know how I love to read and write about our Native cultures and Nature. This piece gave me a lot of things to enjoy! 🙂

    • shanyns said,

      February 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      *smiles* poetry is rather patient, it will wait for you to discover it. Thanks for coming by Joe, and I’m glad you enjoyed it. I am trying to write more about the Native and pioneer people in our family.

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