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.

http://visionquest.pagc.sk.ca/index.asp?page=4&m=1&ln=1

Birch Bark Biting