If Not Winter

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“… Imagine a different world…

create a time when the impossible

becomes possible.” (Sappho)

 

These words are like a spark that catches fire in the ashes of what is, or was… here my imagination roams free and unencumbered by a monstrous daily cultural reality .

 

I inhabit the spaces in between for survival.

 

Trees do talk.

Bears do sleep and dream.

 

This is a month that hovers like a specter, the austere bones of granite mountains stretch out to touch bare branches spiraling through an untouched forest of fallen birch, maple, poplar, elm, ash, and beech. Brown oaks fill in the empty spaces with tenacious rust colored rustling leaves. Spruce and balsam spires tower overhead. The sky is sketched in graphite.

 

Trees communicate in a myriad of ways science confirms for those that need proof. Trees converse as electrical impulses pass through their roots/tissues at a third of an inch per second (before you think how slow this is remember that trees are literally our “elders” living for hundreds even thousands of years). In addition, trees use their senses of smell and taste for communication. They also use visual cues for reproduction. But perhaps most astonishing, trees in a forest care for each other, sometimes even going so far as to nourish the stump of a felled tree for centuries after it was cut down by feeding it sugars and other nutrients. Not all stumps are so nourished and it is speculated that these stumps are the parents of trees that make up the forest today. A tree’s most important means of staying connected to other trees is a phrase coined by science as the “wood wide web.” Soil fungi connect trees and other vegetation to each other allowing them to share an enormous amount of information and nutrients. Trees and plants need each other.

 

In my mind trees are sending messages to the black bears that co –evolved with them. “Come dig your den.”

 

I watch the bear as he digs a hole under a glacial slab on the southern side of the mountain. Tree roots surround him inviting him in as he rakes leaves and forest detritus inside to soften sleeping ground. The scent of sweet earth is overpowering, as his curved claws pull in more shredded leaf bedding. The bear is re arranging the forest floor to his satisfaction inside his den. Cave walls deaden sound, create space for dreaming.

 

Drowsy now and well pleased, the bear enters his winter abode, stretches out with his back to cool stone. With his head positioned at the entrance he sniffs with a nose that is 2100 times more efficient than the human nose. He opens his mouth to read the air for unfriendly scents one last time before his eyes grow heavy. Though even in slumber, a snapping twig will instantly alert him to potential danger.

 

The bear chose this spot two months ago returning to it occasionally on his travels, but up until now he’s been busy foraging the bountiful fall acorn mast and growing his wavy winter coat complete with furry insulation. He has recently become less hungry. He moves less, listening to his body’s instructions to slow down. He still drinks water but soon his heartbeat will slow… When white flakes fall or even before, if cold sharpens the night air into cracked ice, the bear will enter and close the entrance of his den for the last time until spring, and no one but the trees who love him will know he’s even there…

 

The trees stand sentry, staying awake even after leaves and pine needles fall. Perhaps they warn the bear of impending danger through their roots and help him to awaken instantly, even after he has fallen into a deep winter sleep.

 

Anything is possible Sappho reminds me.

 

With these words I intentionally create sacred space where bears and trees commune and all but cyclic time ceases as the seasons have their way.

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