The Tree Mothers Are Dying

The smoke clogs

my lungs;

a steel band

wraps itself around

my chest

tightening its hold.

The horizon

is dull gray.

The trees are burning

And I cannot breathe…

 

Innocent trees are dying

by billions, tortured by

hungry flames,

turning wood to ash,

rooted smoldering corpses

cannot escape.

Charred trunks,

crisped brown leaves,

needles curled, crackle and fall.

Sweet cambium –

The life – blood of trees

smothered by air

fiery tongues

and I can do nothing

to stop this holocaust

that brings me

to my knees.

And I cannot breathe.

 

Yesterday at dawn

I walked

to the river

in the heavy

thick air.

My lungs

laboring,

my feet dragging,

my head pounding,

the

outlines

of mountain

and mesa

blurred by an ominous haze

wondering what was

wrong with me.

I could not breathe.

 

It was as if the predawn

sky reflected

the hell – the torture

of burning trees.

Like holy women

burned at the stake

for healing with herbs

the trees are screaming

the lungs of the Earth are exploding

and I can’t breathe.

 

Trees weeping white tears

enduring the unendurable,

and still the rains do not come.

A ten minute deluge

cannot suffocate fires

scorching trillions of rootlets

tunneling deep underground.

And I cannot breathe.

 

Where are the Cloud People

that once gifted the Earth

with silvery ribbons of water

that flowed until

each tree and plant

was satiated

glowed luminous green?

I cannot breathe.

 

They have gone away

taking the monsoon

rains with them,

leaving humans to

their Fate.

The Earth is on Fire.

And yet,

even today we deny

that the death of trees,

(whose breath is our own)

forecasts our own demise.

 

The Tree Mothers are Dying.

And I wonder why

I cannot breathe.

 

Working Notes:

 

I wrote a poem about my troubled walk to the river yesterday only to have it disappear into cyberspace leaving me very upset and unsettled because it had everything to do with trees. Trees feel like some of my closest relatives.

 

Unable to let it go and knowing I could not recover the original poem which was better crafted than this one I was still compelled to write another. One thing I have learned as a writer is that I must follow my instincts…

 

I learned to love trees from my mother who spent a lot of time climbing them. As a child I swayed in light breezes on tree limbs, slept in leafy feathered branches and conversed with avian friends. Trees marked the changing seasons, and living amongst elder trees and loving them was a childhood passion I never outgrew.

 

As an adult the Apple Mother called me to her, nurtured me when I moved into my first real home located in the midst of what once was an apple orchard. Ancient gnarled apple trees were my daily companions with whom I had many wordless conversations. At midlife mindless tree slaughter on the edge of my property and a terrorized maple tree led me to leave that home for the mountains of Maine where I thought there were fewer people to harm them and trees were more abundant.

 

But once I began living on the edge of wilderness I was confronted with the realities of Maine logging and the fact that in this state trees were systematically harvested for whim or homeowner profit and always for the sake of a burgeoning economy. Maine currently has less than 16 percent of mature forest (2012 statistic) remaining. Bears and chickadees are moving northward for food and raped land surrounds my property on three sides. Dirty yellow machines roar and crash through once peaceful forests. The smell of chainsaw oil nauseates me. One of my immediate neighbors chopped the crowns off his trees and let them die slowly in agony. I witnessed this dying every single day. It took years.

 

I thought I had survived three lifetimes of tree slaughter by the time I fled to the high desert. It was a relief not to be surrounded by large trees. I immediately fell in love with the scraggily gnarled junipers some of which lived for hundreds and hundreds of years because they weren’t particularly “useful” as fuel.

 

Most recently, the Cottonwoods have stolen my heart with their rustling scalloped leaves, although I also learned that because of damming and water shortage that these elders would not produce young saplings that would survive to become the next generation of cottonwoods because these trees must have direct access to an ever shrinking water table. I settled for loving them with all my heart for now.

 

Then came last winter. We had no snow, no spring run off, no rain, the warmest spring on record – 90’s by late May – 100’s in June and by then forest fires had been burning out of control all around us and elsewhere throughout the southwest since spring. There were cheery rumors of a heavy monsoon season with plenty of rain to come but I had a very bad feeling about the truth of this prediction. Trees communicated to me that my senses knew something people did not. And, as I feared, the rains have not come except in teasingly small amounts. For example 0.03 inches fell late yesterday afternoon. It is now almost the middle of August and the monsoon season is coming to a close. The meadow in front of my house remains the color of winter wheat. And the ground is so dry it crackles under my feet as soon as the torturous sun hits the ground.

 

The junipers, highly adapted to high desert environments are in trouble. These “indicator trees” have bunches of dead needles throughout and growth is all but absent except in areas that are irrigated. One of these trees I have adopted as my Guardian tree. I know by now I can’t save them all but this one tree is watered daily and has responded by shooting up six inch spires of new blue green growth. Each morning I take a moment to touch her branches and talk to her just as I converse with the Cottonwoods. I remind myself daily to live as much in the present as I possibly can because all life on Earth is changing at a breakneck speed because of human indifference and greed. There may be no tomorrow…

 

Even with an attitude of resignation that sometimes borders on acceptance things have been getting worse. As the fires burn on I wake up to the smell of nauseating smoke. Each day is hooded in haze although the heat from the sun appears to be relentless. My energy level has plummeted not just because of the intolerable months of heat but also because of what it means to see that daily gray haze clouding my vision. The trees are burning.

 

Up until this week early pre-dawn walks to the river were my salvation, and my friend Iren’s Bosque has been a refuge. But a few days ago all that changed. Instead of trotting off happily in the dark to meet the river before sunrise I noticed that my breathing was becoming labored as I walked. I do not have breathing difficulties so I experienced this sudden change as alarming. What was happening? It wasn’t until I wrote this poem that I finally got the obvious: The trees are burning, and my identification with these beings is probably partially responsible for causing breathing difficulties for me. My very sensitive body is also like a tuning fork and any changes in the atmosphere affect me when others have no problems at all.

 

For all of my life the “Tree Mothers” have been with me long before I named them as such or understood that trees and women are two elements of one undivided whole. We are intimately related, as anyone who is even a bit conversant with world mythology knows. The cross cultural “Trees of Life” indicate to us that this relationship between trees and women stretches back to the dawn of humankind.

 

Perhaps this is why women gather round trees to protect them, as if only

we could.

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3 thoughts on “The Tree Mothers Are Dying

  1. As Unni babu put it your poem and your notes reveal how much you love trees and care for them.. I could only pray for a late monsoon burst to soothe the embers on the ground…

    Like

    1. Ah, thank you from the trees… we are an Earth people so out of balance that droughts and flooding seem to be concrete manifestations of this state…even if this is so it doesn’t change anything for the thrist driven trees…all we can do is feel deep compassion.

      Liked by 1 person

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