BLM Deforestation Practices

DSCN0046.JPG

(author’s withered juniper needle clumps)

 

Did you know that the Federal government is overseeing a program of massive deforestation on Western public lands? Some 7.4 million acres of pinyon-juniper forest in the care of the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada, Utah and southern Idaho are targeted for destruction over the next several years.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Soil Conservation Groups are using Tebuthiuron, an herbicide to ‘control ‘unwanted plant growth. BLM, in partnership with the San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District and the Farmington Field Office here in New Mexico, treated approximately 9,000 acres of juniper, pinion, sagebrush and other plants beginning last October.

These treatments occurred on BLM-managed, State, and private lands within San Juan, Rio Arriba and Sandoval counties. The herbicide was dropped by low flying planes to kill trees, especially junipers, sages, shrubs, and vines “to keep land from being taken over” by anything besides grasses and forbs for grazing. The poison must be activated by “adequate” rainfall to penetrate the soil. It is absorbed by the roots of targeted plants to a depth of two feet, and transported to the leaves and needles where it kills the offending tree or plants (slowly) by inhibiting the plants’ ability to photosynthesize.

In Socorro N.M the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in partnership with the San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District also treated 4,100 acres of creosote bush and juniper with the same herbicide in early November 2019.

According to BLM the herbicide has minimal impact on desirable grasses and forbs. Because Tebuthiuron is applied in pellet form by low flying planes BLM tells us it doesn’t drift from the treated areas. When the pellets dissolve with ‘favorable’ precipitation, they are absorbed into the ground to a depth of approximately two feet and taken up by the target plants root system. The pellets are not dropped near waterways (no mention is made of the distance required for safety) or on steep slopes. Tebuthiuron has been used to thin many bush species including creosote bush and juniper trees since the 1980s.

Past studies indicate that Tebuthiuron pellets killed about 76% of the treated junipers. Where pinions grew with junipers, more than 50% of the trees were eradicated. Wavyleaf oak, sagebrush and other bushes were also wiped out by Tebuthiuron. To date, the plan has treated more than 3 million acres across the state.

BLM assures us that although Tebuthiuron is moderately toxic when consumed by humans, the herbicide is only ‘slightly toxic’ if inhaled and is ‘practically’ non-toxic through the skin. It may cause eye irritation, they admit. Tebuthiuron does not ‘appear’ to cause developmental or reproductive effects, or to cause cancer although residue of the herbicide ends up in meat and milk products. BLM folks would have us believe the risks to exposure are minimal.

In contrast, the Environmental Protection Agency considers this herbicide to have a great potential for groundwater contamination due to its high water solubility, low soil particle absorption, and the fact that it has a half –life of 360 days; it remains in the ground for at least a year.

Tebuthiuron has been detected in ground water in Texas and California. According to the EPA Tebuthiuron may be nontoxic to birds, fish and aquatic invertebrates, but it is slightly toxic to mammals. Tebuthiuron may pose a significant risk for on- and off-site endangered terrestrial, semi-aquatic, and aquatic plants.

In Europe, Tebuthiuron has been banned since November 2002.

According to BLM the objective of all these treatments is to improve plant species diversity, which will benefit wildlife, rangeland and watershed health by reducing the density of sagebrush, junipers etc. These actions will result in an increase of native grasses, other herbaceous vegetation to hold soil in place and decrease erosion.

BLM couches the deforestation as environmentally friendly. The agency claims that erasing large swaths of pinyon-juniper will cut down on fires and create new habitat for the endangered greater sage grouse, a ground-nesting bird. It even claims that destroying pinyon-juniper forests will restore the threatened species.

Pinyon-juniper woodlands are the primary forests of the Colorado Plateau and the Great Basin and these fragrant trees cover the otherwise sparse reptilian mesas and mountains in our area and elsewhere in New Mexico. Some are old-growth trees, squat and humble, gnarled surviving many hundreds of years in the extreme cold and heat of the arid West. Junipers can live up to 1,600 years. Some Pinion pines alive today have been dated to the Renaissance.

On the ground one of the primary agents of tree destruction is a Bull Hog, a bulldozer with a spinning bladed cylinder on the front end. It knocks down and chews up everything in its path wherever it is used. In the space of an hour, the machine can eradicate an acre of pinion-juniper. The Bull Hog, paid for by taxpayers, devastates the biome (ecological community), spitting out shattered trunks and limbs, the nests of birds, the homes of animals leaving the landscape flattened, the soil denuded, the air choked with dust. Once a Bull Hog has ravaged a forest the surface soil dries out because the trees that capture precipitation and hold the soil in place are gone. Erosion becomes a brutal reality.

I was aghast when first reading about BLM dropping herbicides by planes to kill junipers and sage in our immediate area last fall because our juniper trees and plants are superbly adapted to deal with the ever increasing drought conditions associated with Climate Change, and they provide shelter and food for so many birds and animals.

What I didn’t realize then was that what is happening here in New Mexico is also occurring throughout the rest of the Southwest on a massive scale.

With Climate Change our greatest global threat it is incomprehensible to me that we would allow BLM to continue to destroy the Juniper and Pinion forests when Carbon sequestration is a global priority for human survival.

Carbon sequestration is the process by which atmospheric carbon dioxide is taken up by trees, and other plants through photosynthesis and stored as carbon in biomass (trunks, branches, foliage, and roots) and soils. One tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year and can sequester 1 ton of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 40 years old. Older trees sequester even more carbon. Combined with oceans, the terrestrial biosphere removes about 45% of the CO2 emitted by human activities each year. Planting small seedlings will actually do the reverse; until they are old enough, tree seedlings actually release carbon into the atmosphere.

Climatologists assure us that the Southwest is becoming dryer and hotter each year. Junipers and pinion as well as sagebrush are superbly adapted to deal with these worsening drought conditions. Other trees are not.

Without pinion, junipers, and oak to provide food and shelter our wildlife population is in deep peril. Junipers are one of the top ten species that support all wildlife. Audubon predicts that by the end of this century we will lose 2/3 of our bird species and almost all of our southwestern birds need junipers and pinion forests to survive. The pinion-juniper biome provides refuge for kestrels and hawks, black capped and mountain chickadees, black-throated gray warblers, flickers, gray flycatchers, scrub jays, pinyon jays and poorwills to mention a few. According to the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, pinyon-juniper forests host more than 70 species that must have a healthy habitat as North American bird populations collapse. Nearly 3 billion birds are already missing. And by the way, regarding the sagebrush grouse, wouldn’t it be far less destructive overall to improve sage-grouse habitat by restricting livestock grazing in the areas that sage grouse currently occupy?

Removing junipers, pinion, sagebrush and other trees and bushes creates another problem. In order to remain vigorous any biome must support plant diversity and decimating the tree/plant population means that only grasses and forbs are left to feed cattle. Lack of diversity weakens the entire ecosystem and creates a perfect storm for insect infestation and disease to thrive. Deforestation of any kind, of course, adds tons of carbon into the air.

There are a few comments that I also want to address regarding the use of low flying aircraft to drop the herbicide Tebuthiuron in pellet form on the ground.

Today it is so windy that a dark raging cloud of dust totally obscures the field beyond my house. It is impossible for me to believe that once a pellet begins to disintegrate (or even if it remains whole) that winds like this wouldn’t pick up pellets/particles and disperse them elsewhere. We are prone to these winds at any time of the year and it is impossible to predict when they will hit.

BLM makes a point of stating that the pellets need “adequate” rainfall to dissolve the poison which then has to leach into the ground for two feet in order to begin eradicating the tree(s). The pellets were dropped in this area in October 2019; it is now February and this has been a dry fall and winter. My guess is that insufficient rainfall has left pellets disintegrating on top of the ground possibly posing threats to birds and wildlife.

Extreme flooding creates the opposite problems – runways for moving water – and contamination of ground water. This issue has already been addressed earlier in this article (EPA).

The fact that BLM admits that Tebuthiuron is ‘slightly toxic to mammals’ leaves me in a state of unease… my little 5 pound dogs could easily swallow one of those pellets…

Here in the Southwest we are dealing with pollution at levels that continue to increase at a disturbing level. Adult trees also absorb pollutants like lead and other toxic substances not just from the air, but from deep underground (the Poplar family which includes cottonwoods are one example of trees that clean up both the air and soil).

 

I also want to add an observation of my own. As some people know Western junipers are also an “indicator species.” If they are showing signs of stress from lack of water/poisoning then other less resilient trees are even more threatened. Not to take heed of this juniper tree warning would be a grave mistake…

I have a good-sized juniper that lives outside my front door. I adopted this tree as soon as I moved here watering her profusely. She rewarded me even during the worst drought I’ve witnessed (2018) by adding at least 6 – 12 inches to her girth and height with new growth. Last summer I was away and she evidently did not get enough water, because on my September return she was showing signs of stress that included lack of any new growth and many withered brown patches of dead needles were present throughout the tree (It’s important to note that some clusters of brown needles are normal but a continuous presence of withered needles indicates a problem). After removing all the dead bundles I immediately began watering her and continued this process into December because I know that junipers can photosynthesize/transpire much longer than other trees. Instead of responding to this treatment in a positive way my tree continues to develop shriveled brown patches that I am still removing. I have just started watering her again (its early February) but just yesterday noticed that the tree in general just doesn’t look as healthy as she once did. Low flying planes hovered over this area last fall and now I am starting to wonder if my tree has been poisoned…

In closing I want to remind folks that it took 300 million years for trees to provide the earth with enough oxygen for us to breathe. And at present we are destroying the source of that oxygen at a catastrophic rate.

When the Cranes Come

IMG_3160 2.JPG

 

When the Cranes Come

I remember who I am –

A woman with wings.

 

When the Cranes Come

I listen with rapt attention

I am a woman with wings.

 

When the Cranes Come

I am pulled into a primordial field

I am a woman with wings.

 

When the Cranes Come

I know I must fly with them

I am a woman with wings.

 

When the Cranes Come

I remember that community is real

I am a woman with wings.

 

When the Cranes Come

I believe hope can be restored

I am a woman with wings.

 

When the Cranes Come

I lay down in frost – covered reeds

At peace with Sand -hill Cranes.

 

Working Notes

 

“By paying attention to what is real and true and authentic we come home to ourselves.” I paraphrase Terry Tempest Williams words although I have used these very same words myself.

 

Paying attention to Nature is just what I do. It is my primary survival tool. My joy is hidden here in experiences of the Now. Paying attention also forces me to witness heartrending Earth broken-ness, and this witnessing leaches the life force out of me. This anguish has no name.

 

When I am pulled into the “field” of Sand hill Cranes I undergo a mystical transformation.

 

There is something about these most ancient birds that live together in peaceful community, who stay together, who migrate in family groups, who look after one another that “call” me to them in a way I can’t comprehend, but feels so familiar… like a dream I can’t quite remember.

 

What I do know is that I must follow them. I must allow myself to believe that there may still be hope.

 

These last years have been impossible because I am witnessing earth destruction daily through the loss of so many animals and plants, polluted air, water and soil. So much slaughter. The earth is going up in flames – Fires rage, destroying the forests that allow us to breathe, and drought cracks open the earth, withering the most resistant trees. Dust chokes desert air.

 

I endure – waiting – no longer believing any action will be enough to stay the human greed, hatred, warmongering, lies, loss of decency, compassion, humility.

 

That is, until I see the Sand hill Cranes flying overhead with their gray gracefully curved wings, their long legs floating behind them – during those precious moments I am filled with inexplicable hope and joy – I once again experience wholeness.

The Cranes have whisked me away…

 

It’s interesting to note that I finished this poem, opened the door and seven Cranes were flying over the house…Sometimes I literally experience myself being being lifted into the air when they are flying above me.

The Monarch Butterfly

IMG_1604.JPG

(Author’s photo of first Monarch butterfly seen third week in July)

 

In late May a friend of mine in Abiquiu told me that he saw at least 10 Monarch butterflies clustered together in one group, a sighting that warmed my heart because the year before I had seen so few.

 

Last year I was fortunate enough to have a milkweed plant seed itself by the casita. When the seeds ripened in the fall I scattered the silky airborne parachutes under the original plant hoping that the milkweed would re –seed. This spring I was rewarded. Three new plants emerged in a place that would be watered as long as we had summer rains. When I left Abiquiu the plants were doing well, but summer would tell the tale…

 

Milkweed is the one plant that Monarchs love and the only plant on which they will lay their eggs. I hoped that a small cluster of these plants might provide sweet nectar that would entice a few more of these butterflies to visit the casita during the summer and during fall migration.

 

It should be mentioned that milkweed also provides an intriguing form of protection for this butterfly. The milkweed juices make the Monarch poisonous to predatory birds. Additionally, the deep orange color of the butterfly alerts predators to the fact that their intended meal might be toxic.

 

Here in Maine I have a field that is covered in milkweed from early July onward. I have raised many Monarch’s to adulthood over a period of thirty years because it has been relatively easy to find the eggs which are laid on the underside of the milkweed leaves beginning in late summer. The scent of the flower is, to me, intoxicating, and the clusters of tiny blossoms are so beautiful to look at in their myriad shades of pale pink salmon.

 

Ever since the milkweed started blooming this summer I have been on the lookout for Monarchs. I saw my first butterfly at Popham beach on the coast where Milkweed plants are plentiful growing amidst the sand dunes, and in wild coastal fields. I then glimpsed two around my house this week, and remain hopeful that I will see more…

 

Monarch butterflies are perhaps best known for their migrating habits. No other butterflies migrate as far; this insect flies up to three thousand miles each year. Millions of these butterflies will fly from Canada to Mexico this fall.

 

More astonishing, this entire trip will take four generations to complete. The Monarchs begin their southern migration September to October. Eastern and northeastern populations, originating in southern Canada and the United States, travel to overwintering sites in central Mexico. They arrive at their roosting trees in November. When the butterflies reach their destination in Mexico they return to the same trees that their forebearers did sometimes roosting deep in the forest. They remain in their roosts during the winter months and then begin their northern migration in March. No individual butterfly completes the entire round trip. Female monarchs lay eggs for a subsequent generation during the northward migration. Four generations are involved in the annual cycle.

 

Western populations, which would include the Monarchs in New Mexico, follow a similar pattern migrating annually from regions west of the Rocky Mountains to overwintering sites on the coast of California.

 

Many folks know that the Monarch butterfly population has dropped 90 percent over the past 20 years (Center for Biological Diversity). The species has become ‘functionally extinct’, meaning that the numbers are so low now that the Monarchs have little hope of long-term survival. Scientists look to Monarchs and other butterflies as indicators of environmental health, since they are easily affected by air and water pollution, severe weather, pesticides, the presence of other toxins and, of course, Climate Change. It breaks my heart to acknowledge that most folks have not paid attention to the decline of these beautiful insects. Globally we are paying a huge price for our blindness and indifference.

 

When it comes to Monarchs the present is what we have, and I encourage anyone that gardens to create a milkweed patch for these wanderers in the hopes that we might extend their collective lifetime a few more years. It’s important to note that milkweed needs adequate water. Refusing to use lethal backyard pesticides and planting milkweed are two things we can do to help these glorious orange insects in the short term.

A Cactus made of Rainbows…

IMG_0875.JPG

(Author’s newest rainbow cactus garden – the stones are pieces of chert that were found nearby -note the tiny nubbins on the sides of these cactus that will soon burst into bloom)

 

Raspberry spines

prick my skin

but do not harm me

as I gently dislodge

you from stones

and soil,

praying out loud

for permission.

 

You thrive here

as the Bears do

under tall red pines

and lichened boulders.

Aspens, Spruce, Juniper

all murmur

love songs

on Changing Woman’s mountain.

 

Is that why they call you

a Rainbow cactus?

Were you there

when She was born

under soft deerskin

pulsing with a whole

spectrum of Light?

Did the Bears watch you

From swaying tree tops

offer generous blessings

for the gift of your life?

 

I step so carefully,

so as not to crush

your little village

thriving under my feet.

I gather you as

a small family, believing

you need to grow together

to thrive.

Your roots are shallow

hugging jagged rocks

at odd angles.

I feel amazement –

Such tenacity.

 

I note your need for protection

from merciless west wind and sun.

Yet you thrive with so little –

a blessing from the Cloud People and you

burst miniscule roses from thorny skin.

I imagine a waxing frog moon

overflowing with pride.

 

I found a bear paw

not far from where you lay –

White flint worked

by those who once

tread lightly

on sacred ground,

soul heart and body

bound to each rock

and tree.

(Bears still leave

their marks on smooth

white aspen bark).

 

The People

spoke in tongues

most can no longer hear.

Oh, my grateful heart

sings praises for this

precious body that

vibrates

ancient strumming sound…

Your collective Voices

vie for my attention

as I move effortlessly

through the veil,

bowing my head

to acknowledge your

Bountiful

Grace.

 

Time gathers herself around me

False lines and boundaries

disappear.

I am so easily comforted by Now.

If only I could stay here…

 

When I wend my way

down the mountain

with a prickly clump

of your people,

I am filled with Light.

Perhaps Changing Woman

was right –

Her children’s father

was a round rainbow cactus

after all.

 

Working notes:

 

Yesterday I visited the mountain that once called me to this place, although I couldn’t name her then… three years later I am drawn back again and again to this Mesa forged in Light to gather stones made of the flint that was traded throughout the Americas by the pre – Puebloan peoples.

 

The Powers of Place embrace me again and again as I climb, hearing voices, and I am  permeated with wonder…

 

In Navajo mythology Changing Woman – she who grows old and young again but never dies – was born under a rainbow of light created by a myriad of colors – orange, gold, gray smoke, ebony, pink and burnt orange – of the stone called chert that is found in a single band that stretches around this mountain. This flint was worked into tools that were traded throughout the continent…

 

Changing Woman (parthogentically) birthed two boys who left her. When they asked about who their father was she retorted that maybe he was a round cactus! (a tongue and cheek response?) Their grandmother later told them their father was the sun but my guess is that their real father was a prickly round rainbow cactus that grows close to the ground on the slopes of Changing Woman’s beloved mountain, the mountain where she was born.

 

This marriage was one woven from Light, tenderness, thorns, and tenacity.

What the Sandhill Cranes Told Me:

photo-1473022082832-5a30701d4f2c.jpg

 

“Enter our world:

Journey as we do

from South

to North.

You are not alone.

We must travel too.

Do not resist.

Do not mourn

the passing of winter

into the first fierce heat

of spring.

Migration for you

is for one season

out of four.

Follow the Night Bear,

North Country Woman.

Be soothed by the rain.

Listen for frog song.

Paddle on still waters,

Turn emerald green

under incandescent light.

Allow your aching eyes to rest.

Plant a new Cedar.

Sink her roots deep

breathe in “What Is”

with your heaped up heart.

Feel the Earth move

beneath your feet.

 

Two dreams warned you

last spring of the necessity

behind personal departure.

But you were unwilling to go.

You could not honor

your body’s truth

until you shrunk

into a skeleton

you did not know.

 

The truth is

that you have lived your life

in both worlds

long before you came here;

One was a winter desert oasis.

Another was forged

from evergreen fir

rising out of granite stone.”

 

 

Working notes:

 

For the past three months the Sandhill Cranes have been landing in the field next to my house, crying out in wonder and the joy of deep communion. They roost by Red Willow River each night.

 

When I visited the Bosque del Apache to see the cranes last November I was transported into another dimension. There was something about these migrating birds that made my heart sing, long before I began to pay attention to what my newest obsession with these particular birds might mean personally…

 

On my return from the Bosque these same cranes began to appear down by the river regularly, and even when I couldn’t see them I was haunted by their calls. After the golden cottonwood leaves drifted to Earth a magic portal opened into the neighboring field, and these birds began to visit me from there. I could hardly believe it. I watched them drift down and settle into the grasses to feed, their magnificent bowed wings acting like gliders as long twig like feet swayed and touched ground. And the cries of communal compassion struck home in my heart.

 

Why did they stay all winter?

 

This behavior on the part of the cranes might have been influenced by Climate Change or perhaps by some other unknown mechanism. Perhaps there are a number of reasons why they chose this place as home. But daily moments of joy struck and stunned me every time I heard or saw them. When winter finally touched our parched desert, snow fell – offering a brief reprieve from drought. By then I was seeing and hearing the cranes every single day beginning moments after the fires of dawn turned pale winter blue.

 

Now, we are at the first spring turning. The sun is becoming more intense, and the light hurts my eyes. For the past week I have been in a strange sort of mourning state because soon the cranes will be heading north to their next stopover in Nebraska before they head towards Canada, the Arctic, and Siberia. Every precious day that passes leaves me aching. I will miss them so.

 

Today I started to research migration to help me understand more about the Cranes seasonal journey, not realizing that by doing so, I was also trying to come to terms with a loss so dear to my heart. I know they have to go…

 

Just as I do.

 

Moments after I began my research a flock of cranes rose up in sky crying out as one voice as they flew over the house. That they knew I was thinking about them seemed obvious to me…and suddenly I had an insight: They were sending me a message.

 

Quickly, I shut down the research and wrote the above poem on a scrap of paper in my journal. Just as I completed the last lines a flock of at least forty cranes flew by the windows in front of the house. Their collective cries convinced me that I had absorbed the message they offered. I felt intense gratitude. My sadness has suddenly dissipated because of their words speak to comfort, truth and acceptance of who I am and what is.

 

I offer my deepest gratitude to these birds whose seasonal journey helps me come to terms with my own.

Winter River Reflection – 2019

IMG_9646.JPG

 

We are approaching the end of January here in Northern New Mexico and already the light is becoming more fierce, but the nights are still long, the blood moon has passed, and clusters of stars are strung like pearls into patterns that speak to ancient stories, so this precious time to reflect and dream is very much with me. Winter brings a sense of peace unlike any other.

 

This year it has also brought us a reprieve from drought. This morning a thin layer of snow once again coats the grasses while birds flock to my feeder in record numbers. Although each layer of snow doesn’t amount to much more than a tenth of an inch of rain, it is still something. Last week we even had real puddles of standing water, and slippery mud that oozed in places when the sun warmed the ground.

 

Coming from the North Country I have never been able to appreciate mud with the kind of enthusiasm I have for it here. Mud means moisture, and water is life and here in the high desert rain and snow may bring sage green scrub back to life if we continue this trend…

 

Reprieve from drought is a form of Grace.

 

In the distance the mountains wear white tufted caps – Perhaps this year Red Willow River will once again overflow her banks serenading us with songs as snow melt sings to disappearing stones.

 

Is it too much to dream that frogs will come, rising up from moist red ground to breed?

 

As I kneel before the wood stove kindling my daily fire, I am keenly aware of the deep gratitude I feel for the gift of life and for each drop of water even when these aging bones ache in dampened air.

 

I wonder where my afternoon walk will take me? No matter where I go I always end up back at the river’s edge listening to water on stone while scrying the sky for the Sandhill cranes. The river has always been my lover, long before I arrived here… A tangle of blushing willows greets me as I bow low to walk through their arching branches into the old overgrown field, lumpy with gopher mounds.

 

This winter I have started to cook again with joyful child-like abandon. The intoxicating scent of yeasty bread no longer brings a wave of grief for lost children but simple joy in the rising…some say that cooking is a form of transformation. So it may be for me.

 

Moving into “old age”, the years of the crone, my elder years snaps the constricting steel ties that threatened to suffocate my body, and shredded the caul of the “mother hood” – an unwelcome veil I wore for too many years, one that was too heavy with grief; grief that eventually came to threaten my life. Now, because of the shadowy presence of an Old Woman who comes to me as an Owl, a star child begins to shine.

 

Bear’s Day is approaching, that time of the year when the wheel turns once again towards the coming light, and Brigid’s Crown of Fire speaks to new life bubbling from beneath the ground. Already bulbs are stirring from deep sleep, tree roots are absorbing precious water as they begin a new growth phase, and black bear cubs are being birthed by attentive wild mothers…

 

Soon the Sandhill cranes will be migrating North as will the flock of golden evening grosbeaks that have taken over my porch, all in search of summer breeding grounds.

 

As I approach Bear’s Day, and the Feast of “First Light” I feel ambivalence, for each lengthening day brings me closer to the time of my own birthing into spring, and the necessary migration I must make to go North. It is hard to be caught between worlds. I have a homeplace here in the South and another far North.

 

I must place my trust in myself, and the Old Woman. Bird-like, I will migrate too, before spring light births a bitter orange sun, fierce and deadly west wind, and a wall of intolerable heat.

The Littlest Juniper

IMG_9491.JPG

 

A solitary spire

refuses to bow

to heavy snow.

‘My tree’ communes

with flaky gray sky.

 

Transplanted late

last fall

I wondered…

Young roots

are so tender…

Would the old

nearby juniper

teach her

the ways of

an overgrown field,

guide her tendrils down

to tap sweet

waters?

 

Whenever I gaze at

this miniature tree

she tears my heart in two.

I tell her

I won’t be here

to see her reach adulthood –

Junipers live

a thousand years or more.

(or did)

 

But while I am around

I will love her

as one of my own –

a child with prickly needles

gray green darkening to

emerald when the

Cloud People come.

 

Whenever I lay down

to rest my weary body

I imagine my feet –

brown roots flowing

out the door to

become one with hers…

 

Together we rise up

through her spire

find our way back

to my supine body

as a child would return

to her mother

closing a circle

of Love between us

as she listens to

my prayers for her life.