It took this tree about 100 years to grow and I’m burning it, piece by piece, in four months. It was the one mature tree I cut down to make room for this cabin – a twinned birch, now half gone.
Every time I put a new log on the fire I’m aware of this – my territorial claim a year ago, my use of a once living thing to keep me warm. The math – our part in climate change.
Human in a place of trees. Over five months they have made peace with, and in me.
This November forest song is not one I’ve ever heard so directly. I’m listening now because I can – my house is strong and warm, my belly full, and my heart (relatively) at ease. A sense of poignancy gives me added insight – in three weeks I’ll be making art work in an old cotton factory down by the dockyards in old industrial Hamilton, Ontario.
Which is nothing like here, at all.
What a gift – to witness November here, day by day. If leaves are like memory and wind like change they dance together, all around the cabin. Is the music then Time? Whatever it is, it feels dangerous, spins them faster and faster, past and beyond the known, remembered moments, the assurances, the conversations, the collaborations.
Birds are gone, toads buried, squirrels vanished. The trees twirl and bend and dip into swift certainty that all of what has happened here will soon be gone and buried, in snow.
The young maple still gleaming gold against cedar green disappears in real time before my eyes, leaf by leaf. Just branches like bones, now.
This morning I could see earth on the pathways, now, above has become below. I walk on what lived in the sky above my head, three weeks ago.
Branches like ribs, trunks like spines, but this feels nothing like death. There’s a beautiful economy to it, a paring down, a pulling in. I can feel the trees bowing with the wind, with infinite dignity to acknowledge what has been, to welcome what comes. Yes, they’re 100 years strong here, together. And yes, every winter some are unable to withstand the wind, and fall to the ground. Some fall into the arms of another.
I’m now part of the ecosystem here, so these still-aloft but fallen trees are the ones I bring my chainsaw to. These are the ones who will feed my fire, next year.
…which burns low, I notice.
I’m thinking about this state we are all in, on some level. The state of becoming our older selves, while we shed the things that once were important. The gauge of this is perhaps that we notice things that were always there, but have never been apparent. The wonder of that.
I want this to be so – that the trees also gain a new viewpoint every year, as they reach their branches upward, and their roots down. They participate differently as they grow stronger, wider, steadier – they become protector trees, anchors for all the others. Some grow more quickly, dominating the canopy in places so undergrowth doesn’t flourish – but these also have shorter lifespans and so build soil for the others.
What do we do for one another, we who grow so quickly, take without asking, consume so much, are so afraid of dying?
I’ve just come out of a weekend of poets from across Canada who’ve met here – impossibly and powerfully – in some combination of truth and humour, compassion and rage these past fifteen years. Thank you, Words Aloud.
These are some who are not afraid, these poets, or at least they’ve found some good cathartic things to do with fear. These humans call us all out to a place of attention, honesty and grace. They walk along the edge of pain and find beauty there, dare to dance there, for all to see. They give us their compassion, their rage, their insight and their tricksiness, but most of all, they call us to our own depths with whispers of courage.
Truth to power. Grow beyond what you know. Find Love – love Love. Leap.
Poets double-dare me to claim my becomings, to walk softly on what once lived above my head. To honour my future, whatever may come. I’ll take that dare.