Cabin 21: Poets

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Cabin stories 6: learning human

There is not a tree here the species books would call perfect. They are bent and twisted, storm-broken and shallow-rooted. They share a mere skiff of soil, what sunlight they can reach and make the best of what they have. Ironwood, cedar, birch are the oldest. Sapling maple and ash have found space too, and tall twisting rowan that drop bright orange berries in the fall.

Birch is the tallest, and shortest-lived – they fall first, in piles where green moss and mushroom speed the process of rot. Seeds from any species take root there; everywhere I look death feeds life.

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Here companionship is visible – a staying with, through weather and change. All around I see slow and deliberate acts of steady-ing and support. These beings share their vulnerabilities – a trunk too thin to support straight growth will lean on another, older and stronger. They live this way, making room, sharing strength, all their lives. They stretch their roots beneath the skiff of soil, to connect with their own mycelial network. This community  of flora and fauna knows who among them is weak, starved or injured – and they send nourishment or honour death, if death it must be.

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This morning’s brief scan from my tiny access point into the world-wide-web offers me news from Rebecca Solnit (a major hub of the human mycelial network ), who scans today’s news and puts all in context of sanity, who treks through the away-ness of Tibet, brings solar lights, medical teams and menstrual kits with her for giveaway.

I see elsewhere that Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman: 1984 team has partnered with the Anti-recidivism Coalition (ARC) in California to raise awareness and funds in support of formerly incarcerated men and women.

Also a broad spectrum of successful Go Fund Me campaigns (Thank you Amanda Palmer), Avaaz squaring up against Monsanto, great new restaurant downtown, free umbrellas if you need ’em, looking for recommendations….

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These trees teach me to reclaim my love for humans. Contrary to what we hear or read in the news, we do help one another, genuinely and reliably. We do what we can to keep ourselves and each other laughing-strong so we can withstand together the ever more serious blights that threaten the world. We Stay with the Trouble, we collaborate across knowledge fields to study the warm data that inter-connects systems, we learn, we notice, we support, we link arms as companions, we resist the fear that would divide us.

Universal companionship requires a proactive sensing of signals that is not possessive, but compassionate. For me, this is a learned practise that extends beyond simple emotional sensitivity.

My humanness requires a conscious determination to crack the carapace of whatever restricts my self-awareness, to reveal the vulnerability that connects me with all vulnerable selves. To honour and sing with the voice only I have, to speak my claimed insight – gently, firmly, assertively, especially if it goes against the well-promoted grain. To pay attention, through my uniquely human skin, to the other species around me.

To see and understand pain, for what it is.

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Nora Bateson:

The revolution, the evolution is not going to be found in conference centers or seminars in 5 star hotels. It won’t be definable in righteousness or sanctimony.

The resonances will be and are where the pain has been–where there was no choice but to become unbreakable.

Where the scars are generations deep and sculpt into raw, sassy, funny, sexy, harsh, confusing.

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Nobody’s ever ready for real change. The tree snaps in the wind, the hurricane rips through an island, a city. The bullet misses, or finds its mark, your heart breaks, suddenly and without warning, in a new place. The army invades and you become a refugee, the American Government takes your child from your arms, someone who has been raped himself, rapes her. A diagnosis, a move, a new job, you fall into swooning, impossible love….

Not one of us is ever ready. But if we are human, if we allow us to fill with compassion and laughter we can claim our pain and learn how to keep growing; life from death.

We can choose to play our pathway out of trouble, learn to think differently, to haltingly, hilariously, try out a new language.

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Unconditional:

  1. without limits
  2. unrestricted by definition, requirement, or compulsion