TENDING A DIFFICULT GARDEN

 

Today I’m feeling a tad hopeful where despair of the future had been an incessant drone.

Not a starry hope, but real. The midterm elections in the United States surprised everyone with the tepid performance of Republican red wave, especially from the MAGA election-denying horde. Normally midterm elections are a referendum two years after a presidential election; this year pundits thought that inflation woes (cast as Democratic mismanagement) and Democratic president Joe Biden’s low approval ratings would drive voters en masse to the polls for a Republican majority in Congress. Instead, Democrats gained a seat in the Senate and Republicans picked up barely enough seats to squeak out a majority in the House of Representatives. Election-deniers supported by Trump performed awfully, losing big in Arizona (where MAGA is most carnivorous) and failing to score most of the state attorney general seats critical to managing future elections.

Most are now saying that anti-democratic impulses of the far right in my country have been repudiated – albeit barely — to ensure this country is on better, operative ground heading forward.

Only in my home state of Florida did Republicans take all, including the re-election of governor Ron DeSantis, seen as a primary contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. Donald Trump, who resides at his Mar-A-Lago resort in South Florida, announced Tuesday that he is running again, so we have an ex-president likely to be prosecuted for attempting to overthrow the government the last time he was in office running again. Florida was swiped by two storms in the past month coming from either direction and making it clear that paradisal beach residence is a pricey peril.

But hey — I’ll take optimism where I can. Battered and fragile though my country’s weal may be, the legislative threads exist to continue making progress in fighting climate change, providing economic opportunity, supporting freedom in Ukraine and continuing a global transformation into whatever this century is forming into.

The mood is striking because there has been so little evidence in our global moment to feel that way. For the past 20 years, it’s been political upheavals, economic uncertainty, war and the growing looming malevolent specter of climate change. The cascade of bad news becomes so suffocating we tune it out, look backward or in, find our comforts in the small and momentary. Nothing wrong with any of that — all part of a healthy daily regimen — but this lack of hope in the future caps everything with the pall of doom. What forward thinking is possible, even conceivable, under such conditions?

I didn’t grasp this until reading an interview with musician Brian Eno in The New York Times Magazine the other day. Eno’s been around since the ‘70s, was a founding member of the glam art-rock band Roxy Music, pioneered ambient music and has worked with rock luminaries including David Bowie, Talking Heads, U2 and Coldplay. Promoting his new album FOREVERNEVERMORE, Eno spoke with David Marchese on a wide range of topics.

But here’s what pricked my attention: Where I tend to think of culture as backward-focused (a current collection of poems I’m working an attempt at verse memoir), Eno asserts the reverse: “culture — art, if you like — has an important set of functions in preparing us for the future. If you read a book like 1984, you’re surrendering to a world with certain values and attributes and seeing what it feels like. Then, when you see something a bit like that starting to exist, you have a way of understanding it and how that might feel.”

Eno said FOREVERNEVERMORE was greatly influenced by the growing menace of climate change and how it is darkening all aspects of modern life. But rather than stay stuck in dystopian fin de siècle soundscapes (the album has some) Eno sees humanity’s arts as grasping for the change:

I can’t conceive of a future where there isn’t a threat. I think we’re in for a hard ride for maybe half a century. Then it will either be the end of civilization or a reborn humanity with a different set of ideas about who we are and where we belong and how we must relate to things in order to survive.

Dark as that may sound, are there not seeds there to plant as well? Isn’t there a garden of possibility aiming toward those new ideas, difficult and tortured as our current work may be? Rather than intoning requiems, maybe it’s baptism we should foster, building conditions for something further down from our late and last best work.

At least we can begin…

Eno’s sense of our best chances lays a lot of hope in the instrument which got us here — our brains — something I’m not sure I trust so deeply:

… I see a pessimistic short-term future. Not short-term for the person who’s living it but short-term in the history of civilization. Then I see this point at which we either really fail or we start to succeed. I think the succeed side has a very good chance because of the amount of human intelligence at work. There has never been more intelligence on the planet than there is now. Not only because there’s more brains than ever but there are also more augmentations of brains. There are more connections among all these brains. We’re in a sort of intelligence explosion. I hope.

In our human experience to date, misuses of intelligence far outnumber helpful ones. But as COP27 participants agree to greater transparency and honesty in their pledges (as well the outlines of a loss and damage fund), changed leadership in Brazil promises to slow Amazon deforestation and the green economy builds slowly up to scale, the righting balance yet be out there.

We can either despair of our slim chances or pick up a shovel and start working a row fertile for that future.

I suspect a major dislocation of our root embrace of modernity (blame Prometheus) will be necessary, at extreme but hopefully not fully extincting cost. That’s the edifice we have built (even if we have only lived through it), with our energy dependence, fossil fuel addiction economies of clearcut extraction, wealth discrepancy and amok capitalism.

The changes are coming, too slowly to prevent overheating the next few centuries at least. Devastation and loss will be growing oppressions of fact (they already are). Millions, perhaps billions, will die in flooded homelands and humid wastelands, beneath the migratory sea or at the gates of withering paradise. Most wildlife will vanish. Like Noah’s Flood, the shadow of Prometheus will cover the land. My hope is not personal but for this earth we love, that enough of it will remain with a humanity finally ready to get in step with it.

So what is the poetry that prepares such a difficult garden? Despair won’t work, and neither will impossible hope.

The Wendell Berry poem I keep coming back to is “Work Song,” published in his 1977 collection Clearing. It tells us not to despair of the difficulty. Here is the second part of that sequence:

If we will have the wisdom to survive,
To stand like slow-growing trees
On a ruined place, renewing, enriching it,
If we will make our seasons welcome here,
Asking not too much of earth or heaven,
then a long time after we are dead
The lives our lives prepare will live
Here, their houses strongly placed
Upon the valley sides, fields and gardens
Rich in the windows. The river will run
Clear, as we will never know it,
And over it, birdsong like a canopy.
On the levels of the hills will be
Green meadows, stock bells in noon shade.
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
The old forest, an old forest will stand,
Its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields.
In their voices they will hear a music
Risen out of the ground. They will take
Nothing from the ground they will not return,
Whatever the grief at parting. Memory,
Native to this valley, will spread over it
Like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is its possibility.

The last two lines frame the aesthetic of this week’s challenge, but these lines  resound with the extent of the difficulty: “They will take / Nothing from the ground they will not return, / Whatever the grief at parting.” It all goes back in the ground, my confusions and errors, best words and half-whole heart; our ghost forests and monster storms and wildfires; the lattice of tiny solutions — respect all life, sacrifice desire for the common good, find power within the heart, pray at waking and with last thoughts — all that big, better ones may rise. So thatl the last car may roll to a stop, and the last tree fall for an obsolete timber industry.

What are the poems of such compost, the manure of despair and loss buried, seeds tended by the art of the hardy possibility?

Toward that end, our present poetry doesn’t have to know the solutions that lie ahead, only be willing to acknowledge what doesn’t work and surrender any thought of escaping what must necessarily change.

In 1993 A.R. Ammons published a book-length poem titled Garbage, an offering to “the gods of our unpleasant necessities” where language may yet redeem itself. A brief section:

                                    … this is a scientific poem,

Asserting that nature models values, that we
have invented little (copied), reflections of

possibilities already here, this where we came
to and how we came: a priestly director behind the

black-chufffing dozer leans the gleanings and
reads the birds, millions of loners circling

a common height, alighting to the meaty streaks
and puffy muffins (pufffins?): there is a mound,

too, in the poet’s mind dead language is hauled
off to and burned down on, the energy held and

shaped into new turns and clusters,
the mind strengthened by what it strengthens: for

where but in the very asshole of comedown
is redemption: as where but brought low, where

but in the grief of failure, loss, error do we
discern the savage afflictions that turn us around:

where but in the arrangements love crawls us
through, not a thing left in our self-display

unhumiliated, do we find the sweet seed of
new routes:

To seek high, go low: to plant fertilely, spread the dead. To our savage afflictions and affections be true.

Terri Winding relates the following in “Sacred Springs and Other Water Lore”: “An old English folklorist told me once that nature spirits would live in a well, a spring, a lake or a grove of trees, only so long as they were remembered and addressed respectfully. If the spirits were neglected, they’d leave the place; the land would feel soul-less and dead henceforth.” Our attention and care of forgotten and abandoned spaces is an invitation to those spirits to re-inhabit us. Wastelands are the place to begin, where work on what has been spoiled is the greatest.

Maybe the strongest ingredient in this difficult soil is gratitude — gratitude for the good that remains, that its abundance may recoverand spread. For where there is gratitude, there is also hope.

For this challenge, tend a difficult garden.

Brendan

 

 

WHAT IS A GARDEN

W.S. Merwin

All day working happily down near the streambed
the light passing into the remote opalescence
it returns to as the year wakes toward winter
a season of rain in a year already rich
in rain with masked light emerging on all sides
in the new leaves of the palms quietly waving
time of mud and slipping and of overhearing
the water under the sloped ground going on whispering
as it travels time of rain thundering at night
and of rocks rolling and echoing in the torrent
and of looking up after noon through the high branches
to see fine rain drifting across the sunlight
over the valley that was abused and at last left
to fill with thickets of rampant aliens
that brought habits but no stories under the mango
already vast as clouds there I keep discovering
beneath the tangle the ancient shaping of water
to which the light of an hour comes back as to a secret
and there I planted young palms in places I had not pondered
until then I imagined their roots setting out in the dark
knowing without knowledge I kept trying to see them standing
in that bend of the valley in the light that would come

— From The River Sound (1999)

 

THE PRODIGY

Lola Haskins

He was born with the fingerpads of the blind.
By eight he could tell if someone
had been at the piano before him,
and how long before, and who.
Beginning Fur Elise one November afternoon,
he burst into storms of tears
because his sister had banged
her tuneless anger the night before,
and he felt the bruises still on the keys.
He was born with the ears of a dog.
He could hear his mother’s skin decay,
the soft give
as her cheeks sagged just barely more.
Sometimes his face would cloud
because the moan of needles becoming
earth seemed so incomparably sad.
Or brighten. He had heard
the sun come out on the beating feathers
of birds, miles away.
He was born with his life in his hands.
Toddling, he learned the little bells
of Grieg. Then he mastered Mozart’s
speech, its ache of clean and brittle
song. Then he learned to follow Bach,
crossing water from calm to flood,
up and down the stepping-stones
of the keys. He would dream
of his piano as if it were flesh.
In a room with a strange instrument
he would walk by it once or twice,
brushing it as if by accident
with his leg, his sleeve.

— from 44 Ambitions for Piano, 1990

 

ENRICHING THE EARTH

Wendell Berry

To enrich the earth I have sowed clover and grass
to grow and die. I have plowed in the seeds
of winter grains and of various legumes,
their growth to be plowed in to enrich the earth.
I have stirred into the ground the offal
and the decay of the growth of past seasons
and so mended the earth and made its yield increase.
All this serves the dark. I am slowly falling
into the fund of things. And yet to serve the earth,
not knowing what I serve, gives a wideness
and a delight to the air, and my days
do not wholly pass. It is the mind’s service,
for when the will fails so do the hands
and one lives at the expense of life.
After death, willing or not, the body serves,
entering the earth. And so what was heaviest
and most mute is at last raised up into song.

 

THE MATERIAL

Kay Ryan

The ratio between the material Cornell collected
and the material that ended up in his boxes
was probably a thousand to one.

— Deborah Solomon, Joseph Cornell

Whatever is done
leaves a hole in the
possible, a snip in
the gauze, a marble
and thimble missing
from the immaterial.
The laws are cruel
on this point. The
undone can’t be
patched or stretched.
The wounds last.
The bundles of
nothing that are
our gift at birth, the
lavish trains we
trail into our span
like vans of seamless
promise, like fresh
sheets in baskets,
are our stock. We
must extract parts
to do work. As
time passes, the
promise is tattered
like a battle flag
above a war we
hope mattered.

— from The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (2010)

 

TOR HOUSE

Robinson Jeffers

If you should look for this place after a handful of lifetimes:
Perhaps of my planted forest a few
May stand yet, dark-leaved Australians or the coast cypress, haggard
With storm-drift; but fire and the axe are devils.
Look for foundations of sea-worn granite, my fingers had the art
To make stone love stone, you will find some remnant.
But if you should look in your idleness after ten thousand years:
It is the granite knoll on the granite
And lava tongue in the midst of the bay, by the mouth of the Carmel
River-valley, these four will remain
In the change of names. You will know it by the wild sea-fragrance of wind
Though the ocean may have climbed or retired a little;
You will know it by the valley inland that our sun and our moon were born from
Before the poles changed; and Orion in December
Evenings was strung in the throat of the valley like a lamp-lighted bridge.
Come in the morning you will see white gulls
Weaving a dance over blue water, the wane of the moon
Their dance-companion, a ghost walking
By daylight, but wider and whiter than any bird in the world.
My ghost you needn’t look for; it is probably
Here, but a dark one, deep in the granite, not dancing on wind
With the mad wings and the day moon.

— from Cawdor (1926-28)

 

POETS TO COME

Walt Whitman

Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than
before known,
Arouse! for you must justify me.

I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,
I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.

I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a
casual look upon you and then averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.

 

NOW I UNDERSTAND

Linda Gregg

Something was pouring out. Filling the field
and making it vacant. A wind blowing them
sideways as they moved forward. The crying
as before. Suddenly I understood why they left
the empty bowls on the table, in the empty hut
overlooking the sea. And knew the meaning
of the heron breaking branches, spreading
his wings in order to rise up out of the dark
woods into the night sky. I understood about
the lovers and the river in January.
Heard the crying out as a battlement,
of greatness, and then the dying began.
The height of passion. Saw the breaking
of the moon and the shattering of the sun.
Believed in the miracle because of the half heard
and the other half seen. How they ranged
and how they fed. Let loose their cries.
One could call it the agony in the garden,
or the paradise, depending on whether
the joy was at the beginning, or after.

 

I HAVE NOT TOLD MY GARDEN YET

Emily Dickinson

I haven’t told my garden yet—
Lest that should conquer me.
I haven’t quite the strength now
To break it to the Bee—

I will not name it in the street
For shops would stare at me—
That one so shy—so ignorant
Should have the face to die.

The hillsides must not know it—
Where I have rambled so—
Nor tell the loving forests
The day that I shall go—

Nor lisp it at the table—
Nor heedless by the way
Hint that within the Riddle
One will walk today—

—  F 40 (1858)

 

THE TONGUES OF FALLING TREES

Big Lonely Doug, last tree standing in a clearcut. It takes 500 years to grow a tree this big, and five minutes to cut it down. – T.J. Watt photo

 

by Sherry Marr

I have a very special poem to share with you this week; it gave me the idea for this week’s challenge. It was written by Vancouver Poet Laureate, Fiona Tinwei Lam.

THE TREES HAVE NO TONGUES

Fiona Tinwei Lam

Yet they sough and sigh as they sway,
receiving sunlight, open-palmed,
or creak and moan in winter blasts.
Dawn to dusk, biophonic chorales
held within and between upheld limbs –
trills, pecks, caws, thrums, hoots.

Within each trunk, clicks, pops and crackles
as tiny embolisms of air break
tension, tensile rivers coursing
in ultrasonic song up
through xylem
to bough, branch, twig,

while below the forest floor,
lacing roots entwine
in a wood-wide web of questing
dendrites enmeshed in fungi
to commune with kin,
nurse saplings, nourish the ailing,
or plot and warn as they record

each marauding. The forest
suspends its breath with every felled
giant. Roar of uprooted centuries,
wrenching of earthlimb from earthflesh.
Who will hear?
As the world smoulders,
let each poem be
a fallen tree’s tongue.

 

How my heart leaped at this idea – that, in our poems, we can be the voice of falling trees, can speak their fear and pain, and also their beauty and life-giving properties, as well as being a voice for the many beyond-human beings that share this planet with us and are suffering so terribly because of how we humans live on the earth.

 

  

I found this poem, and many wonderful others, in a recently published anthology titled Worth More Standing ~ Poets and Activists Pay Homage to Trees. This wonderful volume was edited by Christine Lowther, Tofino’s Poet Laureate from April 2020 to May 2022. (She called herself the covid laureate!) Caitlin Press published it this spring, and in fall brought out its companion volume, Worth More Growing, tree poems written by youth.

Chris recently viewed the forests from above. She said the clearcutting was stomach-turning. But she also saw visible signs that forests are dying from drought. She says her lifelong activism began in the womb when her pregnant mother, (the noted Vancouver poet Pat Lowther), read poems at anti-Vietnam War rallies. As very young children, Chris and her sister joined their mum in picketing a South Vancouver development site; they were trying to save a pair of old trees before they came down. Chris is still passionately doing that work today.

When Chris was older, she blockaded in the Walbran Valley; she was arrested in Clayoquot Sound in 1992. That arrest and subsequent parole barred her from returning to the same blockade site in the summer of ’93, when about 1000 people were removed by police, but she participated in other ways.

 

 

In 2001, Chris sat down in the fall zone of a huge 800 year old red cedar named Eik, which was about to be felled by a developer. Soon, other residents joined her, and the faller took his chainsaw home. The larger community rallied and raised thousands of dollars to brace and buttress the tree, which greets visitors to Tofino as they enter town.

“Old trees are necessary for carbon sequestration,” says Chris. (Mature trees store significant carbon and help to cool the planet. It takes 25 years before trees begin to absorb carbon in amounts that help counter emissions. Cutting down what little old growth is left is both criminal and suicidal, in my opinion.) As a pivotal member of Tofino Natural Heritage, Chris works passionately to protect the remainder of Tonquin forest, threatened by further development, and other significant trees under threat. The group also works with District Council, urging a tree protection bylaw, while there are still some trees left to protect.

“Trees need allies,” Chris implores. “Humans won’t survive without trees, and the beyond-human realm needs a voice too.”

Chris and I often talk about what the future looks like for the world’s children. In so many places, children, their families and non-human beings are already suffering terribly. I asked Chris if I might include the following poem, which wasn’t in the anthology, but is one of her many beautiful poems about the trees she loves so much. In this poem, she is pulling up to the floathome where she lives for half the year, up the inlet from Tofino, in a glorious cove, with bears and wolves and otters for company.

 

THE CHILD

Christine Lowther

In the boat you looked up at the mountain and said
But the bare crowns—the trees are dead.

You might be used to tree farms, plantations:
rows of the young not allowed to live
until their crowns become noble and unclad.
Ancient forest includes all ages,
a mix of green tops and grey.

And the child dreamed
the leaning loose-branched old maple
down the end of their street
could have been allowed to live.

Docking. And you said
That towering old snag could fall at any minute.

Or in several centuries. It stands dead
almost as long as it stood alive.
An osprey’s lookout perch.
A reaching reminder of how tall
the whole forest used to be.

And the child dreamed
of the snag even taller, alive and green,
bright with its bare and feathered future.

At the table you studied the forest
through the window, with binoculars.
There’s another soaring old snag in there,
you said. Far in. Smooth bark
bleached white by centuries of sun
.

There’s no trail, but there is a scarred,
branchless grey spear prodding the clouds
somewhere back there.
Once in a while it emerges into view.

And the child dreamed of pygmy-owls
living secretly inside the white snag,
and of black bears in the grey spear
suckling in a high-entry maternity den.

Leaving, you said Some decay is good.

And the child dreamed
of the braced trees in all the cities of Japan.
And the child arrived home
gathered neighbours, cables, tools
built support structures
to keep the trees and people safe.

Note: This poem was twigged by Pat Lowther’s “Early Winters.” I learned of black bears’ high-entry maternity dens from Wildlife & Trees in British Columbia.- Christine Lowther

The tag on this tree means it was about to be cut down. Now it is no more, one of the beauties clearcut in Tonquin forest to make way for housing.

As we contemplate trees, deforestation and the heating, distressed planet, once again world leaders gather at COP27 to give dire warnings about the cost of our addiction to fossil fuels. Half of Pakistan recently underwater, Africa in terrible drought and famine, wars and threats of war everywhere, extreme climate events world-wide, and the talking goes on. The longer the world delays, the higher the cost globally.

Al Gore made it clear. “We are all here today because we continue to use the thin blue shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet as an open sewer. Today, as every day, we are spewing 163 million tonnes of man-made, heat-trapping pollution into the sky. This is the equal of 600,000 Hiroshima atom bombs exploding every day.”

A pause, to let that sink in. It is almost beyond comprehension.

(How different the world would be today had Al Gore been elected President when he ran in 1988 or 2000.)

Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, asked those assembled, “How do companies make $200 billion dollars in profits in the last three months and not expect to contribute at least ten cents on every dollar to a loss and damage fund?” The fund would be to help with the cost of major climate damages in developing nations. “While they reap the profit, the planet is burning,” he said, “and the ones who contribute the least to the climate crisis are reaping the whirlwind.”

I have never understood why governments don’t tax corporations proportionally, according to income, the way they do we serfs at the bottom of the food chain.

It is good to hear plain talk from world leaders. One wishes this sense of urgency had been felt 40, or even 20 years ago. But finally, the climate crisis has reached mainstream news. I am hoping constituents will consider this information when they go to the polls, to elect leaders who will take the tough stance the climate crisis demands. We live in tenuous hope, though we feel we must be very close to the tipping point, if we have not already passed it. What we need to do, at the very least, is slow the pace of rising temperatures by lowering emissions.

 

In Canada, deceptive reporting by the government allows logging companies to get away with greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of the oil-sands, contrary to the carbon-neutral image the industry portrays, reports Nature Canada. Canada’s action plan doesn’t mention logging emissions, and has no strategy to require logging companies to do their share in reducing emissions (or even cleaning up after they devastate whole mountainsides.) Worse, the government actually subsidizes logging companies. It makes no sense. At COP26, Prime Minister Trudeau pledged to stop deforestation by 2030. However, at the rapid pace of clearcutting, it’s not clear how much forest will remain by then. Not much.

In Tofino, until recent years a rainforest, we now have drought through spring, summer and fall. Between drought, clearcutting and development, Vancouver Island’s trees – the buffer between the sun and our becoming pancakes on a griddle – are swiftly disappearing. Companies are cutting trees faster in response, making money while the sun shines (hotter every year.)

“As the world smoulders / let each poem be / a falling tree’s tongue,” the poet wrote. My heart lifted when I read it. We can be their tongues, their voices, their allies, their protectors. And their tears, when they fall.

For your challenge: Let’s speak for the trees, for the old-growth, for the beyond-human beings who live in the forest. Or speak as the trees, saying what you think they would like to be able to tell us.  I’ll include some poems from the anthology for inspiration.

— Sherry

TREEFORCE

Joanna Streetly
(Tofino Poet Laureate 2018 – 2019)

new moon pulls the tide out like a drawer
high in the canopy, wind from the west
kitten-paw branches swat sunrays tree to tree
throw, catch, devour, inhale holy food: light
the forest lures you, a pilgrim

yellow beams pour, gulped by a thousand thirsting needles
this light sang from the sun eight minutes and twenty seconds ago
blazed through the vacuum of space, sought out these trees
each a column of radiance
and you are washed alive

you stand before a Sitka spruce, wind and light aflutter
realms of beings alive in her broad crown, brown-eyed bark
straight-plummeting trunk, warp and weft of roots
in her lee a well of windless quiet

under spring skin, sap gurgles skyward, fuses
with incoming light, marries Earth to Sun
tree bride luminous in cattail moss, amber pearls of resin
forest floor a drumskin, lungs at work
your own pulse bounding

like gravity, this union holds you rooted;
without treeforce there is only the dust of death,
hostility of elements, a world unmoored
all of us petrified

 

“At the last judgement we shall all be trees” – Margaret Atwood
Pat Lowther

Trees are
in their roots and branches,
their intricacies,
what we are

ambassadors between the land
and high air
setting a breathing shape
against the sky
as you and I do

the spring also breaks blossoms
like bread
into our hands
as the tree works
light into bread

its thousands of tongues
tasting the weather
as we taste the electric
weather of each other

Trees moving against the air
diagram what is
most alive in us

like breath misting and clearing
on a mirror
we mutually breathe

 

TO-DO LIST FOR TOWN TREE PROTECTORS

Christine Lowther

Write to the local newsroom: describe how trees matter rather a lot.
Write to council with questions & friendly suggestions.
Spread far and wide the shocker that a tree has to mature to begin
sequestering carbon, so keeping ancients is better than planting newbies.
Lobby individual councillors, known for years.
Point out how ample shade mitigates a heat dome;
a full canopy buffers a red sun & breaks up smoke.
Write to the manager of public spaces, who once saved your life.
Write to the sustainability director, who jogs your favourite beach.
Write to developers. Beg for new climate-smart plans.
Write to the town planner: propose that trees matter rather a lot.
Relate how standing dead trees are vital to birds and wildlife,
while not automatically hazardous to humans. How, in fact, their roots
soak up rain water, prevent floods. How intact forests save lives.
Write to the public works head, who directs arborists.
Write to arborists begging them to assess trees less warily & more creatively.
Remind land owners it’s ok to brace and buttress leaning or hollow trunks;
it’s all right to guard their pines for the atmospheric river.
Write to the local health authority pleading for the lives of the last two trees
standing tall near the heli-pad zone.
Count trees, stumps and rings, everywhere between Načiks and the cemetery.
Make inventory lists of significant trees, those lost, and those planted (the shortest list of all.)
Agree to research other small towns’ tree protection bylaws
for the busy sustainability manager.
Write to the national park; tell them you are a cyclist.
Ask if they will budge on killing 2,000 trees for a bike path.
Write facebook posts: detail how trees matter rather a lot.

Follow advice from a councillor to re-form the old activist group
to add credibility & delegate tasks. Branch out. Proclaim the unspoken shame:
these trees are all on stolen Tla-o-qui-aht land.
Stay on top of emotions. Climb a trunk to cry on. Funnel despair into a raging poem
& keep your smile steady for every meeting with authorities or fallers.
Mourn the heli-pad trees; remember them – red maple, tall green oak, ancient hemlocks
preceding them. How they shaded & beautified hospital patients’ rooms, sped healing.

Mourn the bike path cedars, airport alders, boles, burls, nests, smoking debris piles.
Enter fall zones & talk to people holding chainsaws.
When they say they’re calling the cops offer them your phone
because you’ve got the bylaw enforcement officer on the line,
and you’ve already called the cops. Strap on your goggles.
Keep in mind there are times to depart fall zones & times to stay.

 

 

open link weekend #143

 

Welcome to open link weekend #143 at earthweal. Share a favorite poem or two and then visit your fellow linkers to comment.

The link forum is open until midnight Sunday, when the next weekly challenge rolls out. Sherry takes up the reins again with a challenge she titles “The Tongues of Falling Trees.” We’ll be speaking tree next week!

Happy linking!

— Brendan