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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

From the Author's Pen: Be the Tree

Magical Tree, CC0
Magical Tree, CC0

One night I woke up with a clear message: “Be the tree.”

At one point, I considered telling the stories of the anonymous paupers from the perspective of a tree. Yes, a tree. To me, trees are witnesses, directly connected to the history of what has taken place before us. The first-person narrator would be one tree in particular—the one that gave me the impression of being the elder within the inner circle.

Of course, you know that I ended up writing it differently. But, after that idea entered my head, I thought of how much I would enjoy writing from the perspective of a tree. I went there with “Crooked River” and the Lake in Nellie’s narrative. They are living beings, not just a part of the scenery. I enjoyed taking the liberty to write in that form, bringing their spirits to life through words on a page.

When people die—when all things die—they are usually buried in the earth. When they decompose, their physical remains distribute layers of memories within the Earth. Their bones contain a source of lasting memory emanating from a single being to the whole of the planet. The particles of deterioration become everlasting nutrients as the cellular structure slowly dissolves into the ecosystem, absorbed by the trees, grasses, plants, and the Earth Mother herself.

Each cell contains a trace amount of its former wholeness, that of an entire being. However, each cell also carries the memory and knowledge of itself: microcosm/macrocosm.

Cells repeatedly release themselves as enriching nutrients, fueling the planetary thought body into a constantly evolving source, in a state of reforming again and again.

Along the way, there is living communication from its spirit, carried through living things, most effectively throughout trees’ incredibly complex and sensitive root systems.

Therefore, I know that when I go to a cemetery or any possible burial ground known or unknown, it’s the trees that speak.

Hear them. They carry the whispers—the memories of those buried beneath them. The trees help old souls reach out to me, begging for their stories to be told. Until that time, it is they who need consoling. Once we acknowledge our ancestors, true healing begins.

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