In honor of Arbor Day and National Poetry Month, may I present a newly revised “Grandmother Cedar at Raven’s Bend.”
Raven’s Bend, so named for our raucous cousins, birds of mystery and myth, raising families in tall cottonwoods along a wide bend in the Dungeness River close to where Grandmother Cedar now lies at rest.
Her gray, weathered top branches once roosted eagles and ravens fleshing life off still bones, held jousting birds in territorial claims, fledglings practicing take-offs, landings and vocalizing their first clamorous croaks; but now the spires lie splintered where the ancient cedar fell.
guttural croaks sound
flexing shaggy throat hackles––
Grandmother Cedar’s bark lies infused with prayerfully spoken words by those drawn to the river over the centuries to caress her rough bark, rest tired backs, soak up the surroundings, share her wisdom.
Sometimes offerings hung from her green, feathery branches––a handful of wildflowers, twisted-grass hearts, bead-embellished talismans of human design, handkerchief prayer flags, their weathered blessings carried aloft by mists and winds.
crowding river beds
gulls, ravens, eagles, buzzards––
spawning salmon return
Leaning more with each passing season, aided by heavy rains and strong winds, the shallow root structure and rotting heartwood finally gave way to the mysterious force of gravity pulling the elder’s trunk down to rest in wetlands adjacent to the river.
Stretching out on sandy soils, already anchoring leathery lichens and bright green mosses, she’ll nurse ferns, herbs and tree seedlings taking root, blanketing her rotting body. Perhaps one day the wild river’s flood waters will scour away gravels separating Grandmother Cedar from the river’s bed, the ancient’s woody debris helping form log jams and pools sheltering fish.
pass over the deepest pools ––
smell of rotting flesh
Lying among prickly salmon and blackberry canes, wild roses, and stinging nettle clumps, the towering ancestor knew no one should tarry long in the entanglements we navigated to get close, but rather to withdraw and put shared insights into practice.
Along the river, other giants grow skyward although not as old or wide of girth as Grandmother Cedar. Few have experienced lightning bolts slashing through their tops, tearing at their wooden flesh, turning them into roosts and weathered spires. Perhaps generations of fledglings and adults offering up their vocals to the forest from timbered perches will draw us closer to ask questions, cast prayers and share wisdom.
Grandmother Cedar at rest––
raven sweeps river
Rest well, Grandmother Cedar!
Until our next journey together, may peace and beauty be our guides ~ P