Obituary: A Tree

Wood light nature forest

Her birth was born in scat. A seed that had passed through the inner lining of a grey fox that had gulped her up on accident as he, in turn, ate the innards of a jackrabbit. The outer lining of the mesquite seed had then been pried open by his stomach acid. Once deposited on the ground she went from seed to sprout to sapling. That was years ago. She now stands mature on the edge of an arroyo.

In her youth, life coursed back and forth across the landscape. Characters of all shapes and colors sought her canopy. The jaguar left scars from his claws in her young cambium that never fully healed. The wolf had scented her base with hormone laden urine. The tortoise had hibernated in a hole at her trunk with the Gila monster and diamondback. A badger coupled up with a coyote for several years on hunting trips. They carried their quarry before her or enjoyed their feast at the edge of her roots. In a past time, a grizzly scratched his back against her trunk. Hummingbirds and songbirds once decorated her growing limbs with melodies. Hawk, eagle, and owl built nests among her limbs. And people…

On horseback, wagon, foot, bicycle, truck, ATV and once, from a helicopter, they journeyed around her or sought shelter in her arms. Red, brown, black, white, and shades in-between they came costumed, plain, and nude. Now they come to her with a machine.

As other individuals fall they send the remainder of their energy along their connective mycorrhizal network. Sugars, water, and energetic pulses fill the bosque’s arteries distributing nourishment to the remainder of the neighborhood; they pulse as one. Her immediate neighbor falls. The mesquite receives an overwhelming jolt of energy. It is then that the tree realizes that she is the last of her community to stand.

Black smoke squelches from the machine. Its blade digs in revealing darker earth nourished from the humus of life above. The raven caws and the black vulture rides the thermals. A gurgle from the south-to-north river is lost in the screams of diesel and men.

The ant highway grooved into her bark was abandoned days ago. The monarch had stopped hanging from her highest and thinnest branches the week before. The bats had abandoned their roost in her cavity. The bobcat kittens had stopped climbing her limbs. The puma had ceased scenting her base to mark his turf. The lizards had skittered away from her shags. The blade drives closer and her green leaves shake.

Sucrose and proteins begin their journey through her phloem. The vascular tissues carry sugars and sap from her leaves down to the roots and beyond their horizon. The water pooled around her xylem remains still in the earth; there is nowhere left to go. Chemicals fill the air – released in a reverse synthesis – to alert the vegetative community as a whole of the danger. Inside the tree there is a rush and flow of nutrients that have no one else to nurture. Their captive movement creates sound akin to blood flow until the heart of the tree is severed by the steel blade. Her taproot has now been cut from its life source. Silenced, she falls next to her kin. The machine powers off.

Post Script: Her trunk of life was exchanged for a steel bar – part of a panel that was forced into a boundless sky to divide a contiguous community. Yet, her seeds remained in the earth distributed across the destroyed landscape. They await the right conditions for their birth.


By Janay Brun

Janay Brun’s writings have appeared in City Creatures Blog, High Country News, Wild Roof Journal, The Ravens Perch and others. She currently lives in Tucson, Arizona and spend a lot of time documenting the destruction of various ecosystems along the borderlands because of fear. She is the author of Cloak & Jaguar: Following a Cat from Desert to Courtroom.