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  • lindseytheresa

A Funeral for the Trees

This morning, I woke to damp grass and a whisper of a rainbow. I’ve never been so happy to see shimmering asphalt and cloudy skies. It’s not much, but it’s a start. Relief is on the way.

It has been a hard year for trees in Nova Scotia. We’ve lost icons, dear friends, an army, and a generation in the span of a year. In July, someone broke into the Halifax Public Gardens under cover of night and shaved off rings of bark from dozens of trees in an effort to kill them—including a 200-year-old weeping beech. In October, Hurricane Fiona tore down countless trees, including the beloved Shubenacadie tree, a 300-year-old provincial landmark on the banks of a tidal river. In February, after a mild winter, a record-breaking cold snap destroyed this season’s blossoms and any hope of fruit for many trees and vines on farms across Nova Scotia.

And, in late May, the biggest tragedy yet. The largest forest fires in Nova Scotia’s history are tearing across our beautiful province. Hundreds of homes lost, thousands of people displaced, and tens of thousands of hectares are in flames. One of the only things we can do is stay out of the woods to avoid starting additional fires we have no capacity to fight.

The tears in our eyes may be from smoke or grief, most likely both. Unfortunately, the volume is insufficient to quell this blaze. And so, we hold our collective breath and wait for mother nature to weep, for her chest to crack open, and for her healing sobs to ring out across the smouldering landscape.

While the current tragedy will end, the devastation will leave scars that will never completely fade. And more tragedies are on the way as climate change worsens and extreme weather becomes the new normal. Yet whatever is left of the forest will always welcome us back, and we will find solace in her loving arms.

I wrote this poem as a eulogy to the lost trees and an homage to those left standing.


When all this is over,

I’ll come and visit you.

Through your inviting green door

to the sacred heart of your home, still blessedly beating.

Forbidden foliage will rustle as I move

like the small, harmless animal I am not.

Only my worship is puny and futile.

When all this is over,

I’ll crawl on hands and knees,

pine needles imprinting on my limbs.

Marks more beautiful and fleeting

than the ones we’ve inflicted on you.

I’ll relish the minor pain then soothe it on a

cool compress of moss, yet another of your gifts.

When all this is over,

I’ll lay my palms upon each remaining body.

The peeling sheets of rose-gold birch.

The cool green of youthful maple.

The shaggy gruffness of aged cedar.

And you will welcome me, even still.

I’m still searching for the trick to forgiveness.

When all this is over,

I’ll press myself against your

resilient brilliance, and transmit love

through interconnecting root systems that

spread healing instead of flames.

I’ll relieve your burns

with tears enough to flood your altar.

When all this is over, I’ll breathe air no longer smoke-saturated,

but laced with birdsong and benevolence.

I’ll listen to the gospel according to leaves

and declare my devotion.

This will never be over,

when all this is over.

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