They are hitchhikers and stowaways from our past
that happened to come along for the ride with us
Such treasure! Better than cathedrals
You can keep your Mona Lisa – words need no security system
Just keep using.
They are nuggets of humanness
So irrepressible – you try telling a word to shut up –
Each is the perfect crystallisation of an idea:
ambivalence tantamount taonga
They form around the germ of a notion:
disconcerting chirrup warp
Antarctica tundra whiff
Or a feeling:
huddle grit umbrage quail
ardent tendentious outrage bruise
What a gift for us all:
kerfuffle crumple musafir nostril consummate merry
Some get lost along the way –
Did you know that a ream used to mean the ripple made by the nose of a swimming otter?
That dimmity once meant twilight?
Or that a shippen was a shelter for cattle left open on one side?
Drop them one at a time into some pond into your mind
let them ripple out in welling concentricities
Where did they come from?
How did this
Come to express exactly that
A forest bird showed me where to go –
where I longed to be
tiny twinkling riroriro
They speak more often to quiet people
clambering over scrunching branches
over an old mast – unstepped forever now
tornado twisted – it lost that final battle
bows down in surrender
A million other life forms fall too, but they’re not dead
graveyard is nursery here
the forest scarcely knows the difference between life and death
between one life and another.
That old ent still sends sweet ent-draughts to all those greedy mouths
filigree ferns erupt from a rotten windfall
fingers of lycopodium stretch and yawn among threads of cobweb
A thousand dimming layers of leaf, feed gleaming fuzzy moss –
and seedlings throng amid random lumps and bumps
not a level surface anywhere
Hang on – look beyond what you’e assuming –
that tumbled totara isn’t dead either
The tornado was just after Easter and it’s August
It’s leaves should have browned off by now but they’re green as green!
Yet the root plate is standing almost completely in fresh air.
I’ve heard strange stories about forests
– and from actual scientists, not just Tolkien.
Trees really do talk and feel just like he said.
Let’s venture into the invisible world of the forest floor:
Under every oozy boot print is an omelet of seeds
Slosh into the unseeable –
It’s swarming with armies of bacteria, and multitudes of micro-creatures crouch in tiny tunnels
Thousands of mini-insects feast in the midden
and busy mites break stuff down for recycling.
kadaververjungen – the decomposer armada
in the dead solar panel leaves
the great, squashy, rain-saver leaf litter –
but listen to this bit
a spoonful of leafy earth contains
miles of magical filaments which are the underside of familiar fungi.
This mycelium network twists it’s strange web
round and through, purposefully weaving,
the trees are keeping in touch with their kindred
Canny, gentle old trees
send secret messages to each other and their progeny
by fungus phone
they do it by air too – with pungent scents
tree smoke signals
Those who know such things are calling it the woodwide web
Listen (very) closely to the muddy mulch and pick up roots crackling with slow tree gossip:
“hey, fallen tree over here needs extra sugar”
“these saplings aren’t getting any light; can you spare some juice”
“Caterpillar attack! Arm yourselves!”
Actually who knows what they really say or what trees mean…
That peaceful feeling we have in an old forest
could be the good vibe of a tree family
having immeasurable quality time together
rich communal murmurings
A single tree is lonely.
City trees in hard, tidy ground are cut off –
Their phone lines sliced – no internet.
Death in our culture is formal –
signed off on a certificate
laid out straight in a box.
Here, it’s higgledy piggledy
bumpy and layered around ferny ponds
blended and crosshatched bright to dark
as you dig in with a finger
then surging bright again in a myriad of new forms.
I’m also planet to an ecosystem of life-forms that I can’t see.
One day, if I avoid washing and settle down a bit,
I could start to sprout lichen;
horoeka and miro out of my ears
wriggling from my nose
tickling up from my belly button
shhh – pause
We are not alone – it’s a North Island Robin –
the greatest reward of meditating scimaunderers
peck, peck – scuff – stop
Right near my elbow!
that curious tilting eye
so alive – so beautiful
The forest birds show us where to go.
Photograph: Dale McDonald