for my mother
I will put up the red tent under my apple tree
and imagine a new world:
Here I am in wild Fiordland again
where the kea cry out their songs of fire and anarchy
ringing from mountain to mountain –
Where the whio coo and clack their haunting love duets
and korimako chime like bells in the misty forest
Where robins sit pertly on my boots
kiwi scream in the night
and owls echo
While here in this world we wait for the daily count of new infections
We queue like sagging puppets for food
Spaced out around the Countdown carpark
passive obedient confined
I will put up the red tent and steal away
The wildlands are still out there
The rivers still run clear
Morning mist still rises
and mountains do battle with the sky
Even the weather must do their bidding
There be angel visitations, here,
in the silence,
in the upland wilds
As I wash socks by night, all seated by the burn,
Sleek little porpoises – beaks thrust forward like drink bottle spouts
dipping their heads
What do they eat in this pristine water?
The pairs keep touch with a sweet lisping whistle
Answered by a quick
– Clack clack clack clack –
from the percussion section-
They scare an anachronistic shag up onto a branch
Snaking it’s long beaked head on its long neck-
Their universe is not mine – these angels
They barely notice my presence
focussed solely on clear water
and each other
sliding by my world … and vanishing.
In just one day we can create a world
A hidden cove on the Island of O
An egg inside a tempest, bounded by walls of sleep
A castle of rain warmed by fire –
my mountain hut
Comfy as a round teapot
or a hot bowl of coffee
The O of a curly cat
unharassed and quite at peace
not bothering to please anybody
A day for story and tangential oddities –
dreaming up moomins, momeraths and the moon
A solo day for song notes and noticing –
A footnote day – not the main narrative
Solitude is rain sinking into soil,
Slipping like stories into the substrata
Go away sun – you mean duty and being sensible
I think we can do without you
for just one day.
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