When the trees came, nobody was expecting it – why would they? For centuries we had been abusing nature, disrespecting the careful balance in which it suspended life, and continuously affronting its unique awareness. Forests were just trees, and sure, trees were aware-ish but they obviously could not retaliate. The would-be lords of the future manned the corporations that had been ravaging them unhindered since the devolution of our relationship with the planet. There was little regard for the skeletal remains of the once lush and biodiverse forests of the north; the trees silently grieved.
As a young girl, I used to dream of fairies, dragons, wolves, and living deep in the heart of the wild, always being in balance. I knew that Earth’s magic kept them just out of our sight, but I believed in the wild magic fervently. In primary school we had Earth Day, our teachers would tell us about how important it was to protect our planet and all the living beings that lived here. One year we read The Lorax by Dr.Suess, and I took his message seriously: “I am The Lorax. I speak for the Trees for the Trees have no tongues.” Years passed and I did eventually stop telling adults I was The Lorax, but I didn’t stop paying attention to the forests and the campaigns designated to stop the on-going pollution of the planet. The older I got, the more disillusioned I became, though I tried to hold onto my convictions. Nobody was standing up to the powers-at-large that were poisoning the natural world, everybody was watching Big Brother though. As a child, I felt comforted and safe knowing that grown-ups like my mom and dad were battling the big-bad polluters, as an adult I felt angry that grown-ups, like my mom and dad, had let themselves be turned into algorithms, bought and sold like human resources while living “the dream”. I spent years ensuring that I lived as far away from consistent and constant consumption as possible, by moving as far north as I could, so I could teach my own daughters the value of the moment, not the material.
My daughters have long grown and stretched their wings in this great universe, and had gone forth to forge their way. I remained behind, in my small cabin in the forest. Now, like my beloved trees, lines depicting my age spread across my face; thankfully no one wanted to cut me in half to check my age.
The day that the pan-state government gave the rights of the remaining land to DeForester: Land Clearing Inc., was a day I’d been dreading for years while hoping it would never come. But the descent into madness had been happening for decades. It was a victory for the company and a victory for the economy, a disaster for the vastly intricate and beautiful land.
The first time that the DeForester reps arrived at my door, asking me to sell my property to them, I refused politely. When the tiny bristling ministry representative stuck his polished shoe in my door, to stop me from closing it, I wanted to scuff it. I wondered how many small reptiles had died for his footwear. After his small speech about my property line intersecting near the middle of the plateau of a small mountain that they wanted to reduce to a gravel pit, and the monetary compensation they could offer me “just for the back section”, I laughed and slammed the door in his face. This place was my home, and not just my home but home to millions of other living creatures that deserved to live out their days as well. From each blasted, evil black fly to the cutest of baby fawns, each deserved to live and die on its own time. The land was not for sale. They could try and build their gravel pit on their property but because I owned all the rights to my property, thanks to my savvy mother-in-law, they couldn’t do anything legally to me other than offer to buy it. They started at 2 million and bottomed out at 5. I told them they could offer me their CEO’s salary for three years and I would still decline.
Life is more precious to me than your money, I told them, with a glass of sangria in my hand, waving them off. After my lover, my best friend, passed on to the next life, five years ago, I decided to stay here; I had been immensely lonely at first, but the routines of living isolated became soothing and I’d often hear his laughter on the wind, coming from our favorite trail. His smile was the sunshine reflecting off the river that wound its way through the brush. I could never leave this place, and it became my duty to protect it from those who would see it flattened.
I began to go to the river every evening, and even on the darkest nights, I’d look up to the stars and try and speak for the better half of humanity. I’d apologize to ancient forest guardians for all of our transgressions, I’d ask for forgiveness more fervently than a catholic church, and on bright moonlit nights sing to myself – to them, asking them to do something to save us from ourselves, for a sign that the magic I’d believed in so much as a girl wasn’t as false as the society I grew up in. The reason I loved the Earth so much was because in a world full of fake people and things, our planet is the only thing real. I begged mother earth to do something, anything, to show us our hubris, and remind us that we truly are not in control, that the planet could do away with humanity despite our innovations.
“A healthy dose of respect is needed,” I muttered to a cedar tree, which sat happily with its big gnarled roots absorbing water from the moist riverbed. I leaned against the rough bark. “We just need to learn to respect it.”
I’d put them off their gravel pit long enough, or so they told me on their final visit, and if the noise bothered me, I was encouraged to move. I crossed my arms at the wrist and gave them two middle fingers as they turned to walk away. The noise from the TNT was atrocious, and my heart bled for the animals suffering from the blast, flocks of birds dotted the horizon. I was, as always, thankful for the sound of the river at night, trickling in through my window screen, and making up for the horrid whirring sound that emanated from their grinding machines behind the remains of the mountain.
It was hard to see fellow humans in such a state of disconnect from the living planet. The Earth has never stopped being aware, even if its secrets were locked away in the coffers of rich men, I’d never truly given up believing in the magic. Even though I was disheartened at times I talked to the plants like I talked to the chipmunks or the blue jays. For countless years humanity stripped the lungs of the Earth, pillaged for luxuries called “progress”. Some nights, when I crept to the top of the mountain and peered down, I cried to the moon at the sight of the desolation of the once beautiful forest. The quarry and the barren lands beyond it spread toward the dark horizon, to the sparkling lights of the ever-expanding city, the smog from which smudged out the stars above.
“Why can’t you fight like the Ents?” The question was to the trunk of the old cedar that I had leaned against to read during an afternoon when the trucks weren’t rumbling. “So many people would take their head out of the plastic if they could hear you speak, or see you move…”
The cedar swayed in the breeze, sunlight dancing through its verdant leaves, dappling the soft ground with its jagged shadow. The mournful cry of a crow from above, a leaf tumbled down as the bird settled. It was moments like those that I feared for a world without nature, for I couldn’t imagine it, it would be a place of evil and despair. Turning my body towards the tree, I wrapped my arms around its wide trunk, pressed my forehead to the bark.
“You’ve got to do something,” my lips brushed against the scaly bark, “I know there’s got to be some crazy inexplicable tricks tucked away in there, somewhere.” The earthy moist scent provided comfort, and though the cedar couldn’t hug me back, it still warmed my soul.
I crawled into bed that night, after a couple extra glasses of wine, hoping that sleep would take me quickly this evening. It felt like I’d just closed my eyes when a blaring siren woke me abruptly from my sleep. I rolled, well more like fell, out of bed and stumbled toward the window. It was coming from behind the swell of the mountain, from the infernal quarry, it was well past midnight and they had the floodlights on. I paced out to my living room, to the patio door, towards the river, just in time to see the roots of the ancient red cedar drag themselves out of the ground, the cracking sound reverberated through me as the cedar began to pull itself toward the mountain.
After I collected my jaw from the floor I timidly opened the patio door, and as I looked around my small yard, I noticed all the old trees were gone. It looked like a giant had torn up the earth where they had lived for centuries prior to my family’s life here. The only tree that remained was the young silver birch. It was unnaturally quiet, no whirring of the grinders, the siren had ceased blaring as well, and all I could hear was the rustling of leaves despite it being an arid and stagnant night devoid of breeze. It took me minutes to decipher what I was seeing and hearing, the trees, the ancient giants, were moving, groaning and creaking up the mountain. As If I had no choice, I put my boots on and headed after the sound. I was astounded, as I crossed the bridge, that it was only the largest of trees that had vacated from their homes. Warrior trees, the term thrummed in my heart, through my thoughts and out of my lips as I whispered to myself in awe; trailing behind the cedar from my yard, marvelling at the many empty spots we passed. I followed the mysterious trenches up the staggered slopes a familiar but drastically changed ascent. Though I had climbed to the top many times, there were now large roots that erupted from spots that had small paths that had been beaten over time. Even though I was excited, the loud crackling and snapping from the flow and tangle of branches around me, and when I heard the first loud wrench of metal being torn from metal, it was hard to stay calm. I almost turned back, but I couldn’t, it was everything I’d ever imagined.
The screeching sound of torn metal and buildings rang out over the din of the trees moving, by the time I reached the top, a forest had over grown the chasms of the quarry. The heavy machinery was inundated with large arrangements of roots, puncturing the backhoe’s doors and windshields. The night had begun to fade to dawn, as I stood there watching some of the trees disappear back into the deeper parts of the forest, their attack quick and effective. The machines here were ruined, the small outbuildings destroyed, and the overgrowth of the tiered pit itself, taken by the trees that remained, supported by the roots of the forest. Massive roots rolled over one another as the once again silent trees stretched, turning their leaves and pines to the coming sun. To me, it was sheer beauty in their reclamation. I never thought I’d see real magic, I doubted it even in death; I thought we had drained the essence long ago but I was joyously wrong.
The spicy aroma of cedar drifted past me, and the soft leaves brushed against my bare shoulder, to be honest, the smooth flat leaves of its tufted branches always felt like a caress from the universe, reminding me of the connection shared between all lives on Earth. The old red cedar, that had been in my backyard forever, was writhing past me, creaking and grinding against the wood of the tall, spindly scotch firs that made up the bulk of the forest here.
By the time I had returned to the cabin the sun had dwindled up, and I hurried inside to make tea. I took a shot of whiskey while the kettle was boiling, and turned on the radio.
“Reports are coming in from South America, Japan, Washington that overnight large amounts of trees seem to have relocated themselves overtop of random resource extraction sites across the globe, government officials are calling it the most violent act of green terrorism yet” with that comment, I flicked the radio off and kipped to my room, hoping there was a still a viable internet connection and there was. I only had to type one word into the search engine, Trees.
Links popped up in seconds, images and videos, from others who couldn’t turn away from Earth’s beautiful guardians making themselves heard. People were asking why, others were crying rapture, but most notably, the bustle seemed halted. It was Monday morning, and vines spiralled up the mirrored office buildings, great roots cracked through the highways, the police unsure of what to do. I clicked through image after image, and hesitantly glancing out my window to the cedar that swayed poignantly in the wind.
What would happen now?
All I knew was for the first time in five years, I felt content; while others tried to figure out what had happened, I smiled at the trees in front of me, knowing that they would inherit the Earth, and sipped my tea.