I feared there was no link between life and paper this week until I watched my father, his grandfather, prepare the ground for oaks.
Thick. We are no longer thick across because the reach of our skins does not resist knives to cut the ground out from underneath. We are always thick within. That is our resistance.
Unless we are too young, but too few are too young anymore. The steel cut down the years. The fires turned is inward and those too young, too thin slumped in ash instead of skyward.
“There is a time in your life, you plant trees,” he once told me.
We would rather assist than resist. But, the fire that scars prevents our ability to rot into the dirt. Without rot into the dirt, it is only bits of dirt separate, never united as the future, as soil. So, we carry scars. Even our leaves betray second breathes. Those which serve us in life take too long to give life in death. Oak leaves are also thicker. Thin papers resist decomposition and piled upon pile. Ash and dust. Piles. Not holes. Holes house seeds and roots. Even our own seeds, acorns that manage to round out their smoothness before they fall, have no food once cut from oaken branches. Dirt sustains no one. Roots require soil even the deep and wide roots of our trunks that remain.
My family has known tragedy before, the little girl named for a spark who never lit.
While our skins resisted, leaves sparked the fire. Their swooped flutter quickly dropped the butterfly wings to become worms twisting in flame. Fire. Seeds are on fire. Seeds need fire. Oaks resist fire. Neither grow from fire. Fire opens a door for only a moment. Revolution for a moment. Not sustained resistance. We need both, but we only exert control over half of what we need. If the seeds are sunk deep or the oaks have grown thick, we’re safe. Resistance means extremes. Nevers and forevers. Those in the middle don’t survive.
“When the world seems like its ending, plant trees,” he also quoted.
Still, perhaps a chance is coming for air and soil. Fires no longer burn as bright as long as strong. There’s less fuel upon which they may catch and sustain their destruction. Everything comes down to leaves. Oak leaves burn more readily than leaves of others. Oak leaves are thicker than those of others.
“They might be 25ft in ten years. I may still see something of them,” the grandfather dreams of tall brown limbs of two types of seed.
The forests, the prairies and all lands in between lay in waiting. Waiting is resistance, because waiting is a kind of hoping even when we don’t know for what we wait, nor for what we can hope. Our thickness records in rings endless moments breathing dirt and exhaling stars. Dirt meets star through our reach. Cloaked in greenness and whiteness and purpleness and blueness and the ever smoking redness and orangeness.
The newborn attempts to blend his breath with this world. So, we count each of our own breathes too.
Our bark is silent unlike others who dig. We do not fit in deep holes but stretch. Still, oaks remain. Thick. We require lifetimes to grow and lifetimes to die. We cannot travel but remain a destination. Who now is casting shadow over the horizon is still unclear in the clouded, puff that ever strangles. A type of moving tree with multiple limbs and an uncharacteristic thickness. There is a smell of skin. Not scarred but inked. A creak in imagined wind and each fiber bends towards a sensation of realness almost forgotten. Marks remain in our memories too, but these are long beyond our own.
And though the boy struggles, in the world distinct from all those around him imagined, he is breathing.