Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Lost Children (Tas Owake), Part Three: Never Broken (Yaiy Tyinohayon)

(Read part one here, or read part two here)

I was very young when I first stepped into my tree, too young. Otwan, being older, had already begun that, and I wanted to catch up with her. So, one day, I slipped away to play by myself, to find my way to my tree and be in it for the first time, if I could.

Qetawiwoy, as I explain to you, is the word for those of us born with trees and with separate bodies from trees. Qeta, tree. Wiwoy, those woy who look human, as you understand it. We do not enter our trees until both bodies are strong enough to be together and separate at the same time.

Kay-tuh, you say. It is close enough for now.

I entered the tree easily, slipped in as though between sheets of rain. Deceptively easily. Inside, I was caught in the ebb and flow of life inside the bark. The pull downwards of sunlight to roots. The rush up of water to leaves. And the vast web of forest around me, the chatter of the other trees, the touch of their roots next to mine. It was so… big. I had spoken with so many other tree woy before in our silent way, could pass days with Otwan without saying a word aloud if we didn’t have to remember those around us. But here, inside. Here was the whole world and I was so small in it.

So small.

Almost nothing.

Enough to be nothing.

To be lost inside.

To be nothing but tree.

STOP THAT. The words jolted me back to myself. Who are you?

I shivered, there inside, only barely holding to the thread of myself that kept me separate.

Who are you?

Weyai, I said, and the saying of it gave me back my own skin.

Weyai, good.

What are you? I asked, politely: Kayehuwawohut? Whoever was speaking to me hadn’t been polite, but that could have been oversight. Or perhaps they could tell I was still young. Either way, they didn’t answer.

What else, Weyai? What’s the rest of your name?

The rest of my name?

For a panicked moment, I didn’t know, and couldn’t say.

Weyai! Weyai!

I don’t remember!

What do you remember?

I thought hard.

I remember Otwan.


My sister. Otwan Hiqwayaqiqatiy. The name came to me easily. Oh! I’m Weyai Hiqwayaqiqatiy. I settled, in my tree, myself only, the vast forest still accessible, but outside of me.

There was a pause, and I was blessedly at peace again.

Nice to meet you, Weyai Hiqwayaqiqatiy. Now, can you get out of your tree?

I don’t know how.

There was a chuckle. One of Hiqwayaq’s daughters going into her tree unsupervised. Well, Weyai, press up against your tree from the inside. Can you do that?

I think so. I made myself as big as possible within the bark and came to the edge of me. It tickles.

Good, now. Step out.

Step out? But how could I—I saw the place where my tree and the air met, and I remembered that I had a body that wasn’t a tree and if I had slipped in like that, then…


Otwan begged me not to go.

I hear it too, Mother had said. Follow it. And I would have followed without her being Hiqwayaq. I would have followed it only for the heavy sadness in her words, for the echo of a chainsaw. For the reason I touched my tree with affection, and where my heart ached for the touch to be felt.


“I don’t understand,” says the woman I sit with on the back porch of a house surrounded by trees. To human eyes, we both appeared as such—as two women sitting together while the breeze wove around us and cooled our skin. Speaking human words.

“Qetatyawoy,” I respond.

She shakes her head.

“Qeta, tree.”

“I remember that part.”

“Tyawoy—a woy who is… in between. Whose form isn’t set.”

“A tree being without set form.” She frowns, staring at the forest.

I nod.

“But I have a form. And a tree.”

“Kayehuwekeq?” I say softly, and the woman draws back. You called to me. A world full of trees and you called to me.


We could be like sisters, too, I said. We had spoken often after that first time, when she had taught me to leave my tree, and we had taught each other so many things since.

Wouldn’t Otwan get jealous?

I don’t th—

Her cry of pain shot through me.

What’s wrong?

She didn’t respond, and so I ran on child-legs and stepped through bark to reach from within my tree to where she was. To where the buzz of the chainsaw was the roar of a beast in my ears, where the savaging of her bark, her body, left an empty space as though not even air could fill it.

Step out! I cried.

I can’t! I’m not like you; I can’t!

Step out! I begged. Step out, step out, step out!

But the pain overtook her and her voice stopped. The tree cracked, fell to the ground, and it was empty.


You stare at me now.

“You thought I was dead,” you say.

“For years.”

“I thought I was alone.”

In the telling of our stories, you had told me yours. How your tree had fallen to reveal a girl, and you were taken in by the people who had killed your home without knowing, were given a new name.

“Why didn’t I remember you?” you ask.

“You didn’t call me until after your tree regrew,” I say. “Maybe it was less painful to forget.” But I don’t know. A qetatyawoy with a body like mine. A qesutlhowoy with legs. I reach for your hand, and my heart is warm when you take it.

You stop, turn your eyes to our entwined fingers. “Weyai. I knew that name when I heard it. There was a… like lightning in my chest.” I feel you shaking through your hand in mine.

“Minerva,” I say, carefully. Inawa, my mouth wanted to say when you first said it, to bring you to us that way, but you corrected me, and now I say your name to you.

You grab me into a hug, arms tight around my body.

“I can’t believe I never told you my name then.”

Holding you as tight as possible, I shake my head and hold my breath, waiting.

“I am owake no more,” you say, and draw your own breath. “Kayiyi Minerva Thiessen.” My heart swells until I’m sure my body can no longer contain it.


My friend.

Never broken.

(Read Minerva's story before this one in The Tree Remembers)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Lost Children (Tas Owake), Part Two: I Hear it, Too

(Read part one here)

Otwan takes in every detail of this Ewulin. Despite her clear voice, a wrinkled brow and one hand held behind her back as she rubbed her thumb. Replaying the young woman’s entrance in her mind, she detects an unusual gait.

It’s as though she’s still learning to walk, she tells her sister. And expects the ground to be liquid. I believe her that she’s qesutlhowoy.

She speaks as though she’s a human learning speech, Weyai replies. And with a name like that… I haven’t heard any like it.

Owake, then?

“Daughters!” Their mother laughs. Beside her, Ewulin shifts, bites her lip. Hiqwayaq pats her hand and addresses her. “I take it you haven’t met any tree woy?”

“I haven’t.”

Hiqwayaq gives Otwan and Weyai a smile. “Keep your comments aloud, daughters. Or perhaps listen to what I’ve called you to hear.”

Some days ago, a crow came to Otwan and bowed its head before croaking a message from her mother: “Bring Weyai and join the lhai and lhaiqi as we meet to discuss what to do about the owake.” As woy, neither gods or spirits, as humans would term it, Otwan and her sister weren’t to be in such a meeting, but when the highest lhai and your mother tells you to come, you come. And all the rest obey.

Hearing the invitation, Otwan had thought her mother needed Weyai to provide account of the voice she’d been hearing, spoken as a tree woy would, but with human words. To what end, Otwan didn’t ask. The owake were lost; lost were the owake. Live too near the places where this world and the human world touched, and crossover happened. But once someone from this world forgot they weren’t human, well. How do you find them?

Hiqwayaq brought up the topic from time to time, as far as Otwan heard from Yehan and other local lhaiqi, but nothing changed. Not that talking appeared to have made this change possible.

“What I remember first,” Ewulin says, “is being alone in a deep pool in a forest a little like this one.”


Weyai takes Otwan’s hand, echoing Otwan’s horror at the thought.

“I lived there for—I’m not sure how long. My earliest memories are few and far between. I lost our speech. I learned human speech from the ones who would visit the pool, and I thought I was the only one of me there was.

“One day, a human fell into the pool and drowned. She looked like me. I swam out of the water and had legs; I don’t know how. And pretended to be her for a time, until I learned about the ocean again. Until I came home.”

A qesutlhowoy without the ocean… Otwan didn’t know what she would do without the trees. And a being of their world without any of their kind, with only humans, knowing they weren’t one of them? She squeezed her sister’s hand.

But this Ewulin, this supposed owake-who-was, couldn’t have endured that kind of pain.

“I don’t believe you,” Otwan says.


Hiqwayaq, calming the angry eruption that burst from the rest of the listeners following Otwan’s comment, says to her daughter: “Why not?”

“How could anyone survive being away like that, knowing they weren’t human? Knowing…” she trembles, glad for her sister’s touch. “Why not try to return sooner?”

Quietly, Ewulin only said, “I didn’t know there was anything to return to.”


I believe her, I say to my mother, but Hiqwayaq doesn’t respond. Not being a tree being, my mother didn’t communicate often like that, and usually didn’t say anything back. But I think she always hears. I’ve never fully understood how, if she’s not like Otwan or me, but she can.

Still, bolstered by knowing what I’ll say, I speak aloud.

“I believe her.”

“What?” Otwan nearly pulls away from me.

My mother nods and addresses everyone. “The qesutlhowoy that Ewulin returned to have checked everything thoroughly and I am convinced. An owake has returned. And it could be that there are still owake who think they are human but, for the sake of those who are alone—” I feel Otwan’s shiver at the word through my hand— “and who know they are such, we cannot leave them there without some effort to bring them home.”

“Oh, like we’ve always done?” says Iyhan, lhaiqi of a small pool-glade some way from here, near a thin place between ours and the human world. “We’re so good at leaving the human world alone.” She was still just young enough that disgruntled worked for her.

“You might have been owake yourself,” Hiqwayaq reminded her gently. “If things had occurred differently.”

Iyhan closes her mouth, her expression softening. “How do we find them if we don’t know how to identify them?”

Who are you?

I should tell Mother about the voice. And, as I look to her, I find her eyes meeting mine.

I hear it, too.

(Read the conclusion here.)

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Lost Children (Tas Owake), Part One: Kayehuwekeq?

The leaf bent under the weight of water, a single drop too large for the new shoot to hold and, with unselfconscious grace, green bowed to shed blue from its back.

With the same quality of motion, the girl knelt to cup the leaf with one hand.

“Not broken,” she said with a smile. “Never broken.” And stood, giving the leaf a stroke almost absently, but with a great deal of affection. Behind her, her mother reaches out and the two leave, hand in hand, before mother stops to pick up child and carry her home.


A tree now stands there, tall, still young by the count of trees, and I stand with it, watching the time when I was small in my memory.

Never broken, but others have not been so lucky. I remember the day, one of so many, but the day I knew, the bite of the chainsaw as the man who held it cut through wooden flesh, not knowing what it held.

“How many lost?”

“Too many,” says my sister, Otwan, coming to meet me. “Ready?” I nod, giving my tree a caress before we depart to a meeting with lhai, what I suppose humans would call gods.

“Has mother forgotten we’re woy?” I asked when Otwan first told me of the invitation. She shrugged.

“You know they wouldn’t dare say no to her.”

I supposed being Hiqwayaq has its advantages.


Who are you?

A voice reaching out from the distance, the farthest distance and the closest.

Who are you?

But it does not respond to that. So I try answering.

I am Weyai, daughter of Hiqwayaq.

Who are you? The voice echoes mournfully, and it is only now I realize we do not speak the same language. But I heard and responded as if its “Who are you?” was my native “Kayehuwekeq?”

“Kayiyi Weyai Hiqwayaqiqatiy,” I said to the silence after my question, before I realized, but now all I hear is the mournful echo of “Who are you?” and though I understand the words, I am too shocked to respond before the sound fades.

“Kayehuwekeq…” I taste the word.

“Weyai?” Otwan’s eyebrows are drawn together as she bends to see my face.

Human words again, I say, through my tree to hers. Spoken like this.

Did you tell her…?

I lift my head sharply to meet her gaze. I thought you had.

Otwan stares, open-mouthed. Then why…?

“Daughters!” Our mother says with amusement, dark hand raised to call for silence. She wears her summer aspect, golden and green, with brown between, and her hair brightens the forest with its burnished sunlight.

The lhai around her and the lhaiqi, the minor gods, among them stare at us only a moment before muttering and shifting as a group of strangers arrive. The man and woman weave through those at the far end, a young woman of about eighteen following behind, auburn hair nearly red when in the spots of dappled sunlight. The lhaiqi of this forest stands before them, stopping their approach.

“I am Yehan,” she says, “And this forest is my domain.”

The woman and man draw back with a bow. “She comes here at the behest of Hiqwayaq.”

Woy, then, to speak formally like that with a lhaiqi. Not tree woy, like myself or Otwan, I don’t think, as they do not respond to the unseen reaching out of the trees around them, nor are they connected with plants for the same reason.

“I am Ewulin,” the young woman says, voice wavering. Odd name. And human-accented words—could she be? But no, wrong voice. And too young. The voice wasn’t clear as they usually are in that communication, but something in me knew the speaker hadn’t been this young.


Humans don’t have lhai, woy, the rest. They don’t care. Their “Who are you?” could be to any kind of being. Why assume the voice called to one close to it? But it did. I don’t know how I know, but I know it did.

“Let her past,” my mother says. Yehan draws back and Ewulin, glancing quickly with furrowed brow to the lhai and lhaiqi around her, approached my mother, the highest of the lhai. Hiqwayaq, with a wide, genuine smile, beckons for the girl to come to her and takes her hand with a comforting squeeze. “Tell them what you told me, and do not worry about formal address.”

Ewulin, keeping hold of my mother’s hand, turns to face us. She takes a deep breath and squares her shoulders.

“I am Ewulin,” she says, “Qesutlhowoy. And I used to be an owake.”

Murmurs breaks out, first at her assertion of being qesutlhowoy, louder at owake.

She has legs, says Otwan, sounding dumbfounded. But I heard her real question behind the obvious comment. More so than a qesutlhowoy—a sea being which would look to a human to be part fish or other marine life—having legs, an owake found.

A lost child.


How does someone who forgot what they are return from the world of humans?

How do you undo the felling of a tree?


(Flip the page to keep reading.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Here We Leave

When all has fallen,
fallen to the ground
and, deeper still,
into the flesh
and the ashes have subsided,
the storm has passed, eye and all
we are in the calm that follows, that precedes,
that is
without deception

here we make our decision

here we make our peace

here we leave

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Come to Me

Come to me
In my hour of need
Lord, you sustain me

Come to me
When I am weak
Lord, you sustain me

Though my lips may fail
And my heart be overcome
You sustain me

Come to me
Lord, you sustain me

I cannot see a path
But you are with me
I do not know the way
But your rod and your staff, they comfort me
I am drowning in myself
You lead me beside still waters
I wail and tear at my hair
You make me lie down in green pastures
“How?” I cry, “How can this be?”
You restore my soul

Lead me out of my anger
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Bring me back to peace again
I shall fear no evil
What do I do when all are enraged around me?
You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies
Oh Father, Father, comfort me
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
Grant my broken heart release; take away this pain
The Lord is my shepherd
I come to you
I shall not want

Come to me
When I am weak
Lord, you sustain me

Come to me
In my hour of need
Lord, you sustain me

Though my lips may fail
And my heart be overcome
You sustain me

Lord, come to me
I will dwell in your house forever

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Don't Let This Be the End

Ears pressed
Hands straining
How many voices need to speak before silence comes?
I am three again
Stop, please stop
Please stop, please

Lassoed into the middle
Not the middle
Lassoed nonetheless
Why did you have to tell me


Please stop

Angry words are steel swords
They aim to rip hearts out
Leave the whole bloody mess on display, dripping

Why did you bring me in?

Do I join the burgeoning war?
Or choose to hold my fury mute?
These inherited passions threaten to kill, maim and destroy
I want, with a calm mind, to reason
But my mind wants to rage
And the raging mind disembowels

Why can’t you stop?

Hurt blossoms at the fingers of wrathful hearts
Pain births its children
And I am

why could we not have been patient instead?
calmed our hearts to seek
calmed our minds to understand
it is not our place to decide the motivations of another
and yet we do, calling it righteous fury

Life and death lie as choices
On our hands
on the hands of everyone rearing for expression

I want to scream so you will stop
Why did you choose this?

Destruction has expensive PR
compelling branding
an award for the path of least resistance
Its fans, its followers
Hold to their lips a megaphone
Preaching quick success
All while
The jaws of their master
Tighten unnoticed around their waists

I am pulled by its sway
It promises distraction with cacophony
Security with chaos
The assurance of everlasting invalidity
My senses are assaulted
Do as we do
And you will be justified
Your foes will be quelled

But they aren’t my foes
They aren’t anyone’s foes

Is it simpler
To drown in the sea of perception?

Eyes closed
Head down
Quiet, please
No more

Volcanic winter falls as fire ebbs
Ash in hair
Like snow, minus healing
Excrement instead of clean water

We have ruined this island
It stands disconnected
Sullen in its cover of failure
Will it re-emerge?
I pray not
Its land may become fertile
But only when the volcano dies
Alive, it forms clouds
But soot can neither bring rain
Nor dissipate

And I am afraid
Afraid of this island dying
And staying dead
So please stop
I am afraid

‘Come to me,’ whispers life.
‘Come to me.
Bring me your sorrows,
your detached, bleeding heart
Bring me your blackened life
and watch.
Allow a single drop of rain
onto your dying skin.
Cup the leaves of one seedling
in your hands
whisper songs to it.
Calm the force behind your violence.
It is not what you think
Build again those dreams and visions
Yours, and of those around you
Strengthen the architecture of wonder
Do this
And you will turn around
To find beauty
Already emerged and flowering
Already waiting
For those who have eyes to see
Choose me;
your world will burst
into green.’

Can’t you hear it?
Won’t you hear it?

please stop


before you destroy each other

But you are still yelling
How do I turn away without shutting my ears?
My eyes?
I want my heart to receive sight of you
I want to breathe in your words
Don’t let




Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Mountain is Falling, part two

“What is truth?” asks my Father. (Read part one.)

“You.” I pause. “The forest?”

“And why did it die?”

“It wasn’t the whole truth.”

“A partial truth will never sustain a forest.”

“And there were rocks underneath.”

“Were there?”

I think. “No? Yes? I couldn’t tell. The roots might have got to them. They were buried.”

“A buried truth will keep the water from sinking in.”

At this, I squint at him. “But there wasn’t any water.”

“You didn’t get far enough for anything to change. What was the petrified wood?”

“What do you mean, I didn’t get far enough?”

“What was the petrified wood?”

I sit up, affronted. “No, what is this about not getting far enough? What do you mean?”

Gentle: “What was the petrified wood?”

I squint again, but it’s clear he won’t say anything about that until after I’ve answered his question so, with a sigh: “It was the forest.”

“And what is it now?”

“The mountain.”

“Do you see the cycle?”

The cycle?


Fear and confusion.

Stepping back.

Partial truth.


“What’s the petrified wood?” I ask.

“Death,” he says.



“What breaks that cycle?” I ask.


“I knew that.”

“If you already knew that, then why did you ask the question?” he says this not as a reprimand. He really wants to know the answer.

“That feels like the forest.”

“The mountain is falling,” my Father says, “and it falls to pieces. Those pieces grow a forest, but the forest dies and its bones are bleached by the sun-”

“They were bleached by the wind,” I remind him.

“Its bones are bleached by the sun,” he continues, “and I bring those bones to life.”

“Is that the only part of the cycle where things can change?”

“I haven’t finished the cycle.”

Eyebrow raised, I say nothing, but I listen. He has caught my attention.

“I bring those bones to life and they form a mountain. The mountain falls and, by my life, the forest grows, bigger than before. It is a process, you see.”

“But I feel like I’m missing something!” I cry. “This can’t be all there is! How do I know the forest will grow into a whole truth? How do I know the mountain won’t fall?”

“Why does the mountain grow?”

“The wind.”



“It comes together to protect itself. And then it gets hurt. What do you think it’s trying to protect itself from?”

“The sun,” I say nonsensically. I don’t know where it comes from.

“Who is the sun?”

“You,” I say, just as nonsensically.

“And who are you?”

“The moon.”

“Where are you?”

“In your arms.”

“Is the cycle still going?”

“It’s on pause.”

“Do you want it to stop?”


“Then hold me, and let me turn your mountains into forests that will never die.”

“Will it take a long time?”

“It doesn’t have to. But that depends on you.”

“What do I do with the mountain?”

“Give it to me, and I will face it for you.”

“It can’t be that easy,” I tell him. “That feels like the forest, too.”

“A full truth partially received becomes a partial truth in the heart of the receiver. What was missing in the forest this time?”

I bury my face in him. “Animals.”

“So let me sing animals to you.”

And he does, a melody sweetly filling the emptiness that once was a world, the emptiness that is paused time, for to pull out of time for a moment is as if the world no longer exists. Softly spreading tendrils of white, yellow, gold, turning to scarlet, the notes twine the air around us. Notes of green and blue follow, the vanguard of a rainbow profusion as vines bloom and tender leaves open to brush against my cheeks. The buzz of insects chase after the ever-unfolding fragrance, bringing the blossoms nearer to fruiting. Butterflies thread through the space, purple wings vivid as though made of light, but it is the Father who is the sun.

I close my eyes and breathe in the music.

But how do I stop the mountain from falling?

“No,” says my Father gently. “That is the wrong question. How does a tree live?”

It takes in the sunlight. It takes in water through its roots, nutrients from the ground. It is made strong by the wind that presses against it.

“What does the tree do to make sunlight come to it?”


“The water?”


“Nutrients? Wind?”

Nothing. “It draws near to them?”

“Where do you find life?”

“In you.”

“How close am I to you?”

My arms tighten around him in answer.

“And how does the tree draw nearer to the sun, when the sun has already reached close enough to enter its veins?”

I open my hand to see a tree sprout from my palm. Light pours down on it; it opens its leaves to drink and, in so doing, raises arms to reach back.

“If you try to stop the mountain from falling because you yourself are not connected to life, the ground will not become ripe for a forest. If you tend a forest of partial love, that forest will die. And its death will grow into a mountain until it falls. But none of this is the path. Does a tree walk?”

“No.” I resist the urge to tell him the forest was about truth, not love. His hand in mine was knitting together something in my heart and the distinction became less important. Where else is truth found, if not love? If not him?

“So where does it go?”


“Come to me.”

But we’re together.

“Come to me.”

As the tree and the sun are together, yet they each continue to reach.

“Come to me.”

The mountain rises before me, a gnarled mess of ancient wood-become-stone. As it falls to dust and the forest grows up around me, I find myself surrounded by butterflies.

I stand in my forest, holding hands with my Father. As I lean against his shoulder, we begin to sing.