But she and trees, hope and remembrance have been brought forward in my mind of late. 'There are many reasons to plant trees, the best time? twenty years ago!' That saying goes on with, 'the second best time is now.'
My dad and I planted a cedar tree near my house and I remembered him saying he had been told when planting one he would never live long enough to stand in its shade. He knew he would never benefit from it, but valued his role in the planting.
Over the holidays I had time, to reflect and go through stuff stashed in a corner and found one of the little booklets Indian Club made for our 'Candle Lighting Ceremony' conducted the day school let out for the Christmas holidays; held there and once at the Miami Mini-Mall, where there I will never forget one of our shyest 9th graders ever, simply opened her mouth and filled that space with the most beautiful song, sung from the heart.
For several years we made luminaries, which are a thing of beauty. Simply made, brown paper sacks half filled with sand and a candle lit inside. We lit them at the Intertribal Council Candle Lighting and on the front steps of Miami High School when held there.
The little booklets were assembled with each page containing 6 to 8 names of the newly lost and those who continued to remembered. Each year someone was moved to write a poem. Each name was read and a simple remembrance given or a story that sometimes made us laugh together through tears. Each was remembered in honor of their lives lived.
There were other times when we planted trees for those we had loved and lost, some we planted for people we never got a chance to know. Like the redbud at MHS we planted for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.
Trees were planted for reasons, with purpose. When remembering Jake Whitecrow, we planted a white pine for peace on the east side of ITC. At the Quapaw powwow grounds, we planted a dogwood outside the tribal headquarters after a storm had come through and broken limbs off larger trees. Down by the campsites near Beaver Creek we planted cottonwood trees as hypo-accumulators to take up heavy metals deposited from legacy mining, and to be the shade that campers might enjoy 30 years later.
Many of those trees were later cut down, some did not survive. But we did the act. You plant a tree for the future.
We dug up the ground and placed those trees to remember and long afterwards no matter if the tree survived or not, the act is remembered and in the act, those dear souls are remembered and they are remembered in the shade, with each pecan that is picked up, for the walnuts that crash through the branches and bomb us with memories.
As I look out the window and see the deer eating the acorns under Annabel Mitchell's oak. Around the bend stands the walnut tree John Sixkiller and I planted with a simple walnut. The bench I placed there 20 years ago has long dissolved back to nothing. but the tree provides walnuts and the kindling I need to light the fires that keep me warm each winter.
The loblolly pines here were not planted in rows, they were planted in groups of 7 down the lane to my house for the 7 clans of the Cherokees. When the wind blew through them I was reminded by the sound of my winters and summers spent in the mountains, in New Mexico, in South Dakota's Black Hills and in the Colorado Rockies.
Many of the pines have died here, some each year as the pine bark beetle works their way through one and then has not far to fly to the next. But I don't regret planting them.
There is something about digging the dirt out and planting a tree that symbolizes starting over, while honoring our loved ones and watching for signs of life that comes from those efforts.
Come spring, I will be planting trees, for my friends, and now my cousin who have died of COVID.
I imagine groves of trees. Cities will have shaded streets, perhaps plaques for whom they were planted.
We must remember. We cannot forget they loved shade, the blooms on fruit trees, the fruit so sweet in the summer. The pecans made into pies in the fall.
We will remember. I will remember as I plant these trees that I will never live long enough to stand in their shade.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim