In the last season of my thirteenth year, I spent many an hour beneath her branches, secluded in slices of sunlight and shadows. Her willowy branches offered me the space I needed to breathe, to think, to question, to wonder and to write.
There, I wrote my first poems and began my first philosophical conversations. I sang songs and collected leaves and read books in her shade, orated verses and drew pictures and fashioned dreams from her air.
She was my Mother Tree, her roots deep within the ground that my family had lived upon for generations. Her many branches twined above the Earth like the many cousins that dotted the landscape of my childhood; her leaves as plentiful as the grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters that came before me.
In Spring, she shone like a shimmering emerald in sunlight, her shelter awash with coolness, a soft spray inviting me in. As the days drew longer, so did my hours within her sanctuary.
In Summer, her leaves hung wet with heat and humidity, her branches swayed. Still, I sought what little comfort her canopy could offer, staying with her through the longest hours of light.
In Autumn, her colors transformed into a kaleidoscope of gold, ruby and coral, showering me with a beauty that inspired many verses from my hungry teenage soul. Her power to change so dramatically, to stand so brilliant and strong within the field, was a mystical thing to me. A thing that never ceased to strike me with awe, though I gazed upon her more with each passing year.
In Winter, though her branches stood bare, she bore the harsh winds and bitter cold with quiet dignity. From my window, I watched her dazzling form rise from the snow, shaking off the storms with her ever-quiet, ever-strengthening pride.
She was my Mother Tree, as she had been for my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and the mother before her. Within her was every story that I had yet written and the stories of many children before me.
And though the world had begun to change, its people to turn from their ancestral trees, I made a vow that summer. One of the last promises of my true childhood — to take care of my Mother Tree.
For she had been my haven, and the haven of my ancestors, and now I must help make Earth a place to sustain her. A place where her branches would continue to blossom, her colors continue to thrive, and the stories within her roots continue to grow.
I gaze upon her branches now, in the summer of my forty-fourth year, her trunk thick with the weight of time. Still, she remains a strong shelter. Woven within her gnarled branches are every secret and wish that I made, each verse that spoke to my teenage-self and each song that touched my childhood soul.
I look to my daughter beside me and see in her the depth of Mother Tree’s colors, the strength of her branches, and the power of sharing my stories beneath her. She is our caretaker, our spirit-bringer, our home.
Within her, our stories knit together to form a family that spans generations. She is our breath and our beauty and our life, our Mother Tree that sustains us.
My daughter, now in her thirteenth year, looks back at me with wonder, her face alight with the same awe that our Mother Tree once sparked in my eyes. She touches my hand, her smile shimmers with unshed tears.
Silently, we lace our fingers together and make the same vow together that I made years ago, in the sanctuary of Mother Tree’s shade.
Stacie Eirich is a writer, singer & library associate. A former English Instructor, she holds a Masters Degree in English Studies from Illinois State University, where she also studied music and frequently performed. She is the author of The Dream Chronicles, a middle-grade fantasy series (2016-2019). Her poems have appeared in Auroras & Blossoms Anthologies, Scarlet Leaf Review, MUSED Literary Review & Ruby Magazine. She lives near New Orleans, La with three cats, two kids and one fish. www.stacieeirich.com