WHAT HAVEN WILL WE HAVE?

WORDS & MUSIC: MAMA CAUGHT FIRE

After spending a few days together in Ohio, we wanted to give ourselves time to focus on our own personal relationships with nature. We headed off to separate spots around the farm to write about our gratitude for nature. In sharing our reflections, we noticed that many parallel themes ran through our writing. The woods from our childhoods, in particular, have deeply affected us. 

While we live in Minnesota, the three of us come from different parts of the country. Abigail from the East Coast, Julia from the West Coast, and Molly from the Midwest. The trees of our homes helped to raise us and this song came to reflect that nurturance. 

When one spends so much time amidst trees, especially at such a young age, the trees become more than their roots, bark, and branches. Being among them leads to the same feeling one gets after spending the afternoon with a beloved grandmother who cares for younger generations and bestows wisdom upon them. 

When one spends so much time amidst trees, especially at such a young age, the trees become more than their roots, bark, and branches. Being among them leads to the same feeling one gets after spending the afternoon with a beloved grandmother who cares for younger generations and bestows wisdom upon them. 

Robin Wall Kimmerer writes about this relationship in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass:

“In English, we never refer to a member of our family, or indeed to any person as it. That would be a profound act of disrespect. It robs a person of selfhood and kinship, reducing a person to a mere thing. So it is that in Potawatomi and most other indigenous languages, we use the same words to address the living world as we use for our family. Because they are our family” (55). 

By sharing this way of referring to the natural world, Kimmerer reminds us to consider the sentience of trees in the everyday.

When we feel gratitude for the treasured woods, we simultaneously fear the prospect of losing them. Those we love, we fear losing. We, as a larger society, have to ask ourselves what the world will look like when the cedars on the West Coast are lost to unending forest fires, when the pines in Massachusetts are cleared for logging. What haven will we have? 

The lyrics in this song suggest that when we lose sight of ourselves — as individuals, as a species — we might find meaning in the ways of the trees. By planting ourselves in the soil, closing our eyes, and inhaling deeply, we can be like the trees who sheltered us. While the image of a human literally growing as a tree is surreal, the meaning of this lyric extends far beyond the magic. By reaching into the soil, we enter a network of communication, the intricate language of roots, of spores, of water. 

We can become attuned to the trees, become them, and in this, we find truth. The truth? We must honor and care for the trees as they have cared for us. The trees pour their love and bounty into us. We must be willing to nurture them similarly. We must give them our love, our bounty, and our voice.