Of Creatures & Caretakers

Network whisperings are delighting her soul. She reaches out to her kin and exchanges sustenance through the embrace of wide-reaching arms. A new bloom is mutually shared, and layers of soil are teeming with life, infinitely invigorating.

“We are growing,” they whisper, taking her many hands to guide her. She feels the pinpricks of smaller meshwork connecting with her own. There, supported by many loving arms a new born oak sapling pokes its head through the soil, moist with morning dew. Soon four luscious green leaves are drinking in the sunlight, spreading out next to meadow foxtail and springy turf moss.

“There are more,” they whisper, and she sees new life taking root by the brook. Silver birch trees and trembling aspen have returned, their roots and stems, branches, leaves, and crowns now, for the first time, stretching freely.

The fungi, symbiotic interlocutors, join in and show her inkcaps sprouting at the meadow, their bonnets close together against the wind. She travels their silvery mycelial roads, crisscrossing through the soil. More, more, their voices triumphant, and she sees shaggy parasols under scaly caps, and lively scarlet elf cups thriving by the stream.

Shy, flurry robins and sparrows have settled in her spacious crown, she’d almost forgotten their pleasant tickles. They are accomplished artificers, crafting delicate homes to raise their young. She wears the birds with pride. It has been far too long. Finally, she feels connected again, their community slowly recovering, strengthening, bursting with life.

There is a new caretaker on the land, their stride careful and precise. She can feel it.

This time the roaring metal instruments, maiming exploring branches and carefully crafted leaves, haven’t come.

Change is upon us, the honeybees are twirling, moving their delicate bodies in intricate dancing steps. Lilac sea asters and golden cowslips are for the first time plentiful underneath their tiny wings, and the wind brings news of the ever-growing sea of buttercups and fragrant lavender by the pond.

The large assembly of ancient grey stones is engulfed by a leafy sanctuary, which thrives and grows season by season. This is the caretaker’s nesting place, the woodpeckers say, here in the middle of the green island. It’s a place of unnatural rocks and polished surfaces. Next to it, wondrous white structures have sprouted, their wings turning slowly in the wind.

One day, the air thick with summer’s warmth and crickets’ song, she notices the caretaker walking the land and diving into the cold, lively stream. Trout and carps might gape at their new visitor, so intend to share and explore every realm.

The caretaker now visits often, curious squirrels have seen them walking underneath black poplar and red pines, autumn leaves whirling. Snipes and stoats hide in the falling snow to wonder, like her, about their future.

One day, as the snow is melting, the caretaker sits at her roots in the timid sunshine, learning against her trunk.

“I am grateful I could rewild this land against all odds,” they say. The words don’t mean anything to her, but she knows what they did. They are the caretaker.

Seasons change and with them the caretaker. Their gait is slower, their hair shines silver in the light. And now there are others. Small at first, then growing, young caretakers rising towards the light by their side. Together they roam the forest and protect the land.

By the pond, she knows, pain and death were averted. Caretakers forming unbreakable bonds with their bodies against the returning, roaring metal monsters. Somehow, they have become part of her network. Even if she can’t feel their hands like she feels the fungi, even if they don’t share delicious nutrients underneath the soil like she does with her parents, siblings, and children, she knows they have joined her network. Like the worms, beetles, and squirrels, they have become part of her world.

She dimly knows what lays beyond her reach, that there are still places her networks won’t reach. Sad places where nothing grows. Her glorious leaves are changing colour, brilliant red and gold, when they bring the caretaker to the bottom of her stem. Something is different, she knows it in her roots, branches, and leaves. One last Goodbye.

The caretaker is lowered into the soft earth between her roots, they are careful not to cause damage. Delicately her roots weave around this new member of her earthly kingdom.

The caretaker has changed from one form to another. Their energy will sing in the wind with the woodpeckers and sparrows, swim in the river with the trout and turtles, and rain down on lavender and golden daffodils, while their earthly form will now nourish the soil. Caretaker’s song vibrates the air and touches everything around her. She feels their grief, and shares it with her children and her neighbours, branches twitching and leaves whispering in the wind, adding their voices to the song.

“Thank you,” they sing as one.

Another healthy sapling will sprout at her feet, nurtured by the old caretaker, and visited often by the new, who will be forever multiplying, side by side with her offspring.