Thursday, October 20, 2022

Ephemeral Smackdown: Return to Grandmother Tree


In Prayer

I almost bypassed Taos. I was on the tail end of a two week excursion into Colorado's high country, a sweeping sensory overload of neon yellow aspen, hot springs and visits with dear friends. Dulce, VAN-essa and I, on the road. It was the first road trip since BC (before covid). The novelty-loving, risk-taking adventurer was back, on the cusp of my 72nd birthday. Taos had always been part of the plan. I'd been hellbent to visit Grandmother Tree for three years (BC). Ten days on the road, all had unfolded perfectly as I pulled into the remote San Luis Lakes, two hours north of Taos, and parked. I made a cup of camp stove espresso as Dulce and I took in the dune-framed Sangre de Cristos; listened to the migrating Sand Hill Cranes, too high to see. Bialetti stowed, we hopped into VAN-essa and she wouldn't start. AAA towed us to Alamosa, where I ended up with a referred mechanic (thank you Crestone Dan). He's really good and really busy, he warned. The angels were with me ... Jeff thankfully agreed to fit me in and let me spend the night in his parking lot while the fuel pump was overnighted. Twenty fours and $900 later (ouch), I hit Highway 285, skipping Taos to head for Bosque del Apache, south of Albuquerque. I'd lost two days and there were too many Taos friends to squeeze visits into a day. I decided I would come back another time. Reality set in, however, as Antonia Mountain came into view. I had to stop somewhere for the night. I wasn't in the mood for Ojo Hotsprings, and Lee's Taos invitation still stood. I turned east toward Taos Mountain. Lee and I had a heartfelt, albeit short, visit. I departed early the next morning for Grandmother Tree as Lee reminded me: She is waiting for you.  

I departed Taos, turned onto gravel, traveled up the mountain to the fork in the road and continued to the dead end turn-around parking area. I smiled --  wildscape memory was a wonderful thing. Dulce jumped from the van as I collected the ritual objects I intended to share with Grandmother Tree. Tobacco, a feather from Raven Emma, even a bite of dark chocolate. I started up the mountain, enveloped in autumn rapture, recalling memories of the many sojourns to Grandmother. There was the crashing sound of antlers of two bull elk jousting, cross-country ski glides, snowshoe trips and hunts with Hope for a Christmas/Solstice tree. There were the few special times I'd shared Her with friends as we searched the ground for sheds.

I rounded the final curve that would reveal Her presence. I didn't see Her and sought a different angle. It had been a decade since I'd visited, I surmised the other trees had grown up around Her. A White-breasted Nuthatch called as I sought Her through the forest canopy. I stopped where I always left the trail to  bushwhack the final steps. It took a few seconds for my mind to grasp what my eyes saw. Or rather, didn't see. She did not fill the sky. I stared, instead, upon a huge stump and her old growth body, with all its thick limbs, sprawled across the forest floor. I cried out, approached and laid my head on her supine body. I shook, bereft with confusion. How much time had passed when I picked up a pine needle and began to count Her rings, as if that would make her stand? I lost count at 350 circles. Anger. Questions. Numbness. I took some deep, slow breaths and emptied my pack; removed the items for the forever-changed ritual of return. 

Fallen Queen

I offered prayers, carried on the smoke of tobacco. I climbed over a fence to Her prone top and placed Emma's Raven feather in her branches, that She may always have the company of flight. I returned to Her thick base and sat as I my mind interrupted. What the hell happened? Old growth seed trees are not targeted for thinning. She was healthy; showed no signs of disease. I wanted answers. All was silence.  

In the decades of visits to Grandmother I had never seen another person. This day, a man appeared, walking up the trail with two Huskies. I called out, desperate for answers. Hello. Do you come here often? Yes, his friendly voice responded. Do you know when this tree was cut? He did not. He hadn't noticed her disappearance. He walked closer. We surmised it was several years. Nothing about her demise was recent. 

I circled Her evenly sliced trunk in prayer. A glint caught my eye, a shiny explosion on the ground. I bent down to see a piece of crystal half submerged in the dirt at Her base and I was struck with disbelief. Could it be? The piece of the quartz crystal I had left embedded in her bark years ago.

I had started this sojourn purposely at 9:00 a.m. Nine: endings. I arrived at 10:00 a.m.  One: new beginnings. I'd planned it as a portal to a new life. She had called me here; now She gifted me. Gratitude and awe suddenly turned to grief. The protection rituals on our final parting did not work. I felt like a failure. She stopped me short. 

No she said. Rot is rot. My children stand guard around me. Chickadee's song floats on air, Nuthatch's upside-down antics delight. Remember my instructions so many years ago: to enter the unknown and  "write what is given." The Mystery, My Child, is all there is. You are good and kind to wild kin. The two-legged's attitude of supremacy, unwillingness to hear our voices, to see what stands before them, will be their downfall. 

Silence. Then she continued ...

I know your pain. I, too, would have preferred the elegant decay of decades, the march of a snag, (rhymes with hag, a wise woman) but tree wisdom is not valued in these times of mass extinction. My disappearance was noticed by few: the elk and deer earthwalkers, the chicadee raven and hawk skyflyers, the subterraneans deep in the earth ... and you

That day. The teeth-cutting sound of the saw. The quake. The shake and shudder. The waves of aftershock.

Your love is received. Go forth. Time is short for the Two-legged Fleshy Ones. My decay shows the way. 

I struggled to scribble her words.   

Eternities sometimes pass in moments, a lifetime is lived in a blink. 

Grandmother, I want to die next to you. 
The crystal pieces blurred through tears. 
I am sorry I didn't do better. I couldn't shake the guilt. If I'd only been there ... I had seen evidence of thinning, I never dreamed ... 

Re-member our last meeting when I told you: Even in death, all is alive. 
Wherever you are, you will die next to me.
You are perfect, My Daughter. I love you. 

Dulce downloading Grandmother's energy 
I dropped a stone heart, gift from Hope, into a water-filled gap that split Her centuries of tree rings. I slid a quartz crystal into an axe slit on Her gray trunk. Dulce, quiet, calm and holding the space throughout, rose from her silent resting place between stump and trunk as I strapped on my fanny pack. We started down the mountain as my Libra sense of justice erupted. This wasn't over. Not by a long shot. I would contact the forest supervisor for the Carson NF. I would check maps to ensure this was public land. I did not know She would send me another gift that very night: a surprise visit with a Lakota medicine man-friend ... Spirit listens. Spirit provides. Spirit puts me where I need to be. Grandmother Tree's crystalline energy would light the way. 

(The image at the top, with my hand in prayer over Her body ... I did not take that photo. Yet, it was on my camera. Let the mystery BE.) 



  1. Hey Christina, Sorry we missed you. And sorry about your sacred tree. I wonder if it had anything to do with fire mitigation. Last summer we had the worst fire in the history of New Mexico, right across the ridge in Mora. The consequences are devastating to those who live there. But we are still here. Enjoying the fall color.

    My best,


    1. Always good to hear from you, Sister. I've since found out this was not part of a mitigation proj, and it was on forest land. More to follow in next blog. Those fires were beyond catastrophic. I will return soon to do the visits I had intended. I tried to see John but even that didn't work. You are always welcome here on Querencia Hill. Much love to you ...

  2. Oh...this is heartbreaking. Crying reading it. But joyFull that She gave you such blessed gifts.

  3. Sadness. Grief. Anger. Mystery. Some degree of Reluctant Acceptance. Lingering Sadness. Shared Sorrow.

  4. Oh, I so wish I’d seen Her in Her glory. Keep Her words close, Christina.

    1. Me too, Em. I guess it was too wintry that year that we met to bring in the New Year ...

  5. This post broke my heart. I'm so sorry for the inexplicable loss of your majestic friend. Thank for for sharing your grief with us.

  6. Dear Christina: Your writings of this adventures stimulates so many feelings. The gifts you have to communicate your magical life are greatly appreciated. My heart is open to the pain, the grief of losing the Grandmother Tree who HOLDS so much for you. My heart is also open for the opportunities presented. Her messages to you are the GIFTS that you will carry for your life. I look forward to seeing you soon. Happy Birthday! I would like to celebrate you and Grandmother Tree. Much Love, Mary

    1. Heartfelt thanks, Sister. We will sit together soon. Your words mean the world.

  7. Too inexpressibly sad to say anything. Perhaps that is the way it should be for what good could the words possibly create? ...Love and blessings my friend