As a kid, the November months were the best for me.
I loved the fall in temperature, the cut of freshness in the air, the leaves abandonment of the trees which made the outdoors smell of a sort of earthen nature calling to the Native American in me. It’s a wet feeling in the air, or a dry feeling, or a cold feeling. You must know what I mean. It’s November and it was my favorite time of year.
My mother dated Clarence for a while. He was a cowboy of sorts. Not the actual kind, like from Texas, but he did have a few horses, and a farm kinda thing, oh and a pig. It was in Virginia so I don’t really count it. And he had acres of land. Most of it was forest. Not like, Little Red Riding Hood forest or The Forbidden Forest kind of forest, but I counted it as forest. Instead, it had a lightness to it, a feeling of being alone, yet so filled with life unearthly. It was a sweet forest, a small forest, a hollow of trees winding roots together beneath the earth and foliage and fenced in boundaries. I ran around in it, at the age of 13 and it was my freedom. Otherwise I’d be stuck reading inside a room dark with wood paneling and listening to Country music blasting all the time.
I was only there in November, my mother only dated him as long as it took for her to be adored. When he got fed up with her temper tantrums and histronics (he wasn’t the sort to coddle), she labeled him the bad guy and moved us back in with Nana, who then blamed it on him being black, which wasn’t said aloud for fear of being politically incorrect but was rather like the prejudice was implied. Then again my mother had horrible taste and every man she dated was labeled wrong for something, so that was just how it was, and I really didn’t appreciate the racist additional, so I just ignored it. Which was my default for most everything anyway.
But I was happy there. I remember that. And Clarence was my favorite of my mom’s boyfriends. And I loved he didn’t coddle her. At the age of 13 even I was tired of her childishness at times. That he just huffed a disgusted laugh when she was raging in a childish way about disrespect, when he didn’t even in my opinion, and when she feigned a faint, he stepped over her dramatic splay, made me applaud on the inside. If she had just seen how good he was for her, perhaps my life would have been a lot different. I really liked him for a dad. He would have made a good one.
It was October I remember, just the first blush of it, and I learned to ride a horse, a stallion, even almost falling off I learned. And I learned to make a treehouse by myself. Clarence, I think tickled to have a stand in daughter, allowed me complete freedom. And I remember getting just the base built before I gave up and would just take my homework to that platform and stare up the trees and imagine more freedom than that.
I remember it felt, when I did that, like the trees were falling into the stars.
The nights when I went out, the sky was so bright above the sporadic canopy. I did mention the forest wasn’t really a forest, and so the trees did not obscure the sky at all. Instead it sorta highlighted it, like the trees were reaching out arms to the night lights above, and they were almost in a warped stretch, one you couldn’t with your eyes, but feel with a sense that wasn’t taste or touch or smell but something of all of those. And I could feel the forest felt like .. it was about to take off, into the sky, to be among the stars, except it never did. And it never would. And that was even better because the stars were in quiet communion through the expanse of time to the trees in my little sweet forest and I was mere witness.
One day, after I canceled on a friend of mine who wanted to come over but was a boy and I concluded might be interested romantically and I wasn’t cause he was a boy so I made up an excuse, one day I was out there and instead of sitting on that platform I walked the whole expanse of the forest between the fences that caged it, and finding a tree that felt right I put my back to it and looked up.
And along my spine, like fire surging I felt it. It was like there was a lightening rod, like the tree were a conduit, a shout, a string, that lead from the ground below up to the stars above, and translated the sounds of the earth to them, a tree translator. It was full of so much energy and wisdom and fire I was captured, more than a witness to a beautiful sight, but witness to prayer. From the earth through the trees to the stars.
Native Americans believe the trees sing to the stars and the stars sang back. They believe the trees are so old they remember us being made of starlight. I have Cherokee, Blackfoot, and Sioux ancestors. I am not a part of a tribe, or can I claim actual lineage, but the native american music (the drums, the piping, the chanting) has always elicited a feeling in my belly, of instinctive recognition, their stories a familiarity.
I remember my step sister and I would read a book of Native American myths as kids, and giggle over the explicitness in stories about trickster coyotes having sex with women with vagina teeth and marvel at the creation tales which were so opposed to Christian origin we grew up being told was the only truth. We were not allowed to read it but we did anyway. I remember that being my favorite book, so dog eared it was, not because the stories were so randomly awkward, but because the feeling of the book in my hand held the feeling of November.
The sound of the words strung together were in English, yet still tasted like some Native American tongue, and was much like the feeling I heard when I watched the trees stretch up arms to the sky. I may not know much of myself yet, in this present state of ignorance, but I know there is genetic imprint of nature in my veins, and call it starlight, or more recent Native American genes, but I know more in my body than I do in my head sometimes. And I feel more on my skin than I see with my eyes.
And I dare you to stand with your back against a tree. Feel the energy along your spine. Let the tree channel you back to heaven; from earthen soil you were made in this body to the starlight from whence your soul came.
I dare you to listen to the trees talk to the stars. And I dare you to lie and say you don’t hear it.