Wednesday 3 July 2024

Juniper by Monica Johnson, pine needle tea

I am alive.

My seed cracks and I stretch, up and down. Warm soil envelopes me, dark and moist. My tiny roots search for nourishment, for water, anchoring me to this place.

Above the dirt, the light is heavy. Thick. Stale. Rich soil feeds me, almost saccharine. I grow too fast but soak it up, anyway.

I am separated from my root-mates. New soil surrounds me, anchors me, still saccharine rich. I survived.

I grow, tall and straight. Adult greenery clothes me.

We are separated. Can I live this way, roots constrained, segregated from my nearby siblings?

Other, more distant, relations are here. Some are prickly. Some spread sideways or curl in round balls. Further away are more distant relations, fleeting but colourful, perfuming stale air.

At the faintest edge of my consciousness are kin whose relationship I barely sense. Fleeting, too, but in constant motion. They move among us, often in groups. Some bend near, to sniff or touch or offer sustenance.

“We’ll take five.”

I am relocated again. I am disoriented, but conscious.

At last, I breathe air that lives and moves, air with a thousand new scents. And the light! It is full and sweet. I spread to catch as much as I can. And the soil is rich, not as heavy with nutrients but wider and bustling with life. My roots test their limits. They have none.

“Fills the spot nicely, don’t you think?”

“Looks great, dear.”

A few siblings stand near me, lined up in the shade of a tall structure, beside an area thick with grass. Our branches caress each other.

Excited, yet content, I reach taller and taller still and dig deeper and deeper. I drink water and absorb the beautiful sunlight and breathe into the moving, scented air.

When the periods of sunlight dwindle, my blood slows, ready for an oncoming cold I have yet to experience. My siblings do the same. Nearby, our close relations show their true colours, no longer hidden beneath our shared green blood.

Water is more difficult to find, though frozen droplets coat my green foliage. The air is sharper, the many scents muted. The grass sleeps. Our ambulatory kin move swiftly if they venture out.

Between one breath and the next the stretches of daylight grow longer. Air and soil are thick with moisture, soaking my roots. The grass wakes. Our noble kin shed the last dried bits of brown, all that remains of their previous colours, and sprout leaves in a multitude of shapes.

We grow taller, reach deeper. By the time the trees change colours several times more, I can see over the roof of the structure that shades my siblings and me. There are many buildings, more than I guessed, spread out around me, interspersed with my tallest kin, stems thicker than all my siblings together. Some remain green the way we do, towering above rooftops, wider and pricklier than we but comforting in their nearness.

I become a haven for not just the tiniest of our mobile relations, who burrow in my bark or nibble my leaves, but some of those that soar on the perfumed, moving air. They perch on my branches and chatter to each other in sweet voices, even their arguments like songs.

Occasionally, a warm-blooded kin stealthily climbs my narrow limbs, attention focused on their feathery cousins. Our common relative, one of those busy kin who feeds me, watches, alternately amused and scolding.

Once again, the hours of sunlight lengthen. My roots are deep enough that the soil remains soft and warm but I relish the familiar dampness in spring dirt and air, sweet with moisture.

There is a loud noise, loud enough to vibrate on the fresh air. One of my siblings cries in pain. Two of our mobile relatives are near but they are not feeding us today.

The sound repeats in fits and starts. Our feathered cousins scatter. Our fur-coated relatives cower and hiss or run. Only our distant relations are unbothered, moving among us.

My nearest sibling trembles and cries. Our linked branches pull apart. I am surprised. Our kind stand for much longer than the breaths we have sent into the air.

Our mobile cousins move with purpose, removing my prone siblings, one after another. Then the noise is impossibly louder, vibrating through me. Agony.

I shudder. I fall.

I am prone on the grass which has barely woken from its most recent sleep. I no longer feel my roots. Sunlight touches my foliage as my breath fades.

I am moved again but my senses dim.

My green fades. Soon, I will be brown and stiff.

My final breaths exhale.

My roots shrivel. The soil above them is covered in bright white stones.

“Fills the spot nicely, don’t you think?”

“Looks great, dear.”

About the auhtor

Monica always wanted to write, but thought it wasn't a real job. After career and family, she returned to her passion for writing. Her stories are in Swords & Sorceries Volume 8, AnotherRealm, and The Lorelei Signal. She resides in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on Treaty 6 Territory and the Métis homeland. 
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