Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

Defending the Trees, Mourning Our Dead

On my #FuckThePolice walks, I visit with a small forest of trees perched on a hilly embankment on Anishinabeeg lands above a river flowing from one side of so-called Michigan to the other. There, especially now that the leafless branches are expressively etched against the winter sky, I commune with these trees, silently or with my human words.

I notice how they care for each other (and me too) through the seasons of life. How they move at a pace that allows them to see each other through disruptions to and losses within their ecosystem. They quite literally “stand by each other,” but more then that, they weave themselves into an interdependent, solidaristic fabric of life—and death.

I’ve watched, for instance, how when rain eroded the ground beneath one of the trees, its exposed roots were held tightly by its neighboring trees, as each other’s foundation. Or when lightning knocked part of a tree over, it fell into the branching arms of another tree, and over time, has died in its own sweet time while its fellow trees bear witness. Or when wind whips the trees mercilessly, they appear to interlace fingerlike branches to weather the storm together.

Today in another forest far to the south, Weelaunee in so-called Atlanta, police inflicted their business as usual of stealing land and lives. They murdered someone who was both communing with and defending trees. They shot them dead, in a forest that has already seen much pain at the hands of colonialism, capitalism, and racism.

No doubt the trees there, in their own way, wept, even as many of us did too—tears of rage and sorrow.

It’s not that the trees and people we love will, alas, be spared violence these fascistic days, despite all of our beautiful resistance to @stopcopcity and other assaults.

Yet the trees, like sturdy ancestors, like friends who intimately know our struggles, are there for and with us. That’s part of why we defend for them. They show us there’s ground beneath our feet, and roots that sustain and interconnect us. And they guide us to grieve well, as sacred spaces from which, today, they and we must once again #MournOurDead and continuing #FightingForTheLiving.

(photos: Weelaunee forest, welcome banner in trees, #Fuck12 tagged on a fence, and candles left over from a collective Sukkah/Shabbat ritual, Defend the Atlanta Forest, October 2022)

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This entry was posted on January 18, 2023 by in Uncategorized.
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