by Kaylia Mai
Art by Rhee Kang
Issue: Ataraxia (Spring 2018)
There is a drop of water on a leaf. It shivers, trembling in a rising wind, and slips down to splash onto a soft finger pad. This is no ordinary finger —it is Mother’s finger, and it is at the tip of this finger that the very roots of life springs. Life—beautiful, terrible life—who had chosen with a condemning finality the split of prey and predator. How simple! How strange, that life can flit here and away at whim, yet always choosing and picking and demanding for something. Something that may be Mother, may be balance, may be peace, may have never existed at all.
If life is strange, Mother is stranger. Mother is kind, she spreads rain and brings sun and provides soil to provide us strength. Mother is fair, giving and taking to please the will of life. She whispers thoughts into our souls, little flickers of light dance and spark from her to us, and I would later imagine the creation of this bond as my birth. She has funny thoughts, about the end of the Earth and the extinction of those funny two—legged beings, the ones that occasionally visit my field and roll giant balls of rubber over our heads.
I love Mother, as much as any flower could love anything.
It is Mother’s doing. Mother, good and kind, who had called to her children in this crisis of oil and gas fumes. She had bound us together in spirit and given us an otherwise unimagined path. A single command passing Mother’s lips, spreading from rabbit to tree to lily to dolphin, had covered the entire planet with a rumor, a call, a rising summon that wrenches us from the ground which we thrive and roots our beings to a new purpose. And what a purpose it is: Nature will make its stand.
The sun hits the acme of a distant mountain range, showering the blue skies with thousands of rivers of red. The wind ruffles the field in which I reside, quickly changing form from zephyr to gusts, and quite suddenly all the plantlife perks upward. I whisper to the world. The world whispers back. When our shared bond through nature vibrates with raw emotions, it is like living in what is more than just a body. The magnificence is such that one feels as though they without knowing Sky and have only now discovered it. Something unidentified spreads from them to me, is then chained across me, little bolts of lightning leaping and stretching across barren deserts and frozen wastelands. This reach into the soul reflects a steady drumbeat, the earth itself pulsing with messages and information, flashes of thought resonating in the roots and trembling the leaves. It is not composed of words nor feelings, this foreign encompassing stretch, brought forth because Mother had said it should. Everything comes back to Mother. Mother had said, Mother is saying, listen to Mother!
Pause. Take a breath before the dive… but do not wait long or the greedy fingers of time will snatch the last petal away and wither the stem.
We know it must happen now. Mother says it must happen now. The final sentence hangs in the air before being ripped away by a sudden explosion that is us. Roots wind deep in the earth and curl together. Leaves sway as the wind shreds the air like a wraithful ghost. The trees, bushes, and vines grow larger than ever, screaming with intentions. Smaller plants wind themselves together to create an ocean of green, roots grabbing other roots to support one another. I find myself between a daffodil and a thistle, and use my leaves to help a few strands of crabgrass climb upward to their place. A cacophony rises in the background, wild beasts unseen while the low thrum of the wild amplifies thousandfold.
Earth is dying, comes a yell with silence. Reclaim it, someone responds in a whisper. The balance must be brought back.
Suddenly the mass of plant in which I reside launches forward, and after a brief travel, I experience concrete for the first time. I have never felt such violence through the echoes of the wild, the sheer fury bombarding me. My mass of plant swamps another skinny figure, its fear palpable as it opens its mouth to wail before being silenced. I wonder if their kind can feel each other’s thoughts and emotions too, though I count myself lucky I am cut off from them.
Cement smashes and crumbles with a sharp crack as a tree forces its way past. A metal vehicle screeches and crumbles as a wooden arm smashes down. Perhaps, as another glowing bulb shatters via creeping vines, I may be capable of understanding how we, a once—passive kind, can stray to depravity. It is easy to drift when greeted with a copious amount of contentious feelings. Mother’s roar churns through us and we respond.
We climb another of the tall structures and the column of glass and metal splinters with the combined force of our rapidly growing roots through its clear panes. There are more fleshly creatures inside, andwe pull apart the structure. The balance tips, we take apart their version of earth even though they have never taken ours. The world’s apocalypse has become an engulfing pit of cold, and I shiver. Our scream has become my silence.
I recall once, an eternity ago, when I was just a flower on a hill. There is a little story I had once knew, where a beast offends a tiger and the tiger kills it. The tiger’s gaping maw eats forever and never closes because it always wants more meat.
I look to a weathered oak tree slowly but steadily dragging its many branches across a light-emitting pole, the light ends. A swinging limb catches a stray body — target, Mother whispers — and the tree does not hesitate to pierce vulnerable flesh. A river of red spurts out and flows away. I have red on my leaves too, but it is a mix of sticky and crispy. The tree moves on; it does not question Mother’s orders. I look back into our bond of nature. Within it, I find black holes draining pinpricks of light from the sky.
The tip of one of my leaves stretch in this moment of uncertainty, finding an old piece of mold by my side.
Why attack them in this way? I ask.
The mold feels my underlying request for reassurance and responds with its millions of tiny voices in a chorus: Mother says to.
Perhaps in bare truth it is our doing that brings about the world’s undoing.
Individual voices swarm everywhere, and though I continue to move as they move, the stifling aura of such rabid elation now disturbs me. I contemplate this foreign feeling for a thousand milliseconds. It is of an aching pain inside of which I had not felt even through years of my bond of nature. The sun is long gone now, stray flashes of red flitting through a starry night. Beauty. My petals lift in a final farewell to the canvas above me, then I release myself to the rapids of my bond, for what agency did a simple marigold have in a world—defining war?
Careful with balance. Perhaps we did originally mean to restore it, but balance repels its own definition. It never stays still or equal, prefering to swing back and forth without consequence.
The fear of humans stifles iron—scented air, splashing our joyous calls with a bombard of suffering, calling out where there was no help. It is over for them, and the humans know it. Pieces of metal are propelled at this army, through it, and the earth rears in unmitigated fury at the use of its resources for such purposes. The earth is angry at the loss of a portion of its metals, though it still retains copious amounts of iron itself. Very few of the plants and animals fall, many more grow and rampage. Prey and predator… the humans and nature.
…And I? I would not know. There is a red orb clinging to my leaf. At some point Mother had left us, no one notices.
Do it the way they say to, nobody cries. Do it the way you wish they would, nobody responds, no more than a soft breath.
There is nothing, there is life. A shriek or a plea hits deaf ears, for the tiger is too busy to listen. After all, peace is just the discrete version of war.