Writing – Trees: A Lifeline for our Planet
Golden Birch Award ($150) Long Live the Queen
By Amica Lansigan, 15, Hanover, NH
We steal Her land, exploit Her wealth
And claim it as our own.
We build cities, we sever trees,
Destroying our own home.
We do nothing to rebuild
The ruin we create.
We do nothing but watch
As She cries, She burns, and breaks.
We lie to faces, wipe out races,
Deny these lies and genocide.
The truth cannot be silenced.
We divide, we war, we side.
Ourselves will be the death of us,
Burned in a fire we made.
There will not be a second Ark.
This time we can’t be saved.
Not one creature will mourn us,
Not one tree, ant, or swan.
They’ll find freedom and happiness
In a world with humans gone.
We thought we were the kings.
But oh, we were such fools.
It was never our kingdom.
The Queen of Nature rules.
Silver Maple Award ($100) – The City of Green
by Emmett Jarvis, 16, Montpelier, VT
The city of green
with bottomless arms,
the one that was built
by no man’s harm,
I go to that city to die.
When morning-star dies
and twilight reigns supreme,
when the eyes turn black,
as black as their dreams,
and men of yesterday tell their lie.
They speak of “progress”
and glory to match,
they speak of the future
too important to hold back.
With us, you can fly.
But I do not wish
for iron wings
if the home of the birds
is reduced to twigs.
For that injustice, I do cry.
The city of green
must not be paved,
for the city is life,
and that we must save.
Or at least we can try.
So to the city I go,
where the song is the trees,
away from the men
who take what they please.
I go to that city to die.
Copper Beech Award (Three-way tie; $75 each)
THANK YOU, TREES
By Ben Wetherell, 15, Montpelier, VT
We need to thank you
For all the things that we never think about
The dry spot in your roots during a torrent of rain
Turning the colors of sunset to show us your beauty
Preventing the sweltering sun from touching our fragile being
And burning a fiery red to keep us warm during a long night
After all that you do to improve our short thoughtless lives
Our thanks is shown through the pulling on a saw
As I look out the window of my cozy warm home
I see a haze of snow driven by a biting wind
And proud trees stripped of their lifeline
They slowly sway, almost dance
In the howling gale
Then my thoughts
Slowly drift to these
But still doing their
Part to their destroyers
Earth saved with every breath
Countering a threat to our very existence
So, trees, on this day, I thank you for all that you do
By Audrey Sioeng, 17, Arcadia, CA
As I sit on this stump and read
from these pages of your cousin’s pulped flesh,
I burst with the excitement of next year seeing you draped in color,
You. Master of graceful loss.
You, vessels of wasted breaths,
remind me of aching regret
and how we live despite it all.
The adults wonder while I write,
“Would you rather learn to love
from a tree or a goldfish?”
and I ask the question all week long.
Perhaps too many people say tree,
not for what you are, but for what you give.
Is it love if it is also exploitation,
the story of the taker and the fool?
My father says a child’s love can never rival
that of a mother’s on days when she yells
and I slam my bedroom door shut.
He is probably right.
Some others choose you for your age,
and I wonder what my grandma would say
if I loved her for simply her wrinkled soft skin, sun-spotted and all.
I know she would not say much.
But she might give me dog food for dinner, which would be a shame.
Or she might cry, which would be much, much worse.
And yet the irony is that you will likely die a premature death,
your promises to the coming years cut short by a swift axe to the side.
But perhaps the most ubiquitous answer is that they love you
for what you represent – the Earth, the shady days, your poetry,
roots clinging to the Earth as your limbs that are constantly
for the sky weigh you down.
Which might really be just to say we love you
in our image.
You, giver of future breaths,
of lazy days covered in shade,
and of fruits with juice that drip from my fingers
(the ritual that marks the start of every summer).
You, Atlas of the mountains and the sky
and of all the wondrous things that wish to crush us.
You, creature of God,
beautiful in your own right and yet zealous lover
of everything all at once –
We will learn to love
alongside and within,
or we learn all too quickly how to fall,
hands burnt yellow, and orange, and red.
GENESIS AND REVELATION
By Yejun Park, 15, Tallahassee, FL
Step one –
plant a seed,
bury it, life begins in death.
Water every day.
Be patient. This takes time.
Step two –
or one and a half, if you don’t feel like it.
Promise the seed that it is worth it.
It hurts to grow, bones break
babies scream when they touch the light.
Tell them of the sun, and the rain, and the sky, and the wind, and hope
that this will be enough when they learn the truth.
or three, if you’re sentimental. I hope you are.
You see green fingers in the ground
Celebrate. Cheer. Call up the state and have everyone dance.
There is a heart beating in the earth,
(we’re sticking to these numbers now).
Your child is hungry, it is growing so fast
this isn’t enough, is it?
It’s never enough.
Place fences and canopies. Try to guard them.
Every parent says they will set their child free.
Every parent is a liar.
Step five –
oh, they are so big,
you are so small.
When did the sand in the hourglass run out?
Oh, withered thing,
you have made something beautiful.
They kiss oxygen into your lungs,
they breathe for you. Let them. Thank them.
No, thank you.
Step six –
Let the moss cover you, let the mushrooms take you,
let the roots claim you as theirs.
Life begins with death, you watched this happen
and life takes, how it takes.
Give it to them. You are already dead.
They will live.
It doesn’t matter.
They are withering,
no, they are blooming.
Persephone is of springtime and winter, she knows the truth.
Weep when your child falls, it’s okay
their descendants are already here.
Oh Moses, progenitor of a thousand,
your forest is living.
No more steps.
Take a leap.
Listen to the green congregation sing.
AFTER THE FIRE
By Cole Nace, 16, Proctor, VT
A bee descends upon a flower
In a vast field of peonies.
Water flows in a brook nearby,
Over rocks, and around bends,
The sound of
The sun shines through leaves,
Spotting the ground with light.
An infinite forest of trees,
Each with their own story.
Among the trees, a single ember.
It makes its way along passively,
Coming and going with the way of the wind;
And finds its way to the roots of a tall birch.
The ember sparks into flame and begins to devour the tree hungrily,
Digesting, festering, growing.
Climbing with eagerness.
Soon, the whole tree is engulfed within the infectious blaze.
The bark peels back in agony,
Flames lashing out in anger.
Tree to tree, it spreads, breaking down the luscious forest and greenery;
The forest argues in protest,
Wind whipping through the maze of trees,
The fire and flora having a final showdown.
Rain begins to fall; the fire begins to smolder, dissipate,
Covering everything in a thick layer of smoke and despair.
The fire, with a loud orange flash,
Gone as quickly as it arrived.
Beneath the smoke,
The battleground of trees remains breathless.
Smoke hangs in the sky above,
Last tears of the fallen soldiers.
The once vivacious forest, now sitting as if it were an abandoned lot.
Time marches forward,
And you beg before its feet to march back.
WITHOUT ROOTS, WE ARE ALONE
By Roxanne Glassenberg, 17, Wellesley, MA
What would you do if I told you
without roots, a tree is just a pillar of wood, a gateway to an empty temple.
It turns to sludge, becomes a home for bugs.
It becomes a coat rack upon which we hang our faded glories.
without roots, the Earth is just a ball of stone,
sipping punch in the corner while the band plays the music of the spheres,
orbitting the emptiness that pushes in, closer every day.
What would you do if I told you
without the sinews of tuberous roots that wrap us in a tight embrace,
without the tangled veins of sap and water,
without a thousand, no, a hundred thousand years of tree and roots we
are the inhale without the exhale, and we
are adrift in the stars and we
have nothing to tether us to life in the light of a dying sun and we
are left to the ruthlessness of the unseeing moon when in our rootlessness we
If I told you that, what would you do?
FOR EVERY EVERGREEN
By Imogen Sangha, 14, Hanover, NH
I thought I saw you on the news the other day.
My heart skipped a beat
when the headline described
burning through the countryside,
but it wasn’t you
I knew you were safe.
I went home the other day
but you weren’t there.
I closed my eyes
hoping it wasn’t real
but the land was barren
and our place
where we spent hours together,
where you taught me to climb,
and lifted me up so I could see the stars,
where the signs warded off
the machines and the saws,
it was all gone.
I went back again today
with a shovel and a hose.
I planted a balsam
where we fell asleep together
so one day you might grow back
and I’ll see you again,
my evergreen glade.
By Whitney Dykstra, 15, Monkton, VT
Beauty will never cease to exist in this world,
it simply goes into hiding
waiting for a special someone
who cares enough
to come looking.
Someone who is
strong in the ways
most of the world is not.
Someone who will gently peel back
the branches hollowed by suffering
that mark both death and life anew.
Someone who will caress
sorrowful life left in nature
with true pain in their hearts.
Someone willing to apologize
for the hurt, death and destruction
the entire human race is responsible for.
Be That Someone.
LEAVES WILL FALL
By Ava Flint, 14, Shelburne, VT
Have you ever seen a tree? And no, I don’t mean just seeing one as you drive down the highway. I mean have you ever really looked at one? Watched as the leaves fell, as the branches sagged with the weight of snow, as forests started to look like a barren wasteland, even though there’s still dozens of trees there? But then, when the next winter crashes in, there are fewer trees? And they start to decrease more and more each time you visit the forest, until it’s no longer a forest. It’s just a small clearing, with a few bushes here and there. The beautiful, widespread forest that you came to love is gone. The logs sold off, leaves decomposed into the soil you step on now. And you stand there, wondering, ‘where did the trees go? Why have they been cut down? What happened to the animals that lived and thrived here?’ Well, I am here to answer those questions – and more – as best as I can. To show you the path we’re going on right now, the choices we are making right now? These aren’t the best things to be doing if we want a better future for the world.
To start, let’s talk about how trees come to be. How do they grow? Why is it so important that they grow? That’s what this passage is for. Of course, most trees have to start with a base or a seed. Like other plants, trees need sunlight, water, soil, and nutrients to grow. And over time, different parts of the tree will use these materials to help itself grow. The roots of the tree absorb water and nutrients from the soil, while the crown uses the water, nutrients, and sunlight to produce sugar for helping with tree growth. And as they grow, they extend upwards, going higher and higher. And surprisingly, there’s a process they have to go through to be able to grow higher. Trees (and most other plants) detect gravity using tiny structures within the cells of their roots and shoots called ‘statoliths’, which tell them which way is up (a process known as ‘gravitropism’). These pocket-shaped structures are also responsible for storing the plant’s food (in the form of starch).
Statoliths are drawn by gravity towards the bottom of their cell, telling the tree that this direction is down. The tree responds by growing its roots downwards and shooting upwards. If, however, the tree were blown onto its side, the statoliths would shift and settle against whichever part of the cell was now facing downwards. The tree would then use this information to reorient itself and continue to grow its shoots vertically. Cool right? It’s really interesting to hear that trees are pretty much just as balanced (if not more balanced) as we humans are. But, fun facts aside, it’s time to dig a bit deeper. Into why trees are so important, and why we need them to survive.
Trees are a worldwide resource. A part of the beauty that is nature. But, they don’t last forever, nor do they have an infinite source. (Although lot’s of the world seems to think it does). And each part of the tree is equally important for us, and for the health of the world. From the roots that dig into every square inch of the dirt, to the leaves that sway in each morning breeze. They are all equally beneficial to every living thing. They give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilize the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife. They also provide us with the materials for tools and shelter. Without these beautiful stalks of life, so many things would be unavailable to us, because we wouldn’t be here in the first place. We literally aren’t able to live without trees, because they provide us with clean, filtered air to breathe. Without that, we would die, due to the air being too dirty and having too much carbon dioxide and not enough oxygen. So… how do we fix this? How do we stop these things from happening? Can we stop these things from happening at all? Are we doomed to a future in which trees disappear, and humans become extinct?
Well, those questions have varied answers. For the last one, I… don’t know for sure. We can’t exactly predict everything that will happen in the future, despite how advanced we have become. But for the other questions, I do have an answer! And that answer is, that with lots of help and cooperation from everyone, along with the following ideas, I think we could start making big steps toward making the Earth an amazing place once again.
The idea I have would be to simply plant trees. Find the lands that turned barren and plant seeds. Birch, Pine, Willow, Sycamore! Plant them all! Use your hands to restore the leaves that you once stepped on. Watch as the soil becomes covered in roots and small twigs, as the forests you thought would never return come back in masses. Place each seed, and let Mother Nature pave a path for each of them. And now, you don’t visit alone, and you don’t visit just to look, either. You go places with many, and you go to plant. You hang around as children come and go, climbing up the tall stalks and looking down at the world from their places in the sky. As adults walk around, each making a path of their own, each enjoying the beautiful scenery just like you. You realize that as these forests have grown, so have you. You have changed the world, and inspired others to do the same, even if you don’t see it now. You have helped shift the future, if only just a bit. And you are proud of the community you – and so many others – have created. And that is the beauty of nature. Because you are nature, and the world is your roots. And your leaves will fall, yes, but they will grow back, bigger and prettier than ever. So enjoy the soil that you have stepped on, the sunlight that you see with every blink, and the calm that you feel each time you breathe until you can’t enjoy it anymore.
By Ashleigh Provost, 17, Hinesburg, VT
Call me a tree hugger,
A hippie, a snowflake.
Tell me I’m exaggerating,
That “trees can’t feel.”
See my sorrowful gaze
Fall across open fields
Once graced with exponential growth,
Replaced with soild cold tarmac.
Ask me why I care,
Why it matters.
I’d admit, I have no convenient scientific answer.
Is that the only thing that would settle your discontent?
Have you ever felt the embrace of a tree?
Ever felt the despair from the life with no voice?
I’ll ask you,
Why don’t you care?
As if you do not rest upon Mother Earth’s creation,
As if you do not breathe the air from her children.
You may ask me what I gain from caring.
What do you gain by not?