Green Ash Tree
A tree never dies except in our neighbourhood. Green ash, stripped in old age, all branches cleanly lopped by saws: a torso standing in an ultimate arthritis. An amputee, nothing but trunk and two stumps upraised, the brusquely docked major limbs. A slingshot with no strap, no child or warrior. Something like a giant Y: a sign sprung from change and murder, looming at the edge of the fancy lawn of the owner. A letter from beyond the alphabet’s end, that no one can read, glowing with a sense of meanings, unseeable in pathetic nudity, rejecting our eyes as it waits to be cut down the rest of the way. It makes the mind standing on the buckled sidewalk go to the woods and sit on the log of a long fallen tree, having climbed to get there across many others in the green-dark dusk of noon under the leaves. How living the warmly rotting logs are in the few slant rays warm with wood dust and midges. Which is more alive here, the living or dead?—which is more perfect, irregular, human, struggling, calm? The mind sits on its chosen one of these rifted roads that used to overshadow it, running off to the sky, as the living ones do now. But these have come back from that direction and stretched out on the earth. At last their length can be travelled, though destinations and origin are lost now in all the places where they broke off. The mind sits on its long log: it’s a giant by a roadside astonishing a lost province and yet absorbed in it, proportionate at last. For this country is so wide and lonely that the outlandish here becomes a poor and simple person, a tired pilgrim resting in a myth. been gone too long and we hardly recognize you. Ka titi thought you were kuȼkiyawiy and wanted to shoot you.’” “You did?” asked Uncle Pat. “It is true,” said Ka titi. “I was younger then and prone to bad judgement. “Skin raised his hand and began to speak. ‘It is true, Nasuʔkin. I have been gone for too long. You don’t recognize me and I hardly recognize you too. I had to listen to Kupi to tell me who is who.’ “The tribe was surprised at this and some rumbling began. “‘But behold,’ said Skin. He rummaged into his buckskin bag and pulled out the deli chicken and the beet salad. “‘I have gone a long distance and have come back with food for the tribe. The suyupis over the mountain have built a new Overwaitea and they gifted this to us.’ “Nasuʔkin took a look at the food and the eyes of the ʔaqⱡ smaknik̓ and said, ‘Sometimes Kupi knows what is best for the tribe. You have done well, Skin. We have enough food to keep us through winter.’ “The tribe had a big feast that night and everyone was tired with red-mouthed snores. Skin knew that the tribe would not trust him any longer, so he left his clothes folded on the bridge to town and flew off into the night. “Years later, David Thompson arrived and started the mess we are in today.” “Hola! That is some story, Ka titi,” said Uncle Pat. “Is it true?” “Listen for the coming of Kupi and they will tell you what is true. They are better than newspapers and teevee. But don’t talk to them or you will fly off like your Uncle Skin. “And that is why we Ktunaxa don’t speak to Kupi at night.” tax niʔ pik̓ak — a long time ago Ka titi — grandmother suyupi — white people ka·pi — coffee Kupi — owl Ktunaxa ʔamak̓is — Ktunaxa lands troy sebastian is a Ktunaxa writer based in Victoria.