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     We had always gathered for those who were no more, but this gathering for the trees was different. We circled around their toppled bodies. Reverence was there, and horror. We keened for them. Old Anana said the sacred words, recited them to the trees, to the fallen trees. We listened carefully, all of us, hoping for understanding.


     Taken by lightning, we bless the sky

     Taken by hunger, we bless the beetle

     Taken by floods, we bless the water

     Taken by drought, we bless the sun

     Taken by ruin, we bless the rot

     Taken by storm, we bless the wind

     Taken by lack, we bless the earth


     But there was to be no understanding. How could there be? The tree spirits did not understand either, for they did not leave. They stayed, hovering above their fallen trunks, their leafy, golden voices calling out, calling out, filling the air with their want. And the green trees left standing, stretching skyward, still filled with the light of the sun, answered back, telling them to stay.

     Old Anana said the words over and over until her voice was ragged and hoarse; we joined her in the blessings. The sky darkened but we did not leave. We blessed the trees and all that they had been and all that they would be. We reached out to the tree spirits, tried to lift them skyward. Ahhh, but they could not go, they could not go, because what had taken them? What was the blessing for their leaving?

     Then Anana stopped. We all stopped. We waited. When Anana spoke again, the sun was already trying to bring light back to a new day. Her voice was strong, as steady and solid as the trees that stood around her, the trees still living.


     Taken by horror, we bless the monsters


     We shuddered. The spirits listened. Anana called out again. And again. The spirits, they were still. We all joined the calling, and the green spirits rustled and whispered, their leaves touched by a wind that did not blow.


     Taken by horror, we bless the monsters


     So it was that the spirits understood and found their leaving. Afterwards one of our young ones called out. “But what is a monster?” There was shuffling of feet and wings, murmuring, then a hush. We thought Anana might answer, but it was a young one who spoke, one so new that his body shimmered with translucency, though his hair was solid and silver, braided with green and gold leaves. “They are like bad secrets. They tell stories, but no one wants to listen to them.” We nodded our heads in understanding. We had not seen the monsters, but we understood the warning; we saw what they portended.

     The trees were not the only thing taken during the great change. Without the trees, the long-tailed skyrunners had no pathways through the night clouds, no japa fruits to eat, no hidden hollows to sleep away the days. The giant island eagles soared and swooped and searched but could no longer find their prey, those that ran in the clouds; the ruin beetles, those dark scuttlers of the understory, searched too, but could not find the skyrunners’ droppings, where they had always laid their moist black eggs. And without the trees, there were no nesting places for the feathered stonethrowers; they flew away and left the forest behind.

     Worse though than the quieting of the forest, was the taking of the great horned bears. We gathered, just as we did for the trees, circling their fallen bodies. Old Anana was silent. We listened to her silence, listened to the words not spoken. The bodies of the bears lay fallen, each with gaping blood wounds where their golden horns had once curved up to the sky. “Aieeeee,” we keened, for the bears were not grizzled with age, not thin with hunger, not parched with thirst, not eaten by a beast. Among the dead lay a young bear, silky-furred and small; even her slim horns had been taken. It did not take as long this time for us to lift the bear spirits, for the trees had taught us much.

     Taken by horror, we bless the monsters

     Anana called out, and the bear spirits growled, their teeth shining like pointed stars. We joined the calling, and the bears began to lumber skyward, their great golden horns bright like the auric moon hanging above us in the darkness.

     So it was that the great change happened. We witnessed the taking and blessed the monsters. Our limbs grew heavy from the lifting, and our voices weakened. The long-tailed skyrunners were no more; the ruin beetles, gone; the last great horned bear was taken. But we did not fall into despair, nor speak of hope. We knew that soon enough the monsters would themselves be like the trees, soon enough they would take themselves, and we would circle them, and bless them, and lift their spirits up. For the great change was not an ending, nor a beginning. It was the whispered exhale of the last great horned bear, it was the rise of her spirit to the stars, the fall of the great furred body to the earth, the feeding of the living with the dead, the feeding of the dead with the living.

     And so there was no ending, only the changing, and the blessings, evermore.

Nadja Lubiw-Hazard is a Toronto-based writer and a veterinarian. She is the author of the novel The Nap-Away Motel. Her short stories have been published in numerous Canadian literary magazines. Nadja is a life-long animal-lover and long-time vegan, and her writing often explores themes related to the natural world. You can discover her writing at

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