From the Anthology 

Reflections of the Land

Awakening to the Land

Caryl Rae Church Jesseph

The wind was warm, and the sun was still growing things as I slept restlessly. My being was a stone wishing to be moved like those I knew so intimately at Lake Erie’s shore. A wave of chainsaw buzz was being carried through the ravine and accompanying the creaking wobble of the window fan and sounds of cicada. The gnawing of the blades only became conscious as the first old tree came down.

Trees move notoriously slow. The sound took its time to travel through my thick, slumber skin. There were small cracks, electric smacks, and bumps. They all rose to a crescendo until finally yielding a large seismic crash of body colliding with earth.

Dropping my chin to the startling whiff of acorn, I sensed the etched bark and heavy circumference of wood-body as it landed right atop my breasts, cushion stomach and birthing hips. A slowing heartbeat like earmuffs cradled the sides of my face. Silence lodged in my throat as I considered there is no escaping this weight and destruction. There was little energy left for trying to right the toppled trees of manifesting destiny.

Lying t/here with the web of dense forest life upon me, gravity gained company as I grew heavier with tree after tree taken and felled upon flesh. Pinned by the death of the ancients, the takings, the clearings, the doings for the sake of “git ‘er dun,” I abandoned struggle and began to dig.

I clawed my way through

layers of plastic,


chicken bones and hooch bottles.

Underneath and around artifacts,

lost histories,


broken treaties and occupations.

In a reverse birth, I made a way, mole-blind, toward darkness. Through glacial residues and stratified living earth, my earthworm-sensuous navigation led me back to the center of the womb.

Black like the lungs of my coal mining ancestors.

Black like the hands in cotton South.

Black like the rot of buffalo on the prairie.

Black like the sky that holds the stars,

like soil,

like beginning,

like end.

My mouth opened to cough up the pesticide-ridden countryside, the polluted sediment of industry, the poison occupants of pipes in Flint, and the cancerous bodies of factory fed rivers.

Not pure.

Not emptied.

Not evolved, nor transformed.

But out,

I dissolved in the creation-storied place of unknown and uncertain.

Part of this entangled body reached back to the sanctuary under the logging. Another kept tendrils in the webbed darkness of the Mother. Stretched, othered, something else now. New roots portaged my blood with many legs, and to join the memory of others. This being no longer mine alone, no longer Human. This being the embodied territory of the more than human. An emergence like spring that is thinned skinned, hollowed bone, sensitive and pulsating with a cacophony of rhythms. Straddling the ravine between where the felled trees grew and where they landed, a crack appeared in my chest as I fully awakened.

Author Bio

Caryl Rae Church Jesseph is a published author, exhibited artist, award winning educator and raving fan of Northeast Ohio ecology. With a master's degree in Art Education, she has contributed 15 years to teaching art in NE Ohio’s public schools. Her passions are rooted in the arts, community, nature connection, eco-therapy, feminist pedagogies, body consciousness, mindfulness, and storytelling. When she’s not studying sunrises and sets at Lake Erie, or consulting with salamanders on the forest floor, you can find her weaving theory and lived experiences into practical and generative new stories. Caryl is currently drawing cartographies of the land through writing about the relationships Ohioans have with trees.