Author Margaret Elphinstone offers an ecopoetic account of a species that dominates the Scottish landscape.

Our memories of our native land lie deep within us: an expectation of winds in appointed seasons, the touch of the varying rains, snow weighting the still soil in which our roots were embedded. Deep inside ourselves we remember many lives around us, the strong earth, the touch of air, water running clear. The soft soil vibrated with the hum of other lives.

We knew every day where the sun would rise. It warmed us through the long days, and appeared fleetingly through the dark months. We knew heat and cold, and which way to face the sun.

To be transported in the way that we were was no better than being burned alive. We had done nothing, for countless generations, except to be ourselves. Our land was shaped by our sustaining presence. We made it what it was, as it formed us, in perfect symbiosis.

Now each dawn reveals us in tight ranks, limbs clamped to our sides. They force us to stand so close we must each shove silently against our neighbour until we break. We are the children of clones, stunted in our growth and too much like each other ever to thrive in freedom. Disease will kill every one of us when it comes; we have no resistance now and the virus is speading fast.

Above us the clouds chase one another through the wind but we can’t move. Between us is the stifling dark; only the tallest feel the sun. This jaded earth can’t sustain so many; instead of nourishing food they give us potions to force us on. The earth beneath us is barren, dry, dying. Tainted water seeps into the soil.

Little else can inhabit such a place. Our presence drives others away: we should never have been brought here. There’s no way we can send a message out, and anyway this is not our country. To whom could we speak? They keep us imprisoned, concentrated together. We will never know anything else, except in dreams. Even dreams fade in the end if they have no nourishment.

In our own country we were free, as the seed falls where the wind takes it. Few made  their first year, but this was all one. We settled wherever the air was salt. We relished the ocean fog, and merrily withstood the storms. We thrived where the soil was deep and moist. Between our feet the soft wet mosses thrived, and the soil grew strong. In the space and light we stretched our limbs as wide as we could, and danced in the sea breeze. Through our spread roots we held one another so we could comfort the injured and the dying. We could grow over two hundred feet tall and live for eight hundred years.

The first people approached us with awe. They relished our shade. We gave them healing and they said we were sacred. The last people did not agree that any life is sacred. They took us for their own use and laid our lands waste. The first people named us Shéiyi. The last people called us by the name of the land they took us from: Sitka Spruce.

Comments (4)

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  1. Martin Coffield says:

    Beautiful and frightening.

  2. MacGilleRuadh says:

    Wonderful and prophetic writing

  3. Margaret (McNeil) says:

    Thank you. Beautiful, thought provoking and frightening.

  4. Wul says:

    We even do this to ourselves. Take a look at any new, city-centre student housing. Battery-farming our children.

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