Photo by Scott Fettig
With this issue of Agate, we say “thank you” and “best of luck” to our intern, Heidi Fettig Parton. Heidi was introduced to Agate after hearing co-editor Laurie Allmann do a poetry reading for a St. Croix Master Watershed Stewards event. At the time, she was wrapping up an MFA in creative nonfiction at Bay Path University, and approached us about a possible internship. Heidi must hold the title of most credentialed intern, having worked professionally as editor-in-chief for West Publications (a division of Thomson Reuters) as well as being an accomplished writer.
Lucky for us, she wanted to stretch into unfamiliar terrain, make new connections, and support Agate’s vision, as an expression of her own appreciation for the natural world. Among her many helpful projects as an intern, she helped Agate define and reach out to new audiences through social media, and designed a striking promotional postcard that we now distribute at events. Her piece “Walking With Water” about her experience walking along the Kettle River with Ojibwe elder Sharon Day appeared in Agate in April, and we’re treating you to one of her new poems below.
Not least among Heidi’s contributions was bringing boundless enthusiasm to this work in progress and labor of love called Agate. We are better, and Agate is better, for her efforts. Congratulations on your MFA, Heidi, and happy writing. (S. Hemphill & L. Allmann)
Listening into Silence
By Heidi Fettig Parton
I named the bur oak, towering
at the northeast corner of my lot,
Tree Beard. Three efficiently-
spaced fungi gave Tree Beard
the illusion of a face, until the oak
left us last fall. My entire family
could now stand on the stump—
all that remains of Tree Beard,
whose rotted interior had turned
into a fine fibrous pulp, filling
the crater-like scar.
Mushrooms, the “flowers” of fungi,
when found around trees, indicate
healthy soil; their mycelium strands
act as a network, sending nutrients
from thriving trees to weaker ones.
But mushrooms growing on trees
often portend a coming doom.
I cried last October,
the day Tree Beard came
down. All winter, the empty
hole to the sky preached
at those places in me,
still vacant. All winter
I listened into this silence,
created through absence; no
longer did I hear the mating calls
of the great-horned owls,
my soul’s guide the prior winter
Today, in a cool spring rain,
I squat over smooth deep purple
horns, the first signs of the hostas
pushing up bravely through cold
soil; in this low-to-ground posture
I become still to observe fresh life
emerging in the April drench. I swear,
hour-by-hour, pale yellow buds fill
out the still-standing oaks and new
green leaves deck out the buckthorn,
which never seems to understand
its invasive nature. Soon too, I hear
calls of field sparrows. I look up
to see five or six petite brown
and grey fluffs of twitter and song
foraging food in the spongy dark pit
of Tree Beard’s remains. I feel my
heart fill too. Perhaps it’s true:
voids create space for what is coming.
It’s comforting to think that everything
is nurturing something
not yet here. Not to mention,
the healing salve of spring rain.