Kikāwinaw (to Mother Earth)

I knew you when I was young

your pristine forests, my playground

your sparkling clearwater lakes

with calm depths

and sandy beaches with

haunting calls of loons

as the sun is setting 

across the lake

I knew your fast-flowing waters,

shallow meandering creeks with pebble bottoms

your trees, willows, flowers

I knew which berries to take

which roots, our medicines 

I felt your heartbeat 

your warmth and softness 

when my bare toddler feet 

first walked on lush green carpet

dotted with specks of clover.

nohkom said

place your hand on the ground,

feel; I felt the pounding of your heart

like the rhythmic, soothing, pulse of a drum.

it was likely my own heartbeat

I believe nohkom knew it

but it was a good lesson for me. 

I cherished your flowers


covering the landscape 

with assorted beads of color as though

painted by an artist’s brush.

crocuses rise out of stony ground

through a layer of snow in spring

no matter how harsh the conditions,

delicate blossoms persevere,

teaching me about resilience and hope.

marsh marigolds, which we call

buttercups, harbingers of spring

growing along the swollen creeks

not to be picked by children –

they are beautiful, but not safe.

elegant yellow orchids,

your lady slippers, delicate lilac calypsos

fancy pink showy ladies, growing in maskēk

to revere and marvel, not to pick –

they are a special class.

graceful wild irises along the creek.

at kaskascēwiyahk

vibrant blue-violet; like ballerinas 

dance with swaying bullrushes, 

lily pads and lilies, performing

a graceful waltz in the wake of the boat.

roses, sweet fragrant roses 

abundant everywhere

we ate the petals and the rose hips.

but the seeds bring trouble –

Wisahkēcāk learned his lesson.

tiger lilies, bright red-orange hue

growing along the tree line. 

with cowslips and daisies 

lending your own unique shades

of color to the ground.

I loved you as a child

because of your beauty 

and your abundance of life

breathtaking colors 

blue skies, flowers, the foliage.

trees changing into dazzling robes

of golden orange in autumn

ready to dance their last dance.

tamarack, birch, and aspen

goldenrod and fireweed

heralding bird migration.

the ancestors say, once the dance is over

you know the time has come

to shed your fine attire and lay down

pulling the blanket of white over you

to rest for a while.

I knew you when I was young

you were vibrant, beautiful

you had so much to offer

your rivers flowing freely

your forests untouched.

you were my playground

I slid from high banks onto the frozen river

on pieces of cardboard,

skated along frozen ponds

lakes and rivers. 

I swung on a rope tied to a tree

jumped into the water

this was the life you gave me.

I knew you when I was young

but we are older now

and time has done its work 

altering our appearance

as we age gracefully

you provided my life’s needs and

you sustained me throughout.

we are older now

and you are still beautiful

I thank you for your gifts.

nikawi, kinanaskomitin.

by Ellen Cook

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