Seed to Root
By Phoebe Wagner
On the day you are born, beneath the shade of drought-dead leaves, the families wait, singing and sewing, sawing and painting, as we build your first solar panel, your first solar blanket. The panel is small, light enough on found aluminum cans cut open, folded together, edges softened with bark and moss, for you to carry on your back, a husk like the cicada’s shell that you will shed and expand and learn how sunlight leads to life.
Like all young ones, the weight of the battery will annoy you. You will want to leave it behind, to run the fields free. We will smile and understand and remember how even laws couldn’t make us change. Now, we teach the word necessity; we teach the story of small things, small changes.
As your blood parent births, we stain shards with life colors—river brown, juniper blue, mushroom white. We spell what the families will call you until you decide differently. An idea you will see half-consumed in dirt, cloaked in bark, an underthing. A reminder to you and us of the finite. A reminder it is not up to you alone, but as part of a whole.
Cambium, we taste the word as we stitch and stick the solar shards—cool dark, slow breaths, a hum at the tip of the tongue. Will you go by Cam, or Bi? Cambi, one says. Perhaps.
For many days, it will be a nonsense word among the languages you construct to name yourself and the world. When you begin to walk, your solar blanket glittering and clinking like chimes, we will take you to a fallen tree and poke into the split trunk.
Cambium once held this tree high. Cambium helped it grow and green. It’s so small you can’t see it, but combined with sun and water and soil, see what the invisible can do.
When we walk and tell the story of your name, you will be so young, unable to know summer never ends, the strangeness of hot dark instead of breezy evenings. Only the old ones will tell tales of a different time and you will not understand why they are sad. They will tell how you help them breathe.
Oh, Cambium, Cambium, we hear you crying, we hear you taking root. Welcome.
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Phoebe Wagner holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Environment and currently pursues a PhD from University of Nevada, Reno. Her work has appeared in Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, Nonbinary Review, and 365Tomorrows.