An excerpt from “The Dominion of Roots: Gifts of the Cedar” by Terese Mailhot.
Have you ever given your whole body to a people? There are people who know the paradise of my affection—whose mothers smell like clay. People who remember me. I won’t be taken down for Prospect Park, for new roads and homes. I am a home to them.
In my knotted side, I know virus and antidote, club and bowl—destruction and restitution. I know the power of a lightning bolt enough to revere it, to pray to it, and sometimes, to pray for it.
What my people know of me is that I listen. It’s enough sometimes—to listen. I hold the story of the first fire. I hold every generation of women, every matriarch and healer. My apex reaches beyond the fog each morning, and I can see their small lives, chimneys and smoke. I can see, sometimes, children who are as much a testimony to survival as me.
Relationality is to give grace that crosses one body to another. What is it like to be born from grace and to die beneath it, memorialized in canoe and river, spirit and song? I want to be a paddle that sinks soft and rhythmic in the water.
If I could give my body to a people in one generation, it would be enough, but eight generations of women have celebrated me and pared down my life and given me such clarity and mission. I don’t know a body without a people to receive it.
A grandmother boils cedar tea to fill the house, to clear every throat. The song that comes belongs to me. What fills the house is me. Each woman, a monument to root and quietude and all medicine. What does it mean to never die, to give my body to a people, and to receive so much?
The words of Terese Mailhot.