Historically they used the Eastern flyway but were extirpated by hunting… a slow recovery is in process and the stately Sandhill cranes are once again returning to breed in Maine… so far only birders have been keeping track of their numbers but these majestic pre-historic birds have haunting cries that are often described as bugles, rattles, croaks and trumpets and can be heard 2 -3 miles away. They also utter sounds that combine a kind of brrring in unison. Their impending arrival next month calls up a chant I love…
“There’s a river of birds in migration, a nation of women with wings. There’s a river of birds in migration, a nation of warriors with wings.”
I remember the chill that crawled up my spine as those words seeped into my body all those years ago… I wept, not knowing why.
Without thinking I threw the old seed into a bag of moist liverworts that I would be looking at under a powerful microscope with my scientist friend Al in a couple of days. I have no idea why I added the seed. The scarlet runner was one I kept in a winter bouquet that I had recently dismantled. The purple and rose bean had to be four or five years old. It would not germinate now …
Imagine my astonishment when I opened the bag in the lab. The bean had sprouted! The fat twisted root was hunting for earth. Carefully I re – wrapped the bean and put it in a little container until I could get home and plant it, but not before we looked at it under the microscope. More about that later.
Most of us are familiar with the mythology around oak trees. They are considered oracular beings in many traditions. The Druids considered them to be sacred, the Greeks associated oaks with Zeus –( patriarchy strikes as the ‘ king’ of trees). In Britain there was a goddess of oak trees….but in general oaks are considered to be male beings though they bear seeds and flowers on one tree.
Mighty male trees ? Nothing could be further from the truth in terms of behavior because oaks are found all over the world and in this country they are what is considered to be a keystone species. What this means is that oaks support and nurture an incredible amount of animals, insects and birds. A ‘ Mother ‘Tree in every way. We have four species in this country, one of which clones itself and behaves like a bush. It is believed to be about 1300 years old ( found in the west).Throughout the world oaks are also considered to be keystone species.
When I moved to the mountains my children were grown and gone…
Finally I had land of ‘my’ own with a brook and mountains that was surrounded by forests. I felt protected by something I could not name. I was living on the edge of wilderness and a hunger I had been carrying for all of my adult life was finally appeased.
Although I had a vegetable and flower garden I felt a deep reluctance to cut trees and eventually lost most of my field to pines. When I finally built my log cabin, I did plant fruit trees, but every action was predicated on my need to give back to nature what she had given to me.
Every spring it’s the same… the hunger to begin starting seeds. As a woman and an eco -feminist I am convinced that this need to work with seeds and soil is an ancient pattern that stretches back to our egalitarian matriarchal beginnings.
Some of us like me come from a family of gardeners so there is something to say about the influence of our ancestors directing this process on a personal level. Both patterning and ancestral influences seem to work together. Another “both and”.
After I broke my foot last year I was forced to cease gardening altogether out of necessity because I could no longer use a shovel. If I am really honest I can say I was more than ready to let go. I have grown both vegetables and flowers since I was a child, then while raising a family. At mid – life when I moved to the mountains I made (what seems today) a radical decision. I decided to plant trees, plants and flowers primarily for non – humans in a small area around my house. Nature determined what grew and thrived on the rest of my land. Today people call this re-wilding but then my intention was simple. I wanted to give back to nature what S/he had given to me. I wanted nature to be the receiver.
It’s another gray snowy day with large white flakes falling from the sky… January lasts “forever” every single year. I feed chickadees on my window ledge until the squirrels show up; then I scatter seed on the ground. Chickadees begin their day just before 7 AM when it is still dark, coming to the ledge. Today the turkeys are absent, fluffed up monks still hidden under hemlock boughs. The blood male cardinal appears with his usual message. I peer into the forest as the turkeys make their way across the brook and start up the hill while gazing at sage green shield lichens and two pure white birches that stand out like sentries, peeling white skin. Some maples and many hemlocks border the brook that is running clear of ice. A multitude of twigs and evergreen spires sway, branches twist and bend filling every inch of space, a comforting sight, even though all the deciduous trees are bare. Global warming turns snow to rain and back again in every storm creating ice bound paths, easily traversed by my little dogs. Dangerous for me. Often now I am housebound.
This gray world of mine needs animation from within…
When I was a young woman, a divorced mother of two, working as a waitress I became obsessed by a window hanging in a local store. This cluster of grapes was fashioned out of thick, uneven hunks of stained glass that the artist had retrieved from bombed cathedrals in Europe. The grapes shimmered – ecclesiastical purple with limed green leaves. Although I could hardly afford to, I paid an outrageous $50.00 for this piece and hung it above my bedroom window. I never regretted the choice. Whenever I looked at the stained glass, I had the strange sense that there was a message hidden there. I ignored it.
After my brother’s death two years later (my youngest son was two) I lost most of myself, but held on to my love for plants tending to them with deep affection and attention.
My first word was ‘fower’ for flower so my relationship with plants stretched back to babyhood. I believed the flowers plants and trees that lived around my grandmother’s house were my close friends.
Part 1 was posted last week. You can read it here.
When I first came to this area 40 years ago I was ‘called’ to land about 15 minutes from here. That first summer I was out in the field picking blueberries when the field rose up around me and held me like a mother. For the first time in my life I felt loved. Shortly afterwards I visited an area that had been brutally logged. I had never seen anything like this and just the scent of weeping pines sickened me. That night I had a dream: the terrifying picture of dying trees and slash and then superimposed over it the image of my beautiful land. When I awakened I thought that the dream was telling me that loving my land was somehow helping the ravaged forest I had seen the day before.
Soon after this experience frightening tree dreams began… whole forests were being slaughtered all around me. The waters were receding in my brook and destructive uncaring neighbors moved in. Two were already living here.
Like flower growing from rock the world is full of tiny, perfect mysteries. Secrets of heart and soul and landscape guarded tenderly taking root in hard crevices stretching forth in impossible silence.
Sleeping resting waiting watching knowing that all one needs is a crack in stone and a seed of possibility…
One spring evening during my year-long woodspriestess experiment , I went for a walk through the woods with my husband and daughter and we discovered something that delighted and thrilled me. It was rock with a small, perfect flower growing out of it and it was a powerful symbol of what I learned from my time in the woods. Continue reading “Stoneflower by Molly”