A Forest Year

So, I decided to do this a week or so back, both because it’s fun to share, and  because I suspect some of my students might benefit. The idea is, just to take photos of my world here, especially the plants, over a full year, tracing the rhythms of nature and  sharing what I can about the flora and fauna of this much-loved part of the land. Maybe I will weave in a few stories and some magic as I go, we will see. 😉  At the least, I want to document the beauty and bounty of this wild  enchanted region. In pictures, which I am not so skilled at taking – and in words. And so,  I bring you,  A Forest Year.

First, to be clear. I don’t actually live IN a forest, though I hope to someday. I live, more accurately, surrounded by forest, I’m a dot in the centre of a bowl of farmland, rimmed all around by forests and hills. Kind of like the nucleus of a cell, my little house and garden. Just outside the village, just outside the forest – liminal space.  I often visualize my home as a glowing jewel, a New World Avalon, whose energy swirls out into the surrounding area. When I feel blessed and bountiful, I send some of that outwards.  It often seems to me that the ridges of rocky hills to my East and West look like the spinal ridges of sleeping dragons; the magic here is always vivid.

And never more than in the Spring.

I took a little wander today with camera and Ridgeback; it’s so early in the year but there are tantalizing images of what’s to come. So, because I tend to put off blogging until some perfect slot of time arrives-  and it never, ever does-  let me make a start. New Moon in Aries, that’s a good energy!  Here is what I photographed today.

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Before leaving my property, I snipped some lively young Comfrey pushing through the dead stuff, and my cherished Blue-eyed grass already putting out flowers. I love blue-eyed grass(Sisyrinchium spp)  for it’s delicate beauty and the fact it’s almost always the first bloom of spring. It rings the entrance way to the back filed, and now is growing enthusiastically in my  “faerie corner’ under the hawthorn, apple and raspberry cane.  There are medicinal uses: the root was used in decoction for children with diarrhea (Cherokee) but the root was also used by the Iroquois for constipation, suggesting an amphoteric effect. Most uses I could find pertain to gastrointestinal problems although  there were mentions of gynecological application in some bits of the literature (for cramps,injured womb). The leaves were eaten as a vegetable all across the continent, but the root gathered and used mostly for GI disorders.  I plan to investigate this plant more, for now the happy fresh presence of this flower is medicine enough for me.

Next, I wandered out back, off to the East, and found some lovely babies to share.P1340130P1340138P1340140P1340142

Clockwise from the left/top: ramps, trillium,  a straggly but determined little mullein,and trout lily.Give these guys two weeks and they’ll be glorious!

As I wandered around I couldn’t help but visit a very special tree, an ancient Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) who seems to preside over the Southeast corner of the land here, and whom I also associate with that sad incident last summer, where a local doe guarded the body of her dead fawn for three days before finally leaving. This is the tree, and the little “deer grove” the mother took shelter in. I plan to  make a solar cross of some kind to honour that tree and the lost fawn. Meanwhile, I gathered a great bunch of twigs to use in a besom I’m making this year.

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On my way home, I stopped to tie a prayer cloth – a “cloutie” as the old terrn has it – onto a dying hawthorn that hangs over a small spring out back. The hawthorn, like so many wild plants around here, is dying young because of the bombardment of herbicides poured into this sacred place every year. Last year the farmer who does this went nuts on the small springs that feed into Indian creek every spring, and it broke my heart so much. My prayer was for sanity to be restored, for the poisoning to stop, for whatever it takes to bring respect back, please, let it come. I left an offering of conifer shortbread and some herbs I blended for this petition, and a little silver. Here’s the cloutie, and here’s me, with mascara smudges from the tears my prayer brought.

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More on the cloutie tradition here: http://www.cornishwitchcraft.co.uk/clouties.html

One last check around the grounds and I found these youngsters:

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Motherwort, Wild strawberry and Dandelion.

And that, really, was it today. The birds are trickling back – I’ve seen and heard Song sparrows,  Dark-eyed juncos, Starlings, Canada geese and robins, as well as my darling Phoebe (one of the last to leave and first to come back every year). Every day we’ll see and hear new birds, such a big part of the beauty of the season. My deer have arrived too, but that emotional reunion is a topic for another entry.

For now, at least I got started – welcome to A Forest Year.   Let this year ahead be blessed with learning, healing, and joy.

Deep peace, a soft white dove to you;
Deep peace, a quiet rain to you;
Deep peace, an ebbing wave to you!
Deep peace, red wind of the east from you;
Deep peace, grey wind of the west to you;
Deep peace, dark wind of the north from you;
Deep peace, blue wind of the south to you!
Deep peace, pure red of the flame to you;
Deep peace, pure white of the moon to you;
Deep peace, pure green of the grass to you;
Deep peace, pure brown of the earth to you;
Deep peace, pure grey of the dew to you,
Deep peace, pure blue of the sky to you!
Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.

From “The Dominion of Dreams. Under the Dark Star
by Fiona Macleod, 1895

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