For some, winter is the time of dreaming. The long dark night, the glow of the fire, and much of nature seeming to be inactive or hibernating, can be suggestive of human sleep and resting. Winter can be the time of storytellers. It depends a lot on your way of life though, as it can also be a time of hunger, cold, struggle and death.
For others, spring is suggestive of dreams because it is the time of new beginnings. Everything is growing afresh, new life is coming into the world and this suggests possibilities. We can throw away the old, make something new and dream big.
We traveled up the Nile to visit some of ancient Egypt’s primary cult centers in the last post. Since that time, the star Sopdet (Sirius) has begun to show herself at the horizon just before dawn. This tells us that Isis has been weeping for her murdered husband Osiris, and soon her tears will cause the annual Nile flood.
With the inundation comes the end of Shemu, the dry season. As the flood waters recede we find ourselves in the season of Akhet. We can see the fields full of rich black silt left behind by the flooding river; the farmers sow seed now, knowing crops will flourish as they grow in the fertile black ground.
Exposing the soil is, in temperate climates, something people do when farming or gardening. Drier lands that do not support many plants can have much barer earth. Mountains and deserts can be something else again. I’ve seen small islands where the winter grazing of birds will take out all vegetation and bare the ground. There are all kinds of possible seasonal variations that might expose the soil. Where and when and why this happens is well worth a thought.
Left to its own devices, England is a green sort of place and manages this most of the year round. We lose the leaves from the trees in the winter, but not the green from the fields. Even in the hottest summers, we stay green rather than fading to the yellows and browns of hotter climates. If we don’t dig the soil, then the soil seldom stays bare for long.
Too busy. Too buzzy. Not enough time. To do. To do. To do. Scramble. Hurry. Tight chest Tight breath Tight heart WAIT! Listen to Summer. Languid. Warm. Sweaty. Hot. Petals soften Juice drips Kissed by sunlight Bathed with rain Sweet stickiness. Passion. Summer is heavy. Hot and ready. Blooming and dripping. Unfolding. Becoming. Ripening. Sweet. Tangy. Biting. Feel it in the air. Greet it at sunset. Throw your arms around it. Dig in. Hang on. This is IT. Taste it. Hold it. Enfold it. Be it. Lick it. Know it. Be it. Embrace it. This is your life. This is your life. Do you love it?
Of all life forms, the deciduous tree appears to be the one most in synch with the solar events of the year. Sleeping in winter, budding in spring, resplendent with leaves in the summer, fruiting in the autumn and then back to sleep. There are of course also an assortment of tree calendars (mostly owing to Robert Graves) which put different trees as being prominent at different times. Based on what, exactly, I am seldom sure.
The more time you spend with trees, the less this whole idea of a single wheel of the year narrative for trees holds up. For a start, it only works if you live somewhere that has the kind of climate that delivers summer and winter. You have to have deciduous trees, not pines or cacti. If your seasons are all about wet and dry, the solar year and the tree year are not going to be the same. The solar/tree year is fairly Eurocentric, and will fit anywhere with similar conditions, but not everywhere.
A blush of green begins Delicate lace of wild plums Graces gray forestscapes
Heartbeat in the forest sings The passion of life untapped. The soul of the world is speaking the language of spring.
During the drought we experienced in Missouri around three years ago, a lot of the trees in our woods died. Some of them died that year, but we weren’t absolutely sure they were really gone until no new leaves grew the following year. Some of them died the following summer, probably due to having been weakened so much by the drought conditions that they couldn’t rebound. This past winter, for a variety of reasons, we decided to cut some of them down. It felt, and continues to feel, like a somewhat “selfish” decision to have cut them, like we should have just let the cycle of the forest continue its life and rhythm unimpeded by human interference. It was hard to evaluate the variables of good woodlot management, firewood procurement, and personal safety while also feeling like I was betraying my sacred spot in the woods, betraying the relationship I built there. I still don’t know whether we made the right choice. I do know that the landscape in the woods has changed now and it pains me to see what we have done.