Climate Change

I am Willow: a Piece of Hope

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When I first thought to write this story I was full of anger and anguish. About 8 days have gone by and I feel somewhat differently about everything. So much had coincided with my experience this past week, that at times I felt overwhelmed, with little hope for the future of this planet. The recent tragic loss of so much life in the Greek village of Mati near Athens, accompanied by raging wildfires throughout California and other parts of the world grieved me immensely. All I could see was destruction, along with my own recent personal experience that left me in tears and triggered the onset of immense sadness and overwhelm at the state of the world. And yet, I'm sure there were miracles that occurred in Greece, like the story of this little dog that survived against incredible odds. This is my story about Willow.

I grew up alongside a tributary of Cayuga Creek where the waters sometimes reached the level of our home and occasionally flooded our basement. One summer we had left for Germany to visit my grandparents and other family, only to return to a basement flooded with water with many possessions lost. The tributary ran behind our house that had been built in the 1950's. My father had painstakingly planted most of the trees and shrubs that grew on our property. In the backyard was a Willow that I often climbed or played under with my cats. When my parents sold that house, the new owner eventually cut down all the trees and hedges that had given privacy, shade and beauty. At the time, I didn't realize the significance of Willow in my life nor all that tree had been doing to absorb water from a development that had likely been built way too close to wetland. Willow would continue to play a significant role in my life.

When I moved to my current home, the remnants of a Willow tree that had once stood tall lay in a heap next to a wooded area of the property. The tree had been struck by lightning during a storm and its stump later burnt to the ground. I wrote a story of my experiences in The Renewal of Willow. It wasn't until many years went by that I realized the immense need for this Willow tree and her water absorbing/purifying qualities due to the many problems I experienced with the land, which held an underground spring, if not several. I planted many trees to replace her like Sycamore, various smaller trees of the Willow family, as well as numerous gardens, while existing trees matured and meadows were allowed to develop. However, Willow's power and ability to transform were undeniable. The land was former wetland located in a town that had overdeveloped its floodplain areas and often allowed developments or redirected water where it should not have.

In this same town where I now live is a beautiful park that has been undergoing immense transition over the 8 years since we moved here. Many of the older Pines, Firs and other trees have been lost to insects and/or disease or are currently weak, yet many new trees continue to be planted year after year by the park's crew. Many of them most likely I will never see mature for various reasons. The park is full of wildlife. Last year an old Willow tree had fallen over due to strong winds and storm that have been becoming more and more frequent in our area. I was happy this spring when the Willow still lay where she had fallen. No doubt management of the park knew her ability to renew and had left most of her trunk intact with only the branches taken away. 

Last week while walking in the park with my dogs, a Red Tailed Hawk drew my attention. It seemed to have prey in its mouth and flew to where this Willow had fallen. It was an area I had not walked in a while. Much to my delight, the Willow had renewed herself and was now a fountain of bright green cascading branches. My heart swelled to see how beautiful she was though now just probably about 6' tall, a fraction of what she once was. The Hawk sat on her torn up roots, a perfect place to eat his mouse meal and survey his hunting territory. As he flew away, I walked up to the Willow to get a closer look and caress her shining, light-filled leaves. I was happy. She gave me hope that even though something terrible could happen amidst a natural disaster, the power of restoration is always there as long as Nature is allowed to be.

Willow has long been seen as a tree of healing due to  her inherent anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties found in today's aspirin. She is also associated with magic, poetry, and music. The goddess Persephone, whose story is one of rebirth after descending into the darkness of the bowels of the Earth, is associated with Willow trees. As time goes on, I realize more and more why I relate so much to this tree and what she has taught me throughout my life, which has followed a path that was never straight and narrow, but ever winding in sinuous ways into the unknown.

"Willows are water loving, and water is an archetypal symbol of the feminine energies of birth, creativity, intuition and the moon. Willow is a magical and healing tree."-- Ted Andrews, Nature-Speak

Three days after visiting Willow, I was walking late in the park. It was almost dark as I stopped to talk with one of the park caretakers that I have become friends with. I took this opportunity to tell him about my experience with the Willow and the Hawk. He hesitated with his response and asked "which Willow?" I replied "the one not too far from here." With sadness, he replied that the Willow had been cut up and grounded that very morning. He had not been there and his supervisor had given the orders to other workers. I could not believe his words. How could they? It was obvious this tree had survived and had still been very much alive. I had just seen its display of vitality the other day. What were the chances of all this happening in a matter of days?

His reply suggested that this tree may not have been part of the 'master plan' and yet he even added "a master plan is what you make it". It was clear this tree had not fit the criteria of ecology management in the park. The Willow's rebirth had not fit into that square box that so often is held by park management and institutions. Given the flooding problems the park had experienced during torrential downpours in recent years, it seemed a huge mistake to me to kill this Willow. Such a water loving tree was at home in this park when so many others were dying or struggling because they could not handle the land and water energies in the park where nearby Cayuga Creek had been dammed and partially redirected.

I thought in anger, how very typical of the male dominated world, where the feminine power is so often intentionally suppressed, controlled or destroyed. The power to heal is contained within all humans, but even more so in the feminine energy that gives birth to all life. Here had been a perfect example of this sacred tree's ability to heal and renew herself, and despite her obvious demonstration, her life had been snuffed out by men who were just following orders from another man without questioning their validity or appropriateness.

In the dark I walked over to where that green fountain of light had once sprung and that night I grieved immensely for that enduring tree that had just a few days ago given me such delight. I was so angry at the ignorance of man and a supervisor's decision to snuff out the light of this miraculous tree that is known for her regenerative abilities. The following day I took my dogs and walked over to where the Willow once was. There was no Hawk. There was only mulch where the green cascading branches once stood. I looked amidst the rubble for branches but there seemed to be none. Of all the times for workers to be meticulous! But there, amidst the ground up remains of Willow, was one tiny branch that had not been carried off. It had so little life left in it but I carried it off anyway and continued on my walk.

A mature Willow (not the ones in this story)

A mature Willow (not the ones in this story)

I had little hope of this branch sprouting, but I put the sprig in a glass of water to see if it would root. Willow is a tree that has the unique ability to sprout roots simply by placing a branch in the ground. The daughter of the Willow tree that once stood on my land, lives on a neighboring property now tall and grand. My neighbor a few doors down, once told me he loves trees and years ago had taken a small branch and placed it in the ground on his property. Now its grace and majestic branches provide shade and water absorption for his land memorializing the Willow that once stood here.

Today is Lammas or Lughnassadh, the day of celebration for the first grain harvest- a day of giving thanks for abundance, practiced for centuries by English-speaking and Celtic traditions. As I looked at my tiny Willow sprig in the jar this morning, I couldn't think of anything more appropriate than a miraculous display of enduring life in front of me. Much to my surprise, tiny nodules had appeared where new roots were growing and there were two new sprouts of leaves. The sight of this new growth gave me a moment of joy. A seemingly insignificant thing many would say, but Nature has always spoken to me in symbolism via tiny details or little things that happen on my path. I am grateful for this tiny message received today. Perhaps I will be a majestic tree once more, this surviving branch says to me. I am Willow...

 

Copyright 2018 Clarissa Harison/Awen Environments. All rights reserved.

Forging a New Path

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It had been almost a week since I had walked my regular path through the woods with my dogs. Due to extreme fluctuations in temperature that had turned a frozen landscape into rain and melting snow, I stayed away from the trail alongside the creek knowing it would be too mucky for my dogs. Within days it had snowed again and the frigid temperatures had returned so I knew it would be too icy. We had been walking the roads and paved areas of nearby parks during our daily walks.

Yesterday when I anticipated the path would be pretty much better to walk on, we found an unusual surprise when suddenly the footprints in the snow veered off in a totally different direction and then I saw why. Huge blocks of ice the size of boulders were strewn all over the landscape. During the high temperature days, the frozen creek that had subsequently flooded, had broken off large blocks of ice and carried them great distances over the floodplain and the footpath we always followed. The sheer magnitude of what I saw was incredible and in that moment I began to understand what people around the country must have experienced as similar weather patterns had flooded their towns.

I was once again reminded of the awesome power of Nature to control and transform a landscape in a matter of days. I was mesmerized as we continued walking the newly created path viewing all the ice boulders. Eventually this new path lead us to a ravine area where I suddenly realized I had become totally disoriented and no longer knew where we were despite, having walked this woodland park area for 7 years. It was a very disconcerting feeling as we continued on and came upon a slightly frozen area of a tributary that flowed into the creek. I began to feel unsafe as the dogs' feet broke through the ice and I realized I did not feel comfortable nor like where this path was going.

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After several moments of regaining my orientation within the park, I realized that the trail had taken us to a high point at the top of the ravine which looks down to the trail. I began to feel my confidence restored, but I also realized in that moment the symbolism of the obstacles that had been put on our path.  While obstacles can appear in our life at any time, in this instance, they had showed me how I easily I had been rerouted following someone else's footsteps. I also realized that I didn't like the path that I was on. Because I had followed someone else's choices and walked somewhat blindly into the wooded area off the trail I was familiar with, I eventually found myself in an area that could have become dangerous.

Had I forged my own path using my own inner guidance and knowledge of signposts and direction, I would have taken a different way. While the entire walk was relatively peaceful despite becoming temporarily disoriented, I was nevertheless reminded of how quickly we can follow someone else's lead when it is not necessarily the direction we need to take. A simple experience for me that proved to be an eye opening revelation through the forces of Nature.

 

2018 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison. 

Finding Balance with the Bees

A new Queen surrounded by her loyal worker bees.

A new Queen surrounded by her loyal worker bees.

At the beginning of this year I was happy and relieved to know that my only remaining honeybee hive had survived another unusual winter. Little did I know after inspecting the hive that much of the bees had died due to excessively wet conditions within the hive. I have always elevated my hives and insulated during winter but much of my property was formerly wetland with a natural underground spring on a portion of it. While I have been working to regenerate the land and restore balance, apparently there was just too much moisture near the beehive, despite the bees being very strong the previous year.

So when I opened the hive I was shocked to find the Queen surrounded by a small cluster of workers remaining that were fluttering their wings in protection of her. She had fallen to the ground as I began going through frame after frame of dead bees. Finding the Queen still alive after falling to the ground, was a miracle. I decided to name this tiny hive Milagro, Spanish for miracle. I carefully placed the Queen and remaining bees in a new clean, hive box nearby. The original boxes had been filled with mold. The first time I had seen such a mess after a winter.

So as days went by, the new hive appeared to be thriving. I really had wanted to move the hive to a drier location on my property, but I've been told, you either have to move your bees several miles away or only a few feet, otherwise they will go back to their original hive. About this same time, a neighbor had asked me to help him with some bees that had gotten into his siding. In preparation, I placed an empty hive box in a dry location within my mandala garden in which the bees would be surrounded by flowers.

Suddenly one day I was mesmorized by a swarm of bees above the empty hive box in the mandala garden. It was truly an awesome sight to see. I felt blessed that they had chosen my land to create their new home in and it filled me with feelings of awe as I watched the vortex of bees circling around for quite some time before they settled in. Little did I realize at the time that my original hive Milagro had left their hive box where the land was wet and settled into this drier, healthier location. It appeared I had caught my own bees.

A few days later I noticed the Queen outside with a male Drone bee and several workers. Apparently the old Queen had died and a new one had taken her place. I was saddened that the Queen that I had miraculously found on the ground that day, had only lived a few more days in her new home before she too made her transition. At the same time, I was thrilled to catch a glimpse of the new Queen outside after her mating ritual. It is the one and only time she normally comes outside and I had never witnessed this before.

I felt hopeful that my small hive in this new location would flourish but it was not meant to be. Despite the lushness of all my naturalized gardens given all the rain we've had and the revitalization of the land, it has been an unusual year for bees and my hive with their new Queen, chose to swarm once more a few weeks later. One day I looked and the entire hive was gone with only a few bees left behind. I was devastated. In speaking to others, it has apparently been a year of much swarming in our region.

I have always felt that the bees reflected back to me the energies of my land and the transitions within my own life. This year is no exception. I have felt the chaos around me due to world events and the uncertainties within my own life. My sensitivities and my deep connection to Nature always has me feeling the energies of the land. The bees seem confused at times as the Earth goes through her changes and we all experience the extremes of climate change and chaos. All that I can do is focus on what I have created and let go of my expectations and know that my intentions are what matters most in this changing world.