I do not want to get too airy-fairy here (although I am going to talk about fairies shortly), but things seem to be getting a little too ‘coincidental’ on the hillside. I am thinking the universe is talking to me.This little tree–surrounded by other smaller trees and near to really large trees has been nought but a few skinny branches with thorns that would frequently ensnare my jeans or socks, and my legs if I happened to be wearing a skirt or shorts. Lest you wonder why I would cozy up to a bramble of thorns, it would happen whilst I was mowing. I was walking up the drive from having taken the trash bin down to the road (and no, I was not wearing a wedding gown, mask and dancing and singing–that’s for those city women who have a captive audience on their block) when I noticed some small white blooms on a tree that has never bloomed before.I moved closer to investigate and discovered that those little thorny tendrils that would ensnare my moving body parts were producing these tiny little flowers. Knowing there were two other spots in the yard when I ran into said thorny tendrils, I checked, and why yes–they also had little buds and flowers. I wondered if it might be some kind of wild rose or running rose because the tiny buds did resemble a rose bud, and wild roses are slightly different.Meet the Mississippi Hawthorn: found in Mississippi and Alabama, it is a native species, in the crataegus ancisa family, which is a member of the rose family. It blooms in April and May, and its flowers and fruit attract bees and birds (coincidence # 1). We have been on this hillside for 17 years, and I have never seen any of these 3 small bushes/shrubs/baby trees produce a flower, in spite of the other numerous flowering trees and shrubs on the hill side and the woods next door. To what did I owe this unexpected delight? Could it have been my decision to build an ARK?
In the fall of 2015, a fire of unknown origin down on the roadside turned into a hillside blaze that consumed my trees and fence all along the east side of the property and 3/4 of the way across the back property. Many trees and almost all vegetation were destroyed. I spent a lot of time from that October through last fall slowly cleaning up, removing dead tree limbs, and watching while the falling trees trunks (or the ones we had to cut to prevent their falling in the wrong direction) piled up at the bottom of the hill. It was distressing to say the least. In the fall, I was introduced to ARK: Acts of Restorative Kindness, about giving back to nature a portion of your yard or land. The back part of our lot had gone back to the wild by default–I simply could not keep up. When we rebuilt the fence, we enclosed only a small portion of the area behind the house–just enough to contain the dogs when they go out to do their business. I decided to let the front portion of the yard–where we had lost the trees and all that remained was crossed dead timbers–return to nature as well. I had learned of the many benefits.
The hawthorn was strongly associated with fairies in folklore, and in the Victorian era, represented hope (coincidence # 2). When I stopped obsessing over the need to “clean up that mess” and decided to allow it to resume its wildness, I began to notice more birds. I have always had my share of bees and butterflies since I leave the wildflowers along the perimeters of the yard, but now that we no longer mow the large area at the front and bottom of the hill, it is producing things I had never seen before. Like this blooming hawthorn tree…and species of flowers and shrubs appearing that were not there before. I see not only woodpeckers, but other tree boring birds pecking away at the decaying logs, and the greening and flowering all along the property that faces the road is abloom with baby’s breath, and varieties of other white flowers that have never been there before. Because some of the larger trees that died take up more space on the ground, when the county mows the ditch, they cannot mow as far in as they used to, so all these shrubs and flowers are just appearing, protected by the “hedge” of dead trees lying at the bottom of the hill.
Hope…the most essential of human stages of development. Hope…the belief that others will be there to support and help…that we can manage this crisis, too, and all the others that will come after. Not airy-fairy hope, but a deeply rooted sense of security that we can and will be able to do what needs to be done. Because I care about climate change and the impact that it is having on the planet and our lives and future, I chose–once I knew of it–to create an ARK: Acts of Restorative Kindness. There are others, all over the world and a few right in my state and border states. There are probably others that do not identify as an ARK, but nonetheless are doing the same thing out of a love and respect for the place we call home: our planet earth. We know we must do more, but sometimes we are unsure of where or how to begin. Just begin, where you are with what you have.
Now finally, about that fairy thing…as a voracious reader, which fired my imagination in ways I could never have imagined, I once asked my mother if I was a changeling. In folklore, the fairies would come and steal a human baby and replace it with a fairy baby, known as the changeling. It was supposed to “explain” children who might not fit into the typical mold. From then on, she would sometimes refer to me as her changeling baby, and it was a mark of endearment, an unspoken way of saying “I get that you are not like my other children”, but not in a bad way. This morning whilst looking up hawthorn, I ran across the reference to fairies, and though there are many folklore stories where fairies are seen not as a good thing, one caught my eye: enchantment. Fairies are about enchantment. So my little hawthorn tree that miraculously emerged this year once I gave up “ownership and possession” of the untidy and unkempt little spot on my hillside, produced a place under which fairies dance and which represents hope. I am quite enchanted with the thought of that.