The first of February! Imbolc in the Celtic calendar marks the beginning of spring, the light returning, life emerging. A time for inspiration and new beginnings, allowing the life in us to push through all that hard cold earth! If a snow drop can do it… so can we.
‘Many, many welcomes,
Ever as of old time,
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the gay time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses,
Many, many welcomes,
The Snowdrop, by Tennyson
This morning, Monday 1st February, at 6.30am our household gathered in the trees at the top of South Park in Oxford. It wasn’t fully dark because of the various lights from the roadsides and coming up from the city but it was grey and chilly and very beautiful with the trees patterning their branches against the dark sky.
Someone read a poem and we sang a chant:
Light emerging, Spring is near, life emergent, we are here.
After this we went our separate ways to find a place to stand, to notice nature and the very slow lightening of the sky. We had thirty minutes before rejoining one another.
I felt an exhilaration being up this early, no-one else in the park, only the distant movement of occasional cars on the roads. The birds were welcoming a daylight that had not arrived, some with such sweet staccatos and others like the rooks, cackling and bawling out their hellos!
I found my way to the huge oak at the centre top of South Park which overlooks the city and I stood leaning against her, feeling her rough support, feeling the solid, rooted homeliness of this being. I asked her for any advice and the words that came to me were, ‘heal the roots’.
I thought of the roots of the tree, how deep and wide they run.. The roots are vital to the life of the tree but also to its connection with other trees.
Over the last few years the human race has been discovering that trees communicate with each other and share nutrients through their roots and through fungal networks. The fine, hairlike root tips of trees join together with microscopic fungal filaments to form the basic links of the network, which appears to operate as a symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi. This network has been called ‘The Wood Wide Web’!
Peter Wohlleben has written a beautiful book entitled “The Hidden Life of Trees” and he says that all the trees ‘in every forest that is not too damaged, are connected to each other through underground fungal networks. Trees share water and nutrients through the networks, and also use them to communicate. They send distress signals about drought and disease, for example, or insect attacks, and other trees alter their behavior when they receive these messages.’ (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-whispering-trees-180968084/)
It seems to me that we the human race could do with healing our roots, healing the vital connections that are between us. One of the ways we might do this is to start digging up our certainties, the ones that crush the possibility of connection, of love, of hope –with ourselves, with others and with this good earth. I am hoping to do some gentle digging over this year.
THE PLACE WHERE WE ARE RIGHT
Yehuda Amichai (translation by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell)
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.