Once upon a time there was a tree. He was an old pine tree. He’d stood there in the forest for many, many years. He’d stood in the forest through fires and floods. He’d stood there in spring and in fall. He stood there in snow and when bear and rabbits went by. He’d been standing there when people passed him wearing skins and hunting the deer with bows and he stood there now watching people build a camp for children.
He watched with great curiosity. No one had ever stayed near him for very long and so he watched. When the camp was built and tents were all put up children started to play around him. He enjoyed this. Some of them hugged him. Some sniffed him and argued whether he smelled like vanilla or butterscotch. Some leaned against them while they read books. Some just curled up at his feet. He thought that was the best.
He wondered if Gaia watched these children the way she watched over him. Gaia sometimes came to visit with him and he thought he’d talk to her about the children next time she came. Or maybe he’d just give a passing jay a message to pass on. There didn’t seem to be any great hurry.
He stood at the edge of an area that they had talks around a fire circle. He didn’t like being so close to the fire but they controlled it carefully and he really didn’t like that they had cut down a lot of his friends to use for log benches but he thought the talks were interesting some of the time and just plain silly some times.
One day a group of children came to listen to a man. He said he was a missionary. The tree didn’t know what a missionary was. The tree instinctively didn’t like this man. He was dark in a way the tree couldn’t explain just that he was dark.
A small girl leaned against the tree and got her self cozy at his feet and the tree felt happy. This little girl had chosen him all week to lean against and he had watched her go through camp. She was always humming and singing. He’d noticed she liked to sing a song called “This is my Father’s World.” He wished he could tell her it was really her Mother’s World not a Father’s World.
He hadn’t been really listening until the little girl started to push herself into his bark. He started to listen and then he started to get angry. He heard the missionary say that the world was evil. He heard the man say that it wasn’t the Father’s world it was Satan’s world and that the world was a terrible and bad place and he saw the little girl cringe and he knew he had to do something. He gathered himself together. He wanted to speak to the little girl but how? He finally decided he would try and talk to her the way he talked to Gaia. So he thought, “HE LIES!”
The little girl looked startled and turned around to study the tree and she nodded at the tree. She leaned back against the tree and he knew somehow that she no longer believed the man. She left the camp a day later and he thought he saw her again many years later but he wasn’t sure. She had grown and stretched up a lot taller but she sat against him with a smile during the night’s campfire program.
The tree never knew that that day everything had changed for that little girl. She had heard the tree. And later when she heard about Gaia she knew what she heard was true. And she always remembered the tree and thought of him fondly once in a while sometimes even when writing stories.
The Hazelwood Grove is starting to read the Mist Filled Path together. (I’ve read it before and it’s on my recommended reading list.) So if you want to follow along you are most welcome.
I’m in the mood to be instructive and because some idiot keeps peeling the bark off our sycamore trees.
Did you know that the parts of the tree are very different and complex?
Let’s talk about the trunk. Only two parts of the trunk of a tree are alive. The rest is structure or not alive. It’s not dead but like your fingernails and hair it is no longer alive. In some ways a tree grows from the outside in and not from the inside out.
The two parts of the tree that are alive are the Bast. (love that name.) which is the inner bark and carries the enriched sap from the leaves to the cells that are growing.
The other living part of the trunk is the cambium layer. This is the layer of cells that is actively growing. It will eventually be the next ring on the inside of the tree. This layer is between the sapwood and the Bast. This layer produces the bark and the new wood for the tree. The cambium layer is the most vulnerable part of the tree. Damage to this layer can kill the tree. This is why you shouldn’t tie anything tightly around a tree. This is called girdling the tree and if the cambium layer is hurt all the way around the tree it dies. If you nail something to the tree you can also introduce bacteria or other harmful things and kill the tree but more slowly. The cambium layer can be only a few microns thick to much thicker.
The next layer in is the Sapwood. This layer is the pipeline that carries water up to the leaves. This is the part that will be heartwood next.
Heartwood is the structure that holds the tree up. The heartwood can completely burn out or die and as long as the cambium layer is alive the tree will be alive. You see this with incense cedars that have been struck by lightning. They appear green and growing but the insides will be blackened and hollowed out from burning.
Leaves make the food for the tree and send it back down in the Bast or phoelm to help the tree grow. The Bast will eventually become part of the bark as the tree grows.
Druidry teaches about the 7 Gifts of Druidry but how do you relate those gifts to children? And I don’t mean bring it down to their level because there is no down to it. How do we explain what we believe and what we value about life to those who we have charge of however temporarily in this life. And remember they are teaching you at the same time.
The first gift is Philosophy. Teaching kids the sacredness of all life is the main tenet of Druidry. No matter how large we grow or where we are, we are part of the great web of life. What you do in one place can effect something far, far away. If you drop something plastic like a balloon in a storm drain 30 miles from the ocean, it is going to end up hurting some animal in the sea that thinks its food when the next rain washes it to the ocean. If you use too much water to brush your teeth ,will someone else have enough to water their crops? If you kill all the aphids with poison on your plants what will the Ladybugs eat? And what will the bird eat that would have eaten the ladybug. What will the hawk eat that would have eaten the bird?
We are all part of a chain that connects every living being.
The second gift is to put us in touch with nature. This means actually going outside in all kinds of weather and at all time of the day and night. Who is awake in the morning and who is awake at night? Is it cooler where trees grow? Why is it warmer at noon? What is good to eat and what will hurt us? Can you be quiet enough to see the bunny that lives in the brush? Can you look at a cloud and know if it’s a rain cloud? What direction does the wind come from and what did it bring with it?
Do you know ALL your neighbors including the ones that aren’t human?
The third gift is Healing. How are we healthy and how do we heal ourselves and others. Is healing always to keep something alive or is death a part of life too? And how do we live with that acceptance. Learning to let go is part of healing too, whether it’s a pet or a relative.
How do we stay healthy with food and exercise? Do we know herbs that are good for making things better such as aloe on a sunburn or chamomile tea when we can’t go to sleep.
The fourth gift is that life is a journey with many steps. We can go to a sibling’s wiccaning/blessing. We can dedicate ourselves to a deity that calls to us. If we are girls we can celebrate our first bloods or boys can celebrate their growth. The ancient Irish had an age where they could be trusted to make good decisions. We can celebrate steps in maturity. We can celebrate the 8 sabbats and the moon’s passage through the sky and we can teach that life is a spiral not a linear line with a finishing line. That life is a journey not to finish but to enjoy the journey.
The fifth gift is other realities. We know we are not alone and that there are many worlds, seen and unseen. To see them we can learn meditation, we can visualize them. We can start with pretend and go to what we can’t see but know is there. We can leave gifts for the Fae and honour our ancestors.
The sixth gift is Potential – How do we grow to be the best we can be? What do we want to be when we grow up? Do we want to grow up? What do we need to learn to make the most of our gifts? And how do we give back while we are learning?
The seventh gift is Magic. How are we ALIVE? What is magic? Is magic how a seed knows how to grow and become food or flowers. Is magic a spell to change what we need to change about ourselves? Is magic the love we feel for our families, pets and friends? Is magic how we look at life? Do you live a magical life or are you a mundane Muggle?
The 7 gifts come from OBOD – OBOD – The Order of Ovates, Bards and Druids
Last night I had the strangest dream (?) and yes, I know that’s a song title and in fact one of my favourites, but it was. I dreamed a male Druid came and told me I had to do 9 things. Now I don’t take orders from anyone I don’t know without questioning why unless it’s an emergency so that was the first strange thing.
They were all tasks I had to do in the local mountains I love. Some were physical, some were spiritual and some were mental. I can’t remember what the tasks were, all I know that was when I woke up the constant pain I have had for weeks under the right shoulder blade and down my arm was gone and I was sleeping comfortably on my right side. Something I haven’t been able to do in weeks. It’s back but not at the level it was at even yesterday and I only got 7 of the 9 tasks done before the cat’s stomach alarm went off and I got cat breath in my face. Would I have been healed if I had finished them? Makes me wonder.
It didn’t feel like one of my usually surreal dreams. It felt like one of my real dreams. When I have met deities in my dreams, those are the ones that feel “real” like they aren’t dreams and they are happening in real time. I have interactive conversations and can change dreams courses by what I decide. So was it a dream? One wonders…
The day Laura made Mary, Denise and I Druids in the Hazelwood Grove I went over to Balboa Lake across the street and it was the one and only time I have ever seen swans there. I thought it was a wonderful omen for the day