It’s been months since I’ve been in the bog and I was thirsty to be there again. When snow gave way to blue skies I bolted from the house, down the lane that is the threshold.
There is much here that echoes life. I cannot walk a straight path but must meander, scouting ahead for hazards. Water filled holes steal blue from the sky and sponges of sphagnum moss suck at my feet.
To the uninitiated it appears barren, brown and bleak. I have learned to slow down and look with love. When I pay attention I see so much beauty, colour and texture even in February. I bring my phone to take photographs. I am connected to the web of life here and have no need of the digital web, although I wonder if they are not one and the same.
I reach my tree, a silver birch, lover of wetlands, which sprouts in a circle of seven trunks with a hollow in the centre. It is the perfect height and size to form a wonderful throne with a view out across the turf beds.
My friend Anja, a horticulturist, tells me birch are considered pioneer trees as they can grow where soil and conditions are difficult and are one of the first to recolonise after natural disasters. They improve soil quality for the plants that come after them, provide food and habitat for more than 300 different insect species as well as many fungi and birds. In Celtic culture the birch tree has the power of purification and renewal and is called the goddess tree.
A mother tree may die, providing nourishment for her children to sprout from her roots as has happened here. I love this idea and wonder if they are seven sisters, or seven brothers, or a mixed brood. I sit on my throne in the bog and search the internet for answers. It seems there is a place for that other web here. I find the birch tree is monoecious, meaning both male and female catkins are found on the same tree. How appropriate at a time when restricting labels are being rejected. This insight holds up a mirror to my habit of attaching those very labels.
I have sat in the centre of this tree in many seasons. In high summer I discovered it acts as a kind of navigation aid for bumble bees who fly into the centre, pause for a second before zooming off in a different direction. It makes me smile to think of the tree being part of an ancient internal sat-nav system and I am thankful my presence doesn’t seem to throw them off course!
I like all trees but this one is special to me. Being with it makes my heart sing. I stay a while. When I am purified and renewed I take my leave, thanking the tree for it’s gifts. I meander back taking time to see. The universe has work for me to do.
For more information about Celtic connections with trees. http://www.ecoenchantments.co.uk/myogham_birchpage.html
A wonderful book about slowing down and seeing is The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim