Just over four years ago, I moved to this cozy cottage -- the home of my heart -- snugged squarely in the middle of an oak grove. The ancient oaks that give this spot its character, basis, and meaning grow in my yard, in the V.'s yard to my West, in the new renter's yard to the North, and, importantly, in my neighbor M's yard to the East. Immediately upon my moving here, the oak trees took charge of my magical practice, of my spiritual connection to the Earth, Life, and Everything. From the first morning that I set up my altar in the small room directly to the West of the Greatest Oak, I've danced in the presence of these oak trees, heard the music of the wind through their ancient branches, watched fireflies amongst their leaves, practiced witchcraft with my roots intertwined with theirs, invoked them in all my incantations, been blessed by the practice of photsynthesis within their leaves in the bright sun of early afteroon. They've informed every breath that I take, every spell that I cast, every dream that I dream, every breath that I take. Their acorns feed my familiar squirrels, create the ground in which I grow things, and decorate my altar. Their leaves fall every Autumn, forcing me into a physical spiritual practice that I resist as much as I need. In the spring the "oak fluffies" remind me every morning exactly how important sex is to my spiritual practice. Goddess, I wish that you could be here at Beltane to see what they drift across my gardens and my decks -- so much oak sex.
This morning, one of them fell. And I am bereft as I never imagined that I would be, and there is a huge hole in my heart and in my magical practice.
Last summer was v. dry. This summer, the drought was even more pronounced. M. and I noticed that several of our oaks were suffering. She, traveling all across the globe for peace, contacted several arborists (what a blessed profession!), found an organic arborist, scheduled his visit while she was in Japan and Russia, and arranged to have him feed the oaks and strengthen them against the opportunistic pest that attacked them when they were weakened by the drought. I was lucky enough to have a convocation of witches here in the heat of summer to do Reiki on my oaks on a hot Sunday afternoon. At the v. least, the oak tree in my woodland garden is still visibly strengthened by that.
But I'm delaying telling the sad part. I, the granddaughter of a woman who believed in pulling the band-aid off fast, and all at once, in order to minimize the pain. For shame.
The oak tree in M's front yard, to my northeast, didn't make it. That lovely oak tree that was a hundred years old when America was born, that lovely oak tree that watched the Civil War, that lovely oak tree that saw a neighborhood of bungalows and cottages spring up in the 1950s when GIs came home from the war and, after going to college, married and had families, that lovely oak tree that was growing when humans first walked on the moon, that lovely oak tree that shaded the hippies of the 1960s, and that cooled M's house and my house every early summer morning since they were built -- that oak tree is gone. Some nice men came early this morning -- you can start making loud noise in Arlington as early as 7:00 am -- and, within a few hours, cut that three-story oak tree down, ground its roots out of the ground, turned the small branches into mulch and the large parts of the tree into firewood, and left a scar on our street, in my heart, in the basis of my magical practice.
I went to my altar this evening and all that I could feel was a huge "absence" to my northeast. I think that I may understand how victims of amputation feel, what it's like to feel a "phantom limb." Shit. This is going to take me a long time to adjust to. I'm going to go over tomorrow when the sun rises and offer thyme and olive oil and wine to the now-ground-up stub of that ancient oak. I'm going to invoke that spirit whenever I sit at my altar, I'm going to ask forgiveness of the dryad. I guess that I'll eventually learn how to practice magic here without it. But, I'm going to miss that oak tree.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."