My little cottage is surrounded by some (three-to-four-hundred-year) old oaks. They help me to ground; every day I run my roots down into the red Virginia clay where these lovely beings have been thriving since before America was America. They also center me; I know that I am home when I can feel myself surrounded by oaks. They support the squirrel clans who are my closest neighbors and they provide housing for over a half-a-dozen different kinds of birds. They shade my house in the summer, give me more than enough firewood, and provide me with provenance. I'm not embarrassed to announce myself to the Elements or to the Potomac River when I can state that I come from that bit of Earth bounded by all of those old oaks. There are callouses on my hands from raking up oak leaves and acorns; those are my bona fides to the doors between the worlds.
"My" oaks are slowly dying; although oaks can live 400 or 500 years, global climate change is drying out our summers and stressing our oaks, making them subject to oak borers, which kill them within a few years, at the most. Since I moved here almost a decade ago, my neighbor and I have had to take down three of them, and the final few are only going to last another couple of years.
When they go, we will probably replace them with pine trees. No leaves and acorns to rake every Fall. But I am not sure how I will know, without them, that it is Beltane.
Yesterday, I came home from work and sat outside for a long time in the woodland garden. There was not an oak catkin to be seen. Not one. I wandered the whole yard; no oak catkins. Today, I came home from work and there were oak catkins all over my front steps, all over my back deck, all over everywhere. It's as if, at some point in the last 12 hours, the bell sounded and every oak tree in the neighborhood said, "Oh, OK, time for the Great Rite. Here you go!"
There's never been a Beltane here at my little cottage when I haven't gone out, an hour or two before the Witches showed up, and swept mounds of oak catkins off the steps and deck. There's never been a Beltane when I went out at dawn to wash my face in dew and didn't find the dew full of yellow-green oak pollen. How will I know that it's Beltane when all of my old companions are gone?
What tells you, sans doubte, that it's only days until Beltane?
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 . . . ."