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Posts Tagged ‘magic’

Old trees can easily conjure up memories of times past.  Covered with lichens, mosses and fungi, they are witnesses to history, quiet observers of human events and animal activities.  Their silent demeanor makes them privilege to secrets told beneath their branches.  Perhaps it’s because we expect trees to know so much that they spark our imaginations.


A favorite book from my childhood was The Faraway Tree Adventure by Enid Blyton. (My copy was the french translation: DEUX ENFANTS DANS UN SAPIN).  The story involved the magical encounters experienced by two children who follow an elf up a tree.  My imagination was sparked by the idea of a tree so wonder-full that it could act as an enchanted gateway to other lands and fairy folk.  

Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.
~ John Muir

Two spruce trees I recently saw standing side by side in the forest reminded me of that magical tree I had read about years ago. They were wrapped up in mist and entwined in each other’s branches, still erect while others of their size were overturned by strong winds. 

Their older lower branches were bare of needles but looked strong enough for climbing.  As a child, I’d always been unable to reach the lower branches of the trees I believed held magical worlds in their canopies. At what age do we stop trying to climb up trees?

The magic that eluded us as children because we didn’t have arms long enough to reach the next branch, eludes us once again in adulthood as we become more and more attached to safe ground.  The trees must find us odd indeed, but in their wisdom, say nothing.

What tiny creature do you suppose lives in that hole among the roots?

In the tradition of  She Said, She Said, Sybil of Eastern Passage Passage has also written a post about these same trees.  You can find her post here along with marvelous close-ups of the wonderful worlds she captured with her lens.

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You must not know too much, or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and water-craft; a certain free margin, and even vagueness – perhaps ignorance, credulity – helps your enjoyment of these things…
~Walt Whitman

Sometimes, it’s good to know less than more.  Acquiring more knowledge of a subject often removes a soft veil of mystery that leaves only the bare facts visible.  The magic disappears. 

The numerous types of lichens, mosses and fungi make the woods seem more magical for many of us.  Is this because we typically know less about them than other living things in the forest?  If I encounter new, unknown varieties on a walk in the woods, why does this make the excursion more enchanting?  Perhaps, sometimes, it’s best to not know the names of things so that mystery and wonder can survive.

Though correct identification is helpful if they’re going to be eaten, nature’s myriad types of fungi need not be named in order to be enjoyed for the beauty of their subtle colours and forms.  Their ability to uplift our spirits are nonetheless.  And it may just be easier to imagine them eaten by elves or sat upon by delicate faeries if their exact variety is unknown to us.

I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.
~  Harry Emerson Fosdick

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Witches have been leaving their brooms in my yard for some time now, but it’s only recently that I’ve been able to recognize them for what they are. 

Witches’ brooms are not uncommon in coniferous forests across North America.  Here in Nova Scotia, they’re often found among the balsam firs.  A forest novelty, they look like mutant branches on otherwise normal-looking trees.

From a distance, they appear as a ball mass of twigs.  In winter, they’re bare of needles and look especially gnarly.  On large trees, they can measure several feet in diameter.

In spring, witches’ brooms grow nutritious shoots that are eaten by grouse and porcupines.  The new needles are a pale yellowish green and grow in a spiral pattern around the twigs in a manner that’s different from the tree’s other branches.  These needles dry up and die in the fall.

The broom is actually a fungus (Melampsorella caryophyllacearum Schröter) that depends on infection of alternate hosts for survival.  In my yard, the spores grow on the needles of the fir tree  in the spring and are picked up by chickweed that also grows nearby.  Later, the fungus on the chickweed passes its spores back to the firs.

Witches’ brooms aren’t  welcome on Christmas tree farms where they disfigure trees and weaken them for other diseases to take hold.  

In the wild, large witches’ brooms are sometimes used as a foundation for dreys (squirrels’ nests).  Northern flying squirrels and red squirrels are both known to make use of them for this purpose.  High above the ground in the canopy of the forest, they’re sometimes also used as a base for the nests of  birds of prey.

It’s funny how what man sees as messy and an eyesore in nature, wildlife employs for both food and habitat.  Perhaps we should get our vision checked. 

This past December, a friend was delighted to find a small witch’s broom in the Christmas tree she purchased on a tree lot.  Though the seller was eager to cut it off for her, she believed it added something magical to the tree. 

For more information on the Yellow Witches’ Broom in Nova Scotia, see here.

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The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in fairy books, charm, spell, enchantment. They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery.
~ G.K. Chesterton

Perhaps it’s because skies are so grey and the days are so dark, that late December’s sunrises seem especially precious.


You don’t need to be a child to feel that there is something magical in the air at this time of year.  Who would have thought rose hips from summer’s wild blooms would have transformed so easily into a snowman’s grin?  All you need is a little imagination…

Nature has been waiting all year to share its gifts of the season…

With or without the presence of snow, there is something enchanted in the outdoors… available to everyone and easily bought for the price of opening your eyes and your heart.

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things…
~ Sara Teasdale

The woods look barer than they did this fall when all the bright leaves covered the trees.  But,  it’s at this time that reflections of the sky can finally reveal themselves in previously hidden forest brooks… You never know what’s waiting to be discovered in the woods.  Even in late December, there are still surprises to be found.

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.
~Roy L. Smith

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After being listed on the homepage of WordPress.com on December 27th, 28th and 29th, this page has received more views than any other on this site to date.  Thank you to all who stopped by for a visit.

 

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moss 1

Moss brings an enchanted appearance to forests.  Several varieties grow around Flandrum Hill, on the ground, on stones and more than just the north side of tree trunks. 

moss on tree

In recent years, some innovative horticulturalists have suggested that it might be ecologically beneficial for homeowners to consider growing lawns of moss instead of grass.   Here are some reasons why:

  • It grows fast,
  • prevents erosion,
  • repels weeds,
  • doesn’t require fertilizer,
  • doesn’t require watering and 
  • doesn’t require mowing.

That last reason should be enough by itself to convince people to look into the moss option.  Imagine all the labour that would be saved in lawn maintenance!

moss 5

Though mosses thrive in moist, acidic soil, all they really need is a bit of shade.  They’re able to absorb enough moisture from rainfall to allow them to survive without extra watering.

 

sphagnum

The sphagnum moss shown above is a marvel of nature.  It can absorb several times its own weight in water or oil.  It has many uses in gardening, ie. as a seed starter, and dried, is an excellent insulator, firestarter and dressing for wounds.  

Mosses are often used by scientists as bioindicators, species used to monitor the health of an environment, to identify the presence of heavy metals and other pollutants in an ecosystem.  Their presence here doesn’t just make the woods seem more magical, they reveal the good health of the environment as well.

For more information on moss lawns, see

Moss Makes a Lush, No-care Lawn

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misty shore

Mist and fog are part of life in Nova Scotia.  They soften the corners and edges of things or reduce visibility to the extent that things disappear altogether.  What lingers beyond the limits of our vision is distorted and enhanced by our imagination.

Let us go in, the fog is rising.

~ Emily Dickinson

Mist is usually lower to the ground while fog is higher and denser.  Along the shore, their effects are compounded with sea spray.  Even when it’s not raining, you can get soaked just by walking through these ground-level clouds.

shore birds

It’s not unusual to see clouds run down the road.  Mist moves.  Like everything else in nature, it’s dynamic and full of surprises.  Often, blue skies and sunshine lie in wait behind the fog.  Sometimes it reveals that which is otherwise overlooked.  Here the mist betrays the outlines of spider webs on spruce trees.

misty webs

Like the darkness, fog provides a cover for predators.  A Bald Eagle looks over the salt marsh from the top of a tree.  Is its hunting ability impaired or enhanced by the fog?  Perhaps a little of both.

bald eagle

Mist is also a veil that separates the worlds of man and faerie.  It is mystery and magic itself.  Its greatest trick is in making us believe that everything is in a fog except us.  Because we can see clearly a few feet ahead of us, we surmise that we are alone in our clarity.  Yet we are just as much wrapped in fog and mist as everyone and everything else in our surroundings.

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