Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Good Deal Of Magic As I Know It Grows From Trees!

 A few childhood experiences guided me towards an overall Neo-Pagan world view and the practice of magic. Some of these experiences put me in touch with a few sorts of trees living on the lands where I was born and growing up—Northern California.

My home town is located on Carquinez Strait (this place name commemorates the Native American Karkin people who once lived there), surrounded by California Oak Woodland. Most of the open savanna was then given over to cattle or sheep grazing. Looking around from my then industrial town the landscape was Pastoral. Hills dotted with stands of mostly Coast Live Oak among which herds of dairy cows and flocks of sheep wandered.

In my backyard, four trees grew--a kumquat, a pomegranate, a common fig, and an almond. All of them were mature when we moved in. Each bears an annual crop, and tending these trees offered a simple, direct, and delicious tie with seasonal cycles and all they may entail.
The most deeply transformative experiences of trees that I had as a child, however, involved Coastal Redwoods. Coastal Redwoods did grow in my home town, when planted. But their native habitat was some miles westward, nearer the coast, where fogs were more common.

When I was growing up during the immediate post WWII decades it was still possible to encounter--confront--the plentiful leftovers of the redwood logging trade in some of the public park lands. A wheezing few mills, one at least feebly present as a "company town," remained, and logs were still being felled.

One thing that I encountered again and again in the park lands (more or less not-loggable areas with the technology of the first wave of logging as well as second growth areas) was industrial trash. First wave logging was done here with hand saws, donkey steam engines pulling logs with cables, and temporary camps for loggers.

Often, moving to another felling area, equipment and garbage was just left to rust and rot. Heaps and tangles of industrial trash in the middle of a Redwood grove makes for a contrast.

And in one park on the Navarro River I encountered over the span of several years the slowly decaying stumps--10 or so feet high and at least that wide--of a grove of old growth redwoods. Us kids played on and within them like forts. Years of play had removed or compressed the inner wood so that these stumps had walls, sometimes 3 feet tall, around the perimeter.

I, as a child, stood again and again within the slowly decaying-- and gradually dying--stumps of an Coastal Redwood grove.

These remnant Redwoods, and the surviving living Redwoods surrounding them, impressed me. Not just because I felt that they were, in ways I could not describe, deserving of human
respect and reverence--but also because they, in ways I still cannot describe, instructed me about themselves, the Land,  and magic of the Land.

As a child, I was not spiritually gifted or interested in the practice (as opposed to the imaginings) of magic. I first became a practitioner, as I trace my path, through no intention of my own, beyond being willing to learn lessons that were offered to me.

Still, time and time again, as my skill sets developed, I discovered that, in some manner or another, I often knew, appreciated, or had already gone through what teachers or the momentum of practical learning were leading to.

As I mulled this over, I realized that it had something to do with those Redwood stumps. They impressed me.

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