Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Greeting Old Friends

As I write this, most of the Snow lying about has departed. The Soil is still frozen, nonetheless...I attempted to dig a small hole for an errant Tulip bulb. Even as the tips of other Bulbs are showing green, the Earth had not yet heard the message.

I am awaiting, with great longing, the soft scent coming from warm, Southerly breezes. Wind, this afternoon, has a very sharp edge...one which chased me indoors after spending a morning in the Snow-free landscape.

I injured my shoulder a few days ago, which has hampered me in many ways, typing being one of them. It is not serious, only somewhat painful. It has kept me indoors, resting it, for most of my time. But this morning, after returning from the vet's for a check-up of Lucky's ears, I could not resist the warm-ish early Sunshine, no matter an injured shoulder!

As all gardeners will do, I wandered about, raking a bit here, poking about there. I pondered the fact I now recognized favoured perennials which were showing the minutest signs of life. Last year, I had not lived here long enough.

There was no formal garden here, when we took ownership of our home. It was a completely blank slate. So many plants have been planted over the last four seasons of Spring we've lived here I have trouble remembering them all. Many only lasted a season, at any rate...until I finally grasped an understanding of which Plants could survive the harsh climate they would have to live in.

The Plants reaching for the Spring sunshine this morning have proved their worth. Many Tulips are pushing through the frozen Soil. I see signs of Forget-Me-Nots, Daffodils, Poppies, a  wee Violet here and there, Pansies and Borage seedlings. Many of the old friends are still snoozing, waiting for warmer weather. Their roots are firm as yet, I notice with a bit of trepidation, during a quick check.

I make connections with Plants in the garden, as I plant them, but it has taken time with this one. I was also heavily involved in building raised beds...it became more a matter of...Yes, this Plant will look good here, and the other here, the next over there...

You know how it goes.

And so the connections I formed were tenuous, at best. But the Plants which continue to emerge every year, every season, mostly right on time, these are the ones I greet now as dear, old friends.

Usually, these favoured ones are perennials or small shrubs. We planted an Apple and a Cherry Tree. Although both are doing well, they are still young, without the wisdom of the wild, elderly Trees we are surrounded by.

I have discovered it takes time to 'know' a Tree in an entire Forest of them. I made the mistake of thinking I could just pick a nice Tree, one I was attracted to, and make friends, thereby connecting.

It didn't happen. At least not right away, as I fully expected it to do. Each Tree I approached was friendly enough, but neither of us had that energy surge which occurs, in these situations, between us.

Over time, after I had lost patience with the whole thing and had largely forgotten about it, each Winter, I would notice a big, old but curiously graceful Paper Birch which grew in the base of the Draw in front of our home.

I noticed it in the Winter for obvious reasons. Even though the Tree towers over the rest growing near it, I would not have been able to see it after the fleshing out of Leaves, from her and others...her babies...around her. 

In the Winter months, however, her triangled top shows clearly...a beautiful sight with fresh Snow layering her filigreed branches. Birds have nested in the crotch of the triangle...a perfect spot! I watched a family of Robins nest there last year, although there is no longer any sign of them.

This is the Tree I have a connection with. An odd choice...one whose top seems to have split, making her appear headless, although I know she is not. She is old, she has watched over the land for a long time before I ever knew it. And she is a survivor.

But from all the hundreds of Trees here on this Land, this old Birch is the one who will tell me stories of the countryside, of the way things were. She is my inspiration, my guide and my muse, a part of my Spirit.

I am happy to see she has, once more, survived the long, gruesome Winter just passed. I look up to see one of her fingers pointing to a lone Eagle flying high overhead. We both rejoice at the sighting...Eagles are rarely seen during colder days.

I marvel at how lacy her tangled branches appear...naked and black against a clear, blue Sky, twisting and turning every which way...yet inordinately graceful. Her trunk is long, curving and white, largely without branches.  She is beginning to shed long, white strips of her bark, exposing  reddish-orange inner bark, which will turn black with age.

It is not surprising I am drawn to her. Birch Trees help mankind and animals in myriad ways. She is Winter food for Deer, Moose, Porcupine and Beaver. In years gone by, she has lent her Bark for baskets, cradles and canoes. Her Bark was also used for wrapping and storing food, and as roofing for pit houses. She gave medicine for colds.  Her sap is fermented to make beer, wine, spirits and vinegar.

I've not had the pleasure of trying any of her products, but I did notice a bottle of Birch syrup in one of the health food stores I frequent. With the amount of Paper Birches in the Forest here, where I live, I've often thought it would be fun to tap a few, but I have no idea how to begin.

The Paper Birch is the Tree of new beginnings and new perspectives. A perfect Tree to choose for another ally!

As I prepare my Tea, I notice another dark Cloud, stronger Wind. The Leaves I've just finished raking are catching the Wind, whirling and spiralling about. Snowflakes are beginning to descend once again.

Will Winter never give up?

But then, I remember the growth my old friends in the garden are showing.

Spring will not give up, either.


  1. Dear Marion,
    It appears that there is a "battle" going on between Winter and Spring throughout the world.... I know how tiresome "Ol Man Winter" has become....but, Spring is a strong warrior - and will not be denied! Every time you reach down to feel those roots buried under snow, mud or soil, it's a clear message to hold on and the earth will be blooming with joyous colour - soon.

    Your story about finding "your" tree is wonderful - and very inspiring. Birch trees ARE special.....and it is so fitting that you have made friends with this one! I believe there is communication between everything - if only one stops to listen...

    I hope your shoulder heals soon....

    Stay warm and enjoy your visits with your Birch! You must post photos as the seasons change.....


    ♥ Robin ♥

  2. Marion, this is a lovely post and your tree is wonderful as all trees are, I have been friends with many a tree, so I know what you are speaking of here. Spring will come, I promise! xoxo

  3. Some buds are wise and hold off until they are certain they will survive. Winter can be stubborn and in some cases blooms might sense another snowfall is yet to come. In my area, it is often store bought blooms that get a surprise when an unexpected hailstorm or frost give their new beds a spring chill. I like your birch tree muse, Marion. Survivors with deep roots are always inspiring!

  4. In my part of the world spring starts in February when almond trees bloom across the valley. I expect it. I count on it.

    But this year spring would come in for a day or two to tease us and then the winter showers and winds would return. That pattern continued through March and into April. We don't have snow and the ground isn't frozen, but the weeds have taken over because we haven't had a chance to clear the "jungle."

    I'll look at birch trees differently from now on. That was beautiful. Hope the shoulder heals well. (I thought for a second that you had gone to the vet for it the way the paragraph was written.)

  5. A cedar tree is outside my window; which brought me joy when I was down last summer. The morning light would cause a worn branch to glow orange-yellow to brighten my day as I lay.

    Now as I gaze it is reflecting setting sun and diamonds of light after a spring rain.

    How can anyone not be pleased?

  6. snow again. oh my. thank you for the tour of your gardening world as it awakens for another season. i hope you have a lovely spring soon when you can plant and grow. Wonderful the connection to your tree. There are many white birches around here, and i love them too. although I dont know if a white birch and a paper birch are the same thing. thank you for sharing your lovely world. Hugs, suki

  7. *goes to hug a tree :D lovely post as ever hon, I'm fighting a bug again at the mo (rolls eyes), but I'm writing a mail slowly. Hugs x

  8. I have yet to find a tree on this property or indeed, on this street, that speaks to me like the one on my old home street does. I recognize what you are writing about, that connection to another living thing that singles you out as much as you do it.

    My perennials seem like old friends, too :)

  9. What a beautiful post, Marion. I like you tree. I have a 2 year old baby Orange tree that survived the winter and it's so awesome to see it producing new leaves and branches!

    We're already into 90 degree days here in the deep South. I have tomatoes, lettuce, swiss chard and all my herbs producing like crazy. It's magical. I hope Spring softens your soil soon!!

    Love & Blessings,

  10. Robin,

    I love your comments, dear Robin...every time, you leave so much optimism behind! Yes. Spring is strong and will not be denied...she's only taking her time this year.

    My biggest problem is that nothing can be planted, in the Arctic cold. As we have a very short season any time, I hope vegetables will have enough time to grow to maturity. xo

    Annie Coe,

    I hope the weather will warm for your holiday, Annie, and that you will enjoy yourself tremendously...you so deserve it! xo

    aka Penelope,

    Up here, Maria, those store bought blooms rarely live long. I have found that seeds planted straight into the ground do much better over all and some of the seeds are perennials. I find if plants are begun from seed, they are able to withstand the climate here.

    One thing that is really great are the longer days we have up here. And the huge amount of sunshine...plants grow like crazy once they've begun!xo

  11. Jan,

    I knew when I wrote about the Vet, Lucky's ears and my shoulder that it might be confusing, but I forgot to go back and fix it. Heh.

    I was talking with family who live on the Island the other day. They haven't gone outside to clean and plant either...really late for them. I remember gardening in February when I lived there.

    Just one of those years!

    By the way, I loved your post on dogtography. Such a different perspective...there are one or two photos I have my eye on!xo


    Lyle, I'm so glad you are feeling better. If you are up to it, I would love to hear how you're doing now.

    Cedar trees have always been my favourite conifer. Unfortunately, there are none up here, and I miss them.

    You have portrayed a lovely picture of the rain on the branches of your tree. I wish we got rain up here. It is mostly snow or corn snow; we do have thunder showers in the summer, though. I miss the misty days, which are very rare in this high, semi-arid climate.xo


    Dear Suki, when I researched the Birch tree, I found many different names for it, white Birch being one. I love the rolls of Bark it sheds. I have a collection from different trees. One of the trees in the Draw has a long sheet coming off now; it is very high up on the tree, though. I keep my eye on it, in case it falls. It is an almost perfect roll! xo

    All Consuming,

    I'm so sorry you're fighting another bug, Michelle. All that stress from your reno and the medical procedures will weaken you...I hope you feel much better very soon. It's almost time for your honeymoon!! xo

  12. Pauline,

    I had a huge connection to an old Sequoia on my last property. He was rare in that part of the coast, and I tried to keep one of his offspring alive up here but it was not to be. It is too cold and dry.

    I know you have a deep connection to Mother Earth, Pauline...you write so beautifully about her. Your posts are like hymns to me. xo


    It must be incredible to have veggies producing so early...you could truly be self sustained in your climate. I'm not sure I remember what it feels like to be in temps that warm, haha!

    It's been a long session of cold weather here in BC...I heard this morning we've had three weeks of below normal temperatures. Everybody is growing tired...xo

  13. A walk through your world as told by you always soothes me. I love birch trees too. Eventually Winter has to share the land with Spring, and then Spring with Summer and so on. But MY how long some of these seasons seem to last when we long for something else.

    I hope your shoulder is already calmer. I don't like to think of you with added discomfort.

    I mailed something to you last week but we all know how long it takes the Pony Express to get to Cariboo!

    Sending thoughts of spring your way, and still waiting for it here!


  14. At the mere mention of the word "shoulder" I grimace. I hope your injury is minor. If it lingers, though, get it checked out as rotator tears treated early can often be reversed.

    I don't know how you bear those long, long winters. Like a lot of Americans, I've considered emigrating (not that Canada would necessarily want me), but the winters scare me off every time. I do know that their not so cold in coastal B.C. but they're still awfully dark and awfully wet. I just don't think I would last. Other than that why WOULDN'T I prefer Canada?

  15. I wrote a gorgeous comment about trees and meeting new tree friends and some old tree friends...and it's gone! and, if I do say so myself, it was brilliant!
    So - leave it at this - great post Marion - love it!!

  16. You have done such a lot of work in creating your garden I can understand the need to get in it again. It must be frustrating sometimes just wishing the warmer weather comes and so get that opportunity. I suspect that once the warmth comes then everything grows so rapidly almost magical. Although it does seem to have been an exceptionally long winter this year, but its on its way Marion.

  17. Studio Lolo,

    I'm writing this after an Easter trip down South. It really was Spring there...so many tulips and daffodils were in bloom! It was great!

    My shoulder is much better. I have no idea what it was, but the pain let me know there was something going on. I'm not really interested in this point in knowing what it might have been...I will look at it more closely if the pain returns. Most likely, it was just more aging stuff, heh!

    I'm looking forward to your mail...how wonderful of you to think of me, lo! xo


    I had a visit with Spring down south for awhile and it makes waiting for it here much easier. It should only be a couple of weeks before it really bounces here.

    I think you would find it very welcoming here in Canada, Snow...most people I know think the way you do. And why, I wonder, WOULDN'T we want you? You're an incredible man, with lots to contribute. Come up for a visit, after you have recovered from your most recent surgery...xo


    Ahh, Mim, I would have loved to read your brilliant comment...Google has done this to me too many times to count! So frustrating! Thanks for leaving your comment, even after the first one disappeared...xo


    Spring really is magical here, when she arrives! Things grow very quickly...even after a only a week away, so much has popped out of the ground I will be busy in the garden for the next few weeks, trying to get it all in shape.

    This past winter has been tough all around. I'm so glad it looks as if it is over...xo

  18. Oh, thank you for the kind words, Marion. It wasn't the people I was referring to but the government. I know nothing about its requirements.

  19. my friend, here i am! my own blogging problems have frosted me up (!) but the sun in finally on my back and i am feeling content in the garden. i planted today and soon you will too.

    birch trees are often so vulnerable that how could you not bond with one that is an old friend? when you are walking around your yard seeing what's popping up, smile at me, marion, because i'm doing the same thing.

    happy happy spring ♥