Friday, August 10, 2012

Drought and Dryads

The trees are beginning to drop their leaves. It’s early in the year; the leaf fall is a result of summer drought. Temporary wilting during the day has changed to permanent wilting, leaves that do not recover overnight. A few of the black walnut trees have dropped branches as well as leaves, a common response to stress.

Karya and her sisters
Even after the driest seasons, the timber seems to come back stronger than before. The trees are a mix of natives and colonizers, self-selected for hardiness. Siberian elm, hackberry, black walnut, redbud, hedge, locust, shagbark hickory, rough-leaf dogwood and mulberry are all recommended for drought tolerance. Xeriscape gardeners are turning to so-called scrub trees for city landscaping.

Ampelos the Wild Grape Vine
The timber, in all its chaos and diversity, is the matrix of the genius loci, the spirit of this place. Beneath the trees, undergrowth flourishes, wildlife forages. Devas of each species invite more of their kind. Dryads dwell here: Karya of the Walnut, Morea of the Mulberry and Ampelos of the Wild Grape. This forest is a beautiful bastard, a mongrel mix of native, opportunistic and feral. Living beings weave a unique ecosystem around my invasive house.

Morea the Mulberry
Hesiod says that the rich-haired Nymphs live longer than ninety generations of ravens or ten of phoenixes. The woods have already done that and more, changing with each transformation of the climate or the land. Pleistocene glaciers likely made greater changes than Union Pacific loggers.

 “The Nymphai rejoice when the rain makes the oaks to grow; and again the Nymphai weep when there are no longer leaves upon the oaks.” *
The drought will pass. The climate will change. The spirit of the land will transform and survive and flourish.

Spirit thrives.

 *Callimachus, “Hymn to Delos,” 
tr. A.W. Mair

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