Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Renewed Focus, or An Ode to Nature

My life has changed a lot since I last posted regularly. In the summer of 2016 my husband and I decided to leave our lifelong home of southern California for an adventure on the east coast, and moved to NYC. After our second winter I think it's safe to say we have left the honeymoon phase, but we still love it here.

Everything is different of course; the culture, the people, the drivers, but the biggest change by far is living in a totally new bioregion. In California I had a deep knowledge and understanding of the plants and animals, I felt at home there and all was familiar. The challenge has been learning about this completely different land we live on, the plants we live with, and how the seasons affect our lives much more profoundly than they did before. There's cold, and rain, and snow! All new to me. When people talk about the weather it's not just small talk - it's interesting, and sometimes a good warning. I learned from my neighbors what to expect during our first big storm, and shoveling snow is a surprisingly pleasant community experience.

Maple Leaves 

I have to say, walking through the woods surrounded by trees that I didn't recognize was an off-putting experience! I've hardly learned all of them, but my IDing abilities is improving. In spring there is a beautiful tree called an American Linden that has tiny, creamy flowers that give off such a strong fragrance, the entire park is full of it. In autumn my favorites are the maple trees (ok, this one I recognized, who can miss such a distinctive leaf?) - they are so vibrant and varied, from deep crimson, to flame yellow, to tangerine, and so bright they almost seem to glow. There really is nothing so lovely as New England in the autumn.

My favorite tree of all is the Oak. They are my dearest and oldest friends, and I was pleased to find them in abundance here. They are not quite the same as the California Live Oak - an evergreen beauty with twisted arms and personality - they are taller, stately, upright, changeable. Our upstairs apartment looks down into a small yard with one tall Pin Oak, giving us leafy green coverage in the summer, and bare branches in the winter. It's a veritable squirrel buffet, and I've spent altogether too much time watching the squirrels (speaking of squirrels - black squirrels are a thing! I've never seen a black squirrel in my life before we moved here). We also get visits from all manner of birds - most of them new to my west-coast eyes.  In summer time we also get the sounds of cicadas, a loud hum that rises and falls and has the power to lure one to sleep if one happens to be lying under the right type of tree on the right type of blanket at the park. My favorite new thing of all though, is fireflies! It was always a dream of mine to finally see fireflies in real life, and they do not disappoint! Dusk falls and they are sparkling in the fields, the hedges, just asking to be chased and admired.

Snowdrops in Central Park
I feel that in many ways living here has brought me a new understanding and appreciation for the Gaelic calendar, and holidays; winter really does begin at Samhainn, and the promise of coming spring at Là Fhèill Brìghde has a much deeper meaning when one actually lives in snow! I bring my son out for seasonal activities, and this year when went to pick blackberries at Lùnastal and a thunderstorm rolled in, I thought that was very fitting. (We do not usually get thunderstorms in LA). I certainly miss California, my family and friends, and the familiarity of it, but this Gaelic Polytheist is very happy and content on a new coast. I was so worried before we left that I wouldn't be able to find much nature at all in the city, and how wrong I was. It's everywhere. It overtakes the city.

Apple Picking
Linden Flowers
Snowy Night
The biggest clover flower! Lots of rain = Giant Plants. 

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