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Watch for BrightFlame's forthcoming novel, The Working. Witches must save our planet from the forces that will cause cataclysmic harm.
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|Story of A Tree
by BrightFlame © 1999, 2002
Let me tell you a story. The story takes place in Riegelstown. Or maybe, it was Cirusville. Or maybe right in your town.
Once upon a time there was a big, old spreading tree in a meadow. That tree had been there forever . . . well, at least as long as anyone could remember, and even as long as anyone’s great-grandparents could remember.
Many people have memories of spreading a blanket and food beneath her branches. . . sometimes when her leaves were deep green and practically hid the sun. . . sometimes when her leaves were bright orange and the air cool on their skin. Always, her branches spread wide and symmetrical.
One day they turned the meadow into a bank. They cut the tree. Leveled the ground. Poured a parking lot.
Oh well. The inevitability of change.
There’s more to the story, though. Maybe you’ve seen that bank where once stood meadow. But there’s a part you don’t know. Come closer, I’ll tell you . . .
The bank opened for business. The bank manager, who has lived in the community all her life, looked out the window each morning and remembered the tree that used to stand right about where she parked her car. She sighed. She missed that tree.
One day, when the builder came by to check a few things, the bank manager approached him and asked, You know that big tree that was here before you built the bank?
Yes, said the builder.
Did it have to be cut to build the bank?
No, said the builder.
Then why was it? asked the shocked bank manager.
Well, no one asked us to save it, replied the builder. We could have planned the lot around it. Didn’t know the bank would want that.
Oh, said the bank manager.
The end. Or was it?
Well, the bank manager started to go to the local town meetings. She wanted to make sure that, in the future, builders are asked to leave the trees standing.
|The Myth of Tree Topping
by BrightFlame © 1999, 2002
“What kind of tree is that?” you wonder as you drive by a tree with its trunk and branches ending in large stubs. It has thin, wiry branches growing out of each stub. It doesn’t look quite natural.
Well, it isn’t. It’s been mutilated through the practice of tree topping, which is still quite prevalent in my area and in yours. Perhaps you are reading this and thinking, how else do you keep a tree from becoming too large, or growing into utility wires, or blocking sunlight, or hanging over my house? Contrary to what some folks believe, topping a tree does not keep it healthy or safer or shorter and more manageable.
Topping trees causes them serious injury and leaves them open to disease and infestation. The new limbs are much weaker than the original, and are more weakly attached, so they are prone to breaking off and storm damage. Only branches that are diseased or damaged in the first place fall from trees, so topping trees creates, rather than corrects, hazards.
Topping hinders a tree's ability to produce food in its leaves through photosynthesis. It reduces the leafy crown so that its natural ratio to the roots is upset and the tree can starve to death. Trees suddenly exposed to strong sun when their crowns are cut may also experience scalding of bark, which creates entries for parasites. Changes in sunlight exposure may also affect neighboring trees.
Thin, bushy, weak branches called water sprouts grow from the stubs of tree trunks and branches. These grow fast and end up higher than the original branches. So you will end up with a taller tree than you otherwise would have. And if you continue to top the tree to maintain a height, you will eventually kill it.
Topping a tree does not just affect its crown. The food for the roots of a tree come from the top (the leaves), so cutting off more than 25 percent of a tree’s leaves can lead to root rot and other damage and disease below the surface and in the stem.
Topping is not an accepted arboricultural practice, according to the (U.S.) National Arborist Association. In fact, in some U.S. counties and states it is illegal. Then why do some arborists still top trees?
First, don’t assume that a person who advertises tree trimming is a trained arborist. See their work before you hire them. If tree topping is among their specialties, continue your search! Second, arborists note that clients want their trees topped so if they won’t do it, the next arborist will. Spread the word about the hazards of tree topping so that it is not in demand. Third, utility companies do not need to top trees to keep them from wires—they can practice “deep crotch” pruning, a viable and accepted alternative.
What is the accepted alternative to topping trees? First, note that the latest research in tree biology shows that most often trees should be left alone. There is not a need to trim trees as we would our toenails or hair. When trimming is necessary because of utility wires or similar situations, “crown reduction,” or “drop crotch,” pruning is the accepted method to reduce the height and/or spread of trees. Hire an arborist who knows how to use this method. When pruned properly, the tree will have the same appearance of other trees of its species. Work with an arborist who stays current. For instance, it was once thought that cuts made flush to the trunk were the healthiest for the tree. That is now known to be incorrect. Proper cuts (called natural target pruning) leave the branch collar intact.
by BrightFlame © 1998, 2002
This vision was inspired by a 1998 trip to Malta with Starhawk and friends. This article first published in Reclaiming Quarterly, Summer 98.
If you use this story as a trance journey, do so safely and under your own authority/responsibility. Trance journeys are only intended for use when you can safely stay still for a sustained period of time with your eyes closed!
Your eyes adjust to the darkness of this place as you form the sacred triangle with your hands and touch its point to the ceiling of the entryway, and then bend to touch its point to the floor. The soft light of periodic oil lamps flickers on the stone surface of the walls. All is soft. Lines curve gently, edges are rounded. The temple feels labyrinthian and womb-like. There is a soft, reverberated hum of chanting in the rooms beyond.
The Priestess guides you to the portal on your left. You duck to enter and stand inside a crescent-shaped chamber lined with sleeping shelves. The Priestesses of Her womb receive you, and help you out of your white robe. They anoint you with scented oils....stroking lengthwise down your body......and again....rippling flesh down your body. Smooth caresses, caring caresses, urge you to relax. You climb onto a shelf and lie back. Again the hands.... anointing....soothing....bidding you to sleep. A Priestess gives you the charge: Sleep, precious one. Dream and find the answers to your questions. Walk with Her in your dreams. Remember well anything you need to know. Blessed sleep to you.
And you drift into a trancelike sleep. The soft chanting of the womyn, the Priestesses, bids you to go deeper....deeper. Open to the visions and dream. You lie suspended....floating. You take deep rest in this place. The knowing comes to you....
When it is time, you awaken. You feel replenished. The Priestesses receive you and ask if you’ve dreamed well. And you know you have. One leads you back through the portal, left, through the central corridor that is Her waist and into the next apse on the left.
Another Priestess receives you into this room. She bids you stand before the wall that is dimpled with a continuous pattern of small holes across the full face of the stone. This is the screen that will tell you all. What vision will you see here today? What will reinforce the knowing that came to you in sleep? What do you seek? Ask now, and scry deeply as I light the flame behind you....Gaze upon this stone and ask for knowing.
You let your eyes softly focus on this stone. Loosing your vision....expanding it. Seeing beyond the stone—through it. The dots seem uniform enough at first. And then some recede and some come near. A pattern emerges......a figure comes towards you from the stone. What does she hold in her hand? This she presents to you.....and then vanishes. You close your eyes to seal the memory......and look back to the wall with its dimpled stone once again returned to uniform dots.
You form the sacred triangle with your hands and bow slightly to the stone, thanking Her for the vision. The Priestess returns for you and brings you back through the doorway, turning you again to the left. You stand before the great altar. The High Priestess fully robed stands before you. She forms the sacred triangle and bows to you. Making symbols with her hands, she moves them to your crown, then your eyes. She opens the energy centers of your body to receive Her blessing. You are initiated in the first Mystery today. Symbols of your Knowing work deeply in your body, opening you to Her energy. Receive Her and be welcome in Her Brightness. You form the sacred triangle between your hands and bow to the High Priestess.
A womon brings you to the apse that follows the altar. There you are received by others who are initiates in the first Mystery. They hug you and bid you join their circle. A small pond of water is set into the floor of this room and you circle round it. Walking sun-wise with these companions in the sacred pattern, you bring the Earth energy up from this vortex and send it out to the land. You feel the energy rise and your voices join in the rising. Your channels are fully open and you feel the lushness of this energy. And, behold, as the energy reaches a peak, She—the Large Lady of the Earth—stands before you, Her body formed of the vapor you pull from the water. She looms above from the points of energy that connect Her feet to the Earth. She rises and spreads Her massive arms outwards to bless the energy and join you in sending it forth. There! It is done. You bow the sacred triangle to Her. When you look up She is gone, and you join the others in sending the remaining energy back to the Earth.
How wonderful to take part in this ancient rite for which you’ve been preparing. Not merely a bystander as before. Now to actually feel this energy. After the hugs and soft exchanges, you again pass through the waist of the temple. You pass the final apse on your left that you know someday you will be given leave to enter. But not now. Those deeper Mysteries wait for you. You walk from Her womb and are greeted by your community. They see the fullness in your eyes and they are happy for you. They spread the celebratory feast before you and you come back fully into the realm of daylight.
by BrightFlame © 2003
It is mid-May ‘03. There is a quickening in the life pulse of the world–a grand fluctuation. Do you feel it? We are being pulled more and more quickly through a vortex to something new. Maybe it’s the age of Aquarius. Maybe it’s evolution. Maybe it’s......
The world seems crazy now. Policymakers and corporations are filled with dreams of empires. And are using their power to create them. Are you bothered that I personified corporations? Do corporations have ambitions? Look at the Nike lawsuit–Nike is suing to give corporations the same rights as individuals. The right to deceive the public. The only right of individuals that a corporation does not have is the right to inherit. Or maybe this has changed while I wasn’t looking.
The world seems crazy now. So much violence and domination. Children learning how exciting, cool, and powerful it feels to dominate others. Learning to channel their anger into quick reaction. Large reaction. To seize respect. And if they happen to have guns....
The world seems crazy now. Some nations have learned that to be a power player and be taken seriously–or even to be left alone to make policy without the U.S. interfering–they need to develop nuclear weapons. Otherwise you are not a player.
The world seems crazy now. Genetically-modified plants are spreading and moving into the wild. Hundreds of thousands of acres of one plant are grown, without regard for the health of the soil and the water. Monoculture moves into the wild, threatening biodiversity. There is no more pure, fresh water in this world. Corporations are buying water rights all over this planet. They know that soon water will be worth more than gold.
The world seems crazy now. There is a reactionary swing towards conservatism. “Hold on to that power! Don’t let go! We’d better control the people more, they are finding their wings.....”
Will you find your wings? How will you move through these times? Will you dance your own dance through these changes or will you be stifled? Will you find your voice or will you be silenced? Will you find the third way, the other way or will you just go along?
In whatever way you dance, I wish you peace.
|A Postscript to These Times
by BrightFlame © 2003
I heard recently about a study that shows there are many people in the world who think like me. Perhaps you are one of them. Perhaps we are an overwhelming majority: those of us who believe in a sustainable and cooperative world model rather than a model like the one the U.S. executive branch is now pushing. Reading newspapers, watching CNN, I have the sense that most of my fellow U.S. residents support U.S. dominance in the world, and forfeiting old growth forests and intact habitats for short-term profit and garnering of resources.
Yet the study also pointed out that we don't know of one another's existence. So we have no organizing factors inherent in our group that would aid us in having our collective voices shape world policy. This study did not focus solely on the U.S., but pointed out that we exist all around the world.
Grassroots organizing, largely through the internet has helped some of us gather together. Perhaps the hundredth monkey phenomenon will aid us in turning the tides.
Even if we don't know of one another's existence, those who hold more power in the world do. That is why they hold on to control even more tightly. They know we are a threat to their power, even if we do not yet feel it. They push through legislation with religious zeal to keep us at bay. Patriot Act anyone?
The U.S. media may be hearing our voices as well. They are just beginning to question some of the stock rhetoric of the U.S. government. There seems to be a bit more separation between big media and the executive branch of the U.S. government. Watch for these signs. Know you do not stand alone. Have hope and intention that we will turn the tides.
I have not seen this study. I may have the facts of the study wrong But my gut tells me I've captured the gist of the findings. Anyone have a source for the study? Write to me.
by BrightFlame © 2006
A magical and bittersweet journey to Hawai’i inspires this story.
I apologize to the Hawai’ian people: I did not know the details of the U.S.’s overthrow of a sovereign nation. Now I do. Do you? I didn’t know how like the story of Native Americans on the mainland is the history of the Hawai’ian people and culture. I didn’t know of the struggle for autonomy and land that continues to the present.
I found beauty, power, unique landscape and ecosystems on my visit to the islands of Hawai’i and Kaui’i. As wonder-filled a visit my partner and I had, the shadow of the bitter was always present for me. Not in a way to stop me enjoying the trip, but in a way to inspire me to action to help create change—even simple action like recounting the trip to my colleagues, friends and family. Not only did they hear the typical Hawai’i is so beautiful and romantic and fun, but also:
Did you know that the U.S. overthrew a sovereign nation? That native Hawai’ians have near totally been pushed off the land? That, just as the U.S. did on the mainland with native Americans, the government gave back scraps of land dominated by hardened lava flow—the land that could not sustain agriculture—the land the corporate and wealthy individual landowners (mostly white) did not want?
I urged everyone I came into contact with to read Shark Dialogues by Kiana Davenport. And now I urge you to read this important historical novel. And my action will continue in larger ways as well—I hope to share more with you about this soon.
‘Aina is the Hawai’ian word for Land. The word is considered sacred. It carries much energy. The energies and subtexts of ‘Aina carry my passion about the sacredness of Earth, Air, Fire, Water. I am careful with my use of the word, knowing that it might be considered appropriating—I’m a white girl from the U.S. mainland, after all. I hope that my use of the word with respect and for the good of Hawai’ian peoples and the Earth causes no consternation.
A particular moment on Kaui’i stands out for me. On the recommendation of a local woman, we explored Maha’ulepu, a beautiful stretch of oceanfront land—beach, scrub, lithified sand dunes, wooded areas—that became my favorite place on the island. The next morning we heard the reason why there is a gate to the entrance to this land: it is owned by a private company. There are two resorts rumored to be proposed for this land. The moment I learned of this, my heart felt heavy and my anger stirred. When is enough enough? I am involved in my local community with protecting land. I have long known of and been angered by corporate and individual greed that pushes development as far as possible.
I was not surprised about the development, since I know this is the state of affairs on all continents—from my local community, to yours, to Hawai’i to Nanjing to Cairns. I should not have been surprised that the native peoples of the islands are not the landowners, and have most often been pushed into poverty to keep them from owning land. Ideas came to me about how to help this global problem. I will share these with you soon.