Nature cannot be defeated

There is hope. It’s right outside your door.

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been impacted by the current, global economic downturn, and the headlines seem to grow more dire every day. People losing their jobs, their homes, their will to survive. People losing hope. People who are facing one hardship after another, who keep trying and keep getting shut down — whether they’re applying for jobs, trying to get health coverage, or trying to forestall foreclosure. People who simply give up.

It’s hard not to feel demoralized and defeated right now. It’s difficult for a lot of people not to just stay in bed each morning. It’s too easy to say, “Today’s no better than yesterday. What’s the point of even trying?”

I was thinking about this earlier this morning, when I happened to glance out my window at the lavender bushes in my garden. About five or six honeybees were busy buzzing from one purple blossom to the next, gathering food and spreading pollen.

Businesses may be closing their doors, but the flowers are still blooming. Banks may be passing their own hurt onto consumers, but the rain continues to fall (at least, it does in Portland). What does nature know of economic collapse?

Watching those bees this morning helped me to breathe more easily. The sun keeps rising every morning. The clouds continue to drift across the sky, and the moon and stars still stand vigil each night. Winds blow, rain falls, flowers grow.

It reminds me of one particular scene from the movie “Excalibur,” where armor-clad knights are riding to the battlefield on strong horses, pushing the blooming branches of cherry blossoms out of the way with their swords. The cherry blossom trees didn’t care about strife within the kingdom. The trees didn’t care about the kingdom at all. It was spring — time for growth and the promise of life — and the trees knew it.

That’s not to say that the environment isn’t hurting right now, too. Unemployment figures may not directly impact air quality, but decades of industrial pollution certainly do. Our waterways are more polluted, there’s litter seemingly everywhere, and our weather systems are reacting — often violently — to climate change.

But I have yet to see nature take a defeatist attitude. I’ve yet to see a tree decide to take a season or even a day off from the work of growing, simply because it’s tired of fighting against smog. I’ve yet to see the dawn drag its heels because it’s depressed or sad.

Last week, I met a survival instructor on Portland’s light rail MAX system. He was talking about efforts to live more in harmony with nature, rather than always setting ourselves up in opposition to it. And right now, the environment can play a very active, partnered role in the healing of our hearts and minds in these troubled times.

The next time I feel myself slipping into frustration or even defeat or despair, I’ll try to remember to look out again at my lavender bushes and the bees going about their daily work. I’ll pause to watch the robin perched on the tree branch and will close my eyes to listen to its song. None of this will instantly fix our current economic mess, of course, but it does provide some much needed perspective.

No matter what happens today, the sun will still rise tomorrow. Breezes will rustle tree branches. Birds will sing. Bees will dance around flowers. Every day is a new opportunity to get on with the business of living and growing, regardless of what happened yesterday or even five minutes ago. The bees don’t care about my checking account balance, nor about how many (or how few) projects I have to work on. They’re focused simply on what’s right in front of them, and on what they can do right now to keep on living and moving forward.

Healing month of the Hawthorn tree

According to my datebook, today marks the beginning of the Celtic Hawthorn Tree Month.

The Hawthorn month is a time of fertility and power — in perfect alignment with the festivities of Beltane/May Day, celebrated earlier this month. From a magickal perspective, this is a good time to banish bad habits or to work spells to build protection, promote intuition or effect cleansing and purification.

Spring leaf buds are a substitute for smoking tobacco, and the berries can be harvested in the fall for use in tinctures and extracts. Herbalists use Hawthorn to address cardiac concerns. From an astrological standpoint, people born during the Hawthorn month are said to be innovators — shrewd and stable business people who are full of new ideas. The Hawthorn tree is thought to be sacred to the faeries/fey, and wands made from this wood can be used in workings for healing and guidance.

It’s this last bit that has me blogging about the Hawthorn tree today.

There are many beneficial plants immediately available to us in the natural world, if we just know what to look for. I don’t. The few edible plants and berries I can identify in the wild still make me nervous — though I’ve not yet gotten sick from picking blackberries on hiking trails.

When I grew my own basil and oregano for the first time, it struck me that I was hesitant to put something from my yard into my food. I was so used to buying food from the store — getting everything out of a jar or a box — that introducing an actual plant made me worried I’d accidentally poison myself. Crazy, considering that for thousands of years, there were no grocery stores. People got their food from the source.

It took me a while to get over the idea of putting something fresh, green and direct-from-the-ground into my mouth. But soon I was snacking in the garden. When I got hungry, I could just step outside and pull a few cherry tomatoes or snow peas off the vine, and eat them right there.

Besides offering sources of food, plants and trees like the Hawthorn also provide medicinal ingredients. But they don’t do us any good if we’re reluctant or too ignorant to use them. I’m reminded of a story about a dieter who looks at a piece of cake and only sees the number of calories — but those high calories only come into play if you actually eat the cake.

Same goes for natural or any other kind of healing. It only works if you use it.

I don’t have a Hawthorn wand, nor am I aware of any Hawthorn trees around from which I might harvest berries for healing tinctures. Truth is, I wouldn’t be able to identify a Hawthorn tree if I saw one. But the beginning of this Hawthorn month has me thinking about paying closer attention to the healing resources available all around us — sometimes literally right in the back yard. Hawthorn holds out the promise of healing and guidance, but only if we make the choice to embrace it.

For more information, visit Crystal Forest’s Celtic Tree Month of Hawthorn page, or surf over to About.com Paganism/Wicca section to learn about all the Celtic Tree Months of the year.