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February 14, 2008

Hawthorn Magic

My mom, avid blogger that she is, sent me a link last night to one of her favourite reads, Dave Bonta, because she thought I would enjoy his piece about hawthorns. I loved Dave's piece about his secret hawthorn place, which brought back powerful memories for me of all the hidden places I knew so well in the many wild, wooded areas near my childhood home. (Most of those trees, brooks and gullies are lost to housing developments now.) I immediately replied to my mom, who insisted I post this as a response to Dave and for the rest of you to enjoy. Dave, thank you, I hope my readers find as much magic in your post and the adolescent dreaming it revives as I did.

I was immediately hooked by Dave's stunning first photo, stark yet ethereal, and his use of the word "thicket". My favourite patch of hawthorns is in a thicket down on Stoney Flats about a half hour walk from here, which no other word could better describe, but it's a fairy-tale kind of word, not used much any more by our urban society. Perhaps only a writer (and reader of fairytales) could understand the pleasure I got from just being able to use the word thicket, the first time I saw one after moving here. I really envy his childhood exploration of such wild and secret places, more rare every day it seems. Makes me want to get out the snowshoes and hike down to the thicket, find a way through the fence and into the midst of its two-inch-long thorns and ancient interlocking boughs. Only it's melting here, not snow-shoeing weather at all, slushy/icy with two feet of snow with nothing to absorb it, overcast and damp, neither winter nor spring. And to get in there, you'd have to be a bird - no charcoal makers here. But Dave's piece has inspired memory, which is often more mysterious than the real thing.

These days I'm seeking my muse, hoping to get back into "writing mode", as I call it, starting with dusting off my antennae. First opening the eyes and ears, to things like hawthorn thickets and rumours of spring, and then giving my thoughts voice, rusty and awkward or not. I find it harder and harder, especially when this stressed. Treating myself to books and a new camera (and planning for gardening season) should help.

Letting my mind wander after reading Dave's post, I had an urge to read the Grimm's version of Sleeping Beauty (and listen to Tchaikovsky). When she and the castle fall asleep, the thicket that grows around the castle is a briar hedge of roses and thorns, which attack any who try to cut their way through it, until her prince arrives. And then there's Rapunzel, the variant I know had a thicket too, where the newly rescued Rapunzel then gets trapped until her hair regrows down to the ground like a cloak, while her blinded lover wanders a wasteland searching for her. They knew the mysteries of thickets, mystic clearings, dense forest places in the old tales I grew up reading. It was easy to translate that feeling into the hemlock, vine maple, cedar and salmonberry woods I grew up with, and even easier here on the border between arid grasslands and wooded hills, where almost everything wild has thorns, and at the same time fragrant flowers. Kind of plain in summer, but beautiful and powerful in winter when simplified to their essence by snow.

My desktop photo right now is the small thicket of hawthorn, wild rose and poplar, fenced in with logs and barbed wire, that starts at the upper end of my street. I posted it here on Boxing Day. Do read Dave's post if you get a chance, and if you love trees, check out the monthly Festival of Trees he refers to, which compile more links that you'd think possible of beautiful images and words about all kinds of trees, from the scientific to the mystic. Enjoy.

Posted by anita at February 14, 2008 12:31 PM


Hi, Anita. I came here from Dave's hawthorn post and wanted to let you know I've linked to this one from Romantic Naturalist. Let me know if that's a concern.

Enjoyed your story of hawthorn memories...

Thanks, Sally, glad you enjoyed my post. I'll wander over to your site tonight (am squeezing blogging into my short lunch break), thanks for the link.

Hey girlfriend,

I read Dave's post, too, and it was lovely. I have added your mom's blog to my subscriptions on Google Reader. Man, has Google Reader ever changed my life! I highly recommend it.

Nice to see you blogging again. I'm trying to work on my novel regularly. On Facebook, Andrew M. mentioned he's possibly coming to Vancouver in the spring and, because my dad's having heart surgery down there in April or May, I suggested AM and I meet up. He said sure but he wants to see a MANUSCRIPT. I told him he'd have to settle for chunks of the novel that might potentially be part of a manuscript eventually - or something non-committal like that...I was like 'yeah...a finished manuscript this spring...right...'

You mean RSS feeds? My mom showed me that last year, I don't think she'd keep up on the huge number of blogs she reads without it. She's always the first person to notice when I update mine. I guess if I'm going to allow myself to read novels - such a treat, like having an unlimited supply of chocolate - then I should allow myself to surf again. Certainly my upgraded satellite internet connection can now handle it (unless you talk to my out-of-town guests who think it's in the Dark Ages). I just know that once I get started, I can't stop! The Festival of Trees alone started several hours of reading when I should have been doing my taxes or something.

As for you, my dear, you DO have a manuscript. I'll be cooking something at the stove, or curling into bed for the night, and one of your scenes will pop into my head. And at first I'll think, what book was that from? And then realize it's your MANUSCRIPT. I'd be willing to bet you're further along than whatever AM is working on these days! When I take the time to look, I find myself thinking the same thing about my own 15-odd chapters, but boy, does it need re-thinking. Especially after Marillier. But that's another story. Send me more scenes, if you please, and have fun with it!

The thing about Google Reader is that it will actually save you time. Really. Once you get it all set up. Because it automatically updates itself you don't have to search so much - you just go to the sites that are updated. It also has an excellent sharing feature I like as well. Now that I have this set up, I save a lot of time by only going to the blogs that are updated rather than just going to every blog on my blogroll to find out if it's updated.

Hey, thanks for the plug, and for sharing your own recollections. It's always gratifying to discover that something I wrote late at night when I was dead tired still managed to reach the people who needed to read it. I'd be honored indeed if it turned out to have provided just the nudge you needed to get back into writing mode (I know the feeling).

Nice to make the acquaintance of Marja-Leena's other daughter. I think she and I are among each other's most faithful readers, and she's also been a frequent contributor to the online magazine I help edit.

I can see how you inspire each other. I definitely need to do more blogging - the reading as well as the writing - and though I may never get to the point WC is at of having a blogroll and RSS feed, I can see myself being far more in touch with my muse if I read posts like yours more often.

The most powerful writing brings up connotations for the reader beyond what the writer may intend. I've never seen your particular kind of hawthorn woods before (including the hawthorns having those lush green leaves and black fruit, which ours don't), yet the way you describe finding it, communing with it, I feel at home just as if I were 12, crouched in a needle-strewn hollow among ferns, with hemlock and fir boughs built into a roof across an ancient cedar stump above, and close by the screams of other kids passing, unaware of my presence. And yet I haven't thought about those days in years, not even while exploring the meadows and thickets where I live now. "Writing mode" for me is as much about a way of thinking, connecting the dots in my own personal constellation, as it is about getting prose onto paper. Terrible to think that my own connotations are somehow slipping away. Those linkages should get richer as we get older, not fewer or duller. I'm definitely getting rusty. So thanks for injecting some new energy into things.

Talking about me here, eh, no wonder my ears are burning! :-)

I'm so very pleased that Dave's post was so inspirational in tweaking your memories and got you back into your writing. You have a gift, Anita, but such gifts need to be used. (Looks who's talking.) I hope to see lots more lovely writing here, along with photos from your new camera. You mention stress - I know it's hard to find the time from work, but you may find that writing will relieve some of that stress.

And WC: I'm glad to be included in your Reader list! I've used one for a long time now and could not manage without! Anita, you hear that!