With Halloween close at hand, I’m reminded of Ichabod Crane and his dismal ride through a lonely stretch of road darkened by an enormous tulip tree on the outskirts of Sleepy Hollow. Trees often evoke in us a sense of strength and security. However, if we let our imaginations run, they can also make a perfectly serene environment by day seem like a scene from any number of campfire ghost stories. While looking through a collection of poetry based on trees, I stumbled upon this wonderfully eerie poem. Written in the early 800s by an abbot named Walahfrid Strabo, this poem offers an explanation of the origin of two water-loving trees, the Alder and the Willow;
‘De Hortorum Cultura’
‘Of watery race Alders and Willows spread
O’er silver brooks their melancholy shade,
Which heretofore (thus tales have been believed)
Were two poor men, who by their fishing lived;
Till on a day when Pales’ feast was held,
And all the town with pious mirth was filled,
This impious pair alone her rites despised,
Pursued their care, till she their crime chastised:
While from the banks they gazed upon the flood,
The angry goddess fixed them where they stood,
Transformed to sets, and just examples made
To such as slight devotion for their trade.
At length, well watered by the bounteous stream
They gained a root, and spreading trees became;
Yet pale their leaves, as conscious how they fell,
Which croaking frogs with vile reproaches tell.’
HAPPY HALLOWEEN, EVERYONE!
“A poem is only a poem, but a garden, dear brother, is art.”
~Abbot Walahfrid Strabos
Marie Stadther’s life in Coachella Valley was void of trees. In 2001, she packed up and headed north. After a drive through the majestic redwoods, she arrived in Redding, where she immersed herself in horticulture as owner of her own landscaping company and as assistant to an arborist. She is now the lead gardener for Turtle Bay’s McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Her love of trees is a way of life, and she shares that passion with the community. Send the Tree Goddess your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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