The New Year is upon us, and I am hearing many people glad to be through the challenges of 2018, looking forward to the coming year of 2019, I among them! On this first day of the year I took a walk to a nearby knoll covered with a stand of oak trees and enjoyed the low winter sun, sitting on a lichen covered rock, the hawks and vultures soaring below and above.
I wandered through the grove and found the most amazing lichen, which I’ve now learned is called Lace Lichen, several oak galls for dye, some fresh acorns, and gathered some more mistletoe to preserve for possible medicine.
I marveled at the hundreds of acorns the industrious woodpeckers have stashed away on the dead branches of an oak, a full circle. I wondered if they ever sprout in the spring using the old wood as a nurse log.
I came upon the last remaining segment of an old barbwire fence stretched between two oaks, with the wire coming from the center of their trunks, likely nailed to the oaks so long ago the wire has slowly folded into the layers of corky bark during each year of growth. Somehow this was not sad, but strong and beautiful, a gentle acceptance.
I think of all the oaks I have sought and visited, in every place I’ve been, most recently on my ancestral Cameron lands in Scotland, the oak leaf the symbol of our clan. I think of our own native Garry oak in the Pacific Northwest, in Puget Sound only remnant stands now remain, and those I visit like friends when I can. I notice all the ways in which oaks sustain life, sometimes to their own death, so much abundance. I gathered old branches covered with lichen, and am now identifying them, recognizing several as dye lichen, which I’ll separate and begin the alchemy of transforming them into color for our natural dyes projects in the coming year.
There is something about these oaks who persevere, adapting, accepting, sharing themselves. I think I will name this the Year of the Oak for me, and let them be my teacher…
All the best for you in the coming year, and I hope we cross paths soon.