I have a new necklace, and it has cast a spell on me.
This necklace is a piece of Vermont Iberville Shale, set in sterling silver, by David Epstein. You can read more about him and his jewelry here.
So I took a photograph of it. (In case this photo looks greenish on your screen, it is not. It's black.) What has caught my fancy about this photo is how much more the image tells me than my eyes tell me by looking directly at the stone. I am captivated by what I see in the photo as birch trees reflected in a lake. When I wear it, it sits flat against my skin and absorbs my body warmth, so when I pick it up, I feel the heat. I've never had a piece of jewelry that felt so alive in this way. This one stone is imbued with so much meaning, all my other jewelry now seems rather irrelevant. (I haven't gone cuckoo. Really, I haven't. Well....not any more than usual.)
So then I had fun hunting online for information about birch symbolism and mythology:
When the huge glaciers of the last ice age receded, birch trees would have been one of the first to re-colonise the rocky, ice-scoured landscape. Hence, in botanical terms the birch is referred to as a pioneer species. Similarly in early Celtic mythology, the birch came to symbolise renewal...
It also brought to mind a favorite Robert Frost poem*. (God, he's good.)
When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
*As is often the case, I'm only slightly out of step with the rest of blogworld. I had prewritten this entry Friday night for posting today. Then I was reminded that yesterday, Feb. 2nd, is the annual Blogger's Silent Poetry Reading day. Wouldn't you know, as Margene says, "That's Norma...one step ahead of the game, only to be one step behind." Beat of a different drummer and all that. February is indeed, Hallmark holidays notwithstanding, apparently the month for romance. Everyone's choices of poetry yesterday touched a nerve, I'll tell ya.