WITCH-HAZEL, October flowers (Hamamelis virginiana), [ click photo for next . . . ]
Native to Northeast America . . .
Witch-hazel is a beautiful and unique deciduous shrub
native to the northeastern parts of North America. One
of its lesser used common names, one which I rather like myself,
is Winterbloom. The latter refers to Witch-hazel's unusual
seasonal rhythm of having fruits, flowers, and next year's leaf
buds all appearing on the branch simultaneously in the fall
[see photos below]
Both the bark and leaves of the Witch-hazel have been
used traditionally as an astringent, causing a contraction of
body tissues, especially the skin, and were used for this reason
evidently by Native Americans for treating external inflammations.
The poem featured below, A WITCHER OF WELLS, refers to
the another distinctive use of the plant, but this time the
ancient practice of using the forked twigs of the Witch-hazel
as divining rods, something I've tried myself, but with little
success. So you can see, with Hamamelis virginiana,
we clearly have a native tree with many rich botanical,
and cultural features worthy of our consideration.
On the road in the Northwest of America.
Questions open the door to the unknown;
tests shut it.
Tests only demonstrate the failure
of the one who tests.
A WITCHER OF WELLS . . .
Before she can say “Don’t!”, with
one quick slice of his knife he
cut another branch from the tree.
“Hold it like this.
He walked slowly but rhythmically, she,
at an uneasy distance, following.
“There,” he says.
“They cross here,” making
a slow gesture with one
of his hands, pointing down.
It was not her disbelief, at
least not at first, but when
another is sure of a thing
you can neither sense nor see,
how are you to know?
He handed her his stick
and with a few strokes drove
a stake into the ground.
“Could he be right?” she thought.
That first winter, the new well
didn’t freeze. He had said it wouldn’t.
Years later, always come fall, she
took a simple pleasure in showing
her children, and then her children’s
the striking yellow-orange petals
of flowers which seem neither too late
nor too early,
but always just in time to remind her
of the mysterious secret life of twigs
which point both North and South, and
the gift of pure, deep,
[ from FIREWEED POEMS ]
| download A WITCHER OF WELLS [5.5 MB] |