Ever since I was a child, I have loved the early Spring, when the birds leap into the busy nesting season, lighting up the mornings with their bright, cheery music, and the great gaunt trees suddenly send forth flowers and shiny new leaves, a froth of brilliant green heralding the return of welcome shade in summer warmth.
At the recent Findhorn Climate Change & Consciousness conference, some of which I was fortunate to watch and share with local audiences here in western Massachusetts, Navajo artist Pat McCabe spoke movingly about how important it is to stay connected with our childlike sense of wonder, something I remember Rachel Carson saying too. The change of season from Winter to Spring, which made such a big impression on me as a child, always helps me get back into my child’s perspective, and reconnect with the joyful child who lives within me still.
I remember vividly how delighted I was when my grandmother would take me out early on Spring mornings to look for birds in the forests and meadows around our little cottage in upstate New York. She taught me to recognize the birds by their songs, and we would come back to the house and add to our long lists, on big poster paper, of all the different species we’d seen.
Later in my childhood, when I was around 8, I began to walk in the woods by myself. I explored every inch of our 14-acre property, and then began to venture further into the neighboring forested hillsides and rolling meadows around our home.
There was one place that was very special to me throughout my childhood, and still remains a place of pilgrimage that I visit as often as I can. In one corner of our land, mysteriously, a generous grove of sugar maples had been spared the ax that had felled most of the forests in the region, back in the 19thcentury. Perhaps a long-ago landowner had wanted these trees for maple syrup? Or shade for the dairy cows?
Whatever the reason, by the time I came along the grove was ancient and hoary, surrounded by a crowd of much younger trees, and when I stepped into their presence something shifted in my spirit; it was as though the trees could tune me to a deeper register of being, one that joined them in digging my roots into the rich soil, and sending my head reaching for the sky.
I spent a lot of time in my childhood walking around the grove from tree to tree, noting the signs of decay, along with the vibrant energy that surged up the ancient trunks out to the twigs each spring, pushing forth the ever-new mantle of leaves.
As I remembered when I worked on my memoir, it was in this grove that I wrote my first short story at age 8. It was about a wood nymph named Estrella who called together a council of animals and enjoined them to go on a quest to save the forest from the humans who were cutting it down. I never finished the story, because at the time I couldn’t imagine how to stop the destruction.
Now, all these years later, it seems that Estrella and the animals are still waiting, hoping that I will be able to help them. Estrella’s urgent appeal continues to send vitality into my writing like a surge of springtime sap: I am now writing a novel that springs from my love of the forest and my desire to safeguard and steward the trees that remain, especially our Old Ones.
We live our childhood years (what I call the Earth years, from infancy to age 12) at a special level of intensity. May is an Earth month, when we are called to tap back into our roots and send new energy flowing into the present moment, our creativity flowering forth like the green that spreads deliciously over our landscapes in Spring.
Childhood experiences can be a source of insight and creative potential for each of us, just as my early imaginative connection with a wood nymph named Estrella continues to fertilize my creative energy now.
In this month’s Elemental Journey of Purposeful Memoir, I invite you to reconnect with your childhood and write out of those deep old memories. Whether happy or sad, your childhood is a part of you that lives on inside the adult you have become.
Three prompts await you in the Writer’s Companion this month. Dive in! And let me know what you find there.