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The Tuesday tree: magical rings

March 22, 2011

The other day I wrote about a solitary sycamore. Some sycamores, though, are much more sociable. Here on the castle’s estate there are a number of rather mysterious-looking little copses of sycamores, grown up in a circle like fairy rings.

Nobody planted them like that: they seem just to have always been there.

My favourite – because it is the most mysterious and magical looking one – is the ring of trees that has grown up behind a standing stone.

sycamore grove and standing stone in early December snow

Stepping into the circle, one has a distinct sense of having crossed a threshold. Perhaps only true innocents – animals and small children – can pass blithely to and fro without fear.

spot the small, happy tree-hugger

There is, of course, a perfectly rational explanation for these circles of trees. A sycamore must have dropped its seed-bearing keys around itself and, undisturbed by ploughing or gardening, many of the seeds germinated and grew into trees themselves. At least, I imagine that this is what happened. We see the same with old lime trees, which can grow a veritable thicket of offspring around themselves. Nonetheless, as so often with trees, the feeling remains that there is more here than can be explained by science alone.

For a discussion of literal and symbolic thresholds, see The lure of the liminal.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2011 4:11 pm

    We find the same with our ash trees, though we don’t have room to leave the self-sown seedlings to grow up.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      March 22, 2011 7:12 pm

      We and our trees are blessed to have a great deal of space here, I must say!

  2. March 22, 2011 5:00 pm

    I especially love the shot of the ring behind the standing stone…no reason that the ring can’t be both logically and scientifically explained as well as magickal at the same time!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      March 22, 2011 7:14 pm

      You’re quite right, I think. Many of us see the world through the eyes of reason and intuition at the same time. It would be a poorer vision without either one.

  3. March 22, 2011 8:37 pm

    My favourite is the photo with the standing stone! I love how trees grow in circles – I know on one level it’s just natural and what they do, but on another level it IS magical! I love how nature doesn’t do straight lines – much like myself really!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      March 23, 2011 10:06 am

      I love that lack of straight lines too. Perhaps it’s fate that I find myself living in a house which – to the despair of builders and joiners – doesn’t seem to have a single right-angle in it.

  4. March 25, 2011 6:24 am

    I followed your decidedly academic footnote to your earlier post on the lure of the liminal and found myself in familiar territory. My doctoral research in French was on the process of literary creation. For the two novelists who were my main study the margin of the mental image was of tremendous importance. I discovered Bachelard in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris – the old one, with its domed reading room, desks with individual green glass-shaded lamps, and wheezing porters delivering the latest treasure-trove of books to one’s desk. Your mention of Bachelard hurtled me back to those happy Spring months living in Paris.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      March 25, 2011 6:37 pm

      The concept of ‘the margin of the mental image’ sounds intriguing. Being a medievalist I immediately think of (literal) marginalia in manuscripts, about which reams of deconstructive text have been written. Whether literal or psychological, these sideways glances, thoughts at the periphery of vision, are often the most fascinating parts of a text, don’t you think?

      I never went to the old BN. Foolishly, perhaps, I concentrated on a subject which required long hours in cold municipal libraries in the north of England, when my colleagues were off to far more exotic places to study! Though I did have a boyfriend who spent a couple of terms or so at the Sorbonne (with days spent in the BN), so I too have some happy memories of Spring visits to Paris…!

  5. March 28, 2011 11:44 am

    I nearly became a medievalist, being lured by Chretien de Troyes, but in the end I became a late 19th century/early 20th century gal! However my daughter is researching university choices at the moment and seems to be tending towards medieval history.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      March 28, 2011 3:18 pm

      How interesting. I can understand the appeal of C de Troyes, though my Old French is definitely not up to reading him in the original. But I do find the various permutations and the historiography of the Arthurian legends fascinating: actually I’ve just finished reading a version by Rosemary Sutcliffe (author of ‘Eagle of the Ninth’). I bought it for my 9 yr old son but found myself absolutely enchanted by her writing. It’ll be added to my groaning shelf of Mallory, de Troyes and later versions. I can quite understand why scholars have devoted whole lifetimes to this field!

      What an exciting stage for your daughter. I hope that she finds a subject and a university that she loves. Best of luck to her!

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