We have several blackthorns, or Prunus spinosa, in the median between the neighbor's driveway and ours, against a fence. 


They are graceful trees and are fine with being pruned to fit a narrow space. The scent is the typical faint musk of spring-flowering stone fruit flowers. It's not my favorite scent, especially up close, but on the air it is a little sweeter than similar types and not bad at all. These are blooming in late February.



There is a white-flowered form with yellow anthers, a pink-flowered form with burgundy anthers and leaves, and a cream-colored form with burgundy leaves. They are beautiful when in bloom and in leaf, the pink one especially. I just love looking at them and wish they kept their flowers longer.


At first I thought they were hawthorns (which have a musky scent that I don't appreciate.) I read that in Gaelic folklore hawthorn marks the entrance to the fairy world, and is referred to in one particular essay as "fairy thorn." Blackthorn though has a less positive reputation. It is associated in Celtic lore with dark magic, which I am surprised by, because it is such a pretty and peaceful feeling tree.


But apparently not all bad. From "Blackthorn often topped the Maypole entwined with Hawthorn, and is called ‘Mother of the Woods’. At New Year, celebrants made Blackthorn crowns, which they burned in the New Year’s fire. The ashes were used to fertilize the fields. Blackthorn was sometimes woven into wreaths with Mistletoe to bring luck in the coming year, and the garlands used to wassail the Apple trees."

To have compassion means to have passion for all things, not just between two people, but for all human beings, for all things of the earth, the animals, the trees, everything the earth contains. When we have such compassion we will not despoil the earth as we are doing now, and we will have no wars.
(attributed to Krishnamurti)
It occurs to me that life would be very different if at every moment, at every chance to act, we asked, "Is this love? Is this?"

What would it be like to go a whole day asking myself that question? If we rule out those things that aren't love, there seems to be so very little left to do. And yet what was left would all be what should be.


Vernonia disc golf course

Vernonia disc golf course

Vernonia disc golf course

Vernonia disc golf course 

Vernonia disc golf course 

All the Diamonds - Bruce Cockburn

all the diamonds in this world that mean anything to me
are conjured up by wind and sunlight
sparkling on the sea

I ran aground in a harbour town
lost the taste for being free
thank God He sent some gull-chased ship
to carry me to sea

two thousand years and half a world away
dying trees still grow greener when you pray

silver scales flash bright and fade
in reeds along the shore
like a pearl in a sea of liquid jade
His ship comes shining
like a crystal swan in a sky of suns
His ship comes shining

"I know what to do"

One of the things I love most about my daugher is her devotion to certain motifs and themes in her singing. For years now she has been singing when playing with dolls, digging in the dirt, in the bathtub, sitting on the toilet, and riding in the back of the car. And while she is greatly inventive she also has favorite words and melodies that she uses over and over, and these have become dear to me. One commonly used phrase of hers is "I know what to do." Of course it touches my heart when she sings "I love my mommmyyyyy" with rising crescendo, but it is utterly fantastic to me to hear her own the words I know what to do.

These are words that have never left my own mouth. I grew up in school, where I learned to respond automatically and efficiently to the ring of a bell, did what what I was told even when it was useless and unpleasant, was taught to wait to be told what to do. My own passions and reasoning process were deemed silly and irrelevant, and I was taught to believe that external judgments are real and important. Going along with this got me the status of 'good girl, likely to succeed'. The implication of all this was that the notion that I know what to do is conceited. What incredible audacity it would be to claim such a thing!

Apparently not everyone learns this. My suspicion is that a few people get past it for the following reasons: because their social life outside of school is absolutely supportive of their person-hood, perhaps even viewing school authority as an irrelevancy; or because they aren't quite as skilled at following the rules and "fall through the cracks," rendering the authority of the school useless to them; or because they are neurologically inclined to be oblivious to these lessons. But my brain and environment were perfectly geared for this programming to take. The result was that I graduated and didn't have any idea what to do. This is because I assumed, as the whole structure of school had taught me from day one, that there was something that I should do that is outside of my own desires or inclinations, and without someone to tell me what that was I flailed around miserably for quite a while looking for it, assuming it must be there. You know that book "Are You My Mother?" Looking back, it was exactly that pathetic. Is this what I'm supposed to be doing? Is this? Is that? It was extremely anxiety-producing and eventually led to a nervous breakdown. Hardly anyone knows that this is what happened, because I was so good at keeping a smile on my face and keeping quiet about what was really going on. So I imagine it didn't make any sense to anyone when, after a five-year intensive professional program, I abandoned my career track entirely.

Thus began my recovery. But it's not something that you just get over, because life-long brainwashing is something you don't just get over. Intellectually accepting a more authentic paradigm is one thing, acting on it is another: that takes trust and courage.

Naturally I wanted to spare my own kids all this nonsense, so I didn't put them in school. I want all my kids to keep singing "I know what to do," in their own way, their whole lives. A common criticism of unschooling is, "But they can't just do whatever they want!" To the contrary, their survival as authentic, well, whole human beings depends on it.