Saturday, March 29, 2014

The door in the tree

“It was as though each feature of the landscape had a special significance, a role to play in some eternally unfolding drama. And if they carried on walking into the arena…they’d be given their own parts to play. Perhaps this was the great lesson to be learned about all of nature...."
—Phil Rickman, The Remains of an Altar

I was a child who loved fairytales, stories where the landscape itself was magical.

I was also a literal child.

So in my woodland wanderings, I always kept my eyes open for the door in the tree. A real door in a real tree, with a stairway leading down into a world of magic.

I was disappointed every time I did not find them. Maybe they existed in the lands of my ancestors, where the tales were written. But this land has different tales, different magics...different doors.

Now I know that what I really sought was wonder. Magic and doors in trees seem to me now as metaphors for wonder.

Maybe "magic" is no more and no less than the earthly wonders that surround us...the songs the world sings to us all the time.

Maybe the landscape is alive and loves us. Maybe the land feels us loving it, and nurtures us with rain and sun and food and endless beauty in a great ouroboros, a Gaian feedback loop.

Maybe the door in the tree is whatever it is that opens our beings to wonder.

I think we're encouraged to embrace wonders in a book or a film, but to dismiss them, or even the possibility of them, when they are there right under our noses. We embrace a dualism that separates the magical and the mundane. We decide wonders aren't there, thus rendering them invisible to us. That is how powerful our minds and beliefs are...we can actually render reality invisible and our eyes will simply skip over what we've decided doesn't exist.

But how reborn we feel when we drop the intervening screens or beliefs or depression or whatever else has separated us from our birthright of wonder. Immense relief to find that we have not lost it forever as we feared, that the magic hasn't gone out of the world. It's been there all along, it is there every day, still. Do you feel that?

That there really is a door in the tree, and we possess the key that unlocks it.

Yesterday, my door in the tree was my first spring robin, pouring out his mating song in the morning sun from atop an evergreen tree.

What opens the door to wonder for you?

"…we are situated in the land in much the same way that characters are situated in a story…along with the other animals, the stones, the trees, and the clouds, we ourselves are characters within a huge story that is visibly unfolding all around us, participants within the vast imagination, or Dreaming, of the world."
—David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

Photos of stick dwelling taken on the Mississippi River bluffs, November 2013. To see another stick dwelling I came upon on another Samhain, go here.


  1. Most of modern society believes a collective illusion that they constantly are told and tell themselves is 'real', merely to uphold the illusion... Most children, those who are meant to be insane and certain individuals that society has no comprehension of and thus try and make to conform, can see the magic that moves around us at will. We believe, because we know what truly is Real. I have seen doors in trees before. I adore the image actually... In one of Dunsany's stories (maybe 'The Shop on Go-By Street') he is looking for a street that doesn't exist in order to find this entrance to another reality than this one (he does find it). In a follow-up tale to that one, he meets a witch and her talking cat (again) when he gets through the door and the witch say, 'Come for a change of illusions?'
    For me, the illusions around us are oppressive; so I try and see everywhere the supra-mundane. It has been a long while since I've seen a door in a tree, though. Next one I find I'm going through on a one-way journey.
    The next-to-the last photo looks like a group of tree-folk huddling in and having a little convo about what's to be done about Things. The sooner the better something is done, I say.
    Thank you for reminding me of the magic.

    1. Thank you for that overlay image of the tree folk, Reifyn. Sometimes the magic clobbers me over the head and other times I need to go looking but it plugs me in to a new depth of meaning and connection nowadays.

  2. Such an enchanting structure - did you make it? I was reminded of a bit of bent over willow that I used to go play in when I was a child. I pretended I was a wolf and it was my den. Or sometimes I was an indian and it was my wigwam. It was damp there and onion grass would grow. We always had some on the stone table to eat for dinner - if we were indians that day. And, oh so many things open that door of wonder for me.....!!!!

    1. I just came upon the stick dwelling as I was walking, which made it all the more magical and mysterious. It appeared that other folks had added things later, like the flowers drying inside and a stone-edged path around the outside, which kind of domesticated it for my taste but still it was cool that it felt like a community collaboration and underground secret. A couple of years ago I came upon another like this at the same time of year--less elaborate and even more hidden away than this one. It was one of my first posts on Wildspell. :) Children LOVE these places, don't they? Pretending to be some creature or person that belongs to the wild. Trees are magical companions in play and they are still magical companions in your paintings, aren't they?

  3. I am still a literal child, Carmine.
    When I began getting immersed in Celtic folklore while writing my first novel, I spent so much time with the woods connecting with the spirits therein. I left chocolate. They left bits of colored glass. I gave them a prayer of gratitude. They appeared on photographs I took, faces peering at me from the trees.

    Magic is everywhere.

    Thank you for reminding me.

    1. You and Reifyn have a gift for seeing the hidden faces...sometimes I leave offerings but I've never checked to see if they're accepted. Usually have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees....


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