Some things I learned from blackberries

blackberries

It’s tough, hardy, even invasive; blackberry left unchecked tends to take over an area and make it its own. Here are a few things I’ve learned from a lifetime among blackberry brambles. [Read more...]

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Can a human being be the spirit of a place?

My Marie Laveau altar for St. John's Eve

I started out thinking of Marie Laveau as a kind of local spirit of New Orleans, and wound up learning a lot about Conyers. [Read more...]

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The Queen of Fair Elfland

American Elder

Now, I think I could make a good case that New Orleans and Faerie are not that different in some respects. They are both beautiful and a bit, well, sketchy; full of glamorie, charming and occasionally unseelie inhabitants, and very good musicians. They both exist on their own terms, with an independent sense of the passage of time and a peculiar etiquette. Really the biggest difference is that if you go to New Orleans, you definitely want to eat the food. [Read more...]

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Perspective in Place

Train cars and wildflowers along the Southern Crescent line

On the way I could see elder bushes, water hyacinths, and a million wildflowers in bloom, known and unknown. I could even, at times, see the tracks of critters in the muddy ditches beside the tracks: deer, rabbits, and raccoons. I could see small towns, too: sun-bleached shotgun houses, comfortable old down-towns with brick courthouses, the utilitarian and the whimsical and the abandoned. As a friend said, it was like a tour of America’s back yard. [Read more...]

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From Here to There

On the train!

Today I am going to New Orleans, on the train. I’m conscious of the irony of talking about place while traveling, deliberately displacing myself. But the flora and landscape I can see out of my window are deeply familiar, and will remain so for hundreds of miles; ecologies are large. Human places are more constrained but are created by confluences of forces including human needs, the natural setting, and human technology as an expression of a particular location and time. [Read more...]

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Love and Magnolias

Magnolia in bloom

Love can be like a magnolia: valued but wild, blossoming suddenly out of nowhere but also growing and lasting for decades, bringing beauty and transformation to your life, offering dizzying heights and a lovely view for the intrepid climber but not without dangers and pain. All of the things I mentioned above…family, legacy, prosperity, fidelity, even clarity, have their proper roots in love. What plant or tree means home to you? What speaks of love? [Read more...]

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The Witchcraft of Place

pokeweed

Every so often, I teach a workshop I call “Ditch Witch: Magical Uses of Common Roadside Plants”…Nearly everything I could possibly need, magically speaking, is within a mile of where I am sitting right now. I live in a treasure trove built partly of ecology and partly of culture; both the vibrant, complex, living ecosystems of the Southeast, and the slow-built web of knowledge that ties the people to the land. [Read more...]

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