One of the things about living in the south (Zone 9) is that things that normally happen in late spring happen a whole lot earlier on the calendar here. Traditionally, Arbor Day is celebrated the last Friday in April (April 26 in 2013). In most of Texas though, and especially down here in the swamp, if you plant a tree that late, it will fry in the summer sun.
So around here we had Arbor Day instead of Groundhog Day. The city’s tree care organization came to our neighborhood last Saturday, and for February 2nd, I went and helped a group of volunteers plant about 100 trees. It felt like the perfect celebration of Imbolc, in a way, since the “first stirrings of spring” here mean the first inklings of how warm it’s going to get!
Planting the trees now ensures that they’ll have plenty of time to get over transplant shock before it gets hot, and the community association will still need to water them periodically over the summer to help them withstand the heat. These are native trees though, so once they get established they will live a long time. The ones we were planting were mostly to replace trees that had been lost in the severe droughts the last few summers.
A pagan friend and I went as a tree-planting-team, and we had a lot of fun. It was 75 degrees and brightly sunny, and really a perfect way for me to celebrate the coming of spring. I said a little blessing for each tree as we planted it, and I’ve also said a general blessing for all of the trees. Together, she and I put six new trees in the ground – a live oak and five pines. They were large and healthy (all taller than I am), and should be off to a good start. I hope that they will thrive in their new homes, and continue to bring shade and beauty to the community spaces in my neighborhood, as well as provide homes for all of the birds that live in the green areas (and the myriad squirrels).
I love that acorns and pine cones are so frequently thought of as symbols of trees, and that there are varieties of oak and pine trees that live in all kinds of diverse places, so I can enjoy these symbols as both part of ADF’s shared mythos and part of my own, local, personal Druidry.