The oak goddess

goddess tree 1

The Goddess has many manifestations, and some of them are arboreal.

goddess tree 2

Thus, at any rate, the eco-feminist take. I lean more toward animism, myself. So let me rephrase that:

goddess tree with officiant

The Oak has many manifestations, and some of them are theomorphic. And clearly very sexy, at least to a relationship-challenged hermit.

The difference is not merely semantic. I’d personally feel much more comfortable making demands of a generalized, invisible deity with potentially unlimited powers. Petitionary prayer becomes more than a bit awkward when one is face-to-face with a living being who clearly has very different priorities from one’s own.

Of course, there are plenty of regular religious folks — the kind who didn’t make it into Bill Maher’s recent film — who limit their prayers to giving thanks and asking for greater closeness with the deity, and/or greater conformity with the deity’s ways. And that’s always kind of been my style too. So I beseeched the oak goddess for acorns.

“Well, Dave,” you’re probably thinking, “that was pretty droll of you.” But it was in fact a sincere and urgent request. As sometimes happens, a late, cold spring played hob with oak pollination here, and the acorn crop seems to have failed. The deer are almost all down in the valleys gleaning corn, but many other, less mobile wildlife species are probably going hungry. I don’t actually believe in miracles, because I don’t think we should encourage lawlessness in our deities — once they get a taste for making the sun stand still or water spring from the rock, pretty soon they’re running amok and smiting people like there’s no tomorrow.

So no miracles, please. Let the natural order prevail. But if some sort of alternate nutrient were to materialize, manna-like, who’s to say my intervention with the oak goddess didn’t have something to do with it?

I’m accepting submissions for the Nov. 1 edition of the Festival of the Trees blog carnival through Friday. Details here.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

8 Comments


  1. Ha. Excellent! Maybe the new moon last night assisted your petition. Sorry about the acorns. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any around here either.

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  2. I have seen acorns here in upstate NY, but not nearly as many as usual. Dave, your writing and your photos always, always inspire me. As I sit and write, looking out at my own small suburban forest I am now searching for maple men and oak wives. Thank you for the spark!

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  3. Very good, Dave. I hope she was nice enough to answer you.

    I picked up a bunch of acorns near the shore of Lake Champlain the last time we stopped, but searched in vain on the mountain here in Montreal, right underneath lots of oak trees. Found a few empty tops – the squirrels must have gotten the rest. But I agree it seems to be a lean year.

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  4. Good post, Dave! I liked the phrase “I don’t think we should encourage lawlessness in our deities”!

    I have animist tendencies too — but I don’t take tham all that seriously. I’m entertained, though, by the images and speculations that the trait inspires.

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  5. So this is where you were all day and why I couldn’t get in touch with you. Hey, I don’t believe in miracles, either, but my reasoning is not nearly as awesome as yours.

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  6. You found a wonderful tree, and wrote a beautiful essay, full of whimsy and spirituality. Very nice.

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  7. My acorn crop here on the mountain in NJ is usually measured by the bucket-full, but this year it is pathetic at best. There will certainly be slim pickins for the critters. The recent bloom in the Chipmunk population will no doubt have a swift downturn.

    I love your thoughts on creating lawlessness in deities too. Bev

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  8. Thanks, all.

    I didn’t want to go into too much detail about oak ecology in the post, but what happens in a nutshell (heh) is that those in the white oak supergenus (which include chestnut oak, our must abundant species on the mountain) generally produce acorns every year, while those in the red oak supergenus (which includes black oak and scarlet oak) take two years to fruit. So there’s already a fluctuation in the overall crop, and species that depend on them presumably have ways to cope with that. However, up until some 80 years ago when the chestnut blight moved through, one of every five trees in ridgetop forests such as ours was an American chestnut. Because chestnuts flower a month later than oaks, they are much less susceptible to late frosts. Chestnuts apparently used to lie thickly on the forest floor every year in many locations throughout the eastern U.S. The effects of the loss of that species (except for pathetic root sprouts that rarely live long enough to produce more than a few nuts) are probably still rippling through the ecosystem. And it goes to show how a damaged ecosystem can be much more vulnerable to the effects of global climate change than an intact one.

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