10 January 2012

Wolf Moon

The Celts, like North American First Nations, were observers of the natural cycles of the earth. They had names for the full and dark moons, and January's full moon was known as a wolf moon. I say known as, rather than called, because there were several descriptive names for each moon. Last night's howling high winds reminded me of the wolf moon.

High winds are one of nature's ways of clearing out some of the deadwood.
In the Delta Nature Reserve, the inner horseshoe trail has areas of paper birch close to the boardwalk.
Paper birch provided papery bark that First Nations people used for wrapping food, a soft wood that was easily worked into spoons and bows, and the sap was tapped and drunk medicinally.

Paper birch seeds easily, both pollen and seeds are spread by the wind. It is often found growing on the edge of the bog in areas succeeding to forest. But, as it grows quickly, so it dies young. The lifespan of a birch tree can be about fifty years, before it starts to be colonised by fungus, small invertebrates and other decomposers that return it gradually to the earth.

Wind storms can be dangerous times. Breaks in the narrow trunks can leave branches and broken shafts suspended in other trees, or bring them down, swiftly spearing the ground below. It is important to be very wary when walking through areas of birch when there have been high winds. Listen out for creaking, and watch for branches that look poised like the sword of Damocles, because this may be when that sword falls.

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