Summer Solstice

June 22, 2007


Midsummer, 105 degrees!  The coralbeans shown above are blooming now – I took the photos on Sunday.  The toxic seeds are typically bright red but sometimes they fade, like the ones in the photo.  In the Mexican thorn forest, Erythrina flabelliformis is a tree, with wood that is strong enough to use for tool handles.  Here it is a “natural bonsai”, a tangle of spiny shoots growing from a “root” (actually the trunk, only a couple of feet long) that is usually hidden deep in the rocks.  The plants never get more than a few feet tall because they freeze back in cold winters.  The bright green heart-shaped leaves appear after the flowers wither and the fat pods begin to ripen.

The solar oven got a workout today, including key lime “sun pie” with a crust made from homemade graham crackers.

There is a myth found all across northern Europe, from England to Russia, that ferns “bloom” on Midsummer night, and whoever finds the flower will gain the power to find treasure under foxfire (phosphorescent glows from swamp gas or the wood-rotting Honey Mushroom, Armillaria mellea).   “Fern seed” confers invisibility.  Where did this myth come from?  Obviously ferns don’t have flowers or seeds.  Is the story just another joking tale of biologically impossible “nonsense magic”, or does it conceal something else…an older yet very real power associated with ferns, to be revealed only to those who understand what to look for?  Perhaps the “flower” is a mysterious light or a secret spirit, and the seed is its gift.  Perhaps the “flower” is merely the fire that appears on the hearth when ancient tree-ferns are burned in the form of coal.  What “fern flower” do you seek on this night?  What seed will you carry with you into the autumn twilight and the winter dark, what secret treasure that only you can see?

Here is probably the most common and drought-resistant of our desert ferns.  Astrolepis cochisensis is abundant on marble or limestone ridges, in company with cacti, ocotillo, and agave.  Like all ferns, it is born in water.  Its presence in such a place is earth-magic enough for anyone, yes?   Its leaves, like all members of its genus, are dusted with glistening white star-shaped scales.

desert fern on marble


4 Responses to “Summer Solstice”

  1. Hemera said

    The flowers of Erythrina look like red butterflies from afar! So beautiful.
    We do not have deserts here in Northern Europe which is a pity, and the only deserts I have seen are Polar Deserts way up in the North. But there are similarities caused by harsh living conditions. There´s no time to waste on nonsense when living on a desert. You have to live life in an intensive way, life is *now*!

  2. Karin said

    Greetings from the Winter Solstice in the other half of the Earth!

    I supposed that I cannot say “Happy New Year”, because that is only happening in this part of the world now. But while you roast in the sun I freeze in the icy proximities of the Andes Mountains… 🙂 And everything has died and is already teeming with new life again, as you said.

  3. ironwing said

    To me these eight points that we mark on the Sunwheel are reminders to pay attention to what is arriving and what is passing away each day. They are windows into the “mythic time” or Dreamtime which we can get to from any point on the wheel but for many people it’s easiest on these days. These are also the “spokes” of the Wheel, with the potential to connect opposite sides (or hemispheres)!

  4. B-rad said

    Your an interesting one…
    I absolutely love your work…
    All of it..

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