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On Being Birch

"Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better" - Albert Einstein

Human nature: “A concept that denotes the fundamental dispositions and characteristics- including ways of thinking, feeling and acting - that humans are said to have naturally. The term is often used to denote the essence of humankind, or what it ‘means’ to be human.”

Mother Nature: “a personification of nature that focuses on the life-giving and nurturing aspects of nature by embodying it, in the form of the mother.”

Some examples of the natural resources that we use are land, water, oil, air, sunlight, plants, etc.. Human life is dependent on nature and that’s why we refer to it as Mother Nature. Nature nurtures human as its offsprings.

Did you know that following the last ice age, when the glaciers receded, birch trees were the first plants to regrow on the rocky, ice scoured landscapes?

For this reason, birch holds a special symbolism in many ancient Slavic cultures. Birch is considered a sacred tree and it is believed that all birch trees are daughters of the first human that grew into the ground with their braids; birch water is their tears.

Slavs considered birch to be a gift` that protects people. Certain illnesses were transferred to birch trees by pouring out the water remaining from a sick person’s bath, hanging clothes and linens from the sick onto a birch tree. Ukrainian families still gather potting soil from “under a birch tree” as it is believed to “purify” and enrich the soil and thus make it more suitable for planting. Birch is associated with feminine power and is traditionally used in health rituals for women and girls. Birch water is still a common traditional drink in Ukraine today.

Reflecting on this power and symbolism of birch trees and water, I impatiently wait for the trees I have tapped to start flowing. What am I embodying by drinking their water? I can't help but think about the physical processes and science of how trees produce water in contrast to this spiritual concept.

Sap flow is generally the result of "fluctuating temperatures coupled with positive and negative pressures that develop inside a dormant tree in response to early spring temperatures. When daytime temperatures rise above freezing a positive pressure develops inside a tree – forcing the sap upward from the roots toward the crown. If there are any holes or openings in the tree that connect to the sapwood (e.g. tapholes, broken branch stubs, frost cracks, etc). – sap will push itself out. If nighttime temperatures drop below freezing that positive pressure ceases and is replaced by a negative pressure, or suction, inside the tree. This allows tree roots to absorb water from the soil. In essence, this replenishes what was lost. Then, when temperatures again rise above freezing, a positive pressure resumes and sap flows out of the tree".

Bats, squirrels, porcupines and many types of birds and insects drink tree sap.

Mother Nature provides for all beings in unique and intricate ways. There is a natural and social web of life that supports and sustains us: from queen bee pheromones, wind spreading seeds, flowers providing pollen, the food chain from predators to prey, even trees know when to stop producing an abundance of pine cones when too many squirrels or rabbits are thriving in their ecosystems.

As Mother Nature personifies the life-giving and nurturing aspects of nature by embodying it, in the form of the mother, my mind wanders to ponder this connection of nature and motherhood.......the environmental triggers and cues that play a role in motherhood and how mothering is not just a “natural” response, rather it is sensitive to both nature and the environment". Much like nature, “attention needs to be focused on the complicated interactions among genes, tissue, glands, past experiences, and environmental cues, including sensory cues provided by infants themselves and by the individuals in the vicinity.” -Liesen

The stereotype of the all-compassionate, heroic mother who selflessly sacrifices everything for her child is nothing but a stereotype. (Liesen)

Though this is not to deny the amount of work that goes into the emotional and physical role of being a mother. Rather being a mother has much do with the ability to reproduce, the role of the female body and what it is to be a mother/female on earth. It is nature.

The Mercer theory, also known as the maternal role attainment theory describes four stages of moving through the maternal role that starts before childbirth and evolves through adaptation to capacity development in the final stage. After childbirth, in order to fit into the maternal role, a woman has to use her knowledge, skills, and abilities to adjust to the physical, psychological, and social status. Furthermore, the female body undergoes immense hormonal shifts to provide for their baby and produces milk to meet their babies demand. The active trigger of a baby latching on and sucking rhythmically triggers the body to produce milk. Hormones in a female body including prolactin, insulin and hydrocortisone kick into gear to support milk production. Like a birch, pressure, heat and cold determine the flow of milk.

The experience of giving birth and raising a child is certainly the greatest journey in understanding life and nature, as it is.

She's the trees, she's the grass and the ground. She's everywhere there is to be found and yet taken for granted so much of the time.

Happy Mother's Day! Congratulations on being birch and interconnected.

Mother Nature speaks to you through every form of life.

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