Fairy Rings & Tree Councils


Ever since the gringa was a little girl, she has loved fairy tales. Stories of magic and elves rate right alongside stories of spaceships and far-and-away star colonies. Of course, whenever the gringa imagined the fairyland setting of a wooded glen with magical sprites and naughty gnomes, the picture in my mind was of emerald green meadows filled with colorful flowers and dark forests with friendly woodland animals. A picturesque image to be found in places like Ireland or jolly aulde England. Never in a kazillion years would the gringa have linked fairy tales with southern Africa or western Australia. Now scientists have gone and turned my childhood fantasy world upside down.

You see, fairy rings have always been a standard feature in tales of deep magic in old forests:

  • “Meraugis de Portlesguez” by Raoul de Houdenc
  • “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare
  • “The Impossible Dowry” (Amyntas) by Thomas Randolph
  • “Nymphidia: The Court of Fairy” by Michael Drayton
  • “History of the Goths” by Olaus Magnus

Even unwritten works, like folklore, preceded great literature with tales of fairy rings:

  • Sorcerers’ rings of France
  • Witches’ rings of Germany
  • Devil’s milk churn rings of the Dutch
  • Remnants of fiery dragon tails of Tyrol
  • Dance rings of elves and fairies of England, Wales, Scandinavia and Ireland
  • Dinner tables of fairies from Scotland

The gringa loves the old tales and fantasies of midnight revelries rising up to the surface of the earth as the magical middle Earth creatures enjoy the moonlight and starlight while humans sleep. I am sorely disappointed that scientists had to go and destroy this little piece of illogical, creative, mental space in my mind by announcing they have solved the mystery of fairy rings. And they even went and renamed the phenomena, calling them “fairy circles”. I suppose scientists prefer a geometric term to a more poetic counterpart. Doggone them all.

South of Angola toward South Africa’s Northwestern Cape province is a vast, barren region of land that is mostly uninhabited. It is dotted with reddish and golden earth circles within the grassland. The fairy circles vary in size from about 7 feet in diameter to almost 50 feet in diameter. This strange geographical feature has been romanticized in literature and local myths. The bushmen of this area claim the fairy circles belong to divine gods and possess magical powers.  Some say they are the footprints of the gods themselves.

Recently, these same types of circles were discovered in Australia’s Pilbara region. Much to the gringa’s dismay, the mystery has now been solved. This year an environmental research group published their official findings of what exactly causes fairy circles. However, if the gringa so chooses, she could put her own spin on their determinations. A fairy circle would no longer be the work of fairies, elves and sprites, but of the living forest itself.

What scientists have concluded is that the fairy circles are definitely not the work of termites or ants. It is more probable that they are the work of plants organizing themselves in certain patterns as they compete for scarce water resources. The gringa sees literary and poetic potential in this theory.

Imagine, if you will, councils of shrubs, trees and flowers getting together and discussing just how much water they need to survive. Envision them arguing their case for who needs shade and who has a root system that is just robbing the entire community and being selfish. I can hear the sound of a gavel-shaped root coming down on the top of  a flat stone, a centuries-old tree declaring, “Hear, hear. It has been determined that the crocuses will relocate to the shade of the old growth elms tree line and the blackberry bushes will separate their thorny selves from the fern bed, moving eastward toward the river.”

Although such a tale lacks the mischievous fun of fairies and nymphs, it would still contain delightful magical potential. So, all is not bad news.

 

Source:  www.mic.com & Wikipedia

Image Credits: www.cnn.com & www.fairyroom.com

 

 

 

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Scientists Have Feelings, Too


So often the subject of climate change is politicized and scientists are treated as if they have some kind of hidden agenda. The gringa assures the dear reader that most scientists are scientists because they love science. At their very core they are dreamers and artists who move through the world of science with an idealism that their knowledge can help make the world a better place.

So, rather than delve into criticizing these folks as being part of some sinister conspiracy to take over the world, think about how they feel about what they know and how everyone else is reacting to their publication of their work. It may very well change how you feel about the subject. Perhaps it may even light a fire within your own heart to do your best to be a part of changing the world for the better.

A website, www.isthishowyoufeel.com, has documented dozens of letters from scientists who study climate change. These letters are responses to  Author Joe Duggan who put this simple question to scientists: “How do you feel about climate change?” The gringa was extremely interested, to say the least.

I have only touched on highlights of their responses. To read the handwritten letters in their entirety (except for one that was typewritten), you will have to visit the website or, if you’re lucky, the most recent location where the letters are exhibited. You can also find that information on the website.

Professor Emeritus Neville Nicholls, School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, Monash University, Australia is:

  • Confident we will adapt, reduce emissions and slow global warming

Dr. Anna Harper, Research Fellow, University of Exeter is:

  • Powerless about the power of those who are resisting action
  • Discouraged that the public is not understanding that we cannot wait to act
  • Frustrated that others cannot be convinced that we are being irresponsible
  • Optimistic for the opportunity to redefine how humans live
  • Hopeful in man’s creative and innovative talents

Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, Head of Earth System Analysis, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research is:

  • Frustrated to be in a nightmare where no one realizes the threat is real

Dr. Jessica Carilli, Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts, Boston is:

  • Dismayed
  • Depressed at how humans have destroyed natural habitats and how so many don’t care
  • Powerless
  • Sad
  • Overwhelmed of the problem’s magnitude
  • Hopeful in politicians and grassroots movements that want to bring about change
  • Unwilling to give up
  • Amazed at human ingenuity to create solutions

Dr. Carlo Buontempo, European Climate Service Team Leader, Met Office Hadley Centre is:

  • Tired, especially of debating the subject
  • Outraged at the human species lack of response
  • Optimistic in collective knowledge

Agus Santoso, Senior Research Associate, University of New South Wales is:

  • Overwhelmed by the debate
  • Intrigued by the science
  • Tiresome of the political motivations behind debate of the subject

Professor Donald J. Wuebbles, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois is:

  • Concerned about the legacy we are leaving future generations
  • Hope in humanity’s history as problem solvers

Professor Mark Maslin, Professor of Climatology, University College London is:

  • Challenged because climate change makes all other global challenges worse
  • Optimistic as conditions continue to improve for humanity worldwide

This is just a sampling of a few of the letters that can be read in their entirety on the website www.isthishowyoufeel.com. The gringa loved reading all of these letters. I felt much closer to these elusive creatures that are so often reduced to lumps of data on paper.

Despite their levels of frustration, almost all of them are confident and hopeful. That speaks volumes to the gringa that if these folks are staring the facts and models in the face that predict the extinction of humanity, yet remain hopeful and confident that this problem can be averted, I will sleep well tonight. And, tomorrow, I will reapply myself to being a part of the solution.

How ’bout you, dear reader? How do you feel about all this mess?

Source: http://www.isthishowyoufeel.com

Photo credit: www.practicalpedal.com