My father was a small town osteopathic doctor. The community was not wealthy, and he accepted samples from the pharmaceutical reps so as to provide free medicine to some of his patients. Giving them handfuls of little two pill packages to see them through their illness. When his children were sick, we often got samples too, I remember especially well the tiny brown bottles with powder in them. He would add water and shake – resulting in a grape juice like substance, or the less favored, a thickish “bubble gum” flavor of what I think must of been an antibiotic.
I loved to collect the tiny brown bottles. They were just the right size to have come from the fairy realms. And when filled with a combination of water and food coloring transformed into my own special healing potions. Which I used like spells to protect the land. I buried them around the yard, but especially under the enormous silver maple in the front yard the summer after a big ice storm broke some of its branches. This was the same tree my brother Pat and sister Margaret spotted the kaleidoscope of monarch butterflies resting on one day. One of the most magical experiences of my childhood.
The other night I had a dream about being in the front yard, I walked right by the silver maple tree, briefly placing my hand on its rough bark. Do I still dream of that childhood home that I left so long ago, because those little bottle spells somehow tether my imagination to the land? How long did it take for the metal lids to rust out, spilling the blue and green, purple and red liquid into the soil?
When the house was sold in 1988 it came into the hands of a couple moving to our small town from the big city. They made of it a fortress, planting many trees that fill the front yard which once held baseball games. Trees which have grown up to completely obscure the house from the road. In my dreams it is usually still the yard of my youth – open and filled with sun. I wander about near the majestic mulberry tree, the lilac thicket or the old apple tree to the north side of the house. I sometimes wonder if the new owners ever found any of the bottles I buried amongst those beloved trees while digging holes for their new trees?
Where do our childhood imaginings end up? Are they still within us- or do they take flight like the monarchs to travel untold distances until they find fertile ground in some new child’s mind? In those worlds that we created, the rules were both intricately defined, and included the immeasurable mystery of possibility. I remember arguing over whether or not imaginary bullets had successfully killed someone or not. “I hit you, you’re dead!” “No I swerved, you missed!” “Did Not” Did Too” The worlds we created were perfectly tangible, with real consequences.
The imaginary world of my two sons started under the big blue Sitka Spruce in our yard at least ten years ago. The land of Pinecone Village has engaged both my boys, their cousins and all of their friends. Peopled by a complex society of pinecone people, with mud and bark houses. Over the years the accruements of the people have become more and more elaborate, from removable tinfoil armor, to pounded copper weapons, and hand woven capes. There is even a flying brigade of tiny cone people with chicken feather gliders. During the course of their play the boys have unearthed antique bottles, and old marbles from children who lived here over the last hundred years, what relics will future children find of Pinecone Village?
Sam has slowly faded out as he grew into other interests of his young adulthood. Leaving the playing field to Martin and his young friends. Martin is exceptionally creative, and the art making componate of pine cone village has become more and more central. It seems more like a huge art installation to me than anything else at this point. A few winters ago Martin “invented” a back strap loom from some pieces of cedar kindling in order to weave tiny capes for his leader cones, tapping into one of the ancient streams of knowledge that are still tumbling through our world.
I like to think that our wild creativity has a spirit of its own, that it calls to more spirits drawing to us just the right information at just the right time. That if we give ourselves the space to create, to imagine, those worlds we connect with will bring us wonderful things. Beneath our very feet, at any moment may be buried some long lost blessing just waiting for the right moment to emerge. We are always either making or receiving artifacts of the mind. Communicating ideas that are like windblown maple samara or the little winged sitka spruce seeds. Ideas flow through us, if we make a place for them to land they can take root, eventually growing enough to ripen new seeds and send them aloft to serve others.