Friday, May 29, 2015

Finding The World Tree in Oaks

Whenever I ponder the World Tree, I often reflect on my own relations with trees. In my experience, They are magical beings, Each with their own personalities. By carrying their own vision of the world inside Themselves, each species of tree offers something of Themselves to the Axis Mundus, which is the World Tree.

 In imagining this Axis Mundus, I think back on my experience with a white oak, which lived next to my third story condo. During a hurricane (more than fifteen years ago) the tree fell through my living room. Between the chaos and the debris, I stopped to marvel at this immense tree laying on the floor, taking up my living-dining room. The crown, the branches, the leaves, the acorns, and the trunk all spilled out over the floor. Amongst the debris were some squirrels and two of their nests. (That is a story for another time.)

 As I touched the felled tree, I felt that I stepped through a door to other worlds. All of these worlds, whether they were below, above, or in-between, were connected through this tree. Moreover, all life was centered in, around, under, above, and through this tree. For me, it was a disorienting, yet remarkable experience. From that, I gained knowledge of the World Tree.

Now when I picture the World Tree, I see a towering, massive tree with branches reaching to the sky, and roots reaching deep into the earth. This broadleaf tree offers shade from the sun and shelter from the rain. The leaves reflect the passing seasons, but they never leave the tree completely bare. Also, this tree provides food for the beings living in it and around it.

 Again, I flashed to a huge oak in my life. This oak of my adolescence sat next to a stone wall in my family’s yard. A clothesline ran from its lower trunk to one of the posts of our patio. This oak tree was said to be a least two hundred years old, and seemed as ancient (at least to me). Whenever, I hung out wet clothes or gathered in the dried ones, the Tree would talk to me. In the summer, I would look up into the crooked branches, and watch the leaves move in the breeze. In the fall, “She” would drop acorns on me. (I thought of this Oak as “She.”) In winter, a few brown leaves would wave at me. Through it all, the Tree was there for me.

 To guide me further, the Oak introduced me to the squirrels. These mammals seemed to be everywhere: eating acorns, buying acorns, chasing each other, and building leaf nests. During the mating season, the squirrels would gather leaves to refurbish their nests. When I was feeling my teenage angst, the squirrels would cheer me up with their activities. The squirrels were partners to the Oak, as they were nurtured by Her, and they cared for Her.

 This Oak nurtured me through some stormy times. She counseled me and gave me her strength. She offered the world to me, for which I was grateful. With her help, I made it through adolescence.

 Therefore I regard the Oak to be the World Tree, the Axis Mundus. Furthermore, the lore about oak trees in various cultures supports my idea. For example, the Celts, not only considered oaks to be Chieftain Trees, but also the Doorway to Other Worlds. To the Romans and Greeks, the oak represented Jupiter and Zeus (respectively), the heads of their pantheons. These Gods spoke through lightening which was caught by the oak. This lightening would travel from the oak’s crown to its roots. This means to me that the oak acted as the Axis Mundus. Not only that, but the oak also contains the sheer life force of the Universe. That is how I imagine the World Tree.

 Works Used.

 Hageneder, Fred, “The Meaning of Trees.” Chronicle Books: San Francisco. 2005. Print.
Hidalgo, Sharlyn, “The Healing Power of Trees.” Llewellyn: Woodbury MN. 2010. Print.
Hopman, Ellen Evert, “A Druid’s Herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine.” Destiny: Rochester VT. 2008. Print.

Friday, May 22, 2015

SALTASAURUS: Choosing What is Best

Drawing by Lady of Hats

The last of Dinosaurs with big noses (Macronaria) were the Titanosaurs, who lived from the late Jurassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period (about 65 million years ago). Like their name, Titanosaurs were huge. In addition to their size, these Dinosaurs had thick forearms, barrel-shaped bodies, and broad chests.
            Like many Titanosaurs, Saltasaurus had body amour, resembling that of modern crocodiles. In the late 1800s, paleontologists found fossils of circular and oval-shaped bony plates. These armored plates (called osteoderms) were about four inches (11 cm) in diameter. Since these plates were not the same as those from armored Dinosaurs such as Ankylosaurus, scientists were confused as to whether they belonged to a Dinosaur (and if they did, which one). Saltasaurus’ discovery in Argentina, in 1980 by Jose Bonaparte and Jaime Powell, solved this puzzle. When the scientists assembled her fossil bones, they realized that these round disks belonged on her back. These large bony plates of Saltasaurus went from her neck to her tail.
            The last of the Sauropods to evolve, Saltasaurus was still going strong at the end of the Mesozoic Era. Because few Sauropod fossils were found in the Northern Hemisphere, paleontologists believed that this Suborder of Dinosaurs had died out years earlier. However, They were abundant in South America. Separated from the other continents, South America hosted many Titanosaurs (who are Sauropods). For example, Saltasaurus was named for Salta City in Argentina, where she was found. In fact, Titanosaurs were the dominant plant eaters there and in Africa.
In Patagonia, paleontologists found the nesting grounds of Saltasaurus. Neatly spaced, each nest was carefully tended by the Mothers. Moreover, Saltasaurus Mothers would return to the same place at the same time to nest. Most scientists regard these signs that she was a good mother.
            Besides her scales, Saltasaurus had other unique features. Where her fingers should be, She had stumps. Moreover, her pencil-shaped teeth reminded scientists of Diplodocus (another Sauropod). (These two Dinosaurs had evolved their type of teeth separately.) Since She could not chew her food, Saltasaurus swallowed the leaves whole. Her huge stomach chamber did the digesting, fermenting the plant matter, and expelling the gases.    
            Though different from many other Titanosaurs, Saltasaurus chose what was best for Her. Her peg-like teeth could strip shrubs of their tough leaves. Her barrel-shaped body fermented her food. Her bony plates broke the teeth of an attacking predator. Though her choices may seem strange to others, She knows what works for Her. When you are faced with choices, remember what Saltasaurus teaches.

Friday, May 15, 2015


One of the best known Dinosaurs is Brachiosaurus, who was featured in the move, “Jurassic Park,” (Spielberg, 1993). This giraffe-like Dinosaur blew snot out of his nasal opening in the middle of his forehead, onto the people below. Small wonder since Brachiosaurus belonged to the Family of Dinosaurs called Macronaria, who are noted for their long necks and big noses.
            However, the movie got the function of this opening wrong. The big hole on the forehead of Brachiosaurus was probably not used for blowing snot out. The nasal opening at the end of his snout was for that. The hole in his forehead had other uses: what they were are hotly debated by modern paleontologists. The earliest naturalists believed that it acted as a snorkel since they thought that Brachiosaurus lived underwater. When that theory was proven false, then the scientists said that the forehead cavity was for breathing and blowing out snot. When that hypothesis was questioned, some paleontologists then reasoned that the tissue in the opening was a thermostat to regulate heat. Others think that perhaps it was used as a sound sac. More than likely, his forehead opening probably had multiple uses.
            Discovered in Colorado in 1900, Brachiosaurus (which means “arm reptile”) was named by Elmer Riggs, a noted paleontologist, three years later. In examining the fossil bones, he noted that they resembled a modern giraffe’s skeleton. In fact, this Dinosaur is known for having the longest front legs of any animal. (They were higher than his rear legs.) With his steeply sloping back and long neck, Brachiosaurus did resemble a giraffe. Since He was the first of his type of Dinosaur to be discovered, other similar fossils were usually classified with Him, which led to some confusion. For example, Giraffatitan, found in Tanzania, by Werner Janensch in 1906, has been the object of intense debate. Are Giraffatitan and Brachiosaurus, the same or different species? Adding to this debate is that much of what people know about Brachiosaurus comes from studying Giraffatitan.
            In reconstructing his life, paleontologists think that Brachiosaurus did live like a giraffe. With his immense height and long neck, He could graze the tops of trees. To pump blood so high up to his head, Brachiosaurus probably had the same circulatory system as Giraffe. Unlike Giraffe though, Brachiosaurus had a sharp claw on the inner toe on each of his feet. With it, he could uproot plants for eating.
            Seeing beyond the obvious is what Brachiosaurus teaches. The big hole on his forehead first encouraged people to imagine Him snorkeling under the water. Later they believed He blew snot out of it. Today, scientists are not really sure what all of its uses are. Brachiosaurus encourages people not to assume the obvious, but to investigate and ask questions. Remember that just because He is tall, does not mean that Brachiosaurus plays basketball.

Saturday, May 09, 2015


Unique among North American turtles, Red-Eared Slider has red patches by his ears, which gives Him a distinctive look. Preferring a quiet pond with a muddy bottom, Red-Eared Slider spends hours basking on a log with his Friends. They climb on top of each other in stacks of three or four. When one of Them senses trouble, They all slide into the water with a graceful plop. Red-Eared Slider’s name comes from his ability to quickly retreat by sliding off his log. Although He has poor hearing, Red-Eared Slider is sensitive to vibrations, and knows when someone is sneaking up on Him and his Friends.

Red-Eared Slider dislikes wandering far from his home. He sleeps at night resting on the bottom of his pond or floating on the surface. During the winter, He hibernates in the mud of his pond. The only time, Red-Eared Slider leaves his pond is to find a mate.

Because of his extroverted personality and hardy nature, Red-Eared Slider has been exploited heavily for the pet trade. Since many people could not care for Him, they released Him to the wild, wherever they lived. Originally from midwestern United States, Red-Eared Slider now can be found in Bahrain, France, Guam, Singapore, South Africa, and the U.K.

Most people prefer to see Red-Eared Slider at his pond, home in North America. Watching a stack of Sliders sunning Themselves on a warm spring day is a joy to see. Hearing Them go ‘plop, plop, plop’ in the water is a musical sound. A pond without Red-Eared Slider is no pond at all, only a small body of water.

Many Turtles prefer being solitary, but not Red-Eared Slider. He delights in the company of his Friends. He suns Himself on a log with a few of his Friends. Red-Eared Slider teaches how to be sociable.
Female Red-Eared Sliders are larger than males, while the males have long claws to stroke the female’s face during courtship.

Conservation Note: Because people have released Red-Eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) into the wild in France, it is now illegal to sell or import them in that country. Red-Eared Sliders are also a problem in the U.K. since they compete with the native species.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Myth of Romulus and Remus for modern people

The founding myth of the City of Rome centers on the twin brothers, Romulus and Remus. This myth encompasses the circumstances of their birth, their coming of age, and the death of Remus by his brother. What makes this myth remarkable, for me, is that this is essentially the creation myth for ancient Romans. The myths of Romans usually focused on civic ethics or piety toward the Gods. (Any myth that detailed the creation of the world was usually adapted from the Greeks.) This founding myth presents the belief of the Romans that they were called to a greater destiny in the world. However, they were unsparing in highlighting that Romulus murdered his brother or that the original Romans were criminals.

 The elements of this myth are twins with a divine parentage: in their case, Mars, the God of War. Their royal grandfather is overthrown, and their mother is made a Vestal Virgin. The twins are sent out to be killed by their great uncle, but are saved through magical intervention. A wolf rescues them and nurses them until they are found. A childless couple, Faustulus and his wife adopts the twins and raise them as shepherds. When the brothers are grown, they get into trouble with the king’s men. When they were taken before their great uncle, who happens to be the king, Romulus kills him, and reinstates their grandfather and frees their mother. Afterwards, the brothers leave to find their own fortune. Along the way, they argue over where to establish their new city. Goaded into fury by Remus, Romulus kills his brother. Filled with remorse, he buries Remus with great pomp, and then founds The City of Rome.

 Because of my brain injury, writing fiction is difficult. Imagining characters and constructing a plot is hard. However, I can read fiction, and my favorite genre is crime noir. I decided to rewrite the myth of Romulus and Remus in that form. Comparing this Roman myth to pulp fiction, it sounds like something from the stories of American organized crime. Keeping the original Roman names, I rewrote the myth as crime noir.

 In the City of Alba Longa, the Numitor Crime Family ruled the criminal underworld. The head of the Family, Don Numitor was so powerful that he had a seat on the National Commission, which ruled the criminal underworld of the nation. The head of the Commission (the Boss of Bosses) was Don Maroni (Mars, the God of War). In addition, Don Maroni was interested in Rhea Silvia, Don Numitor’s daughter.

 Meanwhile, Amulius seized control of the Family from his unsuspecting brother. After his coup,
Amulius confined Numitor to his home, and forced his niece into a convent. To ensure that Rhea Silvia remained at the convent, Don Amulius bribed the Mother Superior.

 After Don Maroni found out where Rhea Silvia was, he also bribed the Mother Superior to ensure that his visits were unimpeded. In a few months, Rhea Silva became pregnant. Therefore the Mother Superior asked Don Amulius to come and fetch his niece. After he arrives, she informs him that the father of his niece’s children is none other than Don Maroni. Not willing to offend the Boss of Bosses, Don Amulius imprisons her with her father in their house.

 However, Don Amulius regarded her children to be a different matter. He would tell Don Maroni, that the two boys died at birth. Meanwhile, he ordered one of his men to “take care” of them. The goon dumped the twins into the Tiber River. They floated downstream until a stray dog paddled out and pulled them to land. Since she had lost her puppies, the mangy dog nursed the boys as her own. Then, a passing farmer heard their cries, rescued them, and took the babies to his farm. Faustulus and his wife, Acca Larentia, raised Romulus and Remus as their own sons.

 Like many young men, Romulus and Remus longed to leave the farm and go into the city. During a trip to Alba Longa, Romulus and Remus got into trouble. Don Amulius’ men dragged them to the “Padrino,” Don Amulius, since Remus had killed their Capo (Crew Boss). However, Romulus escaped, and formed a gang of toughs to storm Don Amulius’ office to rescue his brother. In the melee that followed, he killed Don Amulius.

 The Underboss of the Amulius Family recognized the two brothers as the children of Rhea Silva and Don Maroni. Because of this, he offered them the position of Don of the Family. But, Romulus decided that his grandfather be reinstated instead, and their mother freed. After reuniting with their mother, and learning who their father was, Romulus and Remus set out to start their own crime family, in another city.

 Empowered by being the sons of Don Maroni, the two brothers gathered an impressive group of criminals. As they searched for a suitable city, Romulus and Remus fought with each other. Arriving at a likely town, their arguing became more intense about who would be boss of the new crime family. After Romulus claimed that he received a sign from their father, he decided that this small town is the place to start their Family. Moreover, he announced that he would be the Don. Chagrined at being ignored by his brother, Remus taunted him for being so stupid to set up “business” in such a small town. Enraged, Romulus killed him. After ruing the murder of his brother, Romulus gave Remus a magnificent funeral. Then, he became Don Romulus, the head of the Rome Family, his new crime organization.

Works used.
 Garcia, Brittany, “Romulus and Remus.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 4 October 2013. Web.
“Roman Mythology,” Myths Encyclopedia. 2015. Web.
 “Roman Mythology,” United Nations of Roma Victrix History. 2015. Web.
 Watson, Donald, “Roman Mythology.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 10 December 2014. Web.