The Placenta Tree

IMG_5682This weekend we are returning to the most wonderful place on earth, Rock Lake. This is where I spent every summer of my childhood. Every fiber of my being holds the essence of Rock Lake within it; the green water, the flat shale, the chokecherries so purple they’re almost black hanging in clusters from dusty trees and the collective energy of five generations of family who at one time or another called this place home. Although the family cottage is only a short hour and a half drive from where we live, because I’ve planted two large gardens this year, I have hardly had the occasion to make it out to my personal paradise. Luckily others have made the trip in my absence; aunts and uncles, sisters, cousins and my dad have all enjoyed time at the lake. Sharing Facebook pics that make those of us not lucky enough to visit, feel like we were still there in spirit.IMG_3310What better place than here to plant something special. We did it with Calixa’s placenta nearly five years ago, laying that vital organ, so rich and powerful, beneath a tiny plum tree. The placenta that connected mother to child, that nourished my baby as she grew from a tiny egg into a wriggling, shaking, crying, beautiful perfect little person was given a second chance to nurture. The flowers on the plum tree that spring were immaculate. That plant blossomed as if to say, “thank you for giving me such an enriched beginning.”IMG_4939Since Leela was born two years ago I’ve been safeguarding her placenta in the back of the freezer with the intention of planting a tree over it as well. Finally I found a tree for Leela (Sandcherry) that will pollinate Calixa’s tree (Plum, because that was mom’s favorite) and it was time to get serious about planting. After hotly debating location, dad finally conceded and I got to work digging up the sod. The kids helped too, running bits of torn-up grass over to the edge of the property and stuffing them under the neighbor’s stairs.  We went for a canoe trip to a deserted beach and collected rocks for the border and along the way discovered many, many fish remains from last winter’s devastating kill. photoOf course, the kids thought finding fish skeletons was best of all.

The soil at the lake is poor. I tested it last year and it’s deficient in pretty much everything so in addition to placenta I wanted to enrich the garden with well-rotted manure…the problem was that I didn’t know anyone around here with cows. With a big deep breath in, I stowed my fear and drove to the first farm I could find that had cattle. The lady was a little surprised (don’t imagine strangers drive up every day and ask for cow shit). but she kindly referred me to her brother and sister in law up the road. After a few wrong turns I finally found Maple Grove Farm and was delighted to discover that this farm did indeed have organic cow shit and also that Robert Gilford, the farm’s proprietor, is a part of the Harvest Moon Society (they do innovative, permaculture-based, organic, sustainable farming in these parts, have given a tiny village a new lease on life AND put on a great music festival every year). Finding the manure was a little tricky, but with help from Mick, another Harvest Mooner, the poop was scooped and taken back to the lake.IMG_4291Then it was time…the garden was dug and bordered, the soil was amended to the best of my abilities and the placenta was right there, thawed and bloody in a bowl beside me.

Grounded and centered, with prayer on my lips, I lowered my offering into the earth. Asking for nourishment from below and inspiration from above I supplicated all that is to protect this plant, to imbue it with the collective energies of this place; the sweat, tears and love that is family to present themselves in this plant and help it to become a vital part of our cottage landscape.

And then it was over, two years of thinking about it and it was done…But if you garden you know that plants always need looking after. When I find dead fish, I’ll bury them under our trees. In the spring, when last summer’s compost has completed it’s cycle from food to soil, I’ll sift it under the trees. I’ll water them when they’re dry, cover them when hungry deer come looking for a winter snack and while I’m able, those trees will grow up knowing love.IMG_4292






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