Last Thursday, bright, clear and windy after a brief storm on Tuesday night and lingering cloud Wednesday, Sarah Munster - friend, landscape designer and dowser - helped me find locations for three oak seedlings (Quercus agrifolia) and a young black walnut (Juglans californica).
I had already found the prospective walnut transplant beneath the oaks to the north east of the house and cleared away a couple of rocks to be sure that I had a reasonable chance of getting most of the root. Sarah confirmed that this sapling would be amenable to being moved. I showed her the approximate area that I was thinking of for the new location and she pin-pointed a likely spot.
The oak seedlings had been collected a few weeks earlier from beneath the meadow oak below the house and were planted to the west of it. Sarah, via her 'bobber' dowsing implement deemed only one of the four worth leaving in-situ while the others were to be moved to the south east of the parent tree. Scrambling through the rocky field she located the three planting sites. We marked each with a small cairn of stones.
With massive rains scheduled for the week, I knew that Sunday morning, cloudy and still, presented a prime opportunity for the plantings. The walnut had rooted deep beneath an immovable rock but with some energetic bar work and hand removal of earth I was able to reveal most of the tap root and I lost only an inch or two to the rock. The sex organs - the trunk and leaves - were about 18" tall and the root measured from elbow to palm. I carried the bare root stock the hundred yards to its new location and got it into the ground with a minimum of trauma. (Easy for me to say!). I used the dark loamy soil from beneath its host oak to fill the hole and give the root some semblance of familiar surroundings. The tree, if it prospers, will find the soil beneath and beyond the planting pocket much more sandy but with the typical quotient of rocks around which moisture migrates down into the earth. The oaks, having been recently transplanted, were relocated without drama.
While working on removing the walnut I had seen another sapling close to a multi-trunk oak lower down and almost in the seasonal creek bed. Confident now in my extraction technology and aware of the character of the walnut tap root I ended the morning by removing it - again leaving the last few inches of root wedged under a rock - and planted it 10' -15' away from the first. They will eventually linkup with 3 or 4 existing walnuts along the rocky spine that divides the east and west meadows to create a casual arc of trees. The three oaks will form a complementary arc lower down the meadow. A little after mid day the rain began, and as I write this in the early evening, it continues.
Sarah was in England recently and she acquired her new bobber dowsing technique from a seminar in Wales. She spent much of the summer in the Cotswolds and Wales is an easy drive west. Her initial forays into the dowsing world were made, more prosaically, in the San Fernando Valley and she had previously practiced dowsing for water (or water witching) on our property. The local well-diggers, the Hansens, use dowsing and old man Ralph has the gift. It skips generations apparently, but his grandson Brandon continues the tradition. I remember my father showing me how to dowse in England when I was 9 or 10. We used, I think, a hazel twig with the traditional pointer and branched hand holds. I am not clear whether my father had the gift or if this was merely a technical demonstration of the tools used in the art.
Sarah has expanded her skills beyond searching for water and she follows the modern notion that dowsing is equivalent to, for instance, strength testing in Kinesiology or any other technique used for accessing the networks of energy and information that pulse through all of creation. To that extent it is equivalent to the predictive aids such as the i-ching and the tarot deck. She has demonstrated to Lorrie and me the technique for ascertaining whether foods, drugs or supplements are helpful whereby a simple rocking of the body can be used as an indicator of the yes/no which is at the heart of dowsing.
The bobber is a flexible rod (such as a straightened wire coat-hanger) with a plastic vial at the end. An up and down motion is initiated by the dowser and this changes to a circular motion when the energy network is approached for wisdom - one direction indicates yes and the other no. The plastic vial can be filled with a substance, such as water, that the dowser wishes to locate; otherwise it serves as a weight to facilitate the bobbing.
Sarah, then, follows in the tradition of those who have been characterized through history as diviners, dowsers, soothsayers, seers, mystics, mediums, clairvoyants, shamans, witches, wizards and, most often, charlatans. Like Dorothy Maclean, whose work with devas, the intelligences overseeing the natural world, resulted in the amazing cooperations with plant life that established Findhorn on the north east coast of Scotland as a magical place of giant vegetable production, Sarah claims to have long communicated with plants in her work as a garden designer. Similarly, the native plant ecologist Dr. Margot Griswold, communicates with grasses, trees and shrubs.
Maclean conversed with the devas and even experienced them in something akin to human form. Sarah tells the story of a meeting with a wood nymph when she was a child. Maclean had an assignation with Pan in a London park. Krishnamurti communicated with the oaks at the Oak Grove just west of Ojai where he gave his talks and was concerned not to interfere with their relationship - he avoided, for instance, walking directly between two oaks.
Dowsing introduces the certainties of binary answering, but is limited by the intelligence of the question. The emphatic graphic indications of the device are reassuring, however, and avoid the interpretive steps of a more intuitive communication with the animal, vegetable or mineral spirits.
It continues to rain, after a brief respite that allowed Lorrie and me to wander down to the perimeter gate and lock it for the night, so the five trees I planted are getting a thorough soak. Their future is not assured, but I feel confident that we are, at some level, working cooperatively with them and that our various energies are intertwined to some small extent.