The night is quiet and I’ve never been as content as I am right now inside a dark coffeeshop nestled into the Smoky Mountains. The bell on the front door jingles and I look up into your handsome whiskered face. Your torn jeans and tanned forearms tell a story, but your soft eyes a volume unto themselves. For a moment that feels like forever, yet remains not long enough, your green eyes meet my brown... an alchemy of irises creating a delphic hazel chasm between us. And for a moment your smile steps off stage, then does an encore, leaving me to wonder when brown and green would meet again.
To the Celts, hazel was the color of wisdom and poetic inspiration. There’s an old legend about nine, old hazel trees born around a sacred pool buried deep in the Scottish highlands. This “Well of Wisdom” as it was known was full of salmon who ate the nuts fallen from the trees. In mythology, Fionn MacColl, eventually one of the High Kings of Ireland, fell into the sacred pool and nearly drowned - but ate of the hazel filled salmon and found himself strong enough to swim. When he resurfaced, he returned the wisest man on Earth and became one of the famed heroes in Celtic legend.
So revered are the hazels for their life-changing properties, to this day, you must have a permit to cut one down in Ireland. It isn't just the Irish either, in Norse mythology Thor himself protected them as the sacred trees of knowledge.
Son of Zeus and Greek god of transitions and boundaries - Hermes is often depicted with his staff of hazel, said to be the source of his intelligence and wisdom.
Roman legend says the hazel tree is found at the border between worlds where the mystical and mysterious come to pass. In narratives passed down for generations, the Romans told stories of the ones who returned from the hazel tree at the edge of the world–stronger and more courageous than when they left.
Like the lore that came before us, when we forsake the primary colors of life, we find wisdom in the hazel, enlightenment in the coalescent gray. Black-and-white is a perfectly good way to live an ordered life... but not a way to live a wise one.
Lean in and let the hazel spaces change you... for regardless of what you believe in this moment, beautiful and powerful things can happen in the margins. While it may feel lonely, you're not alone in the Celtic's sacred waters. Many before you have also found themselves between depression and joy, marriage and divorce, faith and doubt... who they are now and whom they're becoming. If the liminal has taught me anything it's that I'm so much stronger than I think... and you are too.
The next time you feel lost in all the ways you never wanted... look hazel in the eyes and ask him to make you brave again.
Courage dear heart,