The Greenman

Green Man, Rozome by Dorothy Bunny Bowen

The forests of Southwest Virginia are tangled, with lots of undergrowth and hidden danger. Deadly snakes, chiggers, poison ivy— I loved those forests as a child, but must admit I mostly stayed on the trail! Yet in the spring there can be no place more magical — the dogwoods and redbuds sugar the mountains, while the undergrowth has not leafed out. Easy to believe in supernatural presence with pink and white petals above on the branches, fluttering through the air, carpeting the ground where I step.

Our ancestors interpreted this magic through the mythology of the Green Man, a leafy face who peers down from medieval cathedral vaults. Remembered as Jack of the Green, the Green Knight, Robin Hood, Green Man is on my mind as I seek the sacred in nature.


In the high forests of the Rocky Mountains, there is sparse undergrowth. Poisonous snakes, one is told, prefer lower altitudes. Roaming the thickly firred glens in early June I seek the tiny pink calypso orchids. Only one flower per plant, and that must make the seed for all the next generations. What a responsibility!

Deep under those giant old growth firs is a shadowy world apart from the steep, aspened slopes above. Up there, spring green leaves quiver on dancing white trunks — Western tanagers flash amongst these graceful swaying arms. All is bright and golden.

Mountain Grove, Rozome by Dorothy Bunny Bowen
Temple Grove, Rozome by Dorothy Bunny Bowen

In 2001 I was in Kyoto, Japan, during cherry blossom time. The Buddhist temple gardens were full of pink petals, swirling in the breeze, floating on the water. In one shaded garden, a tangle of mossy roots was left exposed on the forest floor. In another, a monk had carefully arranged a leaf, anchored by a small stone, so that water would leave the basin just there, just so. Two freshly-cut scarlet camillias were placed at the base.

Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia, is where my grandparents are buried. As I wandered its many lanes in December 2003, the long wispy Spanish moss festooning the ancient live oaks in the cold grey quiet took me into another world.

Fire Study, Rozome by Dorothy Bunny Bowen
In summer 2003 I was in the Rio Grande valley when a major Bosque fire started. It was traumatic to be in the choking smoke as people were being evacuated from their homes. Now we are told we must embrace fire as part of the life of the forest. This is hard.
Fifteen years ago we stayed in Yellowstone National Park, just after the terrible fires there. I did a batik showing bright wildflowers amidst the blackened trunks. In September 2003 when I revisited the Park I was amazed to see the thick new baby forest of Lodgepole Pines thriving beneath the greyed snags; no room for flowers. Yellowstone After the Fires, Rozome by Dorothy Bunny Bowen

The Ents

Is there an ent in each forest?
Where do they go when the forest is consumed by wildfire?
Do they, like the phoenix, again rise from the ashes
with the tentative seedlings of the next forest?

When one sacred grove has burned,
dare we hope for another to grow?

— Dorothy “Bunny” Bowen, 2003


© All art shown on this site is copyrighted by Dorothy Bunny Bowen and may not be copied or reproduced in any way without her express written permission.

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