The landscape of ancient Greece teemed with nymphs, the protective spirits that dwelt in particular places. Glens, pastures, meadows, valleys, mountains and grottoes each had their own nymph species. There were salt-water nymphs–oceanids–of which the Mediterranean contained a subspecies, the nereids. Fresh-water nymphs, naiads, were classified according to whether they inhabited a river, a spring, a fountain, a lake or a swamp. And there were nymphs of trees and plants, nymphs of the sky and nymphs of the underworld.
If Nature filled Greece with nymphs, who\’s to say She didn\’t put some in Vermont as well? When I walk outside with the dogs they certainly appear alert to what are to me invisible presences. Surely the hill on which our house sits has its own oread, or mountain nymph, and the front field its auloniad, or pasture nymph. The woods behind the house must be alive with dryads–tree nymphs– and I hope there is a watchful meliad in the big ash tree, keeping the deadly ash borer at bay.
I never thought about the swamp at the bottom of the woods as anything but a nuisance–the dogs love to wade in it and get muddy–until I realized that it is home to a naiad, specifically an eleinomad, or wetlands nymph, put there to take care of the frogs and turtles and salamanders.
How to explain the disproportionately large crops I\’ve been getting from my young trees other than that there must be a pretty good epimeliad, or apple nymph, floating around their branches? I should put out an offering–wine? milk? maple syrup?–to thank her, and also some for the syke, or fig-tree nymph, to make sure my tiny potted tree survives the cold.
I wonder what happens to the anthousai, the flower nymphs, in this weather? They must all be deep underground by now, although seeing how exuberantly the geraniums and the rosemary burst into bloom when I brought them indoors, there may well be an anthousa spending the winter in the sun porch.
May the nymphs of yam and cranberry dance on your Thanksgiving table, and may you be filled with gratitude.