Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tickling My Fancy

I've been running amok in the spring weather that we have been gifted here in the west. I've spent the last few weeks planting cold-hardy veggies and watching the perennials wake from their winter sleep.  There is a good lot of magic happening in the gardens right now and I can barely stand to be inside.  There is still office work, and there has been much spring cleaning, but I get outside as often as I can to breathe in the scent of the earth stirring.

There are many tales to be told of spring and new life, but for now I'm just leaving a few notes on some things that are tickling my fancy this week.

~ We are on the verge of a full moon and a lunar eclipse.  Tomorrow night and early into Tuesday morning, I'll be out watching the moon turn red.  For those of you in the west running on Pacific time with me, that means we'll see the partial eclipse by about 11pm, the full eclipse around midnight on Monday, and the maximum eclipse hitting about 12:45am on Tuesday.  Adjust for your time zone, and happy eclipse viewing (if you decide to stay up to see it!)

~ As the sister of a cellar master at a local vineyard, I'm always intrigued by a well-run winery. The April issue of Chatelaine magazine mentioned Southbrook Vineyards in Ontario, which is not only organic, but employs biodynamics on their land.

...Bill is also fond of tea.  He even puts it on his vines in lieu of pesticide. "It sounds weird, but it works," he says. "And it's so safe that you can wear a bathing suit while spraying it."  Southbrook was the first organic, biodynamic winery in Canada; sheep graze in the vineyard to fertilize the vines, and the phases of the moon determine when it's time to plant and harvest.  (Chatelaine, April 2014 pg. 174)

~ Today I drove by a Sikh temple and noticed that they were having their celebration of Vaisakhi.  They replace the saffron-coloured fabric of the flagpole that holds their holy flag, the Nishan Sahib.  It's a gloriously happy and colourful celebration, and although there is obviously no connection between the two observations, it always reminds me that May Day is just around the corner.    

*cough*  Very large pole.  *cough*

~ The Easter candy has been out on the store shelves since February 15th and I've been avoiding it valiantly - until today, when I found "bunny money."  Think Hanukkah coins, but in pastel colors, with rabbits and carrots embossed on them.  I'm not sure how they taste, but I'm devising a few different ways to use them in prosperity work.  Coins...mulitplying bunnies...carrots (carats?)  At the very least, I'll get chocolate out of the deal.

~  I'm reading "Blackberry Cove Herbal - Traditional Appalachian Herbalism" by Linda Ours Rago, which I ordered after hearing the recording of the Appalachian Folk Traditions panel from the Sacred Space conference.  It's a beautiful book to hold and to read, and I'm savouring it like a letter from an old friend.

"Also regarding the foxglove plant (digitalis) - bury a foxglove flower in Moon-light, and the foxes will give you 'the second sight'. Bury one at noon, and they will send you gold."

See you under the moon!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Satisfaction in Fire

I've been burning things again.  

There has been much fire this week.  Fire consuming wood and herb-stalks and symbols of all manner of things I'd like to be rid of. I never seem to tire of it.  Candles, incense, campfires, lanterns...I can't seem to get enough of flame and smoke and heat. 

It's that time of year. My energy seems to ignite as the days grow brighter.  Time for opening windows and cleaning out the winter-webbing.  The earth keeps stirring, and the moon is waning through its last quarter, and I needed to let go of a few things and re-kindle a few things. 

I attacked my main altar this afternoon, which is a behemoth.  Brimming with candles, animal curios, rocks and plant specimens, potions, skeleton keys and ancestor relics, the altar was in sore need of a good overhaul and cleanse.  I moved some trinkets out and took stock of candles and incense, and found seeds of some mysterious sort (un-labeled, of course.) Everything received a good dusting and plenty of love and thanks, and some lucky items were blessed with a shot of whiskey or an annointing with a fragrant oil. The energy of the space is bright, and clearer than it has felt in weeks.   

I was able to cook my simple dinner over the fire tonight, the dusk falling so slowly, and I spent some time scrying into the flames.  The scent of sage, lavender and chaparral drifted up whenever I tossed a handful of dried herb remnants onto the glowing coals.  Every inch of me has been fumigated so it seems.  I'm waiting a bit longer for my bath tonight, lingering over the scent of smoke in my hair.  I fear that I would live like this, if left alone to my eccentricities - wandering the world with woodsmoke-scented skin and ash on my clothes. 

There is such satisfaction in fire and its evidence.  

My bones are warm, my spirit is enlivened, and the altar glows with flickering candlelight. 

Fire Photo © Justin Smith / Wikimedia Commons, CC-By-SA-3.0

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Small Miracles

With today bearing a title on my calendar reading "First Day of Spring" I thought I'd wander the gardens to see what was appearing on this day of new beginnings. Small green miracles were appearing everywhere!



The alien-looking rhubarb:

Neatly folded red clover, about to unfurl:

Lady's mantle:

A funky, fuzzy flower who's name has slipped my mind:

A very happy first day of spring to you! May you find small miracles around you, everywhere you look.

Monday, March 17, 2014

And Just Like That...The Waiting is Over

The funny thing about a long winter is, just when you are settling in to the idea of it being long, and keeping the pile of scarves, boots and mittens stacked up by the door, and ensuring the hot chocolate stash never declines too much without re-stocking it, the weather does a strange twirl and winds blow warm air into The Valley and the snow disappears as though it were never covering every spot of earth.

I've grown fond of hibernation this year. I've found peace with bulky jackets and boots and extra blankets on the bed and using herb-infused oil on my winter-weary skin instead of lotion. More than once, I have happily sat down to read, and drifted off into daydreams instead. I've watched too much British television and taken too many naps (is there such a thing as too many naps?)  And I have been rediscovering yoga and Pilates these last six weeks, which has been blissful (and painful.)

My spiritual practice has been slow and deliberate, and I'm now working with only two altars instead of five. Everything important is housed either at the large working space or in one smaller space that seems to have become the place for daily devotions. And the spirits have been chatty.

And so it only seems natural, that as I finally settle into the idea of an extra-long winter, the earth begins to stir and stretch and yawn. The temps skyrocketed this week from a biting cold to a warmth that had me peeling layers off while I was raking over the raised garden beds.  I planted three kinds of lettuce and two varieties of peas. Poking around the flower and herb gardens I noted chives, chickweed, yarrow, lady's mantle, and the exasperating rhubarb all showing signs of new life.

And just like that, the waiting is over.  Even if the frost lingers in the mornings or the rains are thick and snow-like, the tide has turned toward spring. There is no going back now. Today the sunrise and sunset are exactly one minute apart.* It is as close to a Vernal Equinox as we will get. According to the local report the sunset tomorrow will be three minutes later than today - three whole minutes more of light to revel in. Not too shabby after a long, dark winter.

To those who woke to snow this morning - you have my sympathy, and the hope that spring will find you soon as well. It won't be long now.

*And, by "one minute apart" I mean that sunrise was at 7:07am and sunset was at 7:06pm. Although a one-minute day would be something. Perhaps Mondays could be one-minute days?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

There Will Be Waiting Yet

Today the snow returned, and then the light. I sat for a time in the backyard, watching the snowflakes sparkle in the sun while they fell from the sky like tiny stars.  

This time of year is a tease. While eastern and northern folks don't even hope for signs of spring until April, we often see movement in late February. The snow melts, and even as the frost comes and goes, the most opportunistic plants push forth. It is not unusual to see the green of chickweed and little chive shoots this soon (delightful in an early-spring potato salad.) But this morning, glancing at the inches of snow lingering on the garden beds, I realize that I'm still in for a bit of a wait for those green gifts. 

I'm making potato salad anyway.

I've had my head down these last weeks - working my way through winter the only way I know how.  Shovel snow, feed the birds (and now the hungry ducks and deer come too,) trudge along through year-end and tax-time work at the office, snuggle cats, light candles, meditate, leave offerings, and then...breathe. 

Still, there is the slightest shift - barely perceptible - but it's there. I saw it in the mountain sheep ewes coming down the hill yesterday, heading low into the valley as they do when the grasses start to show at the edge of the roadsides. I saw it in the swans returning - just a few - but they are coming back to stop over on our lakes before they head to other destinations. The little pumpkin farm to the south of us has new covers on their greenhouses where they grow bedding plants for sale. The orchardists and those that tend the vinyards have been seen wanding through their rows of trees and vines, inspecting.

There will be waiting yet.  Which may be good for me.  As much as I long to see the earth again, I have work sitting in neat piles, and people wanting things from me - and I've been resisting. I'm only half-awake here, barely into the second week of February, and if the ground thawed tomorrow I know myself enough to fear that I'd toss my tax files into a corner and plunge my hands wrist-deep in the ground and not come back inside for any reason.

There are also many plans for this year.  Ideas and journeys and all sorts of adventures that make my mind swim with delight.  While I could easily lose an afternoon to dreaming about such things, I'm working on keeping my concentration on the tasks at hand, which often proves terribly difficult for my wandering brain.

My month thus far has been filled with distraction, but also with gentle forward progress.  

How is your February faring?  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mild January Movement

The snow has melted here, low in the valley.  You don't have to go far to find it again, but for now, we are content with ice and sometimes mud on warmer days.  The only downside about the snow being gone is that it kept the landscape bright, even on the cloudy days.  Now, as the temperature does its up and down dance, is when we have the low cloud settle in.  So low some days, you feel as though you can almost touch it.  The mornings never brighten, the afternoons seem like eternal twilight, and the nights arrive early and linger.  It seems as though we are revisiting the days before the solstice.  It is the way of the valley, especially my little town between the lakes, shaped like the smallest part of an hour-glass.  Further to the north and south, the valley opens up and the clouds lift, but here in the hollow, we'll be having a strange sort of whirl with mist and fog for several weeks.

It can bring you low, this fog.

I've been faring well, or at least satisfactorily, having avoided all colds and flu bugs going around, and working my way through the grasping claws of winter melancholy.  I've made it a priority to move everyday, in one way or another (outside whenever possible) and it's a proven mood lift.  I've discovered a fitness studio with wonderful yoga classes in the next town and my body is thankful for the deep stretching it has been missing.

I've found that this year, people seem more willing to share their struggles.  I've read articles, and had so many people talk to me about their wrestle with January and their frustration, foggy-thinking, lack of motivation, resistance to resolutions, desire to hibernate, and even their battles with despair.  There is small comfort in knowing that I'm not the only one who rows against these winter waves.

I keep to my practices to stay above water.  I plan outings, to shake up the endless cold days of same-ness. And I take comfort in the wise words of others.

Here is what is moving me today:

Louis CK talks about embracing the sad moments (and putting the cell phone down.)

Jessica finds out that sometimes, there are no lessons.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

When You Need to Tackle Your Frost Giants

The new year has come in like a...well, like a Polar Vortex, really. 

January is its own special kind of vortex for me - it always has been.  I get completely drawn in to the idea that we have an entirely fresh start, but then get looking at the list of things that did not get accomplished last year or how I'm not where I thought I might be, and I start to spin. Add to that, the perpetual, deep cloud cover here in the south end of the valley, the low fog, the long hours of low light, even with the growing sun, and things begin to slide sideways in my happy little existence.

This is when I'm glad that I have more than just small bottles of booze in my toolbox.

In the old days, before magic found me, I spent long hours hiding in my house, cursing the weather beyond my window.  I used to sniffle my way through really bad romantic comedies, all the while telling myself that if that girl could change her life (in two hours, with an amazing make-up crew, and the super-cute boy next door, who we're supposed to believe she never noticed before,) then so could I, dammit!  

The thing is, there is rarely a Mark Darcy standing around waiting to tell you that he likes you "just as you are." Instead, in January, there are multitudes of people telling you "here's how you can change everything about yourself so people will like you - for just $49.99 a month!"  In this first week of the year, I've stopped counting at 30 emails from people/companies wanting to sell me some way to make my life better.

For the record, I'm not opposed to self-improvement via courses, gym memberships, weight-loss programs, or salsa lessons.  If you are the type of person that wants/needs structure, accountability, group or partnered plans of attack to work toward your goals, then I'd say absolutely - check out some classes/memberships and see what fits. What I'm opposed to, is the timing and volume of the ads, and the general feeling running through many of them that you aren't okay unless you sign up for their version of improvement, and that 2014 might just be the 9th circle of hell for you if you don't sign up immediately.  

What I'm looking for this time of year is not another reminder of how I don't measure up, but a good scrubbing of everything that isn't making me feel good - including the "only we can help you like yourself more" emails.

The first thing I do is hit "delete" - repeatedly. 

After that, I turn to my own body and check in.  Your body can tell you everything you need to know.  Unless you've been ignoring it for years and then, you've got some catching up to do. Your body will tell you what it wants more of (chocolate seems like the right answer, but in this case it's probably not.)  Water, sleep, meditation, movement, protein, laughter, sex - the answers are there.  Personal trainers are great, but you have the capacity and the know-how to design your own destiny.  

I trace back any uneasy feelings to their source, by continuing to ask "where is this coming from?"  Then I pull out my toolkit. I take baths, annoint myself with oils, meditate, speak with my ancestors/gods/guides, do some sympathetic magic for what I'm after (even if it's simply to feel better or lessen my winter blues,) and then decide on a practical plan of attack.  It's not a quick fix.  The meditation, bath and some good digging into what is going on in my mad little brain, can be pretty instant relief.  But for a longer than an evening session of anxiety-easing or life-changing, you've got to follow up with some action.

Kick the winter blues to the curb.*  Burn the weight-loss program ads in the fireplace.  Ask your body what it wants, and listen.  Then do the work yourself, kindly and introspectively at first, then with a good handful of magic, then bust some actual ass - on your terms.

- Some info on  spiritual cleansing from the fabulous Bri Sassy: "So Fresh and So Clean.."
- An in-depth post on candle work from Candlesmoke Chapel: "Putting The Work In..."
- A wonderful list of items you can use for magical aid, right in your cupboard, by Sarah Anne Lawless:  "Pantry Folk Magic..."

*I am, of course, speaking of low-level "blues" here and not suggesting that those with serious depression or anxiety can just wash it away with a bath.  Please see a health care professional for any severe issues.