Sep 27, 2013

Midnight In The Garden of Last Harvests

Ms. Mugwort

After a good month of warm sun and rain, the gardens looked refreshed today.  The vegetable garden is fading and many of the perennials are nodding off to sleep, but the perfect climate these past few weeks has allowed for a last burst of growth for some of the herbs.  The catnip, mugwort and even the raspberry canes are flourishing.  I gladly brought in a handful of clippings from the mugwort - a final gift from the generous plant - and hung them next to the long stems of hyssop waiting to become something marvellous.

Tonight, as the hour grows late, I've had to rush out to the bed of tomatoes and tuck them in under blankets like a nervous mother.  The temperature has dipped further than expected tonight and the forecasted rains for the next few days are said to become snow on the valley hills.  If this is so, it will be one of the earliest snows we've seen here.  And the tomatoes will all have to come in tomorrow.  I have enough boxes and newspaper to create a makeshift ripening environment, but I'd prefer them to linger on the vine a bit longer.

These last harvests are always bittersweet.  Truthfully, I'm thankful for the rains and the cooler weather. Hauling water each morning to all the gardens becomes a real chore by August, and keeping up with the ripening veggies can lead to much hair-pulling and passing of baskets full of produce over the fence to the neighbours.

Still, I love coming inside with fresh tomatoes and green onions and making some brushetta for dinner.  I love the smell of just-picked herbs sprinkled on my meals.  So many carrots became spiced carrot cupcakes this summer and were passed around to friends and co-workers.  Golden beets were roasted, zucchini was shredded and frozen for winter soups and sweet loaves, and cucumbers were made into tzatziki.

Now, as the very last of the harvests are coming in from the garden, I'm looking around to see what I'm letting linger in my life, that may need harvesting too.  Decisions put off too long.  Habits that have become stale and meaningless.  An unhealthy friendship that needs pruning.  Lessons learned this year that need to be implemented.

As I prepare to settle in for the winter (which may arrive earlier than I'd hoped,) I know the freezer is well stocked.  I want to be sure my mind and heart have gathered a healthy harvest too.  The cold months are not for snuggling up with the spirits of things I wished I'd accomplished, and the elephant in the room makes a poor bedfellow.  Best to put those things to sleep with the gardens.

These "last harvests" we mark or celebrate, are never really the last though.  Some plants grow through the dark months, even under the snow.  There are still feasts and festivities to be had.  And we always have the opportunity to bring an idea or lesson home and either carry it out or compost it, as we see fit.

As for Ms. Mugwort and I, I think I'll tuck a bit under my pillow tonight to aid in dreaming and perhaps keep a pinch in my pocket for protection if I'm wandering through the gardens again at midnight.  After all, the Wild Hunt will be doing some harvesting of its own soon.

A good and safe harvest to you!

Sep 25, 2013

October Prep and Predictions

We are rocketing into the most fantastic, pumpkin-filled days of awesomeness that the year can offer. (Pumpkin-Filled Days of Awesomeness is going to be my new book title.)

Terrible, nonsense sentence aside, it is nearly October and I'm hovering somewhere between stretching out on my grandparents' graves with a pitcher of lime daiquiris for a long nap, and trying to arrange the last few items on the Great October Book Giveaway to-do list (while drinkng a pitcher of lime daquiris.)

My third-annual giveaway is not the only party going on around these parts in October.  There is a crazy amount of mischief to get up to in the blogosphere this coming month. I'll do my best to point out what sounds wonderful and wicked to me, and I hope you'll let me know what kind of naughtiness you get up to as well!

Just skimming the surface of the October madness, Magaly over at Pagan Culture is hosting her annual All Hallows Grim again, and the Samhain Sirens are running amok starting October 1st.  Also - if you are on Facebook, do stalk the lovely and fiercely intelligent Judika Illes on her fan page.  She is doing a "month of witches" and will also be giving away some Halloween loot.

Happening just after October's end is the Pagan Podkin Super Moot in New Orleans.  If you are in the area, or want to fly in, because it's New Orleans, then do check out the meet and greet where you can chat with some truly wonderful podcasting folks (and some bloggers who were invited to play with the cool kids!)  I've not given up hope of attending, but now that I need to replace my car, it's looking like I may have to sell a kidney to do so.  I'm not even kidding - I have two rather awesome kidneys - I'll trade one for a plane ticket.

Back to the world of blog - I do want to mention that at least two of my favourite bloggers have responded to my post about Little Witcheries and have pulled back the curtain on their own magical lives. Please do run over and read Danni's post at The Whimsical Cottage and Cory's revelations at New World Witchery. If anyone else has shared their daily or household witcheries, please leave your link to the post in the comments - I'd love to read it!

It is hard to believe that September is winding down.  I do hope you had a lovely full moon and autumn equinox this past week!  As October draws near, it's time to get out your pumpkin-colored party hats, your mini candy bar of choice, and your favourite divination system.  I predict it's going to be a fantastic month!

Sep 17, 2013

Please Touch

This morning I was walking beside the river, stopping to look closely at the plants just now blooming, and those releasing seeds or fruit, and I was struck at how strong the need to touch is for me.  I ran my palms over rabbit brush and long grasses, stopped to roll rose hips and wild grapes between my fingers, and pet and murmured loving words to the beloved mullein.  I delight in sight and get giddy with scent, but touch is intoxicating to me.

Rabbit Brush

We see children like this - exploring everything with their hands.  Being told "don't touch!" by their parents (or by well-placed signs) whenever they wander through stores.  My parents tried to teach us to keep our hands glued to our sides, and then they just gave up. They took us to the hills to touch and play and get dirty.  My brother had a rock collection as a child, and I was forever bringing home pine cones.  I'm sure my mother threw out buckets of each, every year, and we simply brought home more.  I never seemed to grow out of it though - that need to pick up things, touch them, and bring them home.

There is a long tree branch with a forked end that stands in the corner of my bedroom.  One day it will become a stang, but for now I admire the texture of it, having been stripped of its bark by a beaver.  I found it by the river on Christmas morning.

There is a wand, also a piece of beaver-stripped wood, that I oiled with blessed blends of oil and herbs, that sits on my altar.  There are found, shed antlers and a portion of long ago evacuated wasp nest that share space with roots and dried plant allies.  Stones picked up, pressed leaves and flowers, and still, pine cones...always pine cones, find themselves tucked into any space that will hold them.

Milkweed gone to seed.

I wanted so much today, to bring home milkweed seeds.  I lingered over them, just barely touching their silky 'wings' while a beaver slapped its tail in the river just beyond.  I longed to harvest some of the remaining Oregon grapes I spotted, but knew I wouldn't have time to process them.  I touched everything I could - barely containing myself when a gentleman and his pups walked by with raised eyes as I hovered over the edge of the riverbank reaching for the goldenrod.

There is, in humans, a biological need to touch other humans.  But in some of us - the ones who hear the plants whisper and the marsh reeds sing, and who fall prey to the sharp taste of wild mustard and the thorns of wild roses - there is nothing quite like the touch of leaf and grass and flower on our skin. Nothing like the cool hardness of river rocks. Nothing ever like the strangeness of pine tree bark and the ghostly tickle of dandelion turned to seed.

I've always imagined that at the entrance to parkland and wild spaces, there should be a sign that reads: "Please Touch."

Sep 8, 2013

The Wildness Beyond The Order

This afternoon, following days of rain and hot sun, clouds and wind and lightening, the weather seemed to steady itself. In need of a little steadying myself, I wandered out into the yard with fire on my mind. The rains had allowed the local burning-ban to be lifted and all I could think of was pulling out my fire bowl again after months of being without it.

After starting the fire, I tossed some of my herb bundles on top.  Walking around the low bowl, I suffumigated myself with the fragrant smoke from the burning stalks of local sagebrush, yarrow and the mugwort from my garden.  The smoke was delicious, and I shook out my just-washed hair to soak up some of the scent.  It wasn't long before the neighbours murmured a greeting through the fence and then headed inside their home.  The odd girl next door was at it again.

Fire is one of my favourite partners in meditation and divination.  I was raised in the woods, in front of a campfire by my outdoorsman parents, so it naturally feels like home to me.  The popping sounds of the wood, the hiss and sizzle when a good portion of pitch is present, and the low hum of the flame consuming its fuel - all put me in an almost immediate trance.

After a time, I refocused on my surroundings.  I noticed how orderly the yard was.  Raised garden beds with perfect borders, spaced evenly, with rows of vegetables, flowers and herbs within.  A neat stack of firewood.  Garden tools all contained in a caddy.  Everything seemed tidy and carefully arranged.  It made me wonder how much of my life I tried to keep in perfect order.

I'm a Virgo, so perfectionism is something I've wrestled with more than once.  That part of me is in a nearly constant battle with the girl who just wants to live in a purple Volkswagen van with a little barbeque and a hammock and a huge stack of books.  I'm one part librarian and one part gyspy.  It can be frustrating.

Fortunately, a good long fire allows for a good long consideration of whatever your mind is chewing on, and after a time bemoaning my perfectly boring yard, I noticed the dandelions - which I adore, but which lead other folks to insanity.  I noticed the bumper crop of tomatoes lolling all over the bed and over the edge, heavy with their fruit.  I smiled at the weeds getting high along the fence line - knowing that I'd get some more plantain harvested out of that jungle before the lawn mower came out again.

There is wildness everywhere.  It shows us that life is happening.  It is moving. Growing. Changing.

I can spend as much as I want to keep the yard orderly, but eventually nature takes over again. Nothing is perfect.  

I am fortunate.  Any time I need a bit of true "wild" I can drive five minutes up the road and end up heading into the valley's hills.  Here at home though, I think I've been spending a bit too much time on perfection.  After a summer of trying so hard to keep order, I feel like I need a bit of unruly in my life.

Right at this moment, I smell of woodsmoke and herbs.  I could be doing a dozen things, from emptying my in-box at the office, to grinding the herbs and resins that are gathered waiting to become incense.  But I think I'll jump onto my bed and surround myself with pillows and books and enjoy the lingering scent on my skin and hair.

This is just the beginning of fire season.  And the beginning of me finding a little wildness beyond the order.