Jul 6, 2017

Dog Days and Wild Roses

What befell June, only the gods know now. I have shut my eyes to the passing of time because it is more uncomfortable for me to note it, than to simply keep putting my hands in the dirt and taking in the sunsets. Watching what was pass away doesn't feel as satisfying as noting what is. And for the first time in a long while, I am feeling a ripple of excitement about what is to come.

There are disturbances in the force. A beloved cat is faltering, and I'm unsure if he will completely right himself again (even with veterinary assistance). His illness means I have to miss meeting a friend I've been waiting years to hug. I have nieces trying to navigate fresh-adulthood and finding it a bit more heartbreaking than they had hoped. I wish I could scoop them up under their arms and swing them in circles again until they forget how cruel the world can be. But we cultivated a love of the land in them too, and so they run off to the woods to camp and they swim in the lakes and revel in the gardens, and those things can ease an ache in such refreshing ways.

My aches are all welcome, for they are familiar friends. There are talkative muscles in my thighs, groaning from all the squatting between garden beds weeding and pulling up one crop to plant another. We had one brief afternoon of rain a little over a week ago, and the light but lingering moisture was exactly what I needed to dig my fingers under the grass making itself at home in the beds. I could push my fingers down, and find the roots, and pull them out without disturbing the plants around them too much. I have dirt under my nails that may never come out, but I also felt more at peace that night, weeding in the soft rain, than I have felt in quite a while. They say that bacteria in soil can be beneficial for humans, and I don't know that I've ever been so happy to share my body with another being.

There are other twinges that I'm breathing through, one gorgeous summer day at at time. Ripples of the heart and spirit that can only be assuaged by heat lightning, and the sight of growing ducklings, and Jupiter winking down upon me as the sky lets the light slip from its shoulders each evening. Those pangs are the exquisitely human ones. The gifts-with-purchase. There is nothing to be done about them but let go. And you can always burn.

I burned brightly in June. I danced around the midsummer's eve fire, and then again a few nights later on the eve of St. Johns' day. I blessed my body with rainwater and herbs, censed myself with the fragrant smoke of wood and sacred plants, and softened and perfumed my skin with a balm created from this spring's violets. I lit candles, called to my spirits, tossed cards and gained insight. I walked deep into the woods, harvesting wild roses, yarrow, self-heal, and silver wormwood. I made offerings as I went: herbs and waters, local fruit, and one particularly expensive bottle of local wine I had hoped to keep, but a certain guardian of my favourite three-way crossroads had other plans.

I have also offered up more blood this year than I would have liked, but the impassioned spring rains flooded the valley and the mosquito population has flourished. I don't mind giving portions of myself to garden or beast. I've felt more maenad than human these past weeks. The lushness of June was so erotic that it's a wonder I wore clothes at all and didn't bite everyone I came into contact with. I have been listening intently to the land and the places just beyond my fingertips. The realms I can see, the plants and animals I encounter, speak to me of how to move through these mid-year months. They whisper of herbal blends to turn into new balms and suggest undertakings that might stretch me further along the path I wander.

My working altar is spilling over with glass jars full of elixirs, oils, and a potent Florida Water mother tincture, all from wild-harvested and home cultivated blossoms, roots, and leaves. The kitchen sinks have been overtaken by lettuces, peas, strawberries, and assorted herbs. The rafters are hung with bunches of fragrant and healing flora. My visits to the farmers market have yielded the season's first cherries and apricots, as well as bundles of just-picked lavender. But now the heat of summertide is upon us and the energy shifts from the explosive growth and green of June to the languid and somewhat dangerous days of July. We've already had wildfires locally, and only a couple days ago the next town up the lake suffered the loss of two homes and an orchard after a fire started and was exacerbated by the wind. 

We move carefully in July and early August, conserving energy and water. I attempt my yard and garden work at dawn and dusk, and we gather in the twilight hours on patios and tucked into cool spots in courtyards. The beverages are more icy, the fare lighter, and the laughter echoes long after the stars have appeared. Magical work is more quiet and focused. The fire ban means no more exultant work around outdoor flames. Things get buried or tossed into moving water. Talismans and amulets are formed out of found root and wood and feather and bone. A good portion of my practice becomes as simple as listening and roaming with sharpened intent (which is always how I endeavor to move through the world, but there is something about the careful placement of foot and attention during the most unforgiving times of the year). When it has become so hot that you cannot pack enough water with you and exertion can mean heat-stroke, you are forced to rethink the way you plot your course.

Still, the Dog Days have their charm. Some may yet be watching fireflies. I've been taking in sunsets that streak the sky with purples, and waiting each night on the dragonflies and bats that soar past chasing their dinner. Soon my friend's corn will ripen and we will have our yearly first-harvest celebration at her ranch, but for now I'm trying to encourage my late planting of pumpkins to stretch out, and bemoaning the catnip that jumped its container last year and is marauding through the perennial beds.

I hope your summer has made itself at home in such a pleasing way. I hope you have had bright things to raise your eyes to, whether you are a fan of fireworks, stars, or sunsets. And I hope you find your own groove, your own magic, to dance with on these hot and heady days and nights.

Witch Notes (like field notes, but with extra magic)

~ I made a pesto with the wild onions I harvested recently, and it was spectacular tossed into a delicate angel hair pasta. You can make pesto however you prefer, but this recipe from Hank Shaw is how I roll.

~ I keep a canning jar of locally made apple cider vinegar in the fridge that I toss fruit into all summer long. This is the strange delight that becomes the shrubs I drink, sometimes with the addition of a simple syrup when I'm mixing it into a cocktail or soda water, or I simply add a tablespoon of the vinegar to an icy, sweetened soda like gingerale for a refreshing libation on a sweltering day. Emily Han wrote a fantastic book focused on creating your own unique cocktails (these work for alcohol-free beverages too) but you can also check out her fruit shrub syrup recipe here.

~ Summer reading:

I'm still making my way through The Witching Herbs by Harold Roth (not because it isn't wonderful, but because my own gardening and wild-crafting adventures have eaten up most of my time of late).

I'm also trading off with Byron Ballard's newest tome, Embracing Willendorf, and to feed my ghost-story appetite, a gifted copy of The Bell Witch of Tennessee sits beside my bed and gives me a thrill each night. I can't speak of the stack of books waiting on me to complete these three, because I will feel guilty and stop buying books, and we can't have that.

~ Briana Saussy has her next Feast Day for the Radically Reverent approaching.

~ I'm in mad love with Renée Magnusson and her Sunday Sin missives that show up in my inbox each week. They are amazing, hilarious, and sometimes heart-wrenching. She holds nothing back.


Riverton Witch said...

what a delicious picture you've painted. I wish you all the best blessings for your summer work. I wish peace on your cat as well, that's a harsh thing to deal with.

best wishes

Debra She Who Seeks said...

We're just entering the Dog Days here -- sooooo hot! I read that "hold nothing back" link from Renee Magnusson and lol, she is absolutely right!

Anonymous said...

Your words. Your words fill me with summer and magic and more knowing. Bundles of gratitude for your words.

Rue said...

Oh, I like that. Here is to "summer magic and more knowing." Cheers!

Brandy Boyd said...

your words give me goosebumps and bring tears to my eyes with their poetry. I can *see* and feel what you describe. Thank you so much for sharing!

Magaly Guerrero said...

This summer has certainly already claimed a lot out of many of us. I hope it gives just as much, eventually...

Linda Wildenstein said...

Your words paint a lovely and vivid picture of your summer trekking. I am always drawn into your mind set and love what you create with your words from your heart.
I hadn't thought of the shrubs my auntie used to make when I would stay with her on the family ranch in the summer. I have followed the link and now will jump into giving this pleasure from the past to my grands and others. Raspberrys are calling.
Thank you dear one, read you soon, Oma Linda

Jennifer said...

I always look forward to your blog posts and read them with pleasure! Thank you for sharing your summer thoughts with us. You paint beautiful pictures with words.

Rue said...

It always makes me smile to see your name (and not just because it's my own as well). Thank you for always circling round for a visit, Jennifer. I hope your summer is floating along beautifully!