Tuesday, April 30, 2019

may cloth and mycelium

I recently did an exercise which called for recognizing what fulfills you, waking up to your real needs and then creating a new life design around them. So I made lists for each of those categories. Long lists. Then, over a period of time, I trimmed and purged the lists. And trimmed and purged some more. Mostly what I learned is that long lists can be reduced to very short lists, but I also learned that I really don't need or want that much.

Bringing in the May once again with my May cloth -- the words are from the Cambridge May Song....I love this song so much. This piece of cloth is to be my only stitching focus for the next few days.

I planted the forsythia with forsythia syrup in mind.

Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 cup of forsythia blossoms, cover and let steep for several hours, then strain. Add 1/2 cup of honey and refrigerate up to 3-4 weeks. I used this recipe.

The whole time I was collecting these juniper berries, I could hear the squirrels in the upper branches chewing and eating them. I have a few cooking/baking adventures in mind for these in addition to juniper's place in my herbal pharmacy.

A Venus of Willendorf in the making -- the basic pattern idea was from Marie at Ancient Threads (her blog is no longer online). Easy to make, I just folded a legal-size piece of paper in half and drew it freehand.

Back and front.


Her yoni is a small triangular piece of millinery flowers.

Her head-wear is another cluster of millinery flowers. She has wings.

Every spring I enact a new moon egg spell for myself, writing my deepest desires for the coming season on an egg. Some things have changed over the years, but I usually place it on my little altar to serve as a reminder throughout the month -- then on the day of the dark moon, the egg is buried and a pansy planted over it. This kind of moon work can be done anytime of year but it's nice to be able to bury it in the ground and plant something atop.

Revisiting and revamping an older cloth using new eyes. 

Dinner party favors made with little pots of pansies loosely wrapped in old book pages and string. 


'Tis herself.

Spring clean-up is well underway in my garden. I walk our little bit of land here in the city everyday. I try to notice the growth of plants from day to day and make future plans for planting food crops in and around established perennials, trees and bushes. The old saying "the best fertilizer is the farmer's footsteps" makes sense to me. For the last 10 or more years, I have not disturbed the soil except for planting. Each year I put a layer of compost on the soil along with other natural amendments. No more digging and churning and turning eliminates quite a bit wear and tear on my body and gives me more time for other things. The main reason being that I want to protect the mycelium from being damaged. A mycelium is a thread-like fungal network that unlocks nutrients for plants, helps plants resist pathogens, assists decomposition, releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, serves as a food source for earthworms and much more beyond my lay-person understanding. A mycelium network can be microscopic or it can be miles long.

And we need it.

Blessed be you. xo

Thursday, February 14, 2019

make yourself yours

We each have our own paths, dreams, visions, creations, experiences and lessons as we live our lives. These are the things I journal about here on this web log, sometimes with long pauses in between. Lately I've been listening and dreaming about the coming year. What seeds to sow, projects to begin, commitments to make, books to read...and on and on it goes. And I find great pleasure in figuring out the best way for me to live a happy, authentic existence. It's a job we've all been assigned -- to make ourselves real.

I've begun stitching a little, on paper instead of cloth -- this image was part of a promotional postcard and the frame is just a cardboard box decoupaged with bits of book pages. She's very Brigid-like to me with her fiery hair.

When I looked for signs of life in the snowy garden the other day, I found a few new motherwort leaves that were perfect on my avocado toast. Motherwort isn't exactly a culinary herb but fresh anything has value. Only a month ago, there were still dandelions in the grass, but they've all disappeared now. This coming fall I vow to pot up and shelter a few dandelion and chive plants for winter use. 

Blanket stitching on another old postcard-turned-button-card.

I am intrigued by the Fire Goddess Brigid, forerunner of St. Brigid. Every year on her name-day, also known as Candlemas or Imbolc, I begin setting up a little tabletop Brigid altar. This year I included a Brigid image -- a little corn husk doll -- and instead of using plant material for my Brigid's cross, I wove a torn calendar page and inscribed it with various meditations (idea from here). The blue altar cloths were dyed with home-grown Japanese indigo. I still want to place a few more items on this altar -- some beeswax or a teeny-tiny jar of honey to represent all the activity about to resume in Nature, a little sun image for warmer days, and a lamb figurine for birth/rebirth. I am only touching on the surface of the Imbolc season here -- if you are so inclined to delve into the meaning or to explore the old ways and practices of Imbolc, there is still plenty of time. In the Celtic tradition Imbolc is three months long -- it begins now in late winter, goes through Spring Equinox and ends in late spring.

Homemade elderberry syrup poured over a waffle is possibly the best way I've found to take an immunity-boosting herbal medicine. 

As Imbolc is also the time to bless and potentize our seeds for spring planting, the basket of seeds serves as a symbol of good crops to come.

Pillows taken from other parts of the house over the holidays ended up all together on this bed -- a nice show of homemade and store bought. I have pretty good memories of the song You Are My Sunshine -- my mom sang it to us kids and my dad whistled it as he drove. It may or may not have been "their" song. As I always saw myself as being "the sunshine," the part about being taken away was concerning though -- please don't take my sunshine away. In my mind it was please don't take my Peggy away.

Nothing simpler or more wintry than glass cylinder candle holders slip-covered with white sweater sleeves.


The last of the Echinacea angustifolia tincture has been decanted and more must be made.

Little propagation vases filled with slips of plants brighten up dark spaces around the house -- sweet bay leaf, Laurus nobilis, and pink nerve plant, Fittonia albivenis here. I seem to have lost my knitting mojo, I knit the little candle mat over a year ago just as it was slipping away. I don't know where it has gone.

I'm enjoying walking our dog Talula on snowy days because we usually have the park to ourselves. Looking down, concentrating on being sure-footed on multi-layers of ice and snow -- my entire field of vision is such that I can imagine for just a moment that I live in another time and place. Maybe Finland or Sweden or even a mountaintop.

You need only to claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce with reality.  ~Florida Scott-Maxwell
Wishing you sunny days and blue snow blessings. xo

Sunday, December 30, 2018

winter solstice season

I have been enchanted by the idea of a 'winter solstice season' rather than a one-day or 12-day event. By expanding the December 21st date a few weeks before and after, I have been given the gift of time, relaxation, rest and greater enjoyment than ever before. The entire space and pace of Yule seems to have changed for the better.

"shine light into the darkness" is my contribution to India Flint's Gardens of the Heart poetry and cloth exhibit to be held at the Woollen Mill Artspace in Lobethal, South Australia in February. When I volunteered for the project, I was given the assignment of a few hand-stitched words (of my own choosing) for the second line of a three-line poem, to be stitched together and hung by India and her volunteers. An amazing sight it will be. Details here.

Shining light into the darkness is something to aspire to.

Fermented elderberry honey that I started in the fall and brewed until recently -- I'm not sure that it tastes any different than unfermented honey but hopefully it teems with invisible probiotic helpers.

The assembling of mostly home-made gift packages, each with a small peppermint essential oil soy candle, a bit of peppermint bark and a little poinsettia plant.

It had been many years since I'd gone into full production like this for Yule gifts. I think we scared some of the neighbors when we came to their doors bearing gifts in the dark.

Autumn altar gradually morphing into winter altar.

Roots to nourish and deepen my ancestral roots -- I imagine my people nodding in approval as I cook with them.

A lovely, solitary, winter tea time.

Plants are Magic by Rebecca Desnos is a magical publication, indeed. I recently ordered the first three volumes -- to date I've only read the first article in the first volume...but I've read it three times. I've been savoring Rebecca's beautiful writing about unusual, traditional dye methods beginning with making healing cloth by dyeing the cloth in medicinal (anti-bacterial) dye-baths -or- projecting pure intention into the dye-bath for well-being and healing. Another unusual practice (in our culture) is to continually dye and re-dye clothing to refresh both color and healing qualities. I see a whole wide vista opening up before me now.

Einkorn is a cookbook/guide for the ancient variety of wheat known as Einkorn. I am excited about this because it could serve as yet another connection to the foods of my ancestors.

At the beginning of a new year I look forward to having something new to focus on and use as a guide of some sort. Before deciding on a new focus though, I decided to enter the season of winter solstice by simply reflecting on light in the darkness.

I wrote myself A Litany of Light for the Winter Solstice Season in the manner of old-time church litanies, inspired by John Matthews in The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas. The response for each line of my litany is a little different than most -- rather than a phrase of words, it is to simply reflect in silence for a few seconds.

A photograph album with a good number of black pages intact once belonged to my parents and probably grandparents before them. It feels pretty old. I love it so much and plan to use it to take me through the new year. Who knows what will happen. 

To all who read this, I wish you many wonders and miracles in the new year. xo

Saturday, November 3, 2018

fire & flower cider vinegar

Time has slipped away and I scarcely know how to begin again. But my third eye, the camera, has documented these last months so I'll just use photos as my guide.

Around Autumn Equinox I learned that apples enhance and deepen our connection to the inner realms. Soon after, apples began to present themselves. First, some wild apples in a small tree along Cherry Creek, near where I walk Talula everyday. I had never really foraged here in the city before but this particular apple tree called to me. And once I began that tiny bit of foraging, I began to notice other people doing the same. Collecting food from abandoned trees or the ground beneath, imagine that.

At the end of summer, I bought corn at the farmers' market to make and freeze creamed corn. I made and froze corn broth from the cobs, dried the husks for crafts and dried the corn silk for medicine. Corn silk, Zea mays, is a specific for the kidneys, bladder and prostrate and good to have in a home pharmacy. It is an anodyne (pain reliever), alterative (moves one toward improvement), antiseptic (antibacterial), demulcent (soothes and relieves inflammation), diuretic (removes water from the body through urination), and lithotriptic (dissolves stones). If needed, I would put a handful in a jar, cover with boiling water, and infuse overnight. I would drink a few cups of this infusion each day.

In early autumn, these colors were absolutely brilliant under the strong Colorado sun. Pastels have a tough time under our full sun, they look their best at dawn or dusk.

And then more apples -- a modest first crop from our own young apple tree in the front yard. I don't think there was a single worm in these and we didn't treat in any way. For whatever reason, the fruit crops were hugely successful here in Denver this year. 

I am still drawn toward making ancestral connections and food seems like a good way to reach out....here I started infusing fruit, flowers and herbs in apple cider vinegar. I know it's not likely that my foremothers made this exact same concoction, but I do know they would have gathered and foraged fruit, flowers, nuts and herbs to use and preserve. This "fire & flower cider vinegar" started out with apple cider vinegar and nasturtium flowers & pods. Shortly thereafter I added tiny crab apples, also foraged from along the creek.

Every few days I added more ingredients to the vinegar as I found them -- rose hips, roses, more nasturtiums, jalapenos and ground mustard seed from lunaria seed pods.

Also, rosemary, sage and dandelion leaves.

Berries from the Oregon grape holly bushes.

All topped off with apple chunks. This vinegar is still brewing and I can't wait to taste it. I think the grandmothers nudged me along but I do have to say, with deep gratitude, Gather Victoria's Venus Vinegar was hugely inspiring.

The day before our first hard freeze, I harvested everything I could. I remember the last-harvest ritual with my mother when I was a girl....our frozen fingers, the growing dark, the scent of parsley -- flowers, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini filling bowls and baskets. The last harvest should be its own holiday -- it happens every year and although it may look different, it feels the same to me no matter my age.

The family altar. Over the last weeks, I have spent a good amount of time lighting candles and standing here. I search the photos of grandmothers and a great grandmother. And grandfathers and a great grandfather. I don't really know what I'm looking for but I think I'll feel it when I find it. I have read and believe we have more Otherworld relationships than our once-embodied familial lineages -- so I'm searching for those too because, in the end, we are all connected. Soul lineages, garden lineages, plant/medicinal lineages, handwork lineages and so on. If you have felt connections like these, I'd love to know and learn from your experiences if you would be willing to share.

A homage of baked potato to the ancestors for all the root crops over which they labored.

The little temple was filled with autumn offerings of crystals, herbs and incense. When I remembered, I smudged and chanted and sang to the plants as I collected seeds, blossoms, fruits and leaves. The garden is really a garden of spirits, me included.

The turning of leaves is always beautiful but these patterns caught my eye. I know that leaves don't actually take on new colors in the autumn -- the green simply disappears as chlorophyll breaks down, revealing the true colors of red, orange and yellow. But these are exquisite.

And here is our potted orange tree with one of her two large oranges. It takes one year for an orange to develop from flowering to ripening. I'm not sure when this plant last flowered but would guess that it was in April. So that means in April of 2019 we will have two oranges.

From my heart to yours. xo