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 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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

late summer and sweetgrass

It's nice to always have some handwork going. Something that requires a bit of attention but not too much -- you won't lose your place by daydreaming or listening to someone or something. 

I'm not sure what a person would call this. Coloring with fabric, maybe?

Patchwork/applique stitched onto a piece of medium-weight decorator fabric. The cloth is probably heavy enough to upholster a chair seat but still easy to get a needle through. I use mostly odds and ends of thread and cloth.

I will probably color in one more flower and then make a pillow cover with it...or something easy like that.

As I plan to make a triple tincture with the flowers, seeds and roots of some Echinacea purpurea that grows along our front walkway, the echinacea altar seemed most appropriate.

The blossom and her leaves lasted for days and days.

Cilantro always bolts as soon as the heat sets in but this summer I discovered the blossoms are just as tasty as the leaves. Pretty happy about that.

I couldn't get over the colors in this juice before I stirred them together and everything turned drab brown/green.

The magician playing an ashiko drum, flowers, feather and rock placed on my ashiko drum.

Sweetgrass was braided on Lammas (Lughnasadh), the first harvest celebration on the old-time wheel of the year.

Lammas is usually a busy time for most people and it's sometimes hard to get together with friends. When that happens I try to do something special by myself.

Sweetgrass is considered to be the hair of Mother Earth. As an offering, I placed several scoops of vermicompost and an amethyst crystal in the pot.

I always thought sweetgrass was native to North America but learned recently that it is also native to Eurasia all the way from north of Switzerland right on up to the Arctic Circle. So now I find myself imagining my own ancestors harvesting long strands of the Mother's hair for medicine, basketry, flavoring and fragrance. I find it interesting that I had been looking for ways other than cooking or handwork to connect with my ancestors when out of the blue sweetgrass presented herself.

Making herbal preparations is much of what I do in late summer. Last year's red oil still smells nice and fresh but for some reason never got labeled. Suffice it to say, I will be using this oil generously over the next few months.

We had loads of black currants on one bush. They are not as tasty as red currants so I've not used them much -- however, this "cough syrup" is absolutely delicious. I prefer to call it juice from now on. I made it by simmering the berries in water, straining and adding a few tablespoons of honey.

And a liqueur seemed like a good use, as well, since I know now how much flavor those little nuggets have hidden inside.

The lavender in the front circle garden was nice this year, too.

Motherwort grows everywhere in our back yard, the bees love it and I do, too, in this honey. Motherwort is usually taken as tincture because it makes a bitter infusion, indeed.

I loved watercoloring some pages to use for my labels.

This hibiscus plant has been watercolored, too, don't you think? The Japanese beetles love her.

In the mornings lately, I have been making holy smoke with last year's remaining sweetgrass braid. I smudge myself while invoking the spirits to help me as I begin to create my day. The scent on my clothes and body is a sweet reminder.

Blessings of late summer and sweetgrass to you. xo