Wednesday, May 2, 2018

queen of swords

With spring in full force, I've either been researching or experiencing spring tonics nearly every day. By definition, a tonic is simply something that restores or refreshes one's being...a tonic could affect someone on mental, physical or spiritual levels and by various means. Activities, exercises, nourishment, art forms and even ritual practices could all be subtle magical tonics.

I think I have the nose of a dog. Inhaling spring blossom fragrance daily is a favorite restorative of mine and there are many items on that menu -- apple trees, plum trees; golden currants, lilacs, sand cherries, grape hyacinth and Oregon grape holly bushes for starters. The beautiful iris was accidentally snapped off a few days ago and is developing her fragrance even without sunlight and birdsong.

I've begun a sort of art journal practice in a new handmade journal -- the first section of the book is dedicated to the Queen of Swords with a focus on the element of air and its corresponding attributes. It begins with the language of name and place...thinking about where I come from brought both people and sweet memories back to life. I loved doing this.

Every spring I look forward to collecting and cooking wild weeds from right outside the back door...tonic foods. My weedy stalwarts are always steamed nettles with onion and garlic, nettle pesto and dandelion Italiano on toasted sour dough bread.

I yearn to connect to the ways of my grandmothers, I tell myself that surely they cooked these same greens in the spring. The bowl of nettles is placed on my grandmother's table, now my dining table. She lived and died many years before I was born. When I feel sad that I have nothing to know or remember her by other than a few old photos, I remind myself that she rested her hands on this very table, maybe even in the exact same places that I rest mine.

A tiny prayer flag became a book mark on the full moon -- the chain-stitched spiral symbolizes air and wind.

We removed two dead trees this past week -- a pear tree and a juniper tree, both from which I kept mementos. The little bundle is a tiny pear twig tied together with some nearby plants. From the juniper trunk, Jan sawed me a small section revealing rings and colors and fragrance that surprised and delighted us. I'm finding that saving and holding natural objects like these as sacred is one way for me to express gratitude, no matter what the season.

The Queen of Swords has clear, piercing vision which the likeness of Frida Kahlo epitomizes for me on the bit of collage (the back of a greeting card). The handmade journal to the right, which I adore, was made by Kate Jackson.

In case you're wondering, the Queen of Spades is the equivalent of the Queen of Swords.

I'm ending this post with yet another photo of our many-years-old bee house holding a brand new colony of Italian honeybees. This house was vacant all last summer due to colony failure and I am so happy to have a full house again. At present, we have one wild bee colony in a tree trunk to the west and the new bees live on the east side of our back yard. At last it feels like things are back to normal around here.

My spring tonic practices have felt short-lived, almost elusive -- there is still so much I want to read and make and think about. But as we approach the threshold of summer, it will soon be time to begin focusing on the element of fire and the Queen of Wands. I am excited to see how they will show up in my life.

Late spring/early summer blessings of nettles and iris to you. xx

Friday, March 30, 2018

the language of spring

Well, it's been another little while, hasn't it? 

I like to add as many wild ingredients as possible into everyday food prep. The snow has melted (once again) so I walked the garden this crisp spring morning to see what would be good in scrambled eggs. I found yellow dock, chives, dandelion and violets -- everything looked clean enough so no washing...I don't usually wash wild/garden food unless it is absolutely necessary.

Something new around here is an old-time practice -- cooking with cast iron cookware. Currently I have three pans -- one is newish and two are from thrift shopping and appear to be very old. I like using cast iron for the usual reasons but one benefit I haven't seen mentioned is that it is so heavy that maneuvering a big frying pan is like lifting weights. I'm all for life exercise like that.

An egg-spell practice. It will be buried on the dark moon and a pansy planted over it.

Some wild honeybees moved here. The colony had lived for many years in a neighbor's tree. When the tree died, our neighbors had the tree removal experts cut out a 7-8' section and cart it over to our back yard. It was estimated that the hive area itself is several feet in height within that middle section. 

The bees seem content and we are thrilled and grateful to be part of such a unique endeavor. Plus this satisfies my secret fantasy to live inside a tree. I can imagine the hollow space of this tree divided by walls of honeycomb -- over here is the nursery and there is the capped honey area, up there is the nectar room, the drones are out back, the queen in the center of it all. It must be so warm and cozy with just the perfect level of humidity. The chanting of bees....zzzz....the fragrance...heaven.

A Rikke hat was finished -- it is a slouch hat and was fun to make, garter stitch on circular needles so there's still purling involved. I worked on this during wedding planning in December and January and finally got it blocked last month.

Holy smoke. Dried plant materials, having served their purpose, burned outside in the cauldron on a cold day. Ashes placed in the garden. Burning things takes me somewhere otherworldly.

A headband knitted in seed stitch. The last time I shopped for yarn with a friend, we decided I pick the same color every time. And she does too. Maybe everybody does.

A mossy altar was good medicine for the cold and dark months. 

I've been intentionally focused on resting over the last few months. No garden plans have been made, no seeds ordered, no new projects begun, no clothing bought or made to speak of. Like that. Now, though, I am feeling creative stirrings and the desire for clarity. Beginning to learn to listen to the language of spring and receive the messages sent by the element of air. Thinking about my inner and outer spring cleaning and taking the winds of change idea through to completion. What boons do I request. What are my visions and dreams and their meaning. Am I looking for signs and symbols, they are everywhere if only I notice. Are my grandmothers whispering to me, am I listening. What plants call to me and what dyes, medicines and meals might they offer. I hope that by learning the language and lessons of spring, I will better hear the messages of summer, fall and winter. 

I have never in all my life approached spring in quite this way. And so it goes, 'round and 'round. 
Happy Spring. xx 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

a little while

It's been a little while.

I put most of my crystals to bed on their very own mossy mattress to rest and rejuvenate. This is sort of what I've been doing too, resting and rejuvenating, after the bustle of the holidays followed by our youngest daughter's wedding.

In January I found my sewing mojo again when three moons and a butterfly started coming together. The paper fans were components for a holiday decoration that never quite made it to the finish line.

My first knitted socks were washed and blocked.

I love the rabbit sock blockers from the Knitting Shed

I'm back to sitting at my little altar table to meditate, read or journal. At the beginning of the year I drew The Star as my theme card for 2018 and I've had it on the table every since. Today I wistfully put it back into its deck and shuffled the entire deck thoroughly. After a quiet time, I drew a new card for today's guidance and it was The Star, which made me very happy indeed. Most appropriately, the herb shown on the card is skullcap, a calming relaxant and a good sleep aid. 

I pulled out roses and eucalyptus from some of the wedding centerpieces -- then hung and dried the roses in bunches and saved the eucalyptus for the dye-pot some day soon.

I am juicing nearly every day now. I've tried many different combinations of vegetables and we pretty much love them all...the only constants are celery, cucumber and lime, the other ingredients vary. 

Twenty-five moon squares made from plant-dyed cloth are being backed by hand with more plant-dyed cloth. And then assembled into rows of three. As I stitch, I think about all the women before me who sewed everything for their families by hand -- before sewing machines. They made dresses and skirts and pants and shirts. They made jackets and coats and linens and undergarments. I wonder what they think, seeing me sew these squares together...because I know they're watching, I can feel them.

Even though we're well into the month of February, I keep reading (and then reminding myself) that this is still a time of deep rest in Nature where I live and should be for people who live here, too. I very much like not hurrying on to the next thing or even thinking about what comes next. It's a dreamy time for sure. 

Good days to you. xo

Thursday, December 21, 2017

a holy day

Today is Winter Solstice, the shortest, darkest day on the wheel of the year. It's the day I had my fourth baby and it's the day he was cremated exactly seven years later. Today is a holy day.

On this cold, snowy Solstice day, I want to savor any sense of wholeness that I can feel. All day long I have been imagining how life would look if I was completely whole -- with no limitations, beyond time and unaffected by current reality. What would a perfect day look like, what would I be doing, where would I live, who would I love. Tonight by candlelight I will write my wholeness into being. I'm thinking that when all is said and done, things may not look much different than how they are now. And that's good.

Toward contentment. xx

Thursday, December 7, 2017

a sacred pause

Every so often, I do a writing exercise comparing "now" with the same time one year ago. How things have changed, what has ended and what is new. If I'm in a great place, the words come easy...if not, I have to go deeper.

I am sewing less now...but woke up the other day wanting to make a simple star. It might have had something to do with a line that I recently read and loved...."the way to the stars is not outward but rather inward."  

I miss sewing but know it's a cycle and it probably won't be long before things change.

A scrap of blue velvet for one side and a handstitched 9-patch for the other, stuffed with wool and decorated with beads and blue pins.

I am better about labeling things now.


I'm eating more roots now...baking several beets at a time to have on hand for lunches, one a day. I think I'd rather have a beet a day than an apple a day. But that could change at any time.

I'm knitting way more now and I can knit socks now. That's my first pair in the basket waiting for sock blockers to come all the way from England. I know you don't really need sock blockers but I see it as part of the experience.

I know my camera has a painting filter now, turned on by accident on Thanksgiving Day. All my photos from that day are like this. 

My youngest daughter and I are planning her wedding now.

Sometimes I feel that I'm doing less of everything I normally do. Some of that is because of wedding planning but it's also the shorter days and longer nights that gently lull us into rest and restoration. I've heard this time referred to as a sacred pause. And then I remember that trees only appear to be dormant while their roots continue to grow, all the while sinking deeper into the earth. Maybe we too grow deeper as we take our sacred pause. xx

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

letters to the otherworld

Every October my family gets together for our version of the Mexican Day of the Dead tradition. We craft, play outside, watch football and snack in the afternoon. As darkness sets in, the altar candles are lit, smoke is made in the cauldron, we have dinner and we remember our loved ones. And there is always at least one new photo on the altar of a loved one who passed over in the last year. 


I feel very strongly that these last weeks of autumn are a time for connection between the worlds. I woke up this morning thinking that as my outer world looks bleak and barren with a sense of withdrawal, that my inner world was actually stretching and energized. That I was ready to reach through any veil of separation between the visible and the invisible worlds.

And just like that, I knew that I would write letters today and that this practice would be a new tradition for me to look forward to every Samhain (All Saints' Day/All Souls' Day) from now on. I wrote three letters my little boy who passed at age seven, to my mother and to my dad. As I wrote, I held something that I knew they had touched -- to my heart and to my lips. 

I wrote what I loved most about them. I said I was sorry for certain situations. I asked them to help me know and feel more than I know and feel now. Then I filled all the candle holders with new tealights and set the altar ablaze. 

I stood watch.  

I may have done some knitting. 

And taken a short walk around the garden.

There are more letters to be written over the next several weeks. It appears that I have quite a long mailing list.