December

 

December, to me, is twinkling. The day’s light is pale, fragile and translucent – and there is always twinkling. Twinkling of the indoor lights that peep from windows, determinately warm against the outdoor winter light, twinkling of streetlights that come on in the afternoon and of Christmas lights. I find some of them pretty and some of them tacky and garish.

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Last year’s Solstice Branches

The pretty ones give me an inner twinkle. It’s the twinkle of anticipation as the festive season – and deeper winter – draws near. I love winter: the beauty of bare trees and of frost, the cosying up, the feeling of mystery in the darkness and in the . The anticipation that I feel is similar to that of my son as he opens his advent calendar each day. It’s in our excitement in this month of preparation for the solstice and for Christmas. It’s a child-like feeling and that’s probably what’s so special about it; this time of year awakens the part of me that will always be a wonder-filled, magic-believing, enthusiastic child. The busy awake feeling of my inner world is in contrast to the outer world, which speaks of sleep and inactivity.

But glitter and sparkle is where they both meet.

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A beautiful, glittery heavy frost in 2012

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Magical, Avalonia-like misty frost near the Forest of Dean last winter

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“Snow Garden” – snow is made from soap powder and crystals, twigs, fir cones, conkers etc are added. Taken from Earthwise by Carol Petrash.

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Samhain soup

We set aside Sunday (1st November) as our family Samhain day. I’d baked a cake beforehand (discovering that carob and blackberries go really deliciously together!), and I’d made some soup. Samhain soup. The idea had come from The Radical Homemaker blog, where a recent post described how she makes an annual Samhain Stew. The broth is made from bones from the various animals they raise on their farm, plus some other ingredients that they grow, and the family remember with gratitude the animals that they’ve raised, as well as their broader harvest – and their ancestors.

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The idea wasn’t one that I would use directly: as a vegetarian, I’m not comfortable with the idea of a living creature having been killed for my consumption but respect that others – such as my husband – do feel comfortable with that idea and so make a different choice. Our garden isn’t large enough to produce much food from plants or animals, but we grow a little, so a home-grown pumpkin and some herbs picked and dried in the summer went into our soup (which you can see garnished with one of our rampant nasturtiums!). Joining them in the pot were a couple of tomatoes and a pepper from a close friend’s greenhouse’s harvest, plus a couple of things from our vegbox, a couple from other independent shops that we frequent and a couple of things bought in the supermarket. For me this symbolised celebration of the harvest from the land – be it land I tend, land I know or land I don’t but am very grateful for. It reminded is of the year’s story from planning (“I want to grow pumpkins, Mama!”), to planting, to watching them grow, to harvesting to consuming. It celebrated our family’s efforts, those of a friend who is a big and special part of my life, and the efforts of those who work for the companies that we buy food from. At this point in our life where it’s not possible for us to be as self-sufficient as we one day hope to be, we are blessed to have the convenience of those businesses.

The soup did us several meals, including one shared with another very treasured lovely friend, and the evening meal of our Samhain day. This one was eaten outdoors around a bonfire and with our Jack o’lantern, following a beautiful walk near the Mendips which began in golden sunshine lighting up all those glowing Autumn leaves, then later turned to quite Avalonian wintry mists: pretty symbolic of Samhain’s calling us towards winter. It looked as though there had been frost there the previous night: something I often take as a cue for when to celebrate Samhain, rather than adhering to a specific date. (Although frosts do tend to arrive a little later here in the city). We put a spare chair and bowl with ours by the fire for the souls of loved ones who have passed on, speaking a little about them, and about the tired Earth being almost ready to tuck herself in for her winter sleep. We took our corn dolls from the nature table, told them any regrets or disappointments that from the year that we wished them to take into the fire to be burned up, and then my son took delight in throwing them in.

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We’ll continue our goodbye to the year – our Samhain-tide – for another few days until just before the dark moon (the lunar phase that I correspond to this point in the solar cycle) and until it really feels like winter is arriving.

The first week of September

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I bid farewell to August on its last day with a change of the nature table to a more autumnal theme, including a few little bowls and baskets for holding all the treasures of nuts, cones, conkers, acorns. leaves, seedpods and more that will be “harvested” on our walks. The next appropriate activity seemed to be baking a cake: I can usually rely on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to provide recipes rooted in the seasons so the result was based on an apple cake recipe of his that I added some blackberries to in order to autumn it up a bit more.

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Despite odd teasing days of bright, warm sunshine, Autumn is definitely palpable here. It rules the later mornings with their chilly fragility. It tugs to us the also-cooler evenings at an earlier hour. It’s in the slightly weaker daylight, the gusty breeze, the swelling apples and the occasional mist. It’s in the sweet, purple blackberry juice dribbling down my son’s delighted face. It’s starting to touch the leaves – not many yet in the places I walk, but some: curling them, painting them, drying them, plucking them from their trees. Some resist longer than others. I feel a little sadness at the idea of them dying, despite my love of this season and knowledge that death facilitates the joy of rebirth and renewal.

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I find September itself brings a kind of rebirth. Perhaps my years of schooling, despite having ended almost half my lifetime ago, have drummed into my subconscious the feeling of a “new start” at this time. Perhaps it’s the sense that the land is birthing its fruits and crops. Perhaps being pregnant just leaves me a little fixated on birth right now! (Especially as my first-born was due in September).

Nevertheless, we are settling into a new groove after a few weeks of being away from home a lot and out of our normal rhythm. This week will be the first full week back dancing our usual dance – although it never is exactly the same because we add to that dance the new steps we’ve learned as the seasons and our lives turn and turn; our harvests.

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The week has also seen a bit of tree pruning to optimise light in our garden as the sun gets weaker, some slipper-making, and a bit of house cleaning and space-cleansing. This week calls for me to finish making our draught excluder and to top up the cedarwood on our anti-moth blocks. To dig out the inner-child self-healing work I began last winter (and then neglected as the garden called my attention). To dig out gloves and warm hats. Time for preparation. Turning in, cosying up and winding down. And for looking forward to the pumpkins still ripening in our garden – to not forget that the year still promises harvests to come.

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Beltane eve

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This week’s page of my beautiful Earth Pathways Diary is focussed on Beltane. The author of the inspiring piece of writing, Marion McCartney, chooses passion as the/a keyword for this festival. I think this would be my choice too. Right now, the blossoms seem passionate in their exuberance, so much of nature seems passionate in its enthusiastic growth. I associate passion with warmth, which the sun is blessing the earth with as it gets closer towards the solstice. The birdsong, the scents of the flowers in the evening, the flow of everything; I sense there’s passion in it.

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I feel that, as part of nature, this time of year calls us to reflect on our own passions and where passion dances – or doesn’t – in our lives. Of course – there are the passions associated with love, sex and fertility. And there are passions that conceive and birth wonders other than babies.

I’ve been trying to understand, listen to and answer my passions recently. Well, for a long time actually. It can be hard (and brave) to prioritise and make time for these things amidst busy lives of commitments, and perceived or genuine obligations and shoulds. We can feel guilty at our perceived indulgence of doing so. But surely it’s our passions that lead to us conceiving, gestating and bringing into the world our unique ideas and gifts. It may seem a teeny little imprint, but we are all parts of a whole – locally and globally.  Surely if we listen to the voice of our passions and give them the space to create, we contribute the beauty of our true self and spirit. We – like the pink and white frothy blossoms – can make the world a prettier place.

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I tend to start my Beltane celebrations on Beltane Eve – this evening – and continue until the full moon of May (Monday). I’ve written before about my habit of making a sabbat-tide. During these days, I’ll be contemplating my true passions and how to take them further. I’ll be celebrating nature’s passion and giving thanks for all the beautiful signs of it – part of this will be getting out to somewhere wild and soul-nourishing with my family. We’ll decorate our indoor nature table to reflect what we’re witnessing and sensing outdoors. I’ll also create some sacred space where I can open myself to inspiration, open doors to other worlds… or be enchanted by flower fairies.

Wishing you a bright and blessed Beltane – and radiance of your own passions. ♥

July

To me, July is…

  • sunshine! And being outdoors.
  • slowness. It feels as though most of nature’s growing is done and life stands still before the waning sun starts to tug the harvest from the land and the leaves from the trees, pulling everything towards sleep. In the garden, most of the planting is done: the main work now is in nurturing the plants and keeping them watered. I think of the goddess as being very pregnant at this time of the year and late pregnancy generally makes for slowness! (especially in hot weather!) July days at school were difficult too – the heat brought lethargy, the impending end of term brought apathy. I still get this feeling now of not wanting to do a lot in hot weather (except go to the beach!).

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  • beaching. I was lucky to grow up in Cornwall and spent a lot of the school holiday at the beach. I’m not quite sure why I associate July so much with these seaside days of body-boarding, rock-pools and picnics; the bulk of the summer break is in August. I probably spent the first part of July daydreaming about the beach in preparation for the days ahead actually there!
  • related to this: I think of July in seaside colours (blues, red and white stripes, and the golden-light brown – also the colour that the thirsty grass often is in July!).
  • soft fruit. I LOVE berries, peaches, nectarines…nearly all soft fruit. Loving having strawberries, blueberries and raspberries from our garden right now.

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  •  water – being by the sea or river, watering the plants, preferring to drink plain water over hot drinks as I usually do. The water connotations of the full moon and impending birth which I correlate with this time of the year.
  • rest. Honouring that call to slowness. Savouring this peak of the year and the sun’s energy and light. Savouring it as I taste it captured in a very-fresh blueberry, savouring it as I play outdoors with flower pots and a bowl of water with my son. Honouring the opportunity to go for a 10pm walk under a beautiful sunset and crescent moon. Pouring love and gratitude into my garden along with the dishwater I thirst their quench with – and savouring the littleness of the pair of hands joining mine on the watering-can handle. For another July will come round quick, and another, and another and another again. ♥