It’s not all about the snow (but I’d like some)

Spring is whispering its song from underneath the bare earth.The stage is very much still Winter’s: many days of glistening frost, nippy air that bites your bones, fragile sunshine and naked trees. But Spring is twisting and stretching gently like a napping cat about to wake. This unborn season dances invisible in Mother Winter’s belly.

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Image pinned on my Imbolc Pinterest board from nordicwiccan.blogspot.co.uk

Almost invisible. For green fingers push up through and into the air – in spite of the hard ground. In a few weeks they will be boldly nodding daffodils. This weekend, many will be celebrating lunar Imbolc,*  with more celebrating the festival in the middle of this coming week. King Sun is ever so slightly stronger, I tell my son. We are seeing him go to bed a little later and rise a little earlier. I’ve still not seen any snowdrops! They seemed scarce last year, even around Bristol’s wilder edges and crannies.

I’ve enjoyed this winter – am enjoying. (I want to hear the rest of her song before turning my attention to Spring!) It feels like a “real” winter: proper frosts on several hand-rubbingly crisp days. Only one tiniest smattering of snow – enough to delight my son, although how he wishes to wake to see the land tucked up in a proper blanket of soft white like in our winter books full of snowball fights and deep footprints. Such things are quite rare in our part of Britain but I itch to share such magic with him and his little brother. Just thinking (and wishing!) about it, I smile at how their rosy faces will grin and giggle in a state of simple bliss if our wish comes true.

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Mind you, sometimes I think that we perhaps over-depict snow as a symbol of winter, Granted, many of the Waldorf-y books in our home are weavings of writers from more northern parts of the world than mine. Yet at times I feel that Winter’s other players – Jack Frost, the Queen of the NIght / Dark Goddess, the bare trees and earth – that they might deserve a little more attention in the art we make about this season. For me, it’s these symbols of  the outer world’s emptiness and cold that invites us to focus on our inner beauty and riches through learning, soul-work, self-development and stoking our inner fire. When we go outside in winter, maybe we enjoy a view of beautiful buildings (or  have our children enjoy seeing a train going along the tracks!) that is hidden from view by summertime’s clutter of leaves; I feel winter likewise invites us to find that clarity when we look inside ourselves.

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All that barrenness around holds the hope and potential of what can sprout and grow. ♥

 

*the dark/new moon of late January – or early February,

First photo: Ice pictures – on a night when frost is forecast, lay out leaves and others interesting things in a bucket of water outside. Position a string so that the ends will also be frozed into the water to hang your “picture” up in the morning! You can also do this all year round in a plastic tub in your freezer.

Second photo: “Snow garden” that we made a couple of years ago to slightly compensate for our disappointment at a snow-less winter! Use soap powder on a cardboard base, add crystals, mirrors (for frozen ponds), twigs etc. From Earthwise, by Carol Petrash.

Third photo: Our Solstice branches – winter 2016.

Fourth photo: Forest of Dean, January 2015

 

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Vanishing

I was blessed with a beautiful glimpse of the vanishing moon – the waning crescent – this morning. The last, or maybe penultimate, sliver before she enters her dark phase. Sadly I have no photo due to our brilliant little camera being away at the camera hospital, having accidentally met with my arm and then the kitchen floor. Can I blame pregnancy for such clumsiness? Let’s go with yes.

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A Great-Grandmother Moon from a less clumsy time in my life. This morning’s moon was leaning back a little more, and the sky a little darker with Venus shining brightly quite nearby.

I correlate the dark phase of the lunar cycle with the Winter Solstice in the solar cycle, so today we’re around similar times in both. I hold the word vanishing in my mind and think about its correlation to my own life right now: the vanishing days before the Solstice and Christmas is upon us (why am I not more organised for these events by this point in December?! And why do I leave it so late every year?!), the vanishing weeks before my baby is due to be born, my seemingly vanishing energy in the evenings. The vanishing sense of anxiety about it all as I realise that, really, almost everything that’s truly important has been done; by the time baby comes, we’ll be ready to welcome them.

Back outside, the colour is fast vanishing from our garden as the last of the nasturtiums have died and the green leaves are pretty few. The piles of crisp, vibrant leaves on the ground are vanishing into brown soggy mud and mush. The light starts vanishing not long after 3pm. “Come inside,” it all whispers sleepily, “find a blanket. Rest and dream”.

A new season

One morning last week brought the first hint of frost to my part of Bristol. Just a teasingly light touch of it on some of the roofs of the streets that surround mine. Winter’s first little stroke, at the end of a grey and chillier week, where more leaves seem to be gracing the ground than the trees now. Autumn’s crispness is turning to a wintery sogginess – in those leaves and in the air. The soil is heavily soggy, clinging to our boots. Damp clings to my coat and condensation to my windows in the mornings. We adjust our routine to factor in putting on more clothes when leaving the house, to get laundry off the line earlier, to draw the curtains before dinner and to spending less time in the garden. We eat more soup. I write in my journal more.

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I also feel a shift in my own season, entering the third trimester of my pregnancy round about now. The changes to my body tell me that it’s time to sit a little differently, to sleep and eat a little differently, to adjust how I move and how I lift. To make time to be pregnant – for yoga, for breath work, for just sitting talking to the baby and gently poking my bump whilst it pokes me back. To slow my pace. It’s easy to try to fight this, expecting the same of ourselves whatever the “season” our lives our in (for example, when we’re ill, when we’re menstruating, when we’ve just had a baby, when we’re menopausal). Those around us – and wider society – may perpetuate this disconnection and the lack of opportunity to honour these fluctuations and these rhythms. There’s pressure to just put on a brave face, dose up with painkillers and carry on with all your normal jobs and tasks.

I’m trying to listen to what these new seasons are calling me to do.

Releasing and gathering

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As the Autumn Equinox approaches, that day of equilibrium before the day’s dark minutes outweigh light, balance is a theme I reflect upon. I wrote the other day about the theme of letting go at this time of year; a call that I take from the trees and the hedges and the land. In counterpoint, I hear also the call to gather, called to me from the earth and from the worms who bury inside it as they gather the year’s leaves and other debris. I hear this call from the animals and birds who gather berries and nuts to feed them through the winter. I hear it from my ancestors who would also be gathering and preserving food from the land at this time. And gathering seeds; preparation for next year’s food. Continuation of the spiral.

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This balance of releasing and gathering, letting go and storing, holds beautiful and necessary harmony for me. Death is needed for birth and rebirth, emptiness creates space that is full of potential. Those busy worms break down that debris to feed the soil that will feed us next year.

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This year,  pumpkin seeds will probably be the only ones we’ll harvest from our garden. Happily, the year has been rich in many others; lessons about my strengths and weaknesses (and limitations), lessons about why some of these are so, lessons about our garden, about things we desire more of or less of in my life – that we want to release or gather. There’s been new friendships that I hope will blossom, the awesome and unique personality of our son that blossoms more and more into its own, the little “seed” growing inside my belly into a whole new person, skills and interests of ours that are blooming too. Like many food growers record their seeds sown, their successes and not-so’s, and seeds gathered for next year in a gardening journal, I record these personal harvests in order to remember and to learn about my growth. Continuation of the spiral.

I wish you peace and joy in any Equinox preparations of your own, and in your own gathering of your precious seeds. xx

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Everyday letting go

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The year is letting go of itself. The last stragglers of summer’s party are wearily leaving, the exit music plays to fading applause. Nuts, leaves, fruits, berries, crops are all shed. “Go on,” the trees and hedges say, “have them, enjoy: they’re right for you. My work with them is done”.

When we let go of possessions we do longer need/can use to the charity shop or recycling centre, I feel that sense of “have them. My work with them is done”.

When we truly sacrifice something that we know someone needs more – the seat on the bus for the elderly lady even though we are tired, the flapjack that we bought ourselves as a treat that we know might be the homeless person’s only food today – our hearts again echo the trees’ “Go on, enjoy”.

When I let go of the some of the minutes that I check some social media sites, knowing my tendency to use them to procrastinate over pursuits that might stretch me creatively and intellectually, I’m more fulfilled by doing so.

The lessons of letting go came to me early this year, during summer. Part the reason that our garden currently resembles such a jungle is because I had to let it go to instead take care of my body through pregnancy tiredness and bad nausea, still taking care of my three-year old son.

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Indeed, as this boy grows more into his ability to make choices and decisions of his own, I surrender some of mine. This week, as we made this shaker from dried kernels from last year’s again-unsuccessful sweetcorn plants (we’ve now let go of the hope to grow sweetcorn here: we just don’t have the space for the block planting that they need), I held my tongue when he requested a different colour of beads to what I thought would look most attractive. I held it again when he preferred the sound of several walnut shells in the jar and I thought that less sounded nicer. Such things challenge my inner control freak; I form an image (or see it on Pinterest!) of what something “should” be like. But I’m learning to let go of the rigidity in that “should” and let things flow – particularly to gift my son the space he needs to learn, to grow and to create.

When I recently undid a knitting project where the yarn just wasn’t right for the style of garment, I had to shelve a little pride – and resentment of the time I’d put in. Yet I revelled in that feeling of relief that comes when you relinquish the stress of trying to force something to work that isn’t. When those nuts, berries and apples just get too heavy for their branches.

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A couple of years ago,we scavenged a beautiful wooden chest rom a kerbside. It needed TLC and restoration then… and now needs some more after being stored in our not-very-watertight bike shed. (Ironically, my husband hasn’t been able to store his bike there because of the space the chest took up). Time has prevented us (and will continue to do so) from giving it the repair it needs. It would make a beautiful coffee table with storage and rustic character besides, but the reality is that our home is too small and needs that floor space for the trainset-building, jigsaw-completing, rough-housing and other play that is necessary to our day-to-day family life.

Temptation had long whispered: “but it’s so beautiful! And it was free! Keep it! Keep it!”. Yet our hearts knew to let it go. Within hours of advertising it, a man with more time – and a rustic cottage without young children – had come for it, delighted and thankful. We felt a little sadness as his car drove off, the chest tied on top and our son waving goodbye to it, but our hearts were saying “Go on, have it, enjoy. It’s right for you. Our work – rescuing it from going in a skip 2 years ago, and storing it until an owner that will do it justice was scouring Freecycle – is done”.

A harvest nature table

We put this nature table / altar together for Lammas, although I never quite got around to writing a post about it – mainly due to the nature of one of the “harvests” featured. As many do with this festival, I like to focus on the year’s projects that have come to fruition; what we are reaping. Doing so, I’m taking my cue from nature, this being the harvest time. And in the growing calendar, harvest is a time, rather than a particular set day, which is why I tend to celebrate Lammas especially in this spread out, extended way.

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Sometimes our harvests are outright tick-of-the-goals-list successes (if that doesn’t sound to blunt!), sometimes they’re surprises, sometimes more “lessons we’ve learned”. For all, I feel it’s important to state and share our gratitude; to thank each other, the Earth, the cosmos, our resources and whatever else has enabled these harvests – as well as to acknowledge the efforts we and others have put in.

As we now turn into September, with all the demands that come with continued harvesting, preparation for winter and/or return to school or work, I know it’s important for me not to let that gratitude and those lessons get lost in this busy-ness, but to weave themselves into the rhythm of this month and of this season, and to learn how to dance to that new beat…

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The tiny corn cobs in the very top pic were from last year – we learned to let go of our hope to grow sweetcorn and a few other crops here: our little urban garden just doesn’t have the space. The premature conkers on the left here represent plans I made that still haven’t been fulfilled. This year I’ve “harvested” learning more about the reasons why I procrastinate, mismanage my time, avoid things etc. The knitting is there because this is a skill I think I’ve improved this year, the bark is a souvenir from one of the lovely woodland walks we’ve enjoyed – and been making more time for – as well as representing the development of my husband’s interest and activities in woodland work. The honey is from our camping holiday on Exmoor.

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The painting behind the Holly King represents seasonal food and the berry harvest we enjoyed from our garden (that my son was extremely efficient at harvesting into his mouth!). The heart was made by my son at his kindergarten (which he started at in January). 

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Not a great pic but the basket contains some rubble from the old concrete path that took up a lot of our garden. We broke it up to increase our growing space and to add a lawn and a more natural bark-chip bath; one of the bark chips is in the basket too.

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The lavender is from our garden and the “seaside in a box” was inspired by an craft activity idea posted on theimaginationtree.com. It symbolises the three lovely weeks that my son and I recently spent staying with my mum in Cornwall – and frequently visiting the sea! The scan picture is a really special blessing from this year; our second child who we very much look forward joining us Earthside in February. Hence the lack of blogposts for a few weeks due to me having a lot of early nights! (Thankfully I’m feeling much better lately). The houmous packaging represents my accepting that it’s ok if I don’t always meet my expectations of myself: I ideally like to make houmous from scratch each week, using dried, soaked chickpeas I’ve then cooked in the pressure cooker. However, sometimes there’s a call for some supermarket houmous – when I’ve got a baby in my tummy to grow, a three-year old to build trainsets with, housework (or knitting!) to do, sunshine to enjoy, friends to see or whatever. Perfection’s just not worth it sometimes! 

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May. And pixie dust.

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Many with an earth-centred spirituality believe that, at Beltane and Samhain, the veil between our world and spirit worlds is at its thinnest. In recent years I’ve noticed that I tend to feel this closeness for pretty much all of May – perhaps starting in late April. This is a reason, among others, that I don’t get too hung up on my Beltane celebrations taking place on Beltane Eve/Day.

The spirit worlds I feel are close at Samhain are those where the ancestors who have passed on walk. They sometimes bring me gifts of a little inner wisdom – if open myself to it – and reassurance. I offer them rememberence, reverence and thanks.

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The worlds that seem close to me at this time of year are the realms of the fae; the pixies, the gnomes, the sprites, elves and other beings often confined to childrens’ books and legends such as those from my native English West Country. (Brian Froud is one of my favourite authorities on fairies). In May, I get this feeling that they’re fully awake and out to play. The gifts that I attribute to their generosity are the interesting forms in nature that I usually find more of at this time, as well as the general vibe of sparkle, benign mischief and giggling enchantment that seems sprinkled over this month. The pixie-dust month, with its bluebell pixie-hats, dainty skirt-like hawthorn flowers and pretty cowslip bells.

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This makes May a usually-happy time of inspiration and imagination for me – if I’m open to it. Combined with the reminder from nature to remember – and be true to – my passions, May holds excitement about harvests to (hopefully) come. Harvests of personal projects and goals, harvest from the land. I feel excited when I look at the flowers on our blueberry bushes (above) and think of the juicy fruit that we hope they’ll become. I feel excited when our seedlings push their little green shoots above the soil, then add leaves and more leaves and more. Year after year I witness this magic take place, but still it amazes me. I hope it always does. ♥