Sep 7, 2014

Making a (Magical) Effort

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life.  I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”   
~ Theodore Roosevelt

Sara wrote a post over at Candlesmoke Chapel this past week about her difficulty connecting to the deity/spirit that she feels has been calling to her, and I'm thankful that she chose to share her frustration - and here's why:  Sara does the work.  And the work isn't always easy.

Sometimes our practice seems more accessible.  After you've put in the time.  The meditations, the journeying, the crafting, the circle casting, the dirt digging, the ecstasy - the roads open faster.  You don't have to wait at the gate anymore.  You've done the work and the door is wide for you. And those on the other side are expecting you. They know you. You've lit the candles and whispered the prayers or shouted the chants, and you've left the offerings.  And they've been accepted. You have been accepted.

It's convenient to stay in that place, where everything is safe, and you create the same charms and speak the same words, and the door always seems to be open.  

But I don't think this path is supposed to be easy.

Sometimes new spirits approach, and you aren't sure how to connect.  Or you end up on a new land base and are left with the task of introducing yourself.  You may seek to learn new work (or likely old work), and feel defeated when it isn't so effortless.  Your divinatory tools or skills may wane or fall flat.  Your full, fiery, never-tiring heart may just burn the hell out.  

At times, it's going to be ridiculously, agonizingly, difficult.  And struggle isn't reserved for the newbies.  The old hands, the hereditary lines, the ones who found a book at ten years old and never looked back - they don't get a free pass.  Experience doesn't mean it will never get challenging.

I am still new.  I've been actively working at this strange, enchanted path for a little less than seven years.  And most days, I feel like I know nothing.  

Two weeks ago, during the dark moon, I was planning a particular working where I felt that a circle would be beneficial.  I don't always use a circle - it often isn't practical for the work I do. But in this case, it seemed like a good idea.  As I was getting ready, I felt a very real fear.

What if they don't come?  What if no one shows?  What if I'm just standing here while the spirits are off partying somewhere and they don't want to lend a hand or sing backup?

I didn't forget how to throw up a circle.  I had left my offerings and done my due diligence, and practiced my little witcheries.  But I'd been ignoring some things too.  I'd been holding up the "I can't see you" hand, trying not to look through my fingers at the messages coming my way all summer. 

The spirits are not your dogs.  You don't get to kick them and then expect them to show.  You can't ignore them and then throw a lasso up in the hopes of catching one to work with you.

In the end, my circle was perfect and those I invited, came through.  But it was a great reminder that the work is never done.  There is no resting on your laurels or wearing a "Hecate Is My Homegirl" t-shirt and expecting the spirits to be constantly riding shotgun.

Do the work, culitivate patience (as Sara says), and don't be surprised if it sometimes feels a bit like swimming upstream.  The effort is worth it.

picture courtesy of wiki commons
"A Visit to the Witch" by Edward Frederick Brewtnall (1846-1902)

Aug 31, 2014

Wild Rosehip Syrup

There are a few things that can make even the most stalwart summer-lover feel glad about the waning sun. One of those miracles is the wild fruit that is offered up just before autumn arrives, found in all the unruly places.  I have discovered abandoned lots that house shaggy crab-apple trees, grapevines left to wander over fences and grow down into alleyways and walking paths, and huge stands of wild rose that grow all over the valley hills.  The elderberries show off their dusty blue fruit now, teasing from just beyond my reach, and I've spotted several unruly apple trees from long-forgotten orchards still valiantly offering up their bounty.

While on a walk in the hills with a dear friend this week, we came upon a very large stand of wild roses that were boasting bright red hips.  My nieces have been complaining about scratchy throats lately, so I harvested a small amount of the vitamin C-packed fruit and headed home to make syrup.

Simple Rosehip Syrup

Wash rosehips, and remove ends and any damaged/spotted portions

I use a  1-2 -1 ratio:
1 cup of rosehips
2 cups of water (plus an extra splash)
1 cup of sugar or honey

Bring rosehips and water to a boil in a pot
Turn water down to a simmer and mash rosehips
Let simmer 30 minutes and remove from heat 
 Strain rosehip mash and return liquid to pot
Add sugar (or honey) and return to a boil
Let simmer until syrup thickens 30-40 mins or more
Store in sterilized jars in the fridge for 4-6 months

To "keep the doctor away" I have my girls take a tablespoon once a day, especially now that they are heading back to school.  I want their immune systems working well when they are sitting in a building with recycled air and multiple kids with colds.  The syrup is so good though, I have no trouble convincing them to use it.

If syrup isn't your thing (and you don't like it on pancakes or ice cream, and you are a monster of some kind) then you can harvest rosehips to make jelly, herbal teas, wine or cordials, or even infuse them in oil for a gorgeous (and astringent) facial oil.

Are you finding delights in your neck of the woods?  Do you hop your neighbour's fence in the night and "borrow" peaches?  Do you have a hog that is truffle-trained?  Do tell - I love hearing all about the (mostly legal) wild harvesting you are up to!

Aug 20, 2014

Everything is Golden

“When you’re young you prefer the vulgar months, the fullness of the seasons. As you grow older you learn to like the in-between times, the months that can’t make up their minds. Perhaps it’s a way of admitting that things can’t ever bear the same certainty again.”    ~ Julian BarnesFlaubert's Parrot

There is much talk of autumn arriving early this year.  And even more protesting that it is certainly not arriving yet, along with earnest pleas not to rush summer out before its due time.  

For those of us who work in tandem with the land and the weather and the fauna that live alongside us, it can be exciting to see the seasonal changes when they show themselves. But change is constant.  We gardeners know that the moment the seed enters the soil, change begins, and does not stop until the fully flowering, fruiting, seeding plant is spent and begins its descent back into the earth again.


Mid to late August is the beginning of a between-time here in the Valley, that lasts until deep September when there is no escape from autumn.  It is the golden time now.  The sun is still high and hot.  But it rises later in the morning, and a little more to the south, casting a ruddy glow over the western hills as it lifts into the morning.

The corn is coming in fast, the second cutting of hay is finished, and the late summer wildflowers are waving lazily by the river - the last place in the Valley that offers any hope of moisture.  The Canadian geese are moving in flocks to the southern lakes.  They will stay a while yet, and then take off for their southward journey from these waterways.  The quail are fattening up, all the little families gathered together now, streaming down our streets pecking through everyone's yards.  I've encountered bear evidence at the river as well, full of seeds from the wild ripe berries that abound at this time.


I too, am shifting, changing.  I found myself terribly burnt-out these last weeks, and I've been ignorning the signs and messages that were telling me I needed to adjust how I was living. The last time I ignored the warnings of my body and intuition in such an extensive way, I was hit by a van.  I don't need that kind of wake-up call again.

Fortunately, I have a meditation practice to crawl back to, family and friends that understand when I have to cancel a previous commitment to take care of myself, and insightful folks who are happy to help (or intuit, or heal) when I need some backup.  I'm still feeling left of center, but I'm looking at this as my in-between time, my chance to shine some golden light upon myself and find a better way to be productive and giving without running myself into the ground.

Rue flowers

As the seasons stretch out and show signs of transformation, I'm hoping that you are finding your own golden moments to enjoy.  Rejoice in whatever pleases you, whether is it the lingering heat of summer, or the first red leaves and cool evenings.  And if you don't like what you see outside your window, don't fear.  It will soon change.

Aug 13, 2014

Faerieworlds Flashback 2014

Three weeks ago my nieces and I, along with my friend and her daughter, got up at 2am and headed south to Oregon to a mysterious and wonderful place called Faerieworlds.  It is an eleven-hour drive for us through the hottest, most parched days of summer, and nothing but heat, dirt and sweat greet you when you arrive. And we wouldn't miss it.  

This was only our third year attending, but the feeling of being there among all those people who feel the 'otherness' of their being calling them to gather at that event, is something that will draw us back every year. This was the last year Faerieworlds would be at Mount Pisgah, just outside Eugene.  Next year I'm told it will appear outside Portland, and I'm glad for the extra hour or two off our driving journey.

As always, the people were friendly and generous, the staff and security were incredible (one security person rescued us when we locked the keys in our car,) and the food and vendors were top notch.  The music, generally the big-draw for the festival, was out of this world.  SJ Tucker, Sharon Knight, Omnia, Woodland, Brother, and more hit the stages and got us dancing, singing along, and jumping like wild women.

This year there were workshops by Thorn Coyle, Raven Grimassi, Morpheus Ravenna, and others, as well as a weapons training ground for those who wanted to try their hand(s) at swordplay or wielding a scythe.  I sat in on one of Thorn's talks, both of Raven's, and sat in on a meditation with Morpheus, and they were all well-spoken and wise.

Here are a few pics, in no particular order, of the fun and fabulousness of the event. (click to enlarge)

Do join us next year!

Aug 2, 2014

The Depth of Summer

We are easing into the deepest expanse of summer here in The Valley.  At the farmers market, there are still signs of earlier crops - an occasional grower that has found a way to shelter his lettuce through the fiercest heat of July and the reappearance of strawberries from ever bearing plants - but the full bounty of the sun-drenched season is now on display, nearly toppling over the market tables.

That means onions and carrots share space with peaches, apricots, and nectarines.  Early plums and apples have appeared.  Pickling cucumbers and all manner of summer squash fill baskets in dizzying numbers. Heirloom tomatoes in wild colors and designs are proudly displayed and the poor hot-house growers (who were so valued in the cooler months) are passed by for field grown treasures.  The harvest is staggering.

July was a whirlwind of constant garden care, due to the surprisingly lengthy heat wave. We are used to hitting or hovering close to the 100 degree mark for a week or so in July, but this year we've had a three week heatwave that has only just today allowed a storm system to creep in and drop a minuscule amount of rain.  The cloud cover has blessedly encouraged a brief drop in temperature, and while the evenings of the last several weeks refused to let the heat go as dusk settled in, we are finally experiencing some cooler nights.

Last night there was a small First Harvest celebration at my friend's farm, where we tasted the first corn of her crop (the very crop that was just thigh-high two weeks ago in the last post!)  The corn is tender and perfect, but not quite as sweet or full as my friend would like it, and so the first real picking for public consumption will happen later this coming week. It's miraculous what some water and sun will do to that field in just a few days.

Whether the corn was up to her standards or not, we had a grand time last night moaning over the kernels popping in our mouths, butter dripping off our lips.  There was talk of the harvests of our lives, and seasons passing, and of how many years we'd been gathering as friends to cheer each other on, or simply hold each other up.  

There will be another feast yet. When the corn is good and ready, we'll invite not just our closest friends, but throw the gates wide and welcome all who want to take part in the celebration of the culmination of another planting season.  There will be corn fritters, and corn chowder, and my friend's spicy tequila butter sauce for those who like their corn on the cob with a little kick.  I'll be sure to share the recipes!

In the between time, before we notice the sumac start to turn from deepest green to blazing red, while we still run to the lakes for respite and eat entire meals around a bbq (or right out of the garden,) I'm wishing you a grand First Harvest, Lughnasadh, Lammas, or whatever observance you might be enjoying at the moment.  

Even if it is simply the celebration of the perfect cob of corn!

Jul 13, 2014

Blessing the Corn

Last week I gathered together a masterpiece of wild women, spanning three generations, and led them to my friend's ranch to bless the corn and shame the sunset with a grand fire.

My friend is in her third year of planting this particular variety of corn, and I've never tasted anything sweeter or more tender.  After much research, she adjusted her planting style this year and the organic crop looks fabulously healthy.  She is a plant whisperer too, my friend.  She wanders the rows each day, speaking encouragingly to the growing stalks. They are her pride and joy. She speaks of them as her children.  

Some of us walked beside her into the field that night, the others keeping guard by the fire. We gave our blessings and our compliments to the plants, inspiring them to grow strong and healthy.  They could not have a better ally than my friend.  The crop will be spectacular this year.

Once the good work was done, the fire was burning bright and there was wine to be had, and s'mores for the young ones (and the young at heart.)  I had brought herb bundles to toss on the flames, and some of us walked through the fragrant smoke to purify ourselves. It was an extra benefit that the scent kept the mosquitoes away for a good while as well.

We laughed and danced and solved all the worries we had patience enough to, and then stared long into the fire making wishes on the sparks as they floated skyward and burned themselves out.  The setting sun couldn't compete with our fete, poor thing.

When the nearly-full moon rose and the younger ones went home to warm baths and cozy beds, some of us lingered a while longer, as wine and good company is wont to have you do.

It does not pass my notice that I have been born terribly fortunate when it comes to making friends.  I used to joke that powers that be knew that I would need much help in this lifetime, and so instead of great beauty, riches, or a fantastic mind, I was instead offerred a considerable number of amazing friends.  And you know, given a choice, that is the gift I would embrace every lifetime.

Wishing you brightness and warmth, good wine, and amazing friends.

Jul 3, 2014

Tell Me There Is No Magic

Tell me there is no magic, and I will smile and tell you that I might have believed you once upon a time.

I might have believed you if long after my grandmother passed I hadn't picked up the scent of her perfume in my bedroom, day after day for months.

I could have been suspicious of enchantment, in the days before I learned to love stories and luxuriate in the company of books, the sorcery of words spilling across uncountable pages.

The idea of magic may have seemed ridiculous if I hadn't born witness to a few tiny seeds and a meagre amout of soil and water, producing the most magnificent oasis of food and medicine and breathtaking, flowering beauty.

Perhaps before I noticed the stars echoed in flowers and fruit, I would have agreed with you. Before I wandered through the forest listening to the voices of the trees, and climbed the valley hills and lingered in the dry scrub desert. I might have agreed if I hadn't lost myself following a trail of strange, muddy mushrooms.

There were times during the greatest heartaches, the harshest losses, and those moments when I called out for help and none came, that I might have whispered there is no magic

But I don't believe that is true.

There has been much magic of late.

An old friend who faded into the distance, answered a call to return to the bonfire nights that only a summer evening can offer up.  After having missed out on her company for nearly two years, she will be rejoining our horde of wild women around the flames this weekend.

The land is offering up raspberries, kale, and fat onions sweet enough to eat as if they were apples.  Enjoing meals right out of the garden is an immensely satisfying sort of witchery. And the land beyond my garden gate has given so many charms. Yarrow for healing and divination. Goldenrod for tea and to attract gold, of course. Cinquefoil for luck, protection, love, and so much more.

Funny little fascinations happen daily, it seems.  The perfect song on the radio - exactly what I needed to hear.  A call from a friend I was just thinking of at that very moment.  My intuition hitting on a few things I shouldn't have known. Grabbing something on my way out the door and wondering why, because I couldn't possibly need it - and then, naturally, an hour later needing it.

And then today, there was magic in my mailbox.  An old-fashioned letter - the kind that is hand written (and illustrated!)  And not just any old letter, but one packed full of woven charms, natural treasures, and bewitching words that took me someplace else entirely.

We are walking into the heat scorched arms of summer this weekend, and as some of us keep our heads toward the earth, watching for signs and faerie rings, others are looking skyward again to that opulent display of rocket-fuelled magic.

Tell me there is no magic, or that these enchanting moments are not evidence of real magic. I will simply smile and say...

"I might have believed you, once upon a time."