Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Misgivings

First, let me start by apologizing to my readers for such a long absence from the blog.  Life has been quite busy lately.  I have been immersed in my writing as I continue my journey into the world of published works.  As some of you may know, my hard work has paid off.  I recently had an article published in an anthology about Samhain (Halloween).  The book is entitled “Pagan Writers Presents Samhain” (Pagan Writers Press 2011).  Pagan Writers recently informed me that they accepted two more article submissions for their upcoming anthology about Yule (Winter Solstice).  I have also sent them a book pitch, which they really liked.  I am now in the midst of writing that book.  This is all happening so fast but I am loving every second of it!  Amid all the writing, daily life has become more hectic with the onset of the holiday season.  So, once again, I am sorry.  Now that the apology is out of the way….onward.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  We are all in the thick of things tonight--preparing our favorite family dishes, baking all sorts of desserts, thawing turkeys, planning the table seating, trying to figure out how to handle difficult dinner conversations, doing the last minute cleaning of the bathroom, or figuring out where our out-of-town relatives will sleep.  All of this planning, calculating, measuring, cleaning, and cooking can be very stressful, leading to a not-so-enjoyable holiday.  But yet we do it every year.  Why?  It’s actually a very simple answer, if you just step outside of yourself for a minute or two and really look at past Thanksgivings.  We do it because we love this holiday!  It’s about coming together with our families and friends, feasting for hours, toasting to our accomplishments, and giving thanks.  Okay, so maybe you have a family member who drinks a little too much and gets a little rowdy, or maybe your dad lights his pant leg on fire when he bangs out his pipe (a true story), or maybe the turkey is dry and like cardboard.  Things happen, stuff goes wrong, and a relative passes out from too much wine.  Think of these mishaps and slip-ups as a memory in the making, something that will be talked about for every Thanksgiving to come, a story to be passed down in the family.  As bad as it seems at the time, it will be hysterical next year when you all gather around the table again.  Think about it.  We all have a few funny holiday stories to tell!

Tonight things are moving at a steady pace.  I am writing this blog as pies are baking, laundry is washing and drying, and the turkey is thawing.  In a little while, I will make egg nog, prep celery, onions and herbs for stuffing and for the bird, pull sheets out for my sister who will be crashing on my sofa tomorrow night, put the leaf in the table, and prep the linens for the table setting.  I am definitely in multi-tasking mode.  Through it all, I am considering my blessings this year, giving thanks that I can celebrate with my family and friends, and instilling these feelings of gratitude into each task.  Maybe it will help others gathered around the table to feel more grateful or maybe it will fill them with a feeling of love and acceptance.  I am also thinking about all those funny holiday disasters and filling my tasks with a sense of humor, something which will come in handy tomorrow.  Keep these things in mind while doing all that you have to do tonight and through tomorrow.  You’ll see a definite change in the air.  That difficult relative won’t seem so difficult anymore, the wine spilled on your best tablecloth won’t really bother you, the burnt pie will still taste good, or things will just seem more peaceful, easier to do, or more balanced.

So, with that, I am off to further Thanksgiving preparations and wish all my readers a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fill 'Er Up

The Full Harvest Moon of October is upon us.  This is the time of the last days of the harvest heading into Halloween, the third and last harvest.  Generally speaking, the full moon is a time for bringing things into your life that you may be lacking or which you need.  Whether it is a quality like patience (which I lack a lot of the time) or a need like a little extra cash to make it through, this is a great time to ask the Universe for help in filling your life with those things. 

Many years ago, I worked with a woman who told me that, if I held my wallet up to the full moon and said “Fill ‘er up!” three times, I would find money later in the month.  This woman was not Pagan in any way.  In fact, she was a faithful Irish Catholic woman.  She told me that her mother and grandmother had always done this as well.  I was just setting my feet upon the Pagan path and decided to give it a try on the next full moon.  A few days later, I found several quarters while walking to work, not together but in a trail along two separate streets.  I was skeptical at first but continued to do this at every full moon.  More luck!  Sometimes it was just a few dollars found in an old handbag and sometimes it was larger, like a 20 dollar bill in a pair of jeans I hadn’t worn in a while.  One time, I had made a mistake on my federal income taxes and received a check for over $200 from the IRS!  Several months ago, I played the Cash 5 lottery, having the computer pick the numbers, and won $267!  I have shared this wondrous little “spell” with my family and friends, pagan and non-pagan alike, over the years and they too have had success with it, finding things like an uncashed birthday check from a grandparent or finding $20 floating on an ocean wave while at the beach on vacation.

But what if it is a quality, and not money, that you are lacking?  I think I’ve come up with the perfect “Fill ‘Er Up” spell for that!  We’ll use patience as the example quality here since it is something I am in need of this week.  Instead of a wallet, hold a glass of water or wine up to the full moon while thinking about what quality you would like to bring into yourself.  Make sure that you can see the moonlight through the glass or the image of the moon reflected in the liquid, essentially letting the moonlight infuse the drink.  Say “Fill ‘er up with patience” three times and then drink the cup of water or wine.  Maybe you need more self-confidence or better understanding.  Give it a try!  I have used this method before with great results. 

The full moon is also a good time to meditate on what you want to bring into your life.  I like to do this in a hot bath with a bubble bath made from some herbs, plants or flowers that correspond to the moon like aloe, sandalwood or jasmine.  My bathroom has a skylight so, on a clear night, the moonlight floods the bathroom.  On cloudy full moon nights, I light a white candle.  As I soak in the fragrant bath, I close my eyes and meditate on the events of the past 30 days and what my role was in what occurred.  If I find something lacking, I know it is time to work for that.  This is a good way of getting in touch with your deeper self, of knowing who you are and who you are working to become.  For women, this is also a good time to think about our roles in life, those of mother, daughter, wife, sister, etc., and contemplate ways to make the bonds with those we love stronger or better.  The things you discover in meditation, those lightbulb moments, are the ones that could become the goal of your very own “Fill ‘Er Up” spell.

So tonight, whether you lift up your wallet, lift up that glass, or lift up your spirit and mind to that full moon or just stand under Her radiant silver beams, just keep thinking “Fill ‘Er Up”.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lessons From The Magickal Garden

As we head into the first few weeks of Autumn and my garden is beginning to wane, I find myself contemplating the what-if’s.  What if I had planted the moonflowers sooner?  What if I had planted the lavender in the ground instead of a pot?  What if I had pruned the lilac back just a bit more?  Things like this.  In my second year of really gardening, of studying which plants to get and how to care for them, of spending time daily in the gardens caring for seedlings and new additions, of anxiously awaiting blooms, I have learned some lessons about gardening.  Some of these lessons I found in books and tried them out and others I just came across in watching certain plants and their habits.  Some of these lessons were learned after big mistakes and some after little bumps in the road.  These lessons are unique to my garden because maybe my garden soil is different than another’s or maybe my garden catches the sun’s rays at a different angle than another’s.  But some of these lessons may be very helpful to someone thinking about starting their own garden, whether it be a small plot in the backyard or a few containers across a patio.

Lesson 1:  Always use the richest, most fertile soil you can find.  Do the sight, smell and touch test.  Is it very dark and does it have bits of old leaf and twig matter in it?  Does it smell rich, like the forest floor after a rain in Autumn?  Does it feel moist and have some weight to it?  I have found that organic soil is the best, whether it’s soil created from your very own compost pile or a bag bought from the local gardening center.  Some garden centers, those that know you well usually, will even let you open a bag or two to check it out.

Lesson 2:  Watering plants is based on an individual plant’s needs and the weather.  If you had a Summer like we had in the Northeast, where every living thing seemed to be roasting, watering was a daily necessity.  Once things cooled off here and these relentless cycles of rain came upon us, watering was no longer really necessary.  Mother Nature took care of it.

Lesson 3:  Always make sure your plants have good drainage, especially if they are in containers.  When you water plants that don’t have good drainage, the water pools around the roots and can rot them.  I killed quite a few plants in my first year of gardening with this method and regret my amateur mistake to this day.

Lesson 4:  Look before you pull.  There were a few times when I was weeding out garden beds and was not paying attention.  One year I pulled out an entire peony plant simply because I didn’t remember that it was planted there!  I’ve also accidentally pulled out the beginnings of tiger lily plants among some already established ones because I thought they were weeds from some bird food that had fallen from a feeder and implanted itself in the ground.  Your best bet is to let things grow to a height of a few inches, maybe 4-5 inches, before pulling it out.

Lesson 4:  Some debris is good for your garden.  Don’t always rake out every bit of fallen leaves from the garden beds after storms and in the Autumn.  When leaves decay into the soil, they fertilize it, making it richer in nutrients.  It’s like natural composting.  Autumn leaves can be used to insulate your garden beds for the winter as well.  Last year, I took handfuls of leaves and put them in the tops of some perennial containers to protect them over the Winter and those plants had a very successful growing season this year.

Lesson 5:  Talk to your plants.  Sounds weird, I know!  But apologizing to each plant as you prune off old blooms or thanking it for the flowers you are cutting from it for a vase in your home makes a big difference.  They seem to understand that your intentions are not harmful, that they are part of your life.

Lesson 6:  Listen to your plants.  Even weirder!  No, the plants don’t necessarily talk to you, like “Hi, Lady, can I get some water over here.”  But if you look at your plants each day, get to know their individual cycles, you will begin to know when they need water or need to be transplanted.  This is listening to your plants.

Lesson 7:  Some plants like to be next to each other.  It’s called companion planting.  For instance, I have a yarrow plant and purple coneflower plant, each in a pot.  I started them off next to each other and they did great.  Then I made some new container additions and moved them away from each other in an attempt to maximize space.  A couple of days later I noticed that the yarrow was looking a bit wilted.  It still received the same amount of sunlight each day, so I knew it was not that issue.  For some reason, I felt like it missed the purple coneflower (listening to it, perhaps?) and I moved them back next to each other.  The yarrow picked up its stems and leaves within a day or so.  Now I call them the best friends!

Lesson 8:  Mint is invasive!  Mint plants are one of the hardiest herb plants I have ever experienced.  You can cut them back to the very ground and they return with full force and, if they are in a container with other herb plants, you will soon see mint popping up in the middle of your thyme or sage plants.  If they are in a garden bed, the same thing will occur and soon the whole bed will be overtaken with mint.  So I recommend either planting mint in its own container or blocking it off from other plants in a garden bed.

Lesson 9:  Do not buy tomato plants from Home Depot.  I am not knocking Home Depot here.  I love that store and I have had great success with other vegetable, herb and flowering plants from there.  For some reason, their tomato plants just don’t work out for me.  The first batch died off before they even came to fruition and the second batch grew like wildfire and produced tomatoes that either never ripened or cracked open or just fell off as they began to ripen.  I tried changing soil balances, checked for pests, talked to them, everything I knew to do but, alas, they were a mess the past two years.  Next year, I will not buy Home Depot tomato plants.

Lesson 10:  Expect the unexpected.  This is probably the most important lesson of all.  Things can go very wrong or very right.  Sometimes it’s the weather, sometimes it’s the soil, and sometimes it just wasn’t meant to be.  Last year, in late June we had a hailstorm here that destroyed many of my plants, or at least I thought.  Most of my plants had whole leaves ripped off or chopped in half.  I thought there was no way they could come back from the onslaught to which they had been subjected.  But in late July, everything started bouncing back.  Tiger lilies began growing again.  Herb plants began sprouting up again.  It was a miraculous recovery.  This year, the extremely hot temperatures also wreaked some havoc in the garden.  Then, when those soaking rains came in August, everything seemed to launch into a totally new growing season.  Another miracle!

So now I look forward to next Spring when I can implement the knowledge learned over the past two years.  I will soon start planning what plants I will not grow next year, which ones I will stick with, and which ones I will add.  I will take these lessons into the next growing season and I am positive that the garden will have a whole round of new lessons to teach me next year.  Gardening is a complete adventure, with euphoric highs and abysmal lows, full of surprises and expectations.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Autumn's Approach

Usually, my preparations for the Autumn Equinox begins shortly after August 1st, Lammas, the first of the pagan harvest celebrations.  This year has been quite different.  There has been a lot of hustle and bustle in my home the past few weeks.  We’ve been dealing with Mother Nature’s wrath – a hurricane the last weekend of August, the remnants of a tropical storm a week later – which we survived with minimal damage.  Some of my friends were not so lucky, particularly a friend in Vermont who watched his entire neighborhood go under water.  I have been quite busy with work, beginning the school year as Vice President of my son’s middle school Home and School Association, and stepping on the path of a published writer.  My first article for publication consideration went out about 10 days ago and the nail-biting wait to see if it is accepted has begun.  But, of course, there is no time for nail biting because the opportunity to be published in two upcoming anthologies has presented itself and I am in the midst of working on the submission for the first anthology, the deadline of which is 8 days away!  When it rains, it pours…literally!  With all of this going on, I didn’t realize that we were very quickly approaching the Autumn Equinox, the second harvest, the Pagan Thanksgiving we call Mabon.  Although my calendars are clearly marked for all upcoming Pagan celebrations, my eyes just kept looking at writing deadline dates!

You would think my first hint of Autumn’s approach would have been the fact that the Sun was weakening, the days growing shorter as the balance between light and dark is restored and we head into the sign of Libra on September 23rd, the sign of balance, my sun sign.  However, my first hint of Autumn’s near arrival was a little over a week ago when, miraculously, the heavy humidity brought up to the Northeast with the tropical weather along with the rain and dark clouds dissipated to reveal beautiful, unbelievably and thankfully cool Fall-like weather.  I noticed a couple of days later that some of my plants in the garden were starting to fade, although my Mums were growing at an alarming rate and tiny flower buds were appearing on each stem.  Some of my flowers now had seed pods for the birds to dine on or for me to harvest for next year’s plantings.  A few leaves were turning yellow on the trees that I walk by going to and from work, even beginning to flutter to the ground where they will decay to fertilize the soil.  Gardeners on television and radio were talking about planting bulbs for next Spring.  The squirrels were digging furiously to bury the acorns that had fallen from the trees around my home during the storms.  The acorns from the trees and seeds from plants in my garden and those of others were falling to the ground, where they will implant themselves in the decaying plant matter and lie in wait through the Winter until Spring when they will emerge as seedlings.  The Northern Flickers, that I seem to see only in late August and through September, were pecking away in the gardens at whatever little bugs and treats they could snag.  With all of the changes in the garden, I wrote a note on my calendar to keep an eye on the weather forecasts for the first frost advisories or warning, before which I would harvest the rest of my herbs for drying or freezing and prepare the plants for Winter. 

With Mother Nature knocking me on the forehead, this past weekend I launched into Fall house cleaning - washing curtains, dusting, wiping down surfaces, and taking down the Summer d├ęcor to be replaced by Autumn.  The first of the home transformations for the new season is always the tablecloths, table runners, things like that.  Everything was switched out from blue, yellow and white and seashore-themed linens to those with Autumn leaves, cornucopias, and in earthy colors of brown, rust, copper and gold.  The next chore to be tackled was the candles around the house.  Gone were the bright-colored flowery-scented candles and in came the darker shades of red and brown spicy scented candles.  A big tradition of almost 12 years in my home is a seasonal bulletin board, hung on a kitchen wall.  This corkboard was full of beach scenes and Summer gardens in full bloom.  I carefully removed the pictures and stored them for next year, replacing them with pictures of Autumn scenes - hay bales with pumpkins and cornstalks, trees with leaves of bright orange and red, apples in baskets, and drawings of Autumn trees and pumpkin patches that my son had done in kindergarten and first grade, my prized artwork pieces by him.  I set touches of Autumn in each room of the house, whether it was a table runner, a candle, a bundle of Indian corn, or a garland of leaves.  Although the death of the year was approaching, my home was alive with all of these new but familiar changes, vibrant colors, and the energy of my favorite season.

Today I set about preparing my home’s focal point, the altar, for Autumn’s return.  I identified a long time ago that the kitchen and living room are where the most activity occurs in my house and that the dining room is the space between, the space that joins the two areas.  The dining room is also where we have large family celebratory meals, where I have my work area and do most of my writing, where my husband spreads out his spend down logs and budget reports when he has backed-up work to do, where my son does his homework.  It is the psychic heart of my home so it only made sense to me to have the altar there.  The altar is simply a large wide bookcase that houses most of our most loved and often-referenced books, and the top serves as the actual altar space.  For Autumn, the altar is transformed in a celebration of the harvest, with a small pot of Mums, a vase of flowers, pumpkins and other gourds, acorns, a bundle of dried herbs form the garden, and candles.  At its center is the main candle, a deep red spiced apple candle, and a bundle of three ears of Indian corn to symbolize the triple Goddess – maiden, mother and crone.  A bundle of wheat will be added to the altar as well to symbolize the God and the harvest of the grain that will nourish us through the long Winter and be planted again for the Spring.  Autumn reminds us that in all endings there are also beginnings and the altar is essentially a reflection of that principle.

Tonight, Mabon Eve, we will gather around the dining room table for a meal very similar to that of Thanksgiving, a little scaled down though.  Our Autumn Equinox menu includes turkey tenderloin rubbed with herbed butter, a stuffing made with celery, onions, diced apples, dried cranberries and lots of sage, and apples roasted in butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg with chopped walnuts sprinkled on top.  We will toast to Autumn with spiced apple wine and give thanks for the harvest’s bounty.  Normally, we would retire after dinner to the backyard and light the Mabon fire but, alas, the weather forecast again calls for rain, lots of it and through to next week.  So, plan B takes effect!  Instead, we will light the main candle on the altar for tonight’s celebration to welcome Autumn, giving thanks for the wisdom of the Old Mother and the seeds that bring life again from the God and asking for balance to be restored in our lives and in nature.  The death of the year is upon us and the wheel turns again!  Happy Autumn, All!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

At One With The Force

Okay, I know the title sounds very Jedi-like of me but don’t write it off just yet.  The Jedi order (well, George Lucas actually) was really onto something there.  As Obi-Wan Kenobi described it, the Force is “an energy field created by all living things.  It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.”  The follower of the Force, a Jedi, can tap into its energy to create change, to gain strength, to gain wisdom, to heal, to know, to will.  When you take into consideration that George Lucas based the concept of the Force on the main principles of several world religions, ancient and modern, it no longer seems far-fetched.  Returning from a galaxy far, far away, in our world, the Force is the life force of all living things and the energy created by their interconnectedness, their interdependence and their cohabitation.  The question then is:  How does one find or create balance with this Force?  In reply to this, I can offer only my personal knowledge and experience.

In working with the elements of this life force, I have found a fundamental shift in my own life and that of my family.  The four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water, when brought into balance in our own lives and in the world around us, create a connection with the prime element of Ether, or Spirit, which is present in all things.  Earth nurtures us, Air moves us, Fire transforms us and Water shapes us.  When one element is more dominant than others in our daily life, we are not, for lack of a better phrase, at one with the Force (Ether).  To bring elemental balance to our life, we must first work with and understand the individual elements and their properties first.

The element of Earth corresponds to the direction North, the season of Winter, to and night and to the sense of touch.  It is a feminine energy.  It is associated with forests and woods, gardens, fields, soil, gnomes, rocks, crystals and salt.  Earth grounds us, centers us and nurtures us.  It manifests in our lives as abundance, stability, fertility, prosperity and wealth.  People born under the Earth signs of Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn are practical and realistic, hence the phrase “down to earth”.  They are great home makers and can exhibit great patience.  Unfortunately, they can also be stubborn and fiercely resist change.  There are many ways to connect to Earth’s energy.  Try working in the garden or starting some seeds indoors.  Sit under a tree with your back against the trunk.  Cook a dinner using fresh herbs or vegetables from your own garden.  Build something from wood.  Take a hike on a wooded trail and see how many trees and plants you can identify.  Get a rock tumbler and polish rocks found on nature walks.  Learn how to ground and center yourself through a tree meditation, where you visualize or imagine roots coming out of your feet and growing deep into the ground below and pulling energy and nourishment from the Earth.

Air corresponds to East, to Spring, to dawn, and to the senses of smell and hearing.  It is a masculine energy.  Air is associated with wind, clouds, the sky, birds, butterflies, garden faeries, music and learning.  It manifests through freedom, intelligence, imagination, dreams, psychic abilities and new life and beginnings.  Air inspires us and moves us.  Those born under the signs of Gemini, Libra and Aquarius are rational and intelligent.  They are great communicators, both spoken and written, and are very clever.  These air signs tend to think before they act, making them great peacemakers.  Sometimes they can be forgetful or absent-minded and can be accused of having their heads in the clouds.  Air’s energy can be accessed through some very simple things like listening to music, smelling flowers, working with aromatherapy or watching the clouds roll across the sky.  You can create a garden to attract hummingbirds and butterflies or just add a birdfeeder to your yard to attract the birds in your area.  If you have children, play a game of Concentration or 20 Questions.  You could also just sit outside on a breezy day and daydream.  See what comes on the wind.

Fire corresponds to the South, the Summer, , youth and the sense of sight.  It is also a masculine energy.  It is associated with the Sun, stars, volcanoes, lightning, bees, salamanders, dragons, rainbows, and candles.  Fire manifests itself as love, strength, courage, passion and leadership.  Fire is the divine spark.  It purifies us, illuminates us and changes us.  The fire signs of Aries, Leo and Sagittarius are usually passionate and sexual people.  They are very courageous and are born leaders.  However, they can be impulsive and prone to violent tempers and fits of rage.  Fire’s energy is also easily accessed but be careful if working with actual flame.  You can bake bread or a cake.  Light a candle or a fire in your fireplace or outdoors in a firepit or chiminea.  While you’ve got the candles or fireplace going, make love with your partner.  Or scry into the fire and see what images are revealed to you in the flames.  Plant flowers in your garden that attract bees.  Start an exercise routine for physical strength and endurance.  Take the kids outside at night and see how many constellations you can see.  Make a game of it and award each child with something for knowing the names of those constellations.

The element of Water corresponds to the West, Autumn, twilight or dusk, maturity and the sense of taste.  It is a feminine energy and therefore is associated with the moon, as it sways the tides.  Water is also associated with oceans, lakes, streams, rivers, rain, seashells, fog, fish, cups and mirrors.  It manifests itself through the emotions and wisdom.  People born under the Water signs of Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are natural empaths as they can feel the emotions of others.  They are very sensitive and graceful.  They can also be moody and are often prone to depression.  One of the best ways of tapping into Water’s energy is by taking a bath or swimming.  Relax in a warm bath on a chilly night or take a refreshing dip in the ocean on a hot Summer day.  Add a birdbath or fountain to your yard and make an iced herbal tea to enjoy while watching the birds frolic.  Water your plants and talk to them as you go along.  For children, collect seashells while walking on the beach.  Buy an aquarium and fill it with a few fish and some live aquatic plants.  The sound of the water going through the aquarium’s filtration system is like having a little bubbling brook in your very own home.

Ether, or Spirit, is the space in which all four elements exist.  It is the circle, the ever turning wheel of the year and the cycle of life.  It corresponds to eternity.  Ether has no gender.  It is represented by the color white and manifests as joy and union.  Without Spirit, Earth, Air, Fire and Water cannot connect.  It is the place where all becomes one.  It is the Force.

So, how have I found balance with this all-encompassing Force?  I started by being very mindful of which element’s energies, qualities and associations were presenting themselves in my daily life and activities, like cooking, cleaning, working, gardening, and so on.  I added representations of each element to my garden – a couple of birdbaths and birdfeeders, wind chimes, a firepit, new flower and herb plants – which then brought further representations of the elements to my yard.  In each room of my house, I made sure there was an item that represented each element, whether it was a candle, a seashell, a vase of flowers or a plant, or a feather found on a walk.  Each day, I became more and more conscious of each element and how they were part of my life and made sure I thanked each of them when I could.  If I was gardening, I thanked Earth for the plants and flowers being nurtured by its rich fertile soil.  If I was writing, I thanked Air for its inspiration.  If I lit a candle, I thanked Fire for its illumination.  If I was taking a shower, I thanked Water for its cleansing.  I would also ask the elements to bring their manifesting qualities into my life and the lives of my husband and son – Earth for abundance and prosperity, Air for creativity and inspiration, Fire for strength, courage and passion, and Water for wisdom.  The more I incorporated the elements into my daily life, the more peaceful and positive things began to feel or become.  Hence, Ether entered into my life.  Now, I find myself trying to pick out representations of the elements wherever I am, whether it is at the office or at a friend’s home or even at the store.  I silently call upon each one and it shows itself to me through a physical representation or as a quality or energy associated with it.  I am becoming one with the Force.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Call of the Sun King

The official start of Summer is almost here.  I can feel its pull, like when you stand in the ocean as the tide is going out and you feel as if the waves will pull you right out with them.  At this time of year, my heart begins to ache for sea and sand, for bright burning sun on my skin and the ocean’s lullaby, for the feeling of diving under a wave as it breaks, for the echoing thunder and streaks of lightning that come with Summer storms, for the smell of all the flowers in blooms, of vegetables ripening under the sun’s rays and of salt air, for the taste of sweet juicy strawberries and other fruits warmed by the sun.  In a few hours, Summer will be here.

Summer Solstice, also called Midsummer or Litha, is the longest day of the year with the Sun at its highest point in the sky.  From this point in time to the Winter Solstice, the days begin to grow shorter and the nights longer.  The first harvest is not long off from now.  All life - plants, insects, animals and people - is at its apex of vitality.  Midsummer marks a time of balance between the elements of Fire and Water.  I find myself being called back to the beach by these elements.  Fire -the Sun- calls to me to soak up its rays, its energy, and Water -the ocean- wishes me to swim in its cooling waters and be reborn anew, refreshed.  These same elements are needed for things to grow and to create abundance.  Both sun and water are necessary to plants for energy for photosynthesis.  Flowers are now giving way to ripening fruit.  It is said that herbs gathered at the Summer Solstice are at the height of their potency.

At Midsummer, the Goddess manifests as the Full Moon of Summer, at the height of her fertility giving birth to all life, as the Great Mother and Queen, and the God as the Sun King, strong and full of energy.  Summer Solstice is a celebration of Fire and the masculine principle.  Without the Sun, there could be no life.  At Beltane, or May Day, we celebrated the sacred marriage between the Goddess and the God, their fertility and the fertility of all life.  Now we see the result of that marriage through the abundance of the crops and in our very own gardens, in the abundance of energy and light.  Great bonfires are lit on Midsummer’s Eve to mirror the power of the Sun at its peak and to attune with the element of Fire and the aspects of the Sun King.  We spend more time outdoors in the Summer to soak up the Sun’s rays and to borrow some of its energy to carry with us through the darker times of the year.  Fathers are also honored at Summer Solstice.  Isn't it interesting that Father’s Day falls right before the Summer Solstice?

As I write this, I am making the final preparations for tonight’s Summer Solstice celebration.  Big beautiful sunflowers, candles, seashells of varied sizes and colors, starfish and driftwood adorn the heart of our home, our hearth, to call upon the elements of fire and water, of sun and sea.  Because I long so for the ocean at this time of the year, I have also added a picture of the sea taken during a hurricane (by the way, June 1 marks the beginning of hurricane season).  Strawberries and cream are ready for passing around after the celebration as well as big juicy cherries and grapes.  The birds and critters of my yard will even have some berries in their feeders tomorrow morning to welcome Summer’s arrival.  A small fire will be lit with summer herbs and rose petals added to the flames to scent the air with Summer.  When my son was younger, we would catch fireflies in jars and watch their little lights spark on and off but tonight they will dance in the trees as we celebrate.  So, tonight, think about what Summer means to you, what it brings to you, what it ends for you, and thank the Universe for all of its bounty.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Going Batty

Last week, my husband and I were discussing the yard and gardens – where to move this plant or that plant, when to cut back the pesky vines that keep creeping over a neighbor’s fence into our rock garden, what we may still have time to plant this year, and other garden chores that needed to be completed.  We talked about expanding from tomato plants to a real veggie garden.  We talked about our long-planned backyard overhaul that still has not begun due to his work schedule and time constraints for both of us as well as those that have offered to help with the project.  Towards the end of this conversation, my husband announced that he had a few things he wanted to get for the yard.  I asked him to elaborate and he replied, “Well, a squirrel feeder, a butterfly house, and…a bat house.”  The first two items flowed out of his mouth easily and happily and I was quick to agree, but the last item sort of climbed its way out, knowing that my reaction to it would be less than favorable.  My first thoughts were as follows:  A bat house?  Really?  Why?  What would the neighbors have to say about it?  I had already heard some comments about the increased numbers of birds and critters that visit our feeders in our yard and the rock garden that sits at the very back of our property but what would they say or do about a bat house?  I had sudden visions of petitions being signed.  I based my objections to the bat house on the neighbors and not the fact that I find bats incredibly creepy.  My husband dug his heels in on the matter though.  His reasoning for the bat house was that a bat can ingest up to 1000 mosquitoes in one night.  Uh-oh!  He had done his homework!  He was ready for whatever objection I threw out there.  I didn’t have a chance.  I asked him to let me sit with the idea for a while, saying in true Yoda fashion, “Meditate on this, I will.”

Later in the week, I sat in the yard and, even though I had the citronella candles going, I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes, huge lumps appearing on my legs and arms and wherever else they got me, and I started thinking about the bat house idea.  Like I said before, I find bats creepy.  Why?  Maybe it’s because I’ve heard stories about bats getting caught in people’s hair or stories about them getting into people’s homes.  The true reason, though, is because the subject of bats is not something in which I am well-versed.  So, off to the computer I went to research the subject of bats.  I won’t go into all the scientific jargon here but I did find out some things which really eased my fear of these little creepy flying critters.  Bat populations are declining due to disappearing habitat.  They are essential in maintaining a health ecosystem because they act as natural pest control in garden and farm settings and keep insect populations down where needed.  Yes, they can eat 1000 flying insects per night.  This includes mosquitoes, moths and some beetles.  In a University of Florida News article from October 2001, it was noted that “a few dozen bats can make a difference in a neighborhood” for this reason.  Without bats, we would be overrun by insects.  Right there I was sold.  No more bites with associated crazed itching.  No more threat of West Nile Virus.  No more spraying myself down with insect repellent, which I only do in extreme cases because I hate the stuff.  I also thought about the neighbors and how they would be saved from the blood-thirsty monsters.  How could they object?  It looked like a bat house was in my very near future.

But in doing this research, I found some more information about bats that struck me on a more spiritual level.  Bats symbolize illusion, rebirth, intuition, and journeying among many other things.  They symbolize rebirth because they live in the belly of Mother Earth (caves) and emerge every evening from Her belly.  Because they are nocturnal, they have long been associated with vampires, who also rise only at night.  Hence, Dracula turning into a bat.  Native Americans believed bats were very powerful and would invoke the spirit of bats when they needed the ability to see through darkness to the truth or heart of a matter.  For this reason, they are also symbolic of psychic abilities, intuition and dreams.  They are cloaked in mystery because of their very nature and, therefore, have long been misunderstood as well as greatly revered.  Needless to say, bats aren’t so creepy to me anymore.  I know consider them a necessity and just another connection to nature.

I figured that my husband had already discovered all the scientific ins and outs of bats during his own research so I shared only the symbolism portion of my research, which I think impressed him because this meant I was considering the bat house idea.  We set about our weekend and, once again, another night of mosquitoes biting ensued.  I then started calling the “Bat House Idea” the “Bat House Solution”.  So, last night, we moved on to actually looking at and pricing bat houses.  While we sat at the computer together, the hubby also showed me the butterfly houses he was considering.  A no-brainer.  Who doesn’t love butterflies?  There were also ladybug houses, which were adorable and offer another sort of natural pest control for my plants and flowers.  Then we came across bee houses!  “Do you think we could keep bees?”, I asked him (but that is a subject for another day).  Next, we’ll be delving into the world of how to get the bats to take up residence in the bat house as well as local township ordinances, if any, regarding keeping a bat house.

Through this process, I think we have realized something about our little backyard and the gardens we have created.  We are working towards something self-sustaining and self-preserving.  We are creating a system of natural checks and balances for ourselves and the creatures and plants around us.  We are making a better place for ourselves in this small part of our world and perhaps it will have a larger impact on the world around us, on our future and the future of all of those around us, whether it is human, flora or fauna.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Lesson from Gaia

Last week, it rained from Sunday to Friday.  Seven days of rain!  Each day, I'd look out the windows at my gardens and see it growing before my eyes.  It was so green and lush and I longed to get out there with my flowers and plants.  I would get a few minutes here and there, when the showers were very light, almost a mist, or when they would cease temporarily until the next one would come along.  I didn't mind the rain but after a few days of no sun and no real outdoor time, I was starting to get a bit stir crazy.  Finally, this past Friday, it began to lift.  I was able to get outside to cut some roses for my vases in the house and clean up the rose bushes a bit.  I did a bit of weeding in the front garden beds.  At times, I was so intoxicated by the fragrances of the roses mixed with the rich scent of the wet earth that I would just sit or stand there being in the moment, at total peace.  That evening, I walked around my house, sipping a glass of wine, and stopped at each vase of roses I had filled earlier in the day and once again was overcome by the scent of fresh roses and greens in the house.

Saturday morning I awoke to a very pleasant surprise.  The sun!  The windows of my house were bursting with golden light and I jumped out of bed, giddy with joy.  I grabbed my first cup of coffee and headed right out the back door in my jammies to create a mental Garden To Do list.  I got the regular household chores out of the way and then headed out to the garden later that afternoon.  I spent four hours weeding the garden beds in the back of the house, pruning old blooms from the lilac bush, cleaning and refilling bird feeders and bird baths, and pruning the Burkwood's Broom.  Although I was tugging away at weeds and contorting my body around this plant or that plant so as not to disturb them while I worked around them, I was once again at total peace.  I looked forward to another day of sun, as promised by our local weather reporters, on Sunday.

However, Sunday dawned as an "iffy" day.  The sun peaked in and out.  It seemed damp, chilly and unsettled again.  My husband and I ran errrands in the morning.  When we got home, I went back and forth on whether I would work out in the front gardens.  Finally, I grabbed my basket of gardening tools and headed out there.  My focus for the day was the ivy I have growing across the front of the house.  It was beginning to grow out of control because of all the rain, invading my rose bushes and my neighbor's garden beds, and was creeping closer and closer to the house.  I aplogized to the ivy as I began cutting it back.  I truly did feel bad about it.  After all, it was doing what ivy does but the other plants and flowers did not appreciate it.  As I began pulling long tendrils of ivy from under the bushes along my front steps and clearing out the leaves and other debris that had built up under them, the scent of fertile soil hit me.  A thought then occurred to me.  I had cut the ivy back before over the years but it had been some time since I had last done this.  The leaves that had been trapped beneath the ivy had composted down to provide essential nutrients for the soil.  Here I was clearing the debris out when it could get put to good use.  After removing the ivy, I set about returning some of the more decayed and wet material back under the bushes and around some of the garden beds.  The flowers and plants seemed to stand taller and say a silent "Thank You" as I did this.

Later that day, my husband had to make a trip to the hardware store to get some items to repair my fountain that sits in the garden bed outside my front door.  I went along for the ride and wandered about the garden section.  It was there I had an "Ah-Ha Moment".  I was turning from one aisle to the next when one word caught my eye - COMPOST.  I could not contain my excitement!  I must have looked crazed as I went speed walking through the store to locate my husband and calling to him.  I brought him over to the aisle and showed him the compost bins there.  "We should be doing this!", I announced.  "We're putting garden trash in plastic bags and sending it to some landfill somewhere when we could be composting it and using it in the gardens!  We're ruining the planet and trying to save it all at the same time.  We're bad gardeners!  Mother Earth is not happy with us right now!"  I was beside myself with guilt but joyful at the same time that the Universe of Infinite Solutions had smacked me in the face a few times this weekend.  The hubby agreed with me on all levels and we are now in the midst of pricing and investigating compost bins and figuring out where we'll put them on our very small property and how to compost properly.  We have even gone as far as to begin to investigate gathering rain in a barrell to reuse in the gardens (a thought that dawned on me when it began raining again later that evening).

In contemplating the past few days, I have come to another realization.  Perhaps it is very good thing that I am becoming an avid gardener and wanting to preserve my very, very small section of the planet.  With all the talk of doomsday scenarios lately, maybe it is a good thing to know how to grow things, to recycle, to reuse, to repurpose, to preserve, to create balance among the elements in my own backyard.  What if, one day, a solar flare takes out our entire electrical, technological and mechanical grids as some scientists predict?  How will we survive?  Mother Earth is already raging from the insults human beings have slung at her over the years.  We are seeing some of the biggest natural disasters in centuries unfold in some parts of the world on a more regular basis.  She wants Her fertile Earth, Her crisp clean oceans, Her clear blue sky and Her abundant flora and fauna back.  I want to help Her heal Her wounds and reap the benefits of living in Her graces.  I want my son to grow up to care for Her and to teach his children to do the same.  Yes, I have much more work to do to attain that goal.

Today in writing this and doing some research about gardening and how it benefits the Earth, I came across a study performed by Dr. James Lovelock FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society) and Dr. Sidney Epton in the 1970's.  It is called the Gaia Hypothesis and is based on two propositions:  one, that "life exists only because material conditions on Earth happen to be just right for its existence" and two, that "life defines the material conditions needed for its survival and makes sure they stay there".  Their conclusions in this study were that the Earth "seemed to exhibit the behaviour of a single organism, even a living creature" and that "in man, Gaia has the equivalent of a central nervous system and an awareness of herself and the rest of the Universe. Through man, she has a rudimentary capacity, capable of development, to anticipate and guard against threats to her existence".  I think that speaks volumes to us.  The full account of this study can be found in Dr. Lovelock's book entitled, "Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth", a book which I will be purchasing this week to accompany me on this journey.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Witchy Brews

As my son sneezed and sniffed his way to the kitchen, he asked, “Mom, do you have anything to make this cold better?”  I picked my way through the medicines accumulated in a cabinet and realized that I had nothing in for cold symptoms.  At least, nothing he would take.  I hurried over to our local neighborhood store which usually stocks some cold relief medicines but they were completely sold out.  I guess the first of the Spring colds were in full swing.  My sister-in-law, who lives a few doors down from me, also had nothing in her medicine cabinet.  My husband offered to make a run to the CVS but he had worked a long day and was relaxing in his jammies and I didn’t want to make him head out into the chilly night.  What to do?  What to do?

I glanced around the kitchen, deep in thought, and the answer almost slapped me across the face.  On a shelf above my kitchen sink sat assorted jars of dried herbs from the garden and they were practically waving at me.  They seemed to call to me, “Here!  Here!  Use me!  Use me!”  I grabbed a small pot and threw in a few eucalyptus leaves to help open his sinus and nasal passages, a sprig of rosemary for his aching head, a sprig of thyme for its decongestant properties, and a bit of lavendar and chamomile for their relaxing and calming effects.  I added some water and brought it to a boil on the stove.  While I waited for that, I put some honey, fresh lemon juice and a splash of Irish whiskey in a bowl and whisked it together.  This concoction would soothe his throat, making it a little easier for him to cough and swallow.  After the herbs began to simmer, I called my son down from his room.  I stuck him at the kitchen table and made him stick his head over the steaming pot.  “Do I have to drink this?” he asked.  I tossed a towel over his head and simply replied, “Stay there and breathe.” 

He fidgeted a bit, complaining that it was too hot, but I assured him he’d be fine.  I busied myself around the kitchen and chatted with him about school and other 13-year old topics.  Then, I heard him mumble from under the towel, “Is this something witchy?”  I thought for a moment and then answered, “Witchy? No.  Well, maybe in today’s world it would be considered witchy.  But centuries ago it was all they had to feel better.”  I gave him a couple teaspoons of the honey and lemon mixture and sent him on his way.  Right before he went to bed for the night, he gave me a hug and said, “Thanks for making me feel better, Mom.”  Success!

A little later in the evening, while Facebooking, I saw a post from another of my sisters-in-law, who was suffering from much the same cold as my son.  I offered her some all-natural help.  Her husband jumped in the car and rushed over to my house for a baggy of herbs and a few Tension Tamer teabags, a tea that I swear helps me to feel better when I have any kind of head cold or headache.  I checked on her this morning and she too is feeling better.  No more burning painful sinus passages.  No more sore throat.  Another success!

All of this got me to thinking, especially my son asking if this was “witchy”.  I consulted my notes from my online herbal lore class as well as some books about the subject this morning and found some interesting things about the herbs I had used.  For instance, in herbal lore, carrying eucalyptus promotes healing and good health.  Gazing upon the lavendar plant, dispels sorrow and it was used in medieval households to promote sleep, rest and peacefulness.  Of lavendar, William Turner wrote in “A Newe Herball” in 1551, “I judge that the flowers of Lavendar quilted in a cap and dayly worne are good for all diseases of the head that come of a cold cause and that they comfort the braine very well”.  Chamomile, when sprinkled around your property, is believed to remove curses and spells against you.  Old-World gardeners believe that chamomile is a “plant doctor” in that it revives any sickly plants that are planted in close proximity to it.  The burning of rosemary cleanses an area of bad vibes and energy and makes the emotions light and merry.  It was said that the aromatic scent of the rosemary plant was highly valued for its protective power against infection.  As far as rosemary is concerned, Eleanour Sinclair Rohde writes in her book, “A Garden of Herbs”, 1936, “It would be possible to fill a book with all the old herbalists have to say about rosemary”.   

As I weigh this information, it is very easy for me to see why my son and sister-in-law felt better after my herbal answers to their ailment.  Most of the herbs I used were grown in my very own garden this past Summer and dried in my very own kitchen.  They were tended to with loving, positive and healing energy.  The herbs themselves possess healing properties.  I guess it is no mere coincidence that I am currently studying herbal lore, the growing and propagation of herbs, and their practical daily uses for health, beauty and cooking.  I have much more to learn, through studying and trial and error, but, for now, I have had success with my first “witchy” brews as I travel the path of the Village Wise Woman.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Awaiting Spring's Return

Winter is waning.  I have seen so many signs of it over the past two weeks or so.  Robins are digging around in my gardens for earthworms.  The male cardinal and his mate that are in residence in my yard are making more frequent appearances.  The squirrels and chipmunks huddle in nearby trees and bushes and anxiously await my daily visit to the plastic dish in the rock garden that I fill with fruits, nuts and scraps of vegetables.  Then, I watch from my kitchen window as they cautiously approach the dish and speed off with as much food as they can carry.  In one of these daily visits to the yard, I saw my crocuses, tulips, hyacinths and tiger lilies breaking through the top layer of soil in the gardens.  That same day, I checked my potted chrysanthemums, carefully pushing aside the fallen Autumn leaves I had used to insulate them, and found small green buds on the remaining branches. Even the trees around my home are full of buds.  The days are definitely growing longer, with the sun not setting until around six or so in the evening.  With Spring peeking around almost every corner, I find myself anxious to get outside and to spend as much time as I can outdoors.

Soon, my husband and I will begin the overhaul of our backyard, where we will tear out most of the existing garden and grass and replace it with a bricked patio, new fencing, a new firepit, and a new birdbath or small fountain, with potted herbs and flowers surrounding the patio but still incorporating the small existing garden plot where my lilac and itea virginicum have been growing since we bought our home.  An old tree stump is waiting to be turned into a faery house that will be tucked under the Lilac.  The majority of Spring bulbs that are right now beginning to break the surface will be transplanted to the rock garden and a few other spots.  The goal is to transform the existing backyard to an outdoor room of sorts, where we can entertain, where we can celebrate, where we can just sit and enjoy each other’s company, where we can see, hear and smell nature all around us, where magickal things can happen.

The rock garden will also be overhauled this Spring, with a new stone retaining wall and three levels for flowers.  All of the existing plants except for my beloved Burkwood’s Broom (Cytisus scoparius ‘Burkwoodii’), for which I anxiously await its Spring garnet-red blooms, will be removed and replaced with new flowering plants to attract butterflies and humming birds.  The whole area will be a safe haven for all the birds and critters with new feeders, another birdbath, and animal and bird-friendly plantings.  It too will become a magickal place.

I realize as I write this that these projects are all reflections of every aspect of Spring: motivation, new beginnings, rebirth, fertility, growth, potential.  I will await Spring’s joyous return by continuing to plan the new gardens, studying herbal lore, paging through gardening and home improvement catalogs and websites, researching the diets of my local furry and feathered friends, and dreaming of nightly conversation, laughter, reflection and magick in the “outdoor room” as my herbs and flowers grow fragrantly around me.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Totality

I know that Winter is almost over but, before it goes, I have to document how it began for me, not just to share it with other people but to have it written somewhere for myself.  It was no ordinary start to Winter and it left an indelible impression on me, my spirit and my life.  It was the most spiritual event of my life to date and an experience that I will carry with me everyday for the rest of my time on this Earth.

Monday, December 20th, started like any other day before Yule in my home, with the morning hustle and bustle of getting ready for work and school and rushing out the door to get to these places on time.  Everything was ready to make the Yule log – the log itself had been trimmed up, the holes for the bayberry candles were drilled into it and the greenery was waiting in a basket outside to stay fresh until it would be placed upon it.  Vases in the house were full of pine branches and holly.  Candles were placed around the house to let light and warmth shine in our home and in our life.  The tree was set up on the front enclosed porch of our house with 600 white lights on it ready to twinkle the night away.  After my husband and son departed for the day, I sat with my morning coffee and decompressed before going to work, meditating on what the evening and the next day would bring.  This was to be a very powerful night.  Not only was Winter Solstice to begin after but it was to be a full moon with a total eclipse of the moon.  The last time a total lunar eclipse coincided with a Solstice was in the year 1638 and it would not occur again until 2094.  A clear but very cold night was forecast, all the better to see the full moon and the eclipse.

After dinner that night, I worked on putting together the Yule log, carefully wiring in layer after layer of small pine branches and holly with a pinecone tucked in here and there, a meditative activity all in itself.  When it was finished, I lit the bayberry candles and the other candles throughout the house and settled in for a short Winter’s nap with my husband on the sofa.  We had decided that we would just get a couple hours of sleep and wake up around to see the eclipse.  I moved in and out of sleep for a while, something like excitement coursing through me.  I felt like a child on Christmas Eve who is anxiously awaiting Santa’s arrival.  But, finally, I gave in to unconsciousness.

The alarm on my phone went off at , “The Nutcracker Suite” by the Brian Setzer Orchestra jolting me from my slumber.  I jumped up off the sofa and hurried to the front porch to see if I could catch a glimpse of the moon through the barren tree in front of my house.  There it was!  I dashed back to the living room and gave the hubby a shake.  “Come on,” I said, “it’s time.”  Then I ran upstairs to my son’s room and woke him from his deep sleep, telling him that he could not miss an event that would not happen again in his lifetime.  We quickly bundled up in heavy coats, hats and gloves and went outside to the backyard.  An icy wind blew from the North, heralding the arrival of Winter and almost taking our breath away.  I turned and looked up.  Totality was just about to occur, the moon almost covered by the Earth’s shadow, an amber halo beginning to form.    It was surrounded by stars which are normally not in view because of ambient light and the sky seemed darker, more vast.  The wind suddenly ceased and all the world went quiet.   I huddled with my son as my husband tried to capture the event on video and digital camera.

In that moment, I felt a sudden grounding to the earth beneath my feet, like I was held in place by a huge magnet, but there was also a tug from inside me, at my solar plexus, like my spirit wanted to take flight from my body.  My heart pounded away and my breath seemed to be stuck in my chest somewhere.  Tears stung my eyes.  I’m still not really sure why.  I felt suspended in time and space, like everything in the world had stopped.  And then…totality.  A great noise enveloped me, like that of ocean waves and I thought I heard whispers on the wind.  Again, the wind slowed and I let a long cleansing breath out, like the first breath after being born or the last breath upon dying.  There was a rush through every part of my body, a tingling like static electricity.  The wind gusted again and I held my son closer, also leaning against my husband.  “Happy Yule,” I whispered to them.

We stood there for a few more minutes and then were driven back inside by the cold.  They headed up to bed and I sat for a short while by the tree and front windows on the chilly front porch watching the Earth’s shadow begin to release the moon before heading off to bed.  After all, there was still the Yule celebration on the night of the 21st to look forward to, in which we would light the small Winter Solstice bonfire, full of aromatic woods and herbs, under that full moon to welcome the return of the sun.  And I would read the story I had found in a book called “A Visit to Mother Winter”.  And we would eat, drink and make merry.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On A Cold Winter's Day

As I write this, I am awaiting round two of a huge storm system that has its icy tendrils stretched across the greater part of the United States, encompassing the South, Midwest, Northeast and Atlantic coast.  Depending on where you are, you may be seeing rain, freezing rain, sleet or snow.  It is gray and cold outside my window.  The fine sheet of ice that coated everything around me this morning has just melted.  Tonight should bring us freezing rain that will leave us with a quarter to a half inch of ice on all surfaces and will be followed by an inch or so of rain.  I have spent the morning cleaning up my house, doing every bit of laundry, organizing my refrigerator, putting candles here and there, making sure flashlights are within reach, and generally preparing my home and family for whatever may come.  In doing all of this, one simple thought stayed at the forefront of my mind.  Spring is almost here.

Tomorrow is February 2nd, Groundhog Day, Candlemas, Imbolc, the midway point between Winter and Spring.  With the current weather, Mr. Groundhog will come out tomorrow and will not see his shadow because the sun will be hiding behind the rain, snow, ice and clouds.  No shadow means an early Spring.  According to an Old English saying:

“As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and rain
Winter will be gone and not come again”

Therefore, it looks like tomorrow, which is Candlemas, will “be cloud and rain and Winter will be gone and not come again”.  Oh, if only that were so.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Spring arrives precisely when it means to, in six weeks on the Vernal Equinox.  On the bright side, it’s only six weeks away.

So, here we are, right between Winter and Spring, between rain and snow, between warm air and cold air, waiting.  What now?  I look to Brigid.  In the Catholic tradition, she is a saint and her feast day, a time of purification and blessing, is celebrated today, February 1st.  In Pagan traditions, pre-dating Christianity, Brigid is the Goddess of inspiration and poetry, associated with creativity, home and hearth, and tomorrow, February 2nd, Imbolc, is sacred to her.  In both religions, this a time when candles are prepared and blessed, a time for purification rituals, and a time to let light, warmth and hope into our homes, into our very lives.  This is a wonderful time to clean up and organize your home, to have your home and hearth blessed, to rededicate yourself to your personal spiritual path, to begin new creative projects, or to begin planning your garden for the Spring.  These are all ways of bringing warmth and comfort to our spirits during the cold dark days of Winter and of looking forward to Spring and all of its new possibilities.

Tonight, light a candle to the Brigid of your religious tradition and ask her to bring inspiration, warmth, light, hope and protection to your home and family.  And, think Spring!