Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Crossroads and the Crone

About two years ago, I came to a crossroads.  A sudden major life-altering event for which I was unprepared stood in front of me, blocking me from moving onward on the path I had journeyed for quite some time.  There I was, 41-years old, and face-to-face with the Crone.  Her dark ominous presence loomed in front of me, barring my way.  She demanded my attention and would not budge until I acknowledged and accepted Her.

I spent many nights traveling the spirit realm, deep in meditation on why this was happening.  In dream-like states, I walked circular roads, always leading back to the spot at which I had started.  I was visited each time by a crow, who would squawk at me, “Move on!  Just time!  Move on!  Not over!  Move on!”

I saw myself wrapped in a midnight-blue hooded cloak roaming cliffs high above raging seas and under dark whirling storm clouds in wind-swept rain, always searching in near panic for something that was lost.  The crow soared above.  “Just time!  Move on!  Not over!  Move on!”

On the physical plane, doctors poked and prodded, tested and scanned, and the only answer they could find was that my recent dramatic weight loss had catapulted me to this point.  I found it very hard to believe that losing 80 pounds, eating healthier, and exercising each day could lead to this, the end of my child-bearing years.  So, then, why?

Again my friend, the crow.  “Just time!  Move on!  Not over!”

I mourned.  I raged.  I feared.  I fretted.  I regretted.  I reminisced.  I panicked.  I felt sorry for myself.  At times, I longed for Olympia Dukakis to slap me across the face and command, “Snap out of it!”  But nothing changed it.

My last option was to turn to the Crone.  I waited until a night during the dark of the moon when my husband and son were sound asleep.  Sitting in front of my altar aglow with a single black candle, I began the trance-like meditation.  Several breaths into it, there She was at the crossroads illuminated by moonlight, wrapped in darker-than-night robes, her face veiled, and wisps of jet black hair streaked with silver floating out from under the veil.

“May I ask why,” I whispered.

That squawk from a nearby tree.  “Move on!  Just time!”

Her hand, white as the purest snow, rose up to silence the crow.  Then in a voice encompassing every female voice I have ever known, she said, “It is just what must be.  Do not fear it.  Do not mourn it.  Know me better.  Embrace it.  Embrace me.”

“But I am not quite sure how to do this, how to be this.”  I confessed.

“You will find your way.  You will know me and no longer fear me.”  The Crone glided to the side of the road, revealing two roads on which to travel, motioning for me to come forward.  “Though only you can choose which way to go.  One road leads to wisdom and the other back to this point.  One to joy and a new beginning and the other to resentment and bitterness.”

“How do I know which road to take?”

“Close your eyes and let that which you have always known guide you.”

I moved forward slightly, feeling confused and scared.  She suddenly reached out and touched my cheek.  Her long fingers were icy cold but a warmth traveled through me.  “Trust yourself, Daughter, and you will trust me.  Love yourself and you will love me.  It is time.  Move on.  It is not over, Child.  Close your eyes and move onto the path.”

I closed my eyes, my breath catching in my chest as if I was about to leap off a cliff, moved forward, and….I was back in front of my altar.  I was disoriented.  Had I chosen the correct path?  With an inner peace I had not felt in weeks, I yawned and stretched.  Perhaps I had chosen correctly.  Perhaps not.  I just needed to sleep.  I went to bed and slumbered dreamlessly.

A few days later, I was in the garden, on my knees and pulling weeds when I heard a great swooshing noise and saw a shadow pass overhead.  A large crow landed on the arm of one of my nearby adirondak chairs.  The crow squawked wordlessly at me.  I smiled and said aloud, “Hello.”  The crow seemed to bow its head to me and took off.  I watched it until it was but a black speck in the bright blue sky.  I knew I had chosen the correct path.

I write of this now only because I was recently confronted with those feelings of sadness, regret, and anger again.  As I worked in the garden with my husband and brother-in-law, a neighbor came by with his six-month old daughter in the portable car seat to see our progress in what we call “The Vegetable Garden Experiment”.  As he asked my husband about excavating, leveling and constructing, I knelt down to coo at this sweet little girl, with her tiny purple bow in her hair, one sock on and one sock off.  I told her how big she was getting and that soon she would be running her Mommy and Daddy ragged as she ran all over the place.  I told her how she could come by to see the garden and its beautiful flowers and could take some herbs and vegetables for her family.  Maybe she would even see the fairies that live in my gardens.  After many enchanting grins, sparkling smiling blue-gray eyes and several showings of tiny chubby little toes, she and her father left and I was ready to sit in the dirt and cry my eyes out.

Instead, I straightened up, turned to my husband and brother-in-law, and said to them, “One of my sisters better have a baby soon!  I can get all the fun parts and then hand that child right back over to its Mommy.”  My husband gave me a sympathetic smile and my brother-in-law cracked a few jokes.  I went back to digging in the dirt and, somewhere in the distance, I heard the caw of a crow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Dawning of Spring

I awoke this morning invigorated with the dawning of Spring.  Although our day here in the Northeast has started off with fog, as I write this, it is burning off with each inch the Sun creeps higher into the sky.  Everything in my yard is covered in a dewy film and the Robins are pecking at the moist dirt for worms.  Goldfinches, cardinals, purple finches and sparrows are chirping away as they fly to and from the birdfeeders.  My lilac bush is heavy with green slowly unfolding buds, some cradling the first of the sweet purple flowers.  The forsythia is all aglow with yellow flowers, some branches showing the first of its brilliant green leaves.  The honeysuckle vines, creeping their way across the back fence, are becoming heavy with leaves.  The trees around my house are dotted with buds.  The air is earthy, full of grass, fertile soil, and sweet pollen.  It is Ostara.  Spring has sprung!

I have spent the past two weeks in heavy preparation for this day, for Spring’s arrival.  Many hours were spent cleaning garden beds, pruning bushes, thinning out patches of tiger lilies, aerating soil, digging up plants to make room for our upcoming vegetable garden, and washing out bird baths and feeders.  Several trips to our local garden center and hardware stores were made purchasing soil, bird food, seeds, seedlings and even a compost bin.  Plans were loosely sketched out and gardeners consulted for the construction of the raised vegetable garden.  The garden beds now await the Spring plantings of favorite flowers, assorted vegetables, healing herbs, and new acquired butterfly bushes and holly.

The altar has been cleaned, physically and psychically, and is adorned in Spring.   Newly planted pots of English Lavender and daisies, freshly cut forsythia, daffodils, tendrils of honeysuckle and Burkwood’s broom bring the life of my garden to the heart of our home.  Candles of pale yellow, pink and green await lighting this evening.  Packets of seeds are there charging and will be blessed and planted this morning.  A few antique bunnies and colored eggs are tucked in among the ivy and flower garland around the outer edges of the altar.  This morning, the energy of Spring is pulsing from the altar and radiating throughout my home.

This first day of Spring will be busy for me, as I plant seeds and set cuttings of lilac to root.  The butterfly bushes and holly that a friend gave me yesterday, for which in exchange I gave her some of the over-abundance of my tiger lilies, will be transplanted.  I’ll spend the later part of the afternoon preparing our Spring dinner, the Ostara Bake, a quiche of sorts with many eggs, ham, spinach and Gruyere cheese.  A small Spring Equinox ritual is planned, to be held after tonight’s Home & School meeting.  (I try to clear my calendar for sabbats but I’m Vice-President of the Home & School association at my son’s school and must attend.)

Through the many things on today’s To-Do list, I will spend much of the time in contemplation of Spring and what the next three months will hold.  I will revel in daydreams of sweet blooming flowers and shrubs and heavily-scented herbs.  The various birdsongs will set my mind into early mornings in the garden watering and weeding.  The warmer air will remind me of Spring and Summer nights with friends and family gathered around the fire pit, telling stories and singing songs, drinking wine and snacking on fruits and cheese.  The planting of seeds will set my hopes for herbal remedies to come, cut Summer flowers in vases, and an abundant harvest in late Summer and through the Autumn.  As life unfurls all around me, I will rejoice in Spring.

Ostara Blessings to All!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Branches to Spring

Something miraculous is happening in my home this weekend.  It is a beautiful and wondrous site and causes me to fall into hypnotic states every time I behold it.  My mind stops racing, my pulse slows a bit, and my breaths become slower and longer.  Every time I pass by, I feel my spirit leap with joy and a smile spread across my face.  What is this thing bringing me such happiness and peace?  It is the simplest thing but yet holds such power.  It is a vase of forsythia branches, brought in from the colder days of last week to sit in some warm water on my altar.  These branches were barren a mere three days ago.  Now they are bursting with life.  Little buds of yellow and green have sprouted up all over the braches.  Small bright yellow flowers are appearing here and there.  Spring has sprung in my house.

Each year, as February ends and March begins, I start the change over from Winter to Spring in my house.  Vases once filled with the pine branches cut from my Yule/Christmas tree are replaced with branches of forsythia from my backyard.  The last of the pine-scented candles are lit often to use them up before the first day of Spring and I begin stock-piling floral-scented candles of meadow green, pastel yellow and pale pink.  The Spring cleaning begins in small bursts – a few windows one day, a closet another day, perhaps curtains on yet another day.  The lists of seeds, new plants and growing mediums to be purchased for the Spring, Summer and Fall gardens are written with notations of where and when to buy them, when to plant them indoors, when to transplant them outdoors, and helpful little growing hints for each plant.  One of my favorite new traditions for St. Patrick’s Day, as the corned beef is simmering and the scones are baking, is to spend my day planting seeds in long trays on my sun porch and setting up the extra lighting because, alas, the days are still not long enough or warm enough for the tender seedlings as they push their way up and out of the soil.

And through all of this preparation for Spring, my forsythia branches are blooming in each room of the house, bringing their own form of sunshine to me.  They are a constant reminder of what is happening out there, out in the garden beds under the layers of mulch and the dark rich soil.  Life is beginning again!  I want to dance around the yard, singing a song about life and all its beauty.  I want to lay on the ground, put an ear to the earth, and listen for the uncoiling of roots, the bursting of seedpods, and the tunneling of earthworms.  I want to sit near my lilac bush and whisper sweet nothings to it as the buds begin to enlarge and crack open.  I want to climb a tree, perch on a limb, and watch the leaves return and envelop me in their lush green world.  I feel pregnant with new ideas, new desires, and new dreams.  All things are possible.  Hope springs anew.  These forsythia branches are a beacon in the chilly dampness of early March days.  They tell of the beauty of life in its most natural form.  As each bud opens, a whisper of Spring is heard and my spirit does child-like leaps through daydreams of bright colors, sweet scents and lush landscapes.