Thursday, May 3, 2012

Notes from the Village Wise Woman Garden: A Natural Place of Power

Something very powerful and yet very peaceful is occurring in my garden these days.  I have been sensing it building each time I stepped outdoors or gazed out the window.  My years of walking the Pagan path, my magical experiences and just observing the natural world told me this would happen  It was part of the plan but I never thought it would affect so many things, reach out to the people that it has.  What began as an idea, as a few herb plants in pots, a bird feeder in the yard, a couple of adirondak chairs, and a fire pit has flourished into a naturally-occurring place of power.

Flashback to two years ago…After a few years of self-discovery and redefining my Pagan path, I began re-exploring herbal lore and magick and found an affinity with it.  It just felt so right, made me feel at one with the Earth, and brought me such joy and peace.  I studied book after book, took an on-line course, and started growing, harvesting and drying my own herbs, to use for cooking, healing and spellwork.  A bit unsure of my green thumb, I started some plants in pots rather than jump into a full herbal garden.  Since I was spending more time outdoors tending to my plants, with my husband to keep me company, I decided that it was high time to add a chair or two to our small yard.  Within a month, this idea expanded into a fire pit around which we could gather with friends and family to share wine, laughter, and celebrations.  I found, as the Summer progressed, that my husband’s spirit surprisingly began to occasionally linger on the border of the Pagan path, walking close to me but not right next to me, and started on its own transformational path, what I now call the “Natural Path”.  He took new interest in the yard, in the birds and critters that came and went, and in what was growing out there.  He offered advice, from the days when he helped his grandfather tend to his gardens.  Our herb plants flourished that first Summer and, by the fall, bundles of herbs were hung to dry all over my kitchen and we retreated for the colder darker days of Autumn and Winter to the small stacks of gardening books, magazines and catalogs that had accumulated in every room of our home to plan the next year’s garden.

Over the Winter, my husband and I had many discussions about which direction to take things in the garden.  We researched and studied, planned and plotted, saved and spent.  Many a restless night was spent watching over some of our more tender shrubs and bushes as blizzards and ice storms raged in what was a record-breaking Winter weather year.  Come that Spring, seeds were started indoors, plants were moved to new spots, existing garden beds were expanded slightly, and, once again, herbs were set in containers.  Throughout that Spring and Summer, we rejoiced in the simple pleasures of our plants and flowers, stayed up late in the yard watching moonflowers unfurl before our very eyes, and spent weekends caring for our flora and fauna friends.  We added a new bird bath and my husband made a bird feeder or two.  In September, we were welcoming new wildlife.  Goldfinches arrived and nibbled on seedpods from the drying purple coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans.  A lone hummingbird was thrillingly spied once or twice at nearby flowers.  Different species of bees were gathering whatever nectar remained.  Because we were by now so enchanted by and so protective of what we had created in the yard, we took very special precautions when Hurricane Irene reared Her ugly head and took aim at us, spending an entire afternoon temporarily sheltering and relocating plants.  My sun porch looked like a hurricane shelter for everything green!   As the year passed into Samhain, jars of homegrown dried herbs like rosemary, lavender, and lemon verbena were put up on shelves, the garden beds were mulched for the Winter, and all plants that could come indoors did so.  Once again, we settled in for our studying, planning and contemplating.

With the dawning of this Spring, which came very early this year, my husband and I were ready to transform our backyard into what I call “The Village Wise Woman’s Garden”, encompassing our magickal, culinary, and healing needs, the protection of natural habitats for our backyard wildlife, the conservation of our environment, and space for relaxation, celebration and all things magickal.  We excavated all grassy areas to create raised garden beds for herbs and vegetables, moved existing plants to new locations, thinned out abundant bulbs to give away to friends and fellow gardeners, rebuilt retaining walls, made stepping stone pathways through garden beds, and started our very own compost pile.  The trunk of our Yule/Christmas tree was stripped of its branches (which were used as garden protection for the Winter as well as decorative, pine-scented vases around the house) and saved to be placed in our rock garden to become a wildlife feeder, where we can hang suet, seed balls and corn cobs.  Just for fun, my husband put an actual birdfeeder that resembles a lantern at the top.  A new bird bath was added and an old one was moved to the front of our house, which will be overhauled next Spring.  The bat house, mentioned in a prior blog (see “Going Batty”), was finally hung. Flowering shrubs and vines were planted to attract more butterflies and bees and in the hopes of bringing newcomers like hummingbirds.  In the coming weeks, leading into the first day of Summer, we will be adding a patio area, where we can eat, drink and make merry, mending our ailing picket fence and turning an old tree stump we found into a fairy house to replace the smaller one that my hubby made for me for Mother’s Day two years ago and has since been beaten by the elements.  Perhaps we will even get to that rain barrel system we were considering.

Some of these changes were not easy so help was enlisted.  We are lucky enough to have my husband’s sister, her husband and their two sons live three houses away from us.  With their help, the frames for garden beds were built, our entire rock garden and retaining wall was dismantled and rebuilt.  Several trips to the township composting yard were made and bins of “Black Gold” were brought in, dumped and spread out.  My youngest nephew, who is 11, particularly took interest in these projects, going as far as to show up in work boots and a flannel shirt to work on sifting out patches of grass, spread the new compost and to lay out stepping stones.  He even made sure each stepping stone was brushed clean after each job so that you could “really see them”.  He excitedly looked forward to the planting of the vegetable and herb garden.  I explained how, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, among other gardening and magickal texts, it was best to plant during the waxing moon, when the moon is heading towards its full phase, and that we would have to wait until then.  I set the date, Earth Day weekend, and he waited with the anticipation of a kid waiting for Santa Claus to arrive.  In the meantime, we took him to the local hardware store and got him his very own pair of gardening gloves, which he now keeps tucked away at my house so they won’t get lost.  After a rain delay, we set to planting everything.  My nephew carefully dug holes and placed small veggie plants with me and my husband.  He beamed with pride when it was all done.

In the days since, I have noticed that everyone seems to be interested in what’s happening out there in the garden.  My family up the street, especially my sister-in-law and nephew, check the vegetable plants regularly for growth or problems.  My husband lingers out there when he pulls in from work to evaluate things.  Neighbors are asking what’s what, complimenting us on a job well done, and offering us items to protect the new plants.  New birds have arrived.  In addition to regulars like the cardinals and goldfinches, we have purple finches, chickadees, a titmouse and a beautiful yellow bird I have yet to identify.  There are songs and whistles I have never heard before throughout the day.  The whole yard is teeming with the energy of life, of Mother Earth.  I feel the vibration of it in my bones whenever I am out there, see it as a subtle static charge whenever I look out the window, and hear it humming late at night when the world goes quiet.  People are drawn to it and seem to find peace and happiness in it.  Animals gravitate to it and find protection and nourishment in it.  My husband and I find strength, wisdom and healing in it.  The Village Wise Woman Garden has become a natural place of power that goes far beyond my original intentions.