Sunday, October 26, 2014

Walking in the Magical Garden with Mom and Dad

This piece was originally published in my column, The Magical Gardener, in today's Samhain edition of the Sunday Stew. Please be sure to head on over and read the entire edition, a delicious blend of spiritual flavors and nourishment for the soul.

Samhain is nearly here and I find myself thinking of my mom and dad more and more with each passing day. Most of my thoughts are just memories, some vivid in detail like reliving a few moments in time and others are dull, just a flash that leaves me struggling to place it in the timeline of my life. Some thoughts are directed tight at them. Daddy, you would be so proud of your grandson right now. Mommy, you would have loved this Sweet Pea (my niece). How do I make that beef stew again, Mom? I wish you could have seen that concert with me, Dad! And then there are the thoughts that are just wonderings. Would Mommy read this book? Would Daddy buy this album? The odd one that keeps creeping into my mind is if they would have loved my garden.

Both of my parents were avid gardeners. They started as summer-gardeners at our seashore home where we went from the end of school to Labor Day each year, planting tomatoes and other vegetables and tending to the flowering plants and shrubs that grew their every year. Later in life, after they divorced, my dad continued his love of gardening in the courtyard of his city apartment and my mom created a sprawling garden at her new suburban home. Both had different styles of gardening. My mom gravitated towards the English cottage style, planting herbs, roses and other flowering, healing perennial plants, informal and wild-looking. My dad, on the other hand, liked a lot of texture and depth, a more landscaped look and design, using ornamental grasses and lilies. My own garden is more like my mother’s as far as plantings but has many textures like my father’s gardens, a blend of both, just like I am.

Mommy passed away before I became an avid gardener. She gave me a few flowering shrubs when my hubby and I moved into our first home, which I planted in our small backyard and tended to lovingly because she gave them to me. After she died, I realized that caring for these shrubs made me feel closer to her. At that same time, I fell in love with herbs, all that they are, all that they do, for cooking, for magic, for healing. I planted a small herb garden and, only a few years later, I had dug up most of my backyard, pulled out every bit of grass I could, to create larger garden beds full of flowering perennials, herbs and vegetables.

My father was still here then and overjoyed at this change. When at my home for holidays or other events, he would take his pipe outside to sit among the plants and peace in my yard, constantly marveling at the transformation. He was even more pleased when I announced that I was going to school to become a Master Gardener. He had just undergone brain surgery to remove a tumor and I told him the news of my acceptance to the program as he was recovering in the hospital. He thought it was marvelous and was so excited to share in all the knowledge I would gain from it. We made plans for him to come to my house and spend the day in my garden, just spending time with me and my plants. But then, he took a turn for the worst and, just as I was starting my classes, he passed away.

So would they love my garden now? Oh, I think so. In fact, I know so. I have many of the plants they loved there – lilac, rosemary, yarrow, grasses, day lilies, and roses. It’s wild yet full of color and texture, full of sweet scents and joyful sights. Some days, as I am working among the plants and digging in the dirt, I can feel them there, peering over my shoulders, curious to see what is being planted next. Sometimes I envision them there, huddled together on the patio, discussing the garden, pointing at this or that, praising the herbs or marveling at the goldfinches nibbling the coneflowers. Sometimes I spy them from my kitchen window, strolling around the yard, my dad with one hand in his pocket and the other on his pipe clenched between his teeth, and my mother next to him, her hair caught by the breeze and her face lit up with her smile, autumn leaves floating to the ground around them. I want to walk with them for a while. I slip on my old canvas gardening shoes and head out the back door to be in the magic of that moment.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Waiting for First Frost

This piece was originally published in my column, The magical Gardener, in today's edition of the Sunday Stew. Please be sure to head on over and read the entire edition, a delicious blend of spiritual flavors and nourishment for the soul.

Autumn is settling in now. There may still yet be a few warm days on the horizon but, as each day of October passes, the chances are slimmer. It is all about clean-up now in the magical garden and time is running out. Very soon, the first frosty tendrils of winter will begin to creep through the the last of the green leaves and final flowers, the trees will be bare, and we will turn our attention inwards, take ourselves and a few plants indoors, away from the cold to dream up and plan next year’s garden. Here in my magical garden, it is time to make the final preparations for the coming winter before that frost or freeze comes knocking.

First frost should arrive almost certainly by November 1st but has been known to suddenly make an appearance here in southeastern Pennsylvania in mid-October. The next week or so will find me and the magical gardening hubby feverishly working in the yard. I will put him in charge of building up the compost pile with the spent perennials and annuals and the growing piles of fallen autumn leaves while I harvest the last of the herbs and flowers to be put up for drying. He will also be the master hole-digger so that I can sink a few container plants, small shrubs and tiny trees, pots and all, into the soil to keep them warm and protected through the winter. The goal is to keep them out of the line of biting and damaging northern winter winds. We will both tackle the job of cleaning up the patio, putting away or securing chairs, grilling paraphernalia, and assorted empty unused pots and containers. As I work on trimming back the honeysuckle, I will praise his skill with the hedge-trimmer. We will both tackle the monster that is the wisteria and hope that it is the last time until April or May.

There are the garden inhabitants to worry about too. Every bird feeder and bath needs to be scrubbed clean before it gets too cold. New suet feeders will be hung here and there around the yard for easy winter feeding for all of our feathered friends. There is a bit of bird house cleaning to do, removing old nesting materials and securing them for new winter residents. A pile or two of old branches and small wood logs will be built up at the back of our property so that small critters, low-dwelling birds, or some over-wintering pollinators will have shelter. Even the garden fairy house will be spruced up for the winter.

I will also drag the hubby to the nursery or garden center for one more shopping spree before the cold sets in. There are last-minute deals on bulbs, perennials, and garden d├ęcor to be found out there! He will follow me through the aisles, arms laden with items that I place there as I reassure him. “Don’t worry, honey. It’s all on sale. Plus, you can consider this all part of my birthday present.” (My birthday is in mid-October and I tend to celebrate it all month long!) I will pat his arm lovingly and continue to the next garden find.

With the garden ready for the coming cold, the birds and critters all tucked in, the faeries warm and cozy in their home, the herbs all hanging in beautiful fragrant bunches in the kitchen, and all of my “birthday” purchases either planted or stowed away for spring, the magical gardening hubby and I will steal the last few moments we can outdoors on the patio. He will kindle the fire of sweet-smelling wood and dried herbs in the celestial cauldron fire pit while I light a few candles and pop open a few pumpkin beers to toast to a job well done. And we will wait, together, for first frost.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Happy Little Trees

This piece was originally published in my column, The Magical Gardener, in today's edition of the Sunday Stew. Please be sure to head on over and read the entire edition, a delicious blend of spiritual flavors and nourishment for the soul.

Autumn has only just begun and here, on the east coast, we are in the midst of our first Nor’Easter of the season. Classically, a Nor’Easter can bring high winds and heavy rain or, in the winter months, snow. This storm pales in comparison to others I have experienced in my past 46 years. Yet, I still find myself periodically heading to the windows around my house to see how the trees are faring in the storm. I worry about them and do not want to see any of them injured or, worse, brought down. I cried for days when the old oak tree that stood guard in front of my house had to be taken down, after being damaged in Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy, several Nor’Easters, and, the final insult, a blow from its neighboring tree falling directly into it. If I only knew then what I know now, the grand old oak may have been saved.  But perhaps I can help others to continue to have, as Bob Ross used to call them, happy little trees.

Ensuring the long, healthy and happy life of a tree begins at the moment you decide to plant a tree. A tree should not be planted on or around your property just because it will look pretty in the fall. The local weather and soil conditions, its mature size, its proximity to a structure, and its maintenance and care requirements all must be considered first. Contact your local county cooperative extension office for a list of trees that are well-adapted for your specific location and conditions before considering the aesthetic properties you are searching for in a tree. Doing this may narrow the number of choices you have but it will save damage to the tree, your property and possibly a life down the road.

Many trees are not planted properly, leading to diseases, infestations, nutrient deficiencies and, eventually, death. You cannot just dig a hole and plop it in the ground. There is a method to planting a tree that allows for proper root, trunk and canopy growth and reduces the stress of the environment and weather on it. If it is not followed, the health and safety of the tree can, and most likely will, be compromised. Again, contact your local county extension office for information on how to do this.

Now, I am going to tell you something very important about tree planting and care, something that you must never forget. Do not volcano mulch a tree! What is volcano mulching? I know you have all seen it before in shopping centers or housing developments or even a neighbor’s front lawn. It is a horrible practice of piling inches and inches of mulch high up around and against the trunk of a tree, in what looks very much like a volcano. This can lead to improper root growth, decay and pests.  I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to go around the local shopping center pulling all the mulch away from these poor trees. I have some thoughts on why commercial landscapers practice this murderous technique but those are probably better left for another day. So please, please, I beg of you, do not volcano mulch!

An excellent habit to get into is that of inspecting your trees after storms, like Nor’Easters, hurricanes, or even powerful thunderstorms, pass through your area. Now you may not think that a branch breaking off during a storm can do much damage to the health of a tree but it can, and often does. This is the mistake I made with my own old oak. A broken branch is like an open wound. Diseases can find their way into the tree through a broken branch or a damaged trunk. Pruning or other “medical” attention may be required. Remember your friends at the extension office and ask them how best to proceed. In many cases, especially if the tree is very large or if personal safety is in question, you may need to contact a reputable tree service to address the injuries. Also, regular pruning can lessen breakage during storms as well as aid the tree in its overall health and growth.

If you live on the coast, your trees are faced with a unique issue not known to their inland friends, that of salt. Coastal storms, like hurricanes, bring salt spray on the wind and flooding surges of ocean water. Many trees on the Jersey shore were damaged during Superstorm Sandy by salt water. Salt, when in the soil, prevents the tree from taking up water and, when in the air, burns branches, needles and leaves. To lessen the damage done by salt, fresh water irrigation is required. Hose the whole tree and soil around it with fresh water thoroughly and often in the first days after the salt exposure. Now this may not be possible right after a major storm. Securing life and property is always the top priority! But when, and if, life begins to return to normal, you can turn some attention to your poor salt-laden trees.

Do not forget a little magic goes a long way. When planting a tree, hold a welcoming ritual for it. Bless it for a long, healthy and happy life. When pruning it, talk to the tree, comfort it, and let it know why. Trees are proud beings and sometimes they cannot understand why the simple human is cutting away a majestic branch. Just ask it. It will tell you! When storms are approaching, go to each tree, place your hands on it, and tell it to stand tall through the storm. I often did this for my ailing oak, calling upon deities of earth and sky to protect it and keep it from further harm, to keep it standing. It worked for the most part but finally, sadly, it became clear that it probably would not stand through another onslaught of wind, rain, ice or snow and my oak was taken down.

In true Nor’Easter fashion, the rain is slowing down now but the winds have picked up slightly. Again, I am at my windows checking the trees. They are swaying under its chilly breath. I am keeping an especially close eye on an old oak in my neighbor’s yard, one that is showing some signs of neglect. I will have to either talk to the neighbor or sneak into their yard with pruners in hand and magic in my heart. I just want happy little trees.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Embracing The Dark

This piece was originally published in my column, The Magical Gardener, in today's Autumn Equinox edition of the Sunday Stew. Please be sure to head on over and read the entire edition, a fantastic blend of Autumn flavors and nourishment for the soul.

The wheel of the year is turning to autumn and the sunset of the year is upon us. The dark will soon overpower the light. The time of growth and abundance in the garden is waning and the season of darkness will soon blossom to fullness, allowing nature to slumber, to rest for awhile until the light returns. Light and dark, day and night, will briefly and gently balance at Mabon in a delicate dance of life and death before letting go of the vibrancy of youth to make way for the wisdom and decay of old age. We, as witches and as magical gardeners, embrace the coming dark by preparing our gardens to go to their deaths, to slip back beneath the blankets of soil to sleep in the arms of Mother Earth until the next spring when life returns.

Welcoming autumn is also saying goodbye to our plant friends for a while. The process of doing this is a ritual for gardeners and is done with as much love and sympathy as the ritual of saying goodbye to an ailing loved one. We experience the death of the garden through the tasks we perform to prepare it for the cold darkening days. We have been with our gardens through their conception, infancy, adolescence, and adulthood. It is the natural course of life to see them through to their very end, to be with our plants and trees in their final moments, to watch the wheel turning to the end of the year in a final bow of gold, yellow orange and red before the curtain closes. It is time to put the garden’s affairs in order before the end.

The tasks of pruning and raking may seem simple and meaningless but are meditative and allow us the time to say goodbye and to tune into the coming dark. Harvesting the herbs and flowers for drying, we should give thanks to the life of each plant and for the magic and healing it will bring to our lives. Adding leaves to the compost pile is a funeral rite as we bid farewell to the fertile days of the year and turn to embrace the barren season. As garden beds are mulched or cover crops are planted, a blanket of warmth and nourishment is wrapping Mother Earth and all those plants will rest safely deep within the soil until their return in spring.

Autumn is also a time to put our own affairs in order. Time spent working on the final tasks of the garden is also time for contemplation of our own unfinished business. Identify negative thoughts, habits and cycles, the things or people that impede our journeys in this life and cast shadows in it and on those around us. Embrace them in a final goodbye. Write each one to be put to rest or to be released on a fallen autumn leaf and burn them in a fire pit or a bonfire at Mabon. Send them away from you to make way for new growth, new beginnings, and to make way for the returning light.

As gardeners, we often tend to focus on spring and summer, reveling in the growth, but as witches we embrace the dark as we would the light. Both are necessary in order for growth to occur. We celebrate the dark time of our gardens because we know the magic of new life that sleeps in the earth. It is only a few turns of the wheel away. The second harvest has come. It is a time of darkness, a time of endings. It is autumn, Mabon. Embrace the dark.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Last Days of Summer

Tonight, as I stood in my sister's kitchen, chatting about this and that, a scent of wood burning came through the screen door, carried on a chilly damp wind. I closed my eyes and breathed it in deeply, my mind flooding with images of Fall, craving the sweetness of apple cider on my tongue and the warmth of worn jeans and an old sweat jacket on a cool crisp evening. I was keenly aware in that moment that Summer's days are numbered and, while I long for those blue and gold days and chilly nights scented with wood smoke, I need to revel in these last days of fun in the sun.

In a few days, I will be heading to my beloved seashore, to reconnect with my beach bum self. Days will be spent on the beach - lounging in my chair with a book, basking in the sun, my skin lathered with a #30 and stained with salt, my toes digging into cool wet sand, taking the hourly dip in the sacred waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The nights will be spent on the beach too - taking strolls under the stars by the crashing waves with my hubby, laughing, talking, or even just silently enjoying the walk together. Dawn may find me meditating on a beach towel on the sand while dusk may find me collecting seashells with my nieces. One evening I may stand by the water's edge listening to my son playing his guitar from his perch on a lifeguard stand, while on another I may walk to the jetty at the end of the island for a bit of exercise.

The shore is where I go to regenerate, to die a little death and be reborn for another year. I throw myself in the ocean, abandoning all I am to the surf, letting go of everything the past year has thrown at me, my cares, worries and fears floating away. The salt cleanses every bit of muck and mire from me, rejuvenating my heart and spirit, taking away the aches and pains of my aging body. Somewhere in my head a bit of a song echoes. "'Cause down the shore everything's all right..."

And it truly is all right! Sure, being with a large familial crowd, as I will be, may have its frustrations or moments of head-butting. But mainly there will be lots of laughter to the point of tears, story telling of past seashore days, card playing over frosty White Russians and Mudslides, gathering around the table for yummy meals and tasty snacks, missing those who are no longer there with us, and staying up late giggling with the kids, who mostly aren't really kids anymore but nearly adults themselves. Sad. I still can see them all as little ones, running all over the beach with buckets, shovels, boogie boards and sunburns. For a few, we are nearing their time to leave the nest. Who knows if this may be the last Summer with the family at the shore for one or two of them. All the more reason to savor every moment!

And then, before I know it, I'll be in the car, traveling over the bridge away from the island, in tears that another vacation is over and wondering when I'll be able to see the shore again. I'll get home, back to the regularly scheduled program of my life and daydream. What if I just sold our little house in the suburbs with the beautiful garden and moved us to the shore, forever? What if I could create a gorgeous abundant Village Wise Woman garden at a little house at the shore? What if the hubby and I waited another couple of years when our son is settled in college and made the big move? What would it be like to be able to walk on the beach every night, in every season? Aye, I could do that.

Then Autumn will be here in all of its rich earthy scents, bold beautiful color, cooler days and colder nights, and I will settle in to my life again with the seashore tucked away in my heart and on a "To Do In The Future" list in my head. I'll put my garden to sleep for the year, work a bit of prosperity magic under an October Full Moon, and keep making my way back to the shore, whether for another week come Summer or for the rest of my days.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Gathering Garden Faeries for the Summer Solstice

For me, the Summer Solstice has always been a time of celebrating my garden. I take time to sit back and revel in the fruits of my labor. The long hours and days of digging in the dirt, planting, weeding, and pruning are behind me and I turn my attention to just watching and waiting for everything to grow, until the next round of planting. Right now, with the first day of Summer only two days away, the garden is lush and green with bursts of color from newly blossoming day lilies, coneflowers, verbena, nasturtiums and herbs. The tomatoes plants grow taller each and every day and are already showing small green fruits. So, with a lull in the gardening tasks, I decided that I wanted to do something special out in my garden for the Solstice - make a garden faerie house.

I have written of my experiences with garden faeries over the years, both here and in other blogs to which I contribute, most recently in the Sunday Stew. I have also played with making faerie houses in the garden over the past couple of years but never really thought it out properly or made it turn out as I envisioned. This year, I started my planning at the end of May, gathered all my items, and worked on it bit by bit. As I worked on it, I mentioned it several times on Facebook and friends began telling me that I should do a blog post about how I made it. Hence this piece. The faerie house is now complete and I will be "presenting" it to my resident garden faeries officially on the Summer Solstice. But, I wanted my readers to see it before then. Maybe a few of you would like to make something similar in your gardens in the days to come.

It all started with an interesting log my husband brought home from one of his firewood-hunting trips. He pulled the car up in the driveway, popped open the trunk, and announced, "I think I found the perfect tree stump for a faerie house." He showed me where he thought the door should go and how it fit perfectly and snugly beneath the lilac bush. And there it sat under the lilac bush in my patio garden bed for the past couple of years, waiting for me to turn it into a faerie house.

I spent countless hours out on my patio since the day my hubby brought this beautiful piece of tree home contemplating how to make it a faerie house. I surfed the net seeing what other people did and what items I could make or buy to do it. I finally just went with the vision that kept occupying my mind time and time again, a mix of creativity and a few store-bought items.

First, I took an old basket, cut the handle off, filled it with soil and planted some trailing plants, Lanai Red Verbena and Ramblin Petunia, and a mounding plant, Techno Heat Lobelia. I placed it on top of the tree stump (more like a piece of a very large branch from an old tree). The colors were subtle but very beautiful with the aged bark of the wood.

Next I put down some of the left over soil from the plant pots in front of the door and made a path with some beautiful stones I found at the local craft store.

As you can see from the pictures so far, there is a natural arch at the front of the log that already looks like a doorway. Instead of making or buying a door and attaching it there, I just made that arch look like a real door. I took some thin pliable cedar branches and braided them together, with the help of some floral wire, and then tacked it around that arch to make the doorway. I found an old clip-on earring that had no match (it actually belonged to my mother) in my jewelry box that I thought would make a really pretty doorknob. To put this on, I tapped a nail into the area where I thought a doorknob should be and then bent the nail with the hammer, just clipping the earring on to it. Then I tucked some moss in and around the arch.

A faerie house needs a few windows too! To make those, I used some pieces of that basket I cut up for the flowers, some pieces of plastic milk jugs and a glue gun. I assembled them first and then tacked them on to the log, making sure the tacks were hidden from view by putting them through at the very corners of the windows. I added a few tuffs of moss around them too.

Over the next couple of days, I worked on getting a few items to add to the house - a broom, a watering can, a birdbath, an arbor and a bench. During this time, I noticed that the stone path kept shifting. Whether it was from the rain we had all week or from birds or squirrels romping around in the garden bed, I was not sure but I knew I had to do something to prevent it from happening again. Luckily, the items I bought for the faerie house came as a kit and, with it, there was a fence. I put this into the landscape, bending it here and there to make a winding path from the front door out into my garden.

And finally, I added a small strand of warm white battery-operated LED twinkle lights into the basket of flowers.

My faerie house is complete!

I hope you all have a beautiful and blessed Litha/Summer Solstice! To my friends in the southern hemisphere, Winter Solstice Blessings!

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Late April Stroll Through the Village Wise Woman Gardens

If you were to take a stroll through my gardens right now, today, you would find the sage, lemon balm, cat mint, bee balm, yarrow, chives and oregano returning in the herb garden along side newly planted (I just did it this afternoon after work) rosemary, lavender, parsley, basil, cilantro, pineapple sage and chamomile. Subtle herbal scents would greet you on the breeze, like a Spring incense. It's positively divine. Behind the row of herbs, you would see a white fabric hoop tunnel. Lifting the fabric a bit and peaking under, you would be greeted by an abundance of growing radishes and, I am sorry to say, only a few very small seedlings of kale, broccoli and brussel sprouts. Next time, I will not direct sow seed but start them all indoors or in my mini-greenhouse. The rest of the veggie garden bed lies in wait for tomatoes, eggplants and some other warm crop veggies.

Moving on to my rock garden, hostas are really coming in now, the spikes of leaves unfurling to show off the varying shades of green. The yuccas have been thinned out and are ready to send out their long flower stalks once Summer has arrived. The butterfly bush, which I know is not a native plant and is invasive but which I cannot bring myself to remove, is beginning to show new leaves all along the lengths of its branches. The daffodils and tulips are fading now but the forsythia continues with its brilliant yellow flowers and bright green leaves. At the center of the rock garden, still stands the skeletal remains of my Burkwood's Broom, the victim of Winter's wrath. I just purchased its replacement, a Lena's Broom. Gone may be the beautiful cream and crimson flowers of the Burkwood's May show but we will now have Lena's gorgeous bright red and yellow blooms in the Mays to come. My husband and I will carefully cut down the old Broom in order to keep several branches intact for making - what else -a broom! (More on that another day.)

The patio is a wondrous place to just sit a while right now. The lilac is in full bloom, its flowers changing from deep purple to a very pale lavender as each petal opens. The purple coneflowers are in varying degrees of growth, some several inches above the soil and some just poking through. Calendula is sprouting from the seeds I planted a few weeks ago. I still see no signs of my black-eye susans but there is still time. The day lilies are almost at full size but their bright orange trumpet-like flowers will not appear until the end of May. The first buds have just emerged on the sweetspire and, by June, it will be full of white flowers surrounded by several different species of bees and wasps, attracted by its strong sweet scent. Come mid-Summer, the entire patio garden will be popping with colors - purple and pink (coneflowers), orange and yellow (calendula and day lilies), deep red and orange (nasturtiums and cardinal flowers), fuschia (bee balm), white (moon flowers), and, of course, all the shades of green possible. The patio is also the place where my plants await transplanting in the garden beds. So, right now, you will find pots of Lena's Broom and spirea. The mini-greenhouse holds my current seedlings - tomatoes, cardinal flower, red twig dogwood, and more basil. 

Throughout the backyard I have nasturtiums, in baskets and tucked into almost every garden bed, just emerging from seeds I planted two weeks ago. There are several bird houses, feeders, and baths for all of my feathered friends. Soon the hummingbird feeders will be hung too! This year I am trying to attract Baltimore Orioles so you will often find oranges (their favorite) hanging around the yard. As more butterflies emerge and come to the garden, I will also set up a feeding station for them. It's a simple shallow bowl filled with aging berries, oranges and bananas. The bees are already beginning to arrive. Carpenters, masons, yellow jackets, and bumbles are flitting in and around every plant in the garden, looking for blossoms. In just a couple of weeks, these bees will be "bar-hopping" from flower to flower, taking all the nectar they can. The whole garden will be buzzing and singing in the warmer days to come.

The front yard is a bit less magical. I am still trying to figure out what would be best to do there. Right now, we have ivy, a huge yew shrub, day lilies, hostas, a rose bush, and goldenrod. A few hyacinths and tulips are there too. My husband and I plan to take out all of the ivy and the yew but it will be back-breaking work and we haven't felt up to the task as of yet. I will also remove most of the hostas and day lilies and give them away to a good home in a plant swap. I would like to make it as pollinator friendly as possible, with native plants and a few showy shrubs, and with as much color through all the seasons as I can find. My sun porch looks out over the front yard so I want to be able to see all the same beautiful sights - the bees, the butterflies, the birds, and the colorful flowers - that I see in the backyard. I dream of sitting in my wicker chair, reading a gardening book and sipping herbal tea, and glancing out the huge windows on that porch to see butterflies frolicking among the blooms and birds drinking from the small cauldron fountain (which, note to self, the hubby has to fix).

As April draws to a close, I find myself busier than ever in the garden. So much is done already but there is still so much more to do. There is still planting to be done, new plant friends to be found, a tree or two to replace, and new homes to be added for birds, bees and butterflies. As always, a garden is a constant work in progress. I don't mind though. I revel in the work. I get to be outdoors every day, rain or shine, spending time with Mother Earth. All is turning lush and green, vibrant colors are bursting all around me, and surprises greet me almost every morning. Magic is happening all around me. I am a happy witch in a beautiful, peaceful and magical place.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Every Day Should Be Earth Day

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel in it the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. (from Galadriel’s monologue in The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)

Today, April 22nd, is Earth Day. This is a day set aside for planting trees, cleaning up parks, forests and beaches, for teaching people to plant gardens and not lawns, and for healing Mother Earth. For me, as a witch and pagan, as a gardener, and just as a human being, every day is Earth Day and I find it very sad, dare I say offensive, that there is only one day in a year dedicated to caring for, tending to, and protecting our planet, our collective home.

Earth is a living thing. Carbon, the building block of life, is found in not only humans but in animals, plants, the air, the oceans, rocks, and soil. This means that we humans and the animals are not the only things alive on Earth. That rock you toss aside, that soil you turn for planting, that ocean you dive into each Summer, that tree you are cutting down - all hold the elements of life. As Earth is made up of rock, soil and water, the argument could be made that the planet Earth itself is alive. Earth, Mother Earth, Mother to us all, home to us all. And we are killing Her.

Each year, we humans spend tons of money, and time, on protecting the inner sanctum of our homes from things like carbon monoxide, asbestos, and lead, on air filtration systems to clean the air we breathe in our houses, and on water filtration systems for our drinking and bathing water. Yet, most of us cannot stop to pick up trash on the ground when we see it, cannot stop pouring fertilizers and pesticides on our lawns and gardens, and cannot stop filling landfills with every item we wish gone from our life, only to replace it with something “new and improved”. Our oceans are filled with tons of plastic and other waste, none of it good and all of it deadly. We are killing our home. Mother Earth is fighting for Her life. We, the people, can help heal Her, not just one day a year, but every day of our entire lifetime, for generations to come.

Saving our planet begins with education. Educate yourself. Understand how all life on this planet in interconnected. Learn the facts about climate change, pollution, and the importance of maintaining local native habitats and ecosystems. Learn how to compost, how to collect rain water, and how to recycle, repurpose, and reuse items in and around your home. Understand the chemicals we use in our lives, our homes and our gardens and the damage they can cause to humans, animals and plants. Know their dangers and how to either use, store and dispose of them properly and safely, or rid your life of them completely. Take that knowledge, make changes to your daily living, and lead by example. Then educate your kids, your family, your friends, and anyone willing to listen and empower them all to do the same.

Community service should not be reserved for just Earth Day. Volunteer to help clean up local parks, forests, creek beds, or beaches regularly. In Spring, consult with your child’s school administration about planting raised garden beds as part of science classes. In Autumn, help your elderly neighbors clean up the fallen leaves. Save them for your compost pile or show your neighbors how those leaves can be used to mulch gardens. Spread the word on your block of upcoming local shredding events, hazardous waste collections, or electronics recycling programs. Offer help in getting to those events. Simply just picking up trash you see in your travels and disposing of it properly is community service. On a larger scale, join an organization that protects wildlife and volunteer for their events as often as you can. Work with your local government to begin greener practices or to restore local habitats. I could list out hundreds of ideas and suggestions but I think you get the gist of it.

As Galadriel said, “The world is changed.” From all the scientific data I have seen and heard, it has changed for the worse. Mother Earth is being destroyed and we may not be able to reverse it. But I am going to go down trying! It starts with one person. I truly believe that one person can change the course of events. That change begins with me, with us. We are all part of this ever-turning interconnected orb of life. Perhaps our leaders will finally understand it and begin to change as well. So, of course, participate in as many events this Earth Day as you wish. But if you do anything this Earth Day, make the commitment to make every day of your life Mother Earth Day.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Full Moons, Lunar Eclipses and a Garden Full of Magic

There is something so beautiful, so special, and so magical about the first Full Moon in a new season. The world seems to revel in all the colors, scents, and sounds of the reborn season. We are keenly aware of the changes happening in nature and the continually spinning of the wheel of the year. For me, the first Full Moon of Spring is even more magical. All life is reawakening. My small part of the world is transforming from the dull grays of Winter to the lush green shades of Spring. Last year’s plant friends are returning and new ones are starting to take root in the rich dark soil. Birds are returning from points South to take up Summer residence and the groundhog appears out of the Winter slumber to see what I may be growing this year that will tantalize his or her taste buds. As the Full Moon of Spring arrives, I take a break from the regularly scheduled program of gardening to give the garden a magical boost and to just be a while with Spring.

The first Full Moon of Spring is on its way this week, April 15th to be exact. A Full Moon brings increased magical power and energy and is an excellent time for blessing the garden. The way in which you do this is entirely up to you. My usual blessing ritual is a three-fold process. First, I walk the length of each garden bed, smudging and clearing the area first with some sage as I go. I then walk the beds again, sprinkling salt water this time. My third time around I hold my hands over each and every plant and say a charm to bless that plant with abundance in the coming growing season and charging it with its magical, healing, nourishing or even aesthetic properties. I spend time with each plant and meditate on its life cycle, on its purpose(s), and on keeping it healthy and happy. And, yes, I talk to each and every plant, shrub or tree. I also bless the areas of the garden where I know the birds and critters inhabit, gather nourishment, and congregate.

When all this is done, I just sit on my patio, beneath those silvery Moon beams (even when it’s cloudy those beams are still there), and soak them in as I listen to my garden grow. Have you ever listened to your garden grow? It is a truly magical experience in and unto itself. It can be done whether you have a sprawling yard or a small patio garden. Ground and center yourself. Try using a tree of life meditation, becoming a tree to commune with your plant friends. As your “roots” take hold and your “branches” reach out, the ambient noise of your local environment – the cars, people, planes – will slip away and you will begin to hear the subtle sounds of plants growing, moving, unfurling, rooting, and blossoming. You will hear birds ruffling their feathers as they settle in for the night, bugs moving along stems and leaves hunting for food, earthworms burrowing through soil, or the flutter of moth wings as they move among the plants. You will feel yourself deeply rooted in the earth yet feel the gentle sway of reaching out and up toward the sky. Open your eyes for a few minutes and look around. Your garden will seem to glow and shimmer with the spark of life. Just stay in that moment for a bit. Close your eyes again and slowly begin to bring those roots and branches back in to yourself and ground the remaining energy. Open your eyes again. You will never look at your garden and plants the same way again after doing this. Believe me!

The Full Moon of the 15th will be even more powerful because there will be a total lunar eclipse. For those of you in North America, it will be visible! According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac 2014, the Moon will enter the penumbra (the outer shadows of the Earth) at 12:52 a.m. EDT, reach totality at 3:06 a.m., and leave the penumbra at 6:39 a.m. I urge you to take the time to watch it. It is a truly wondrous and magical sight. I liken it much to seeing the triple goddess before my very eyes, watching the Moon go through all of Her cycles – waxing, full and waning, Maiden, Mother and Crone – in only a few hours. This cyclical energy and the combined feminine energy of both the Moon and Earth will only enhance the cyclical energy of nature, the fertile energy of your growing garden, and your magical work.

There are other magical things you can do for and in your garden during the coming Full Moon. Plant a magical herb for use in spells, potions and healing in the days to come or flowers that correspond to the moon such as moonflower, gardenia, or jasmine. Add a statue of a Moon goddess, a gazing globe, or an image of the Moon to your garden. In honor of the Full Moon, the lunar eclipse and all that feminine fertile energy, I will be planting my moonflower seeds on the 15th.

Happy Magical Gardening and Full Moon Blessings!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: Eliora's Enchanting Elegance

Many years ago, when I first became a witch, many of my ritual and magickal tools were given to me as gifts. They were all appreciated. But at that time, witchcraft was not as out of the broom closet as it is today. There were only a handful of stores in my area that catered to the needs of pagans and witches. There was no Amazon, no Etsy, and no Facebook pages to like, follow, and discover new and exciting tools. My athame was a plain, black-handled knife. My wand was a simple oak smoothed and carved oak branch. My chalice was a simple black goblet with a pentacle on it. My cauldron was a simple black clay pot. All very simple and they all served me well over the years. But, over the years, as I grew into my pagan skin and continued along my pagan path, these tools no longer spoke to me. They no longer felt like extensions of myself and my spirit, like they should. Just then I met Lorelei Eliora through Facebook and discovered her Etsy shop, Eliora's Enchanting Elegance. Enchanting indeed!

Lorelei has been crafting ritual tools, magickal items and decor art for over 15 years but, as she says, she's been "crafty since childhood". As her Etsy shop notes, she is a "pagan artisan creating enchanting elegance for your magickal life". She creates her enchanting items in a magical workroom in her home, surrounded by old tall protective oak trees. All of her items are handcrafted, hand-embellished, and infused with love, blessings and magick. Her inventory is extensive, offering witches and pagans items like athames, wands, bolines, chalices, jewelry, divining boards, glass art, and charm clips, among many other things. She offers everything you need for your altar and pagan practices. She takes custom orders for whatever type of witch you are - from the garden witch, like me, to the witch devoted to a particular goddess.

Very early into our online friendship, I asked Lorelei to make me an athame, one that spoke to the gardening, herb-loving, tree-hugging witch in me. For a very reasonable price, Lorelei made me a beautiful athame. The handle is wrapped in a pale green suede cord and gold-link chain. It is embellished with gold, green and amber leaves, glass beads with acorn caps on them, small pine cones, tiny glass flowers of pale orange and yellow, and pentacles. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was the athame for me. It fits perfectly in my hand and with my magick.

A few months later, I asked her to craft a wand for me. She went into the woods around her home, found a lovely branch of oak and embellished it to match my athame. It feels so natural and so powerful. It is perfect for this gardening witch.

When I received both items, it felt like Lorelei had known me for years. She knew the colors that spoke to me. She knew what the items should feel like in my hands. She knew me, knew my spirit, knew my magick. How could she know me that well? How could she craft the items I had longed for? She just knew.

Perhaps you are new to the craft or the pagan path, just getting started, and in need of all the ritual tools and magickal items. Lorelei has exactly what you are looking for - a complete altar set, customized to your magickal path! It is a cabinet or box in your choice of theme or color and charm elements of your choice. It includes Goddess and God tea light candles, elemental quarter tealights, a candle snuffer, water bowl, altar cloth, a small bell, small embellished jars filled with sea salt and sand, a mini-besom, a mini-wand, a mini-athame, a small altar box in the them of your choice, a ceramic cauldron, mini-chalice, a pair of potion bottles, charcoal, cone incense, and an altar plate, again in your theme. All of this for $200!

Lorelei is a joy to know and a pleasure to work with. She has a beautiful soul and it shines through her work. Your items arrive quickly (but don't forget that handcrafting, hand-embellishing, and customizing can take some time) and carefully packaged.

Head on over to Eliora's Enchanting Elegance and check out all of her lovely items. If you don't find what you are looking for there, contact Lorelei and request a custom piece (or two or three). You can also follow her Facebook page, Eliora, and see what she's working on now. Prepare to be elegantly enchanted!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring Has Sprung

It has finally arrived! Spring is here and I feel like a weight has been lifted from me. Winter is fading into the shadows. My heart and spirit are light and my mind is rolling through all of the plans, ideas and dreams for my garden. I am spending the day planting the seeds of new beginnings, letting go of the past year, the past harsh Winter, emerging from my cocoon and letting the wings of my spirit flap in the gentle warming breeze.

My altar is decked in fresh cut flowers, forsythia branches in bloom, seed packets, beautifully painted eggs in a birds nest, floral scented candles, bunnies, a flower fairy, and all the needed items for a bit of Ostara magic later today. I have brought all the items I need to plant my seeds today and to transplant a few houseplants to my kitchen to do a bit of indoor gardening. Hard-boiled eggs are awaiting some decorating. I have a lovely dinner planned - a quiche, some fresh greens tossed in a light herbal and citrus vinaigrette, and some treats for dessert. The music is on, the candles are lit, and the whole house smells like, sounds like, feels like Spring.

I've been out in the garden this morning and Spring has most definitely sprung. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and day lilies are breaking the ground. The forsythia is beginning to bloom. The buds on the lilac are swelling. A few trees have started to show small bursts of green. The birds are dancing around the feeders and checking out the nesting huts I have hung for them. Robins are pecking at the thawed ground hunting for juicy worms. The squirrels are busily nibbling on the bits of apples and nuts I put out for them this morning. Maybe even our resident groundhog will make an appearance today! My little part of the world has awakened and come alive!

Tonight, we'll eat, drink, make merry, and release wishes for new beginnings into the Spring breeze and send out blessings over the garden for the coming growing season. We'll welcome all our feathered and furried friends back for another year and send out callings to those we wish to grace us with their presence. We'll give thanks to Mother Earth for making it through an extremely harsh Winter and for being granted the return of lengthening warmer days, for the beauty, wonder and magic of Spring.

Oh joy! Spring has sprung! I wish you all a blessed, beautiful and magical Ostara!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

It's So Green In Here

My son walked in after school on Tuesday, a long-awaited forecasted 65-degree day, and looked around. "It's so green in here! Why is it so green in here?" he asked. I asked for some clarification. "It's like Spring in here!" He seemed disgruntled. "It's just all bright colors and flowers and stuff. I don't like it," he announced. Of course he wouldn't. He's 16 and spends much of his time upstairs in his hobbit hole, coming out only for food, showers and occasional human contact. (Even my niece, the sweetest of peas, with all the knowledge of her nearly one-year old life experience knows to look up the steps when you ask her where her cousin is!) So I expected the reaction from him, but even though he was all "dark and brooding" about it, that one sentence - "It's so green in here." - made me grin from ear-to-ear. After all, that was the point!

It's been a really brutal Winter for many of us. For me, the gardener, it was exceptionally brutal because all I have wanted to do for months was to get back outside and get gardening again. So, when the mercury started climbing over 50 this past weekend, I sprang into action. It was just a bit of sweeping, cleaning and refilling bird feeders and baths, a little nudging around in the mulch to see what, if anything, was happening under there. The ground was rock hard, still frozen, so imagine my surprise when I saw the beginnings of hostas and daylilies pushing up through the dirt. I broke out into my little "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" happy dance, right there in the garden, and then covered them back up carefully, just in case cold weather returned. It wasn't time to uncover them just yet. The rest of the weekend went by, warm and sunshiny, and I would step out into the garden occasionally just to be there for a few minutes and to attempt putting a trowel into the soil. No go! It just didn't seem like the ground would thaw.

Monday rolled around and again another warm day dawned. This time we went into the 60's. Again I headed outside for the trowel test. This time there was a slight give, just about an inch or so. My spirit did leaps of joy. Soon, very soon, that trowel would slip right in, plunging deeper into that silky earth. With this knowledge in my heart, I decided that it was time to bring Spring into the house as soon as possible. As my hubby worked on a few small home repair projects, I set about putting the last of Winter into boxes for the basement and beginning the Spring decorating. I started with my altar, as I always do. Because my altar is at what I feel is the heart of my home, I feel that beginning the process here allows the feelings, intentions and magic I am trying to create for the coming season to radiate out into the whole house. As I did this, my spirit felt lighter, the room felt larger and roomier, and my whole home seemed to smile and sigh with satisfaction. Exactly! I then reveled in putting up the brighter colored table runners, the flowered garlands, and floral-scented candles. In the hour or so before going to bed, I dabbled in making a garland of my own using pieces of old ones but it just wasn't working out for some reason. (So frustrating!) I turned in that night with visions of growing flowers, budding trees, and dancing garden faeries.

Then Tuesday came with its brilliant sunshine and its 65 degrees! Forsythia branches were gathered and placed around the house, especially on my altar, to be forced into blooming. That trowel of mine went about 4 inches into the soil. Another happy dance ensued! Out came the Spring patio and yard decor - hanging baskets to be filled with bright trailing flowers, small bird baths and butterfly feeding stations, and an outdoor candle or two. While the Juncos, cardinals, wrens, chickadees, and finches flew in and out of the feeders, all singing songs of Spring, I sat on the patio for a few minutes jotting down notes for an outdoor celebration of the upcoming Full Moon, planning on "filling" my life with the new beginnings that Spring offers. The rest of my day was spent putting the finishing touches on the indoor Spring decorations. At about 3:15, my son walked in. "It's so green in here".

That's what it's all about, isn't it? Spring brings rebirth, reawakenings, new life, new possibilities, the return of joyful green to replace the cold gray. It makes us feel lighter, happier, like we made it through the darkness to that light at the end of the tunnel. Today, I am hovering right at the end of that tunnel. It's a really cold day, plummeting from 69 yesterday to 20 this morning, with a morning wind chill of 3 degrees. It's not supposed to last very long. Tomorrow we'll be back around 50. Mother Nature is now in what I call Her "Yo-Yo Phase", where She's not quite sure if Winter should end quite yet but allows a few tastes of Spring here and there. That's okay though. I know what's coming. The ground is beginning to thaw. The birds are returning. The buds of trees, shrubs and flowers are beginning to swell. Most of's so green in here!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Review: Saga's Cottage Etsy Shop

This is not something I usually do but something I would like to do more often - to help promote the work of some awesome Pagan artists and crafters, bloggers and authors, all of whom I respect and whose work I greatly admire. I know most of these people through my personal life or through social media and have either purchased items from these people, followed their blogs regularly, or read their books. I will be doing this more frequently in the future but will always be asking the person permission to do so first. I will not however be reviewing the artwork, crafting, writing or services of anyone with whom I have not personally dealt. So without further ado...

First up is Saga's Cottage, soon to be known as Hemlock & Garnet, an Etsy shop owned by my friend Loren Morris. Loren is a wonderful Pagan artist who makes all of the items in her shop. Right now, she has several handcrafted items in her shop, including prints, plaques, wax poppets, notecards and spirit boards. As noted in my previous post, Just Hang In There, I purchased a beautiful item last week from her. It is the Elemental Ostara Eggs Altar Set. Here is a picture of it:

The set includes six hand-blown and hand-painted eggs (one for each of the elements, one for spirit and one for the Goddess), Wishing Stars on which to make your Spring wishes, and a Spring incense containing frankincense, benzoin, dragon's blood, nutmeg, violet oil, orange peel and rose petals (following a recipe from Scott Cunningham's Complete Book of Oils, Incenses and Brews). It is all contained within a moss-lined feather-rimmed nest which Loren notes can be used as "an offering bowl".

This item is just what I need to warm my Winter-weary soul and I can't wait to celebrate the Spring Equinox with this upon my altar. In fact, it's there already just waiting for the rest of my Spring items to join it! Each egg is so colorful and a perfect representation of the elements (I just adore the gnome for Earth!), Spirit and the Goddess and the incense smells positively divine and will be perfect as part of my Ostara ritual this year. Loren has 2 other sets in her Etsy shop right now for sale, a bit different from this one but just as beautiful and magical.

Not only did Loren package this item securely for delivery and get it out to me very quickly, but it came with tissue paper that emits a heavenly scent. Earlier in the month, I won a necklace Loren made for an Imbolc giveaway for The Sunday Stew over at The Secret Life of the American Witch. It came wrapped in that same tissue paper. I asked her about it and she said she keeps the tissue paper in her incense drawer. Said tissue paper is now stowed away in parts of my house to keep that beautiful scent around!

So when you are looking for some beautiful Pagan artwork to incorporate into your every day Pagan life and practice, check Loren's Etsy shop, Saga's Cottage, and see what items she has for sale. Don't forget that the shop will soon be undergoing a name change to Hemlock & Garnet! Also keep in mind that every item is hand-painted and hand-crafted so each item may not be the exact same as the last or may not be available at the time. I am sure if you contact Loren through her shop that she will be able to help you find what you are looking for.

Loren also has a wonderful blog entitled Saga's Cottage, where she shares spells, rituals, and recipes to be used is sabbat celebrations and rituals and throughout the year. Don't forget to follow her blog as well!

Just Hang In There

Believe it or not, Winter is waning. I even find it hard to believe myself at times. Each week since Yule has brought either extreme cold or snow accumulations, often both. The most recent storm to come through, a Nor'Easter, dumped about a foot and a half of snow on us, burying everything in the gardens. But through each and every Clipper or Nor'Easter, I have reminded myself that Spring is on its way. I did things around my home, even in the garden between storms, to remind myself that it is coming. Mother Earth herself sent me little signs that Spring would soon be here with a whisper on the winds of "just hang in there".

Winter, for me, is always a time of preparing for Spring. The first of my gardening and seed catalogs usually arrive right around the Winter Solstice. I tuck them aside on a shelf until right after the hustle and bustle of the holidays and then dive in to them around the second week of January. I spend evenings researching new ideas for the gardens to come, paging through gardening books and texts to learn new techniques, and sketching out designs for each garden bed with my favorite set of colored pencils. Each day, I go around the house to the plants that were moved indoors for the colder months, checking on their health and reassuring them that they will be out in the fresh air and sunshine very soon, whispering to them, "Just hang in there". After each snowfall, I go out to the garden to assess the damage, if any. All of my shrubs suffered some sort of injury after the ice storm we had a couple of weeks ago. It's to be expected. In bitter cold temperatures, I shook snow from each shrub to lighten its load and pruned back broken branches. I gently cleared away snow from the plants that were wrapped in burlap to protect them from the Winter weather. Going from plant to plant and shrub to shrub, I told each one, "Just hang in there".

At Imbolc, February 2nd, I began to want signs of Spring around the house. "Just hang in there," I told myself as I began taking down some of the Winter decorations and burning the remainder of the Winter pine-scented candles. Some more snow came and then I became desperate for signs of Spring. Just then Mother Earth sent me the most beautiful sign. Last Monday, three days before the big Nor'Easter, I was coming home from work and heading to the back of my house. I looked up at my neighbor's tree to see it filled with robins. Dozens of them! And not just in that tree but in all the trees around my house. There were hundreds of robins everywhere! I stood there for the longest while, freezing cold but I didn't care, and just watched the robins. Some stayed right where they were and some went flying from tree to tree. With each flapping of wings, I heard, "Just hang in there". The robins stayed until Wednesday and then disappeared right before the Nor'Easter hit.

The day after the storm was Valentine's Day and by then I was really in need of another Spring fix. As if in answer to my prayers, my hubby came along that morning with beautiful red roses, white hydrangeas, white daisies, and red carnations. As the sounds of snowblowers and shovels filled the neighborhood, I emptied the vases of the Winter pine branches and holly that decorate my house in Winter and replaced them with the flowers. "Just hang in there." Later that day, another gift arrived, one that I gave to myself. I purchased an elemental Ostara eggs altar set from a friend of mine through her Etsy shop. (NOTE: There is a companion "Review" post coming on the heels of this one for more on this!). I immediately and carefully unwrapped it. My heart did leaps of joy and my spirit was filled with the promise of Spring! Both of these gifts said, "just hang in there".

It was also the Full Snow Moon on Valentine's Day. That night (and throughout the weekend), after I spent some time under the brilliant light of Mama Moon, I spent the evening working on cleaning out and straightening up my magical and sacred spaces. I organized the magical drawer in my kitchen, taking inventory of what I needed to restock. I condensed jars of dried herbs and flowers. I dusted off and neatened up my altar, lighting some sage candles to cleanse the area of nasties. I planned out my Ostara altar set up and made a list of some items I would need to have it exactly as I wanted for the Spring Equinox. Being and working with my herbs, candles, oils, crystals, tarot cards and all my other magical items made me feel peaceful, hopeful, grounded and centered. With a sigh of happiness, I reminded myself, "Just hang in there".

Now, here I am today, the sun shining brilliantly helping to melt away the top layer of snow but with some more snow expected tomorrow. However, a warm up is expected later in the week and lots of melting will occur. I'll use that time to gather some forsythia branches for forcing indoors in vases around the house and, by the end of February, I will have beautiful yellow flowers blossoming everywhere. The rest of February will be for the final garden plans and lists to be made, to begin the Spring cleaning of the house, both physical and spiritual, to assemble all the items I will need to begin seeds indoors, and to dream of Spring. We are in the home stretch now. There are only 30 days until Ostara, the Spring Equinox. I can deal with whatever Mother Nature brings my way knowing that. I will use the time, like my garden, to prepare for Spring. Just hang in there!


Thursday, February 13, 2014

"It's a Major Award" or Two

I received some really great news a couple of days ago. My friend, Vickie, who has a wonderful blog over at Aoibheal's Lair, nominated me for two blogger awards - the Awesome Blog Content Award and the Sunshine Blogger Award! Thank you so much, Vickie! I am so excited about this. It should be really fun. There are a few things I have to do in response to her nominating me. In so doing, you will get a chance to learn a little bit more about me. So let's get started!

The first award is the Awesome Blog Content Award. The rules for this are as follows:
  • Download the award logo and add it to your acceptance post.
  • Nominate a few fellow bloggers. (This has to be done for both awards so I'll postpone it until the end of this post).
  • Take each letter of the alphabet and use it to tell something about yourself.
I first thought I'd make my ABC list about me, the Pagan. Then, I thought, no, I would do it about me, the gardener. Okay. Scratch that. I'd make it a general list of what is important to me in life. After a bit more thought, I just sat down with a pen and paper, wrote each letter of the alphabet down one side of the page, and wrote out a word or two for each letter. The list ended up being a combination of things about me - pagan, gardener, just me. This is what I came up with:

A - Autumn - my favorite season of the year and the one my birthday falls in.
B - the Beach - the place that brings me such peace and solace, renews my soul.
C - Chris and Christopher - my husband and son.
D - Dirt - yes, I said dirt, as in soil, from where my garden is nurtured.
E - the Environment - of which I am a fierce defender.
F - Family and Friends - who I share so much with.
G - Gardening - not just a hobby for me but part of who I am as a witch.
H - Herbs - my favorite things to grown in the garden and to work with in magic, healing, cooking, etc.
I - Individuality - it's what makes me, well, me.
J - Justice - I am the sign of the scales after all.
K - the Kitchen - where I work with most of my herbs, share meals with my family, and can see my gardens.
L - Love and Laughter - such important things in life, good for the body, mind and spirit.
M - Mother Earth and Mama Moon - two beautiful "beings" to be in tune with.
N - Nature - it's my church.
O - the Ocean - where I let my cares float away whenever I can.
P - Peace - in my home, my life, and my heart.
Q - Quiet - the older I get, the more quiet I enjoy.
R - Reading - my favorite past time.
S - Sisters - both my familial sisters and my spiritual sisters.
T - Trees - the most majestic of the garden beings
U - the Universe - where each strand in the web of life meets.
V - my Village - all the people in my life who play a role in who I was, am and will be.
W - Writing - my passion, the thing I have always loved to do since I was a young child.
X - X - the band, like in "Wild Thing", just because I couldn't think of anything else.
Y - Yule - which marks the beginning of the return of the Sun.
Z - Zeitgeist - my favorite Smashing Pumpkins album and which means the spirit of the time.

And now for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Here I have to nominate 10 fellow bloggers. Alas, not many bloggers like to participate in things like this so I will only nominate a few blogs I really enjoy.  The first is, of course, Vickie's blog, Aoibheal's Lair. Vickie's blog is always a good read and allows you to really know who she is. Next up is my friend Molly who has a wonderful blog at Green Grove - A Place to Grow where Molly takes you with her on her spiritual path through life in the West Virginia mountains. My third nomination is for My Moonlit Path, a fabulous blog by my friend, Autumn Earthsong. Autumn shares delicious recipes and great ideas for sabbats in her blog. And last, but certainly not least, is A Witch By Any Other Name. This blog is written by Tess, who is not only a friend and a fellow witch but an incredible craftswoman, making beautiful jewelry.

I have also been asked to write 11 facts about myself. Some of these are very general and others look a bit deeper into me.
  1. I am married, for almost 19 years now, to the love of my life, my very best friend, and the guy who still sweeps me off my feet.
  2. I have a teenage son who is intelligent, handsome, a bit anti-establishment, and sometimes seems to be channeling Jim Morrison.
  3. To quote the Fresh Prince, "In West Philadelphia born and raised". Yep, that's where I'm from. I have lived in or outside of Philadelphia all my life. It's only a short drive to the Jersey Shore where I spent every Summer, the entire Summer, for the first 18 years of my life and have vacationed or spent countless weekends ever since.
  4. I am a Master Gardener. Well, I still have some volunteer work to do and a project to complete before I receive my certification but I passed the test with flying colors and am well on my way.
  5. I have been a witch for almost 25 years. I am mostly solitary, having spent a brief time in a coven many years ago, and wanting a circle of my own in the near future.
  6. I always wanted to be a meteorologist. No, not the one you see on TV giving you the 5-day forecast but the one behind the scenes at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the National Weather Service or the Storm Prediction Center, the real science behind the forecast.
  7. I technically have three jobs. I type medical reports at home, am office manager for a chiropractor, and an administrative assistant for a medical review company owned by the same chiropractor.
  8. I have one tattoo but have always wanted more. I just can't make up my mind on what I want and, after getting the first one when I was 19 and not really thinking, I don't want to screw it up. They're permanent after all!
  9. I am a hippie at heart. Give me an old pair of jeans, a really soft and comfy t-shirt and a pair of flip-flops any day of the week over any other outfit.
  10. I like to collect old things - first edition Maxfield Parrish prints, Roseville pottery, art nouveau lamps and vases, and vintage postcards from the 1890's through the early 20's mainly.
  11. I am a chocoholic. Yes, I admit it. I have a real problem. I love any kind of chocolate and have been known to eat unsweetened baking chocolate if desperate!
Well, that's it! I hope you enjoyed getting to know me a little better. Don't forget to check out my fellow bloggers!


Monday, February 3, 2014

Winter Wanderings

It is the day after Imbolc and another day of snow is here at the Village Wise Woman Gardens. It's really coming down out there, about an inch an hour right now. It's a heavy wet snow, not the lighter fluffier stuff we've had over the past few weeks. Gazing out my kitchen window, I catch an occasional flash of red at the bird feeder in the rock garden. Our resident Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal are not letting the snow get in their way.  Neither are the chickadees. They keep flying in and out of the feeders on the patio, with a "cheep, cheep, cheep" with each arrival and parting. My Burkwood's Broom has created a canopy for the birds and squirrels to hide under, the branches are so heavily weighed down with the snow. Although this extremely cold and snowy weather is becoming a bit overwhelming now, it has given me the gift of time - time to get things done in and around the house, to close chapters of my life and begin new ones, to better understand myself, my purpose and my path.

January was busy. The halls were undecked and the holiday decorations were put away for another year. The Yule/Christmas tree was stripped of its branches and placed in vases around my home and over the garden beds to insulate them from the cold. The house was returned to its Winter normal. Some minor home repairs and updates, delayed by the holidays, were finally completed. Winter colds and sniffles plagued the household for a few days and visits to the doctor were made after home remedies failed to knock the nasties out. Standardized state-mandated tests and midterm/final exams took up about two weeks of my son's life at school. I placed the past year where it belonged - behind me. And, through it all, there was lots of snow to be cleaned up.

The month culminated in the emotional roller coaster of removing my Dad's things from his apartment. I thought all of this would be easy but, Goddess, was I wrong! I still feel like I am recovering from something 10 days later. To take the contents of someone's life, put it all in boxes, and remove it from the place that they called home, where they felt safe and secure, where the energy of their life filled every nook and cranny of each and every room, is not an easy task. The physical labor of doing it takes its toll on your body (especially when you do it in a snowstorm like we did) but then add the heaviness on your heart, mind and soul of the grief, the memories. It was not easy. And this wasn't moving just furniture and lamps and things like that. It was boxing up and moving my Dad's lifetime of poetry, volume after volume of typed or handwritten journals, manuscripts and marble copybooks, and hundreds of framed and unframed collages, the unique artwork of his life. It was like taking my Dad's live-out-loud spirit and brilliant mind and piecing them out into plastic totes and cardboard boxes. A life in boxes.

And now, right there, on my sun porch, stacked neatly in black plastic totes and cardboard boxes of various sizes, is my Dad, a life in boxes and even his ashes in a lovely urn on a shelf awaiting the trip to his final resting place when Spring finally arrives. I am slowly working on taking some of the things, the things that are now mine, and incorporating them into my home - a lamp here, a picture there, a book on a shelf. Each day, I take one or two things and find a place for them. His writing, personal papers and correspondences, of which I am curator, await careful organizing and cataloging. His collage art is in a storage space at my sister's awaiting the same attention. With the help of some dear longtime family friends, my sisters and I plan to keep Dad's memory alive through his poetry and artwork for years to come.

Since moving Dad's things and in the days leading up to Imbolc, I spent a great deal of time thinking about the closing of this chapter, this volume, of my life. Both of my parents are gone now. Well, physically gone. They live on in me and my sisters. They live on in my son. (I never realized how much my son is like my Dad until my Dad was gone.) As I continue on my path in life, I carry all the wonderful gifts they gave me in their life. Much of what I do in my life, from my writing and gardening to homemaking and cooking to the spiritual path I am on, is because of them, the way they raised me, the way they lived, and the lessons they taught. I have embraced who they were, for better or for worse, and learned from them about myself. The best of both of them runs through me, in my veins, my mind, my heart. But I also carry some of their baggage. They were not perfect (no one is!) and they carried their baggage in life, some of which I carried for them for a while, making it my own. I have to leave it behind or I cannot be me. I have to take that baggage, open it up, take a long hard look, learn from what's inside, close it up and leave it behind. The next volume of my life, the one that I live without my parents, depends on it.

I did that last night, during my Imbolc ritual. I let it all go, left it behind, weeded it out. In its place, I planted the seeds of the next volume of my life, one in which I help my son off onto his own path, create an empty nest life with my hubby, plant healing and nourishing gardens, write articles, essays and books, create a circle of magical and lifelong friends, guide others on the Pagan path, and allow the memory of my Mom and Dad to live on. In a haze of sage smoke and shimmering white candles, I saw this next volume of my life, laid out before me like a beautiful moss-filled path through a wonderland of trees, flowers, faces, and places and, although it was rocky in spots, had a few detours here and there, it felt right, looked right. It was all there for me, for those who wanted to walk it with me. I think I am quite ready for more of the adventure!

It's still snowing. I am warm and toasty by the radiator in my witchy kitchen with my steaming hot cup of herbal tea. I'll sit here a little while longer, enjoying my gift of time, watching. More bad weather is on its way this week so I will have more time to work on my house, the life in boxes, garden plans, and the next volume of my life. Winter is a time to rest, to dream, to envision, to plan, to await rebirth. I am doing just that. Spring will be here soon.