Tuesday, October 18, 2016

letting go

I like to collect leaves and feathers and other windfall when I walk the dogs. Sometimes I arrange the items on an old chalkboard. I think everything looks good on that chalkboard, it's like candlelight for people. 

The large catalpa leaf was soft and supple as cloth so I had to see how it would hold up to stitching. I had been thinking about the ritual of leaves letting go and falling from their branches this time of year, slowly building a thick layer on the ground to blanket the earth, tucking in everything that needs to be kept warm through the winter. I loved slowly drawing the needle and thread through the leaf cloth imagining, wishing really, that I could make us a blanket out of leaves. And then after that small success, I sewed a running stitch on the already-dried smaller leaf...and that worked too. 

October's calendar moon cloth is from a past full moon sewing ritual here and the leafy knitted bookmark pattern is here.

Our family was together on the full moon to celebrate our version of the Mexican Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, a time of honor and remembrance. Our altar is set up with candles, strings of lights, and mementos and photos of ancestors and beloveds who have passed. We craft/play/visit/watch football in the afternoon and have a candlelight dinner when dark falls. There is always the same chocolate cake for dessert, a favorite of our little boy, Corty, who passed when he was seven. And we always share memories of loved ones and pass photos around. Lastly, we write something to let go of, something no longer needed in our lives, onto flash paper and then light it, one by one, throwing it up and watching it go poof and disappear as it falls.

Honoring, remembering and letting go, but mostly it's just about being together.

Friday, October 7, 2016

look, honey

I haven't held needle and thread in my hands once since I wrote here last...although I have held and sunk cloth into a mordant bath and then wondered why on earth it turned brown -- from a mordant? And I have picked and brewed one zinnia dye-bath. And I held the camera at just the right time to photograph a chickadee in action and then some plants that seem to think there is still time to grow and blossom even though it nearly froze last night. Maybe they know something we don't.

I have been lucky to hold the hands of some dear friends. And there is the sprite whose whole four-year-old body I held and squeezed and kissed the top of her head. And I acquired some new crystals and gems to get acquainted with by sensing their energy in my hands. Dogs to pet, writing, cleaning. That is mostly what I've been doing with my hands.

In October the veil between the worlds thins. Sometimes, on an inner level, we can hear and feel our loved ones beyond the veil. And maybe they can hear and feel us too. Experiencing something that was meaningful to a loved one when they were still here is thought to be an opening through which to reach out to them. For instance, if they loved butterflies and we see a beautiful image of a butterfly, that would be an opening to share and connect with them.

Today I looked across the back yard to the wooden play structure we had built for our kids when they were little. The two swings have been replaced with a porch swing while the rest of the structure is covered with vines but it still holds strong. And I silently asked our little boy, Corty, who passed at age seven, to look at the swing set now, it is still here. Where he once climbed up the ladder to get to the platform to pretend to be He-Man, wisteria and grapevines climb now. But it is still here -- look, Honey!

My personal October ritual is to find openings for loved ones in the Great Beyond...I believe we all can. xx

Monday, September 26, 2016

winds of change

We went looking for some Colorado gold last weekend, this was the view from Kenosha Pass.

We walked up the Colorado Trail for a while, took a break and then came back down again. We heard you could walk all the way to Mexico on this trail if you wanted. It is a well-worn path.

There are several stands of belladonna (deadly nightshade), Atropa belladonna, naturalized at the park near our house where I walk the dogs. Just across the road along Cherry Creek in the middle of Denver you can probably find poison hemlock growing. And of course at my house there is fragrant, poisonous datura. I've learned that generally speaking, all plants contain poisonous resins, essential oils, and alkaloids -- their poisons are often also their medicine for us as well, in tiny doses or otherwise prepared correctly. Belladonna and datura are both members of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family and a few of their nightshade cousins are potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, tobacco, wolfberry, petunias and peppers. In large enough quantity, even raw potatoes are dangerous and can be deadly for livestock and people. 

Interesting that just a few feet away, these belladonna berries are already slightly past their prime. We used to have belladonna growing wild in our back yard but I removed it to ease a neighbor's concerns about her cats possibly eating the berries. And recently, I sadly took out the datura growing along the front sidewalk after children picked a seedpod last week. In retrospect I know I over-reacted -- but it is still in several other garden beds further from the sidewalk, too beloved to ever be eradicated.

Last hurrahs in the garden, colors so glorious and vibrant, everything giving their all.

I'm wondering where we're going to store all the dried sunflowers for the birds without attracting mice.

Eleven cups in this second harvest of elderberries -- I'm freezing most of it but one pan of elderberries is drying in my oven right now.

All of the St. Theresa grapes will be frozen to make jelly or juice later in the season when there is more time. A raccoon family ate all of the Concord grapes one night, so these are what is left. I heard a commotion along the fence and I thought it was one of our dogs after something. Feeling my way in the dark toward the fence I called "Talula, Talula, come. Right now. Talula. Come. Talula!" over and over. All of a sudden Talula charged out of the house through the back door and I knew I hadn't been talking to Talula.

I stitched on this cloth over the weekend. It is woven from torn up men's shirts and green linen strips, an early project with Jude, I call it aspen grove.

Autumn's winds are the winds of change, you can tell they mean business. There is nothing soft or light about autumn wind. It's time to transition, summer is over, we all feel it.

Oh, now is the time of the harvest,
As we draw near to the year's end.
Now is the time of Mabon.
Autumn is the time to descend.
(author unknown)


Thursday, September 8, 2016

the harvest of john barleycorn

Harvest time.

People who work the land are in the fields day and night now to bring in the harvest. My memories of growing up are anchored in this chaotic, exciting, sleepless and sacred season in the life of a farmer's family. It didn't always seem so great at the time but witnessing the work of sowing, nurturing, growth, harvest and rest from spring through fall to spring again, year after year, gave me a template for living.

In my little garden right now, harvest means picking and cooking green beans for dinner, gathering beets and onions (many) and purple carrots (not many) and cucumbers and tomatoes (not many) to eat, freeze or put in the dye-pot. Harvesting is collecting sunflower heads to dry and store in a paper bag for the birds when the weather gets cold. It's cutting comfrey leaves and calendula flowers to dry for body oils and healing salves....and it's gathering basil for pesto, grapes for juice and elderberries for syrup. Harvest has really only just begun.

After I baked a batch of beets the other day, recipe here, I 1) peeled and cut them up to freeze; 2) poured the delicious leftover oil and juices from the baking dish into a little jar for future vegetable or salad dressing; 3) used the peelings to make a dye-bath for a bundled silk scarf. 

It is a good feeling to actually use all parts of something for a change. 

5-minute bread was made. Actually, the loaf took 5 minutes of prep extended over about a 21-hour stretch using an 18-hour initial rise.

I think the recipe said a 4-year-old could make it and that is probably true. Don't let that sway you though, it's still very good.

John Barleycorn is an age-old British folk song about the harvest of grain crops for bread and drink. Like bread and beer recipes, there are many versions, I love the words, and it's harvest time after all.

On an inner level, harvest means choosing what to take with you into the future. We have a choice on what and how much to carry forward as we enter these next darker, slower months of short days and long nights. We, and only we, get to decide what sustains us in meaningful ways as we go deeper. By the act of choosing what is wanted and needed, we automatically leave behind the unnecessary and don't even need to give it a second thought. Being "for" something rather than "against" something is empowering.

I like to travel lightly this time of year. How about you? xx

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

dark moon

Today is a dark moon. It's time to stir the cosmic pot...it's not too late to add our longings, visions and dreams and it's not too late to season the mix with tears and laughter. We stir and mix and stir some more...crying until we laugh and laughing until we cry. Things are happening in the invisible world now and in a few days' time when the next moon round begins, what we need most will hopefully reveal itself.

Weaving rounds with the eldest sprite -- I left mine on the cardboard but she took hers off and it instantly morphed into the shape of a bowl, perfect for holding one crystal. All four sprites were here that day and each one got a tiny polished crystal. I want to be a nana who gives magic.

Beets, beets, and more beets. I usually saute the tender greens with garlic and onion and serve them up with red wine vinegar. My method for the roots is to drizzle a little olive oil over whole unpeeled beetroots, season with salt and pepper, and bake in a covered pot at 350 degrees for 40-60 minutes. I'm going to try freezing these after they cool down. Thinking it would be nice to have them at Yule with some creamy goat cheese.

Continuing the practice of returning plant material to Mother Earth, unusable tops go right back to where they grew. Hecate is the Greek Goddess of the Dark Moon, the night, and the shortening days of Autumn. She is also the Goddess of composting and transformation so I seek to align with her wisdom, especially at this time of year.

Mysteries of the Dark Moon by Demetra George: Composting materials are Hecate's gift of fertility from the underworld. From death and decomposition come the fertile substance that ensures and vitalizes new life. In her emanation as age, change, deterioration, decay and death, she finds the seeds for new life in the composting heap of decomposing forms.

Some little holders made with wire.  After tearing off the paper to be shredded and recycled, the wire spiral from notebooks can be wound into a ball. Any wire works, even a copper light string gone bad. I have to say that writing daily morning pages (The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron) uses up a lot of notebooks.

Flowers from the garden undergoing transformation for potpourri-making. In a few days they will be unrecognizable but still very beautiful.

Future bird seed -- cut sunflower heads drying.

Datura, Datura sp., moon flowers open up at night (and overcast mornings) and exude a heavenly fragrance. This year I am planning to collect and dry some seed pods. Datura is a sacred plant in some cultures but for the most part feared in ours because of its potent and potentially poisonous qualities. Since it grows and blooms in my garden so prolifically, I feel called to find a use for datura. Maybe what I'll find is that it is here to simply shine.

Soon a new round of the moon's cycle will begin and I'll feel motivated to start new projects and other extrovertive activity, but for now I just want to sink into the night. I love walking around the garden as soon as it gets dark. The dogs are in their element, of course, in the darkness and I try to follow their lead. I'm taking photos in the dark. I'm inhaling the exhalation of as many datura moon flowers as I can. I'm barefoot. Listening to night sounds, watching for movement. And stirring some more.

Shining of moon flowers to you. xx

Sunday, August 14, 2016

sunflowers morning, noon & night


I'm so grateful for sunflowers. They sway and turn, look up, bow down and everything in between. They are hosts to a myriad of insects and soon squirrels, birds and maybe people will come visiting for their share as well. They cleanse the soil of radioactivity and are said to be guardian spirits. I don't doubt for a second their divine essence.

Yesterday I collected flowers to make dye bundles.

Blue and purples to the left, dyers coreopsis and eucalyptus in the middle and portulaca to the right.

Red, gold and pink zinnias with purple basil and blue and purple pansies with blue larkspur.

From left to right the fibers are wool, cotton that was soaked in milk, more wool (a deconstructed jacket sleeve) and silk (a deconstructed blouse collar). This is my first dye project of the summer but I have intentions to do more.

 I learned a new way to cut up watermelon. Less work and more fun to eat.

The beets are sweet and abundant this year, I wish I could say the same of the tomatoes but it's tricky like that here in Colorado.

I'm working on reducing the amount of garden waste we send off to the landfill. This is a permaculture technique called chop & drop and it's done exactly like it sounds. You chop what's no longer wanted or needed at the base, then chop it up a little more, then lay it right back on the ground. Leave the plant's roots intact so that it can either regenerate or decay in the soil. Comfrey is a marvelous soil nutrient and we can't possibly use all its leaves in salve or tea.

Some older chop & drop, mostly burdock leaves and stalks -- if I had extra compost or some dried leaves, I'd cover it to help it break down faster and also make it look nicer. But the decaying look is definitely growing on me. I chopped & dropped for several hours over the last few days -- everything from small weeds to tree trimmings. It only makes sense when you think about it, to give back to Mother Earth that which she produced. 

I'm seeing red. The madder patch, Rubia tinctoria, started from seed  three years old, is old enough for some of the roots to be harvested this fall. Madder is a cheerful plant, the greenest of green leaves, tiny blossoms with berry-like seed capsules. It can spread and climb but mine has mounded upon itself to look like a shrub.

Still stitching one little plant-dyed moon square at a time -- part of the Quilty 365 project here.

Larkspur seeds collected and ready to be packaged or sprinkled around -- I'm thinking of doing a little guerrilla seed-sowing at the park where I walk the dogs. The city seems to have forgotten about one particular xeriscaped stretch of which half has died off over the last ten years. Today I noticed that hollyhocks have naturalized themselves and maybe next summer there will be larkspur as well. It should be okay since larkspur is a Colorado wildflower.

This is my full moon sewing project for this year. Each full moon of the year so far, cloth has been chosen and cut with stitching time fit in here and there. Loving it but applique-stitching these big moons by hand takes hours and hours.

She's bowing down, her head is heavy. Some days this is exactly how I feel especially when I'm out working in the heat of the day. It has been a hot, hot summer with little to no rain.

The waxing moon lights up the night clouds.

A battery-run votive candle is tucked inside the white vintage three-tier macrame hanger I found on etsy. It came from France and was only around $50 which seemed like an unbelievable bargain at the time, I don't know.

At night this beautiful sunflower still glows, I think the variety is even named Evening Star. Which it is.

Sunflower blessings to you!  xx