Friday, January 28, 2011

Evil Snow Charm

Clearly I'm having commitment issues with the colors of my blog design. What can I do? All I see out my window is white. I've never seen this much snow in New England since moving here almost 20 years ago. However it feels more like a real winter, as the winters I grew up with in Iowa were laden with accumulated snow tunnels along the roadsides and driveways, prohibiting all safe driving standards and visibility before turning. I remember clearly the wicked gnawing wind at my cheeks as I walked, in part, backwards to school.

The filthy plowed snowbanks towered beyond my head, only white again upon a fresh layer from the snow Gods. They performed exceedingly well as igloos and forts, snow people and temporary storage for party beverages. My mom would fill plastic popsicle-makers with orange juice, place them in the blanket of snow on the back porch, and within a few hours they were frozen enough to eat.

Moon boots were where it was at. Along with a full length hooded down coat and a ski mask, you could produce enough close-loop sweat and snot and hat hair to effectively humiliate yourself at the school lockers while rushing from Inuit garb to uniform code with barely enough time to thaw before asked to hold your pencil. My hair was long and always froze into icicles. I remember the prickle of goosebumps irritated by navy-blue cable tights and my surly disposition to the inability to wear pants and sweatshirts in protection against the drafty blows of the old brick school building. The windows were large and the fields of snow carried on for acres upon acres, decorated only by the sparse prints of a few desperate animals and the curvy wake lines of the wind waves.

I knew the white stuff was slowly watering the daffodil hill, sure to be blooming soon enough. I knew the winds blew around the seeds from the few trees we had. I knew, every year, that winter only lasted one season, but somehow I never managed a level above loathing for the evil Iowa winter.

Today I have more of an adapted ability to tolerate (even sometimes appreciate) the winter season, and a few more coping mechanisms. One of them, obviously, is taking out my restlessness on my blog. Being snowed in for a month now, with more snow every week or more, I've been forced to examine my daily habits, and begin stirring up my deeper visions of my days here on this Earth. The obstacles have been many; job struggles, our dear friend in the ICU, and the challenges and surprises of raising a teen and a tween, spoon out hearty helpings of swearing, intense gratitude, reflection, tears, and fear. And with each inner and outer blizzard I sit with the feelings and inquire.

Inside my icy chrysalis, I dream up ways to prioritize and practice what's important to me, and intentions I have for my Journey with the Plants. Winter is, after all, the dream time. it's the sleep of the year, the nighttime of the soil. In the womb of nature, we must root for the sweet starchy sustenance of our own spirit.

I dress up for no reason other than to add interest to an otherwise timeless day. I put on a little black honey lip gloss and show up for my journal pages. I've got some good ideas, sketched out in my favorite colors, and intimately connected to the goals I already have in motion. I'm imagining another branch, just a snowdrink at a time. With a little research and some continued time, I just might accomplish it, we shall see. I've certainly had enough scarification stratification. I figure whats a little more time waiting in the dirt?

As an aside, since I seem to muse more than make here at Plant Journeys, I'll throw in a little naughty herby-ness for you.

Snow Cream

1 big bowl of fresh, clean snow
1 Tbsp chocolate syrup
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tsp vanilla extract
Drizzles of herbal elixir of choice: I like black birch or white fir.
If you don't have an elixir handy, you can harvest some tree twigs and make a strong infusion. Just cool before using.

Stir it all up and enjoy.

P.S. Don't eat yellow snow.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Shifting Moon, Love Moon

"Moon in my hand", photo: Sage Wilson age 11

My dear friend, Ji-Ling, reminds me of the sacred practice of naming our Moons each time she becomes full again. In fact, as I begin this post, a beautiful (I'm sure of it) email awaits my eyes, certainly about this moon and her poetic and personal interpretations of it. I anticipate the read and the closeness I feel when I read other's lunar whims.

This Moon for me is the love moon.

I'm re-learning to love from a deeper place - I'm re-learning what it means to be a friend, a support, an open ear, and a member of a family. I'm learning bit by bit how to help my children learn, too. These are vulnerable and tender lessons but so very worthy. I trust that, like the grinch, my heart pangs are merely from growing, and sure enough - soon enough - the love will be even more than I imagined.

In my waiting, I ponder and dream. I am temporarily homebound without a car and simultaneously iced and snowed in, awaiting the completion of more arduous tasks which await my attendance. In the meantime, I deepen my quietness, make dense teas, and ask questions. How can I be a better friend? How can I speak my truth and leave judgement behind? How can I reach out and tell my distant family members that I care, despite never being able to travel to see them. I long to make heart connections with the people who mean so much to me, in an overly-busy and stoic world.

In my waiting and shifting I play with my blog colors, like a painter might paint the background of a new picture, or a dancer might change costumes for a new piece. I try little things to encourage my creativity.

I long to heal the suffering body and spirit of my dear family friend. I long to sooth the fear and longing of his wife. I nourish myself so I may nourish others.

My practice for this moon is to activate love.

What is your Full Moon moon this month, dear readers?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Tree Year ~ Winter Birch

As part of my devotion to mother nature and my love for plants and trees, I am participating in a wonderful project. This year is the UN International Year of the Forests, and this weblog project, The Tree Year, is a beautiful way to get people to pay attention to the trees and to share their findings.

A whole year of observing one tree? Oh my. That is a very tall order. Not because I don't want to spend all year observing trees - its just that only one tree would be near impossible for me. So while I will forgive myself if this expounds into a forest itself, I will, at least, begin with one kind of tree. Sort of.

I have spend my fair share of time devoted to the Black Birch tree, because it was abundant where I was living. In my new abode, there are less black birches, but copious amounts of white, paper, and grey birches. They are absolutely stunning to me, and I know I will naturally be watching them each day and hopefully learning a bit about their magic and medicine. I have paid tribute in my title photograph. I intend to keep the title photo reserved for these trees for the duration of the tree year, and will be posting observations and learnings from time to time. I hope you will be inspired to be a part of the tree year, too.

So far, I am mostly just absorbing their presence: they rarely get gigantic like the mighty oaks, but some of them do manage to get pretty muscular and big. I think my first order will be to learn more clearly the difference between the species, as they are more tricky to identify in real life than they are when looking at pictures in a book or on a website. Especially considering it is winter here, with no leaves to assist me. Many of them grow in groves along the edges of mixed woods, where there is dappled sunlight and usually good water supply somewhere near, like a river, although they don't seem to like wet feet as the willows and alders do, but more the rocky hillsides and clearings. Some of them stand alone as ornamental trees, highlighting colonial homes in the area.

The decomposing birches offer plentiful food for a variety of woodpeckers. As you can see, the different shaped holes indicate different types of woodpeckers. The rectangle shape in particular is that of my favorite, the grand pileated woodpecker. Little ladderbacks and downy woodpeckers look at home with their matching colors of grey, black, and white.

And although I haven't come across any yet, birches are the main host for a wonderful medicinal mushroom known as chaga. These winter colored trees seem to take good company with the scrub pine, beech, hemlock, oak, and maple trees. There is plenty of moss and a beautiful red soil I am learning is a red sandstone.

The birches I see here, in Massachusetts, are so elegant. They stand with this delicate snowy skin as if the North Winds are never far behind. Like the bones of the forest, all wise and standing strong like Grandmother. I know this tree - this trio - has much to teach me. And so I watch and listen.