Grackle & Sun

Archive for the tag “winter”

Talk about the weather

February is not cooperating with my plans for an early spring.  As I speak, we’re getting pelted–again–with a delightful “wintery mix”, which is inconvenient because I want to plant all the things now!  Anyone else eyeing their seed catalogs with something bordering on lust?  I’m laying out gardens in my mind and dreaming of hugelkultur.  We’ve got tons of downed branches and trees, and I’m going to hugel the hell out of them—as soon as it stops snowing.  I love winter.  I really do.  For about a month and a half.  But come February, I can’t decide if I’m supposed to be learning about patience or resignation.

The weather here is very changeable and can be seen either as respite or a tease depending on your point of view. The other day it was 50 degrees and foggy.  Very beautiful.  The back and forth weather can make it difficult to know when to when to get going in the spring.  It is not uncommon to have 80 or 90 degree days in April and then get a frost in May.  And then straight back to 90 by June.  You just never know.  So, I’m going to start some seeds indoors to satisfy this need to see green things growing and just roll with the weather.

The nice thing about winter is that it very naturally allows time for contemplation, reflection, and sussing out ones thoughts and ideas.  This winter has given me a lot of quiet time outside, for which I am very thankful.  I’ve been turning my mind to sustainability, permaculture, conservation, and how to be a good steward of the land and what is on it.  I’ll be writing more on these things, hopefully as thoughts shift in to actions.

In other news, the move is done.  Huzzah!

So, all you gardeners out there… favorite gardening method?  Tricks you couldn’t believe you’d ever gardened without?  Do you start indoors or direct-sow?  Anyone try hugelkultur?  Raised beds?  Rows?  Anyone done any vermiculture or other types of composting?  Tell all about it!

 

 

 

Elevensies is Here!

Happy Solstice, everyone!  And happy first day of Elevensies!  

Wishing you all the merriest of merries.

Queen of Winter

A lot has been going on the last couple months.  Things that have kept me from being creative or productive or myself, really.   Sometime I might be able to write about this, but honestly whether or not I will work up the courage to hit “publish” is another matter entirely.  In the meantime, here is a wonderful example of the subtlety of Nature and a gentle reminder to open one’s eyes and one’s senses so as not to miss the beauty hiding in plain sight all around us.  This is one of my favourite plants in the yard:

Hamamelis vernalis, the Ozark Witch Hazel

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During these months, this little shrub is easy to overlook, the eye drawn to the striking silhouettes of greater trees with their stark bones outlined darkly in the winter sky.   She looks like this every year—withered and brown—for a good month or so before I remember what it is that I am actually seeing.  I am slow as molasses.  I always forget and think that those are dead leaves too stubborn to come off their stems.  Like those of the pin oaks that are all too common in St. Louis neighborhoods, dropping dead leaves all winter long.   But they are not.  They are her flowers, beautiful and otherworldly, releasing their heady, spicy-sweet fragrance to the cold spring air—and to anyone who knows well enough to step closer.  I remember to do so.  Eventually.

hamamelis vernalis 3-16-2013 12-21-12 PMJust when I’ve had all the winter I can take, the witch hazel sends her gift—a call to awaken.  I need reminders like this often.  Open your eyes!  Look around you!  Breathe deeply!  Wake up!  Time for the sap to rise, time to shake off introspection and move into action.  And always, always time to find beauty no matter what the circumstance is around you.  And when you cannot find it, make it.  Make it!  And know you are not alone.  There is the witch hazel, making beauty while all else succumbs to sleep still.  That is true strength.

Soon enough the sun will shine again.

 

Elevensies!

Happy Solstice, everybody, and happy first day of Elevensies!

The long, dark night is almost over.  Brighter days are ahead.

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What is Elevensies, you say?  Let me tell you.  No, I’m not referring to the meal between second breakfast and lunch, although the name is lovingly borrowed from Tolkien’s hobbits as a play on their undeniable understanding of the importance of merriment, good food, and good company, for Elevensies is all about these things.  The long and short of it is that we are not religious folk, and we could not in good conscience continue celebrating a holiday which belongs to a religion of which we are not a part.  But we love all the mid-winter festivities and deeply believe in the importance of maintaining meaningful traditions.  So when the kids were young, Husband and I sat down together and thought of all the things that were important and not important to us, and then we made our own holiday.  And we named it Elevensies.

Elevensies is the celebration of the (typically) eleven days between the Winter Solstice and the New Year.  It is all about the celebration of life in the dark of winter.  It is about honouring seasons and cycles, nature and humanity.  It is about family and togetherness and sharing merriment, good food, and good company with those you love.  It is about being mindful of what is important and casting off that which is not.  Elevensies is about generosity, but it is not about things—although we do get a few small gifts and surprise each other on different days.  Instead, we wanted the focus to be on doing, not buying.  So instead of giving presents, on each day of Elevensies, we do something fun altogether as a family.  It might be simple like going to the movies (which is a treat for us) or it might be something more elaborate like taking a rock climbing class together (shhhhh—the kids don’t know about this one yet).  Traditionally, there is always a day when we go to a bookstore (my daughter’s favorite) and also a day when we make gifts to give to our family members who celebrate Christmas.  We do spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our respective families, because we recognize that it is important to them, and we’re cool with that.  Sharing those moments are part of Elevensies, too.

We begin Elevensies on the Solstice by decorating the house and remembering that even on the darkest night (and this year, a cold one!),  there is always light and warmth when you are surrounded by people who love you.  Husband takes a fair chunk of vacation time for Elevensies each year, so it’s a holiday in more ways than one, and we all look forward to this relaxed time together.  At the end of Elevensies, on New Year’s Eve, we clean the whole house from top to bottom, smudge it real good, beat pots and pans and make a ruckus, and then at midnight, sweep out the old year and let the New Year in.  This is a tradition taught to us by the Haggencrone, Husband’s grandmother, and it is a very good one.  All it takes is a broom and a firm intention.  Finally, we end Elevensies with our annual New Year’s Togetherness party.   Togetherness is an open house potluck on January 1st, and all our friends and family are invited.  It’s been nicknamed Empanadafest, because my husband, who learned how to make delicious Puerto Rican empanadillas from my mother, sits in the kitchen all day making empanadas as fast as people will eat them.  Last year we packed 65 people in our house, and his empanada count was in the triple digits, lol.  It is a wonderful and auspicious way to start the year.

I wish you all a very wonderful Elevensies in addition to whatever holidays you celebrate.  May this be a time of magical marvelousness and blessed togetherness for you.   And remember, all traditions first began with an idea, a belief, and a person saying, “Let’s do this.”  Traditions and the rituals surrounding them are spoken in the language of our subconscious minds and also of our hearts—that is to say, with imagery, symbols, senses, and feelings.  It is important to pay attention to them, to give them space to expand.  We make our own meaning in life, and our lives should reflect what we most deeply believe.

Merriest of the Merry!

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