The Maenad in the Garden

maenadI languished through August, as I do – hot weather wilts me. So, now, amidst the business of helping the Minotaur husband through recovery from surgery, and nursing a sick kitten, and waiting to get my car out of the shop? I have to play catch-up in the gardens to ready them for winter.

So, if I have a morning where medical appointments or sick kittens don’t confine me to the house, I am outdoors with barely coffee on board, trying to work before the already autumnal sun warms enough to send my semi-vampire self into the shadows of the house.  This week, I attacked the troublesome south garden.

It is the driest garden, and this year the moles demolished it.  All my Oriental poppies died, their roots left hanging in tunnel space created by moles and possibly enlarged by rats taking over mole-space.  I weeded, despairingly.  A maenad should be madly galloping about the woods — knocking hubristic men on their asses, right?  What am I doing on my hands and knees in a flower garden?

Well, even a most mad maenad knows when the tide of stupid, male or otherwise, is too great for one woman’s wrath.  I admit, I fear for my nation and the world.  Our news is hopelessly biased, and anyone daring to tell the truth gets sued or arrested.   The Clinton Foundation is savagely accused of ill-doing on no evidence, while the Trump Foundation is a thin cover for him using other folks’ money to give to charities that think Trump gives a damn.  She is grilled on insufficient press sessions and wearing sunglasses, while he refuses to even release tax returns?  She is accused of conflicts of interest, while he is not seriously questioned about ties to Russian oligarchs?  She is not perfect; but he is a nightmare.  But Americans don’t know that because the the press is owned and operated by American oligarchs.

Our nation is too easily diverted by stories about what some celebrity is doing, while the planet prepares to burn as climate change alters our world and our lives.  The next wars won’t be for oil, but for water to drink and grow food!  But we Americans, wrapped in our exceptionalism, think it matters little what happens to the masses of desperate, hungry, thirsty, war-fraught refugees of the world.  We think we are safe from them.  We are fools.

So, yes, the maenad has retreated to her garden.  I want to make a safe and possibly beautiful place where my children and friends can hunker down for the dark days and nights I believe are ahead of us all.  I find my voice unheard in daily life, shouted down even by those I thought were friends, whenever I say anything challenging fondly held delusions.  I am an aging maenad, too.  My energy is more limited, I must choose my battles more carefully than ever.  I stick to what I know and what the world around me tells me.

I don’t watch the news much anymore:  Free advertising for a meglomaniac,  misogyny on show, lies told to the most vulnerable and frightened segments of my society,  education downplayed and dogmatic “faith” in pure bullshit played up.  It sickens me.  Even a maenad can’t fix willful stupidity.  Is a fortress mentality the right one?  Or simply all I feel up to these days?  I don’t know, but I know bleeding out on the bullshit-encrusted barb-wire isn’t serving anyone.  No more pearls before self-deluded swine!


Gratitude 27 August

In my childhood, I remember many yards in various states of decrepitude. I remember hours of back-breaking labor of my own to transform such yards into something better — on my mother’s orders. I also recall the beauty of success.

Blue morningWe occasionally had flowers! Imagine.  A great favorite of mine was the morning glory in that marvelous sky blue shade.  So, in this yard  – my yard – where work is done only at my self-command?  I have planted these seeds almost every year.  And despaired.  The seeds have come up and blossomed only twice in all those years!

But I am grateful that this IS one of those years!  The vine is not thriving, it is very slow growing.  But it is blossoming and the color is bliss to my eyes!

Summertime, And The Living Is….Asthmatic?

cedar gate 1It is a clear sunny early summer day outdoors. My husband, the Minotaur, is outside doing weeding in the garden boxes. I am indoors. It is a peculiar feeling to not be out muddying my knees and pushing hair out of my face while sweating and coughing.

A nice big high pressure area is keeping the sun shining and the temperature rising.  For me, that means it is also trapping pollutants in the air I breathe.  To be outside more than a brief (New York?) minute means I cough…or worse, I don’t really show ordinary symptoms.  Instead I feel an extreme exhaustion and wend my way through the days sleepy and listless.  My muscles feel leaden and every motion seems too hard.

It is difficult to let him work outside alone.  I did the same for years – always alone in the gardens while he was at work; and it was lonely and left me feeling isolated and resentful.  So since his retirement, I’ve been fastidious about sharing the work load.  He asked me to stay indoors today.  He isn’t being patriarchal, he is being protective.  It is hard to be protected.  It is vulnerable and frightening.  I hate it.  I hate needing protection.

Inside, the air is scrubbed by air cleaners. (Damned if I don’t feel like a sequence stolen from a “Dune” sequel when I say that!)  In these warm humid days, we don’t open the house at night to cool it — or the cough begins and sleep escapes me.  To have my Minotaur notice and do things differently is such a novel experience!  A welcome one, if one still disorienting in the extreme.

Ah summer, and love.  It is my summer of love — who knew?

Summer Sheaf

Our gardening efforts are coming rapidly to naught this year. The cucumbers and squash plants were eaten to the ground in a single night. The birds ate many seeds, even peacocks getting in on the feeding frenzy. But we don’t really care.  Our focus this year is each other.  If we get some green beans, fine.  We will fight the weeds to blight their efforts at reproduction.  We may attack the ivy and St. John’s wort eating the front hillside.  Or we may not — much depends on heat and how much time and energy yoga and meditation consume this summer.  Getting older makes me pick my battles with care.

kukri cake cuttingBut mostly, we are happy to have accomplishing “weeding” our marital relationship of radioactive fallout from decades of PTSD.  That was the harvest celebrated here on the eve of the summer solstice.  Possibly we are taking the “let me eat cake” thing a bit too far?  It was far too sweet – but very pretty.  Yes, yes, cutting wedding cake with a Gurkha made kukri is likely a bit out there….but hey, shiny sharp things are always good?

summer sheafThe gardens do not completely disappoint.  I harvested lavender from my aging plants; leaving at least half of it for the bees.  I missed the deeper blue French lavenders, they have already sprung open to tempt butterflies, bees, and even the hummingbirds.  As the world goes seemingly crazy, the Minotaur and I will take refuge in the living room where the soothing scent of drying lavender will provide some solace as the election year moves onward.  If that fails?  There are cake-sicles in the freezer and bottles of mead growing attractive coats of dust in the racks!

Poetry Month – Twenty Five

hawthornHawthorn harbinger,
Sweet scented thorn’d assassin,
Blood shed – danger past?


The prose:

I was weeding yesterday, in brief sparkling sunny bits between cold sleety rain fits.  I was pulling some dandelion relatives beneath the blissfully exploding hawthorn tree.  It is blooming early this year; I’ve known many a British pagan who time their celebration of the festival of Beltane by the hawthorn’s flowering.  Here, it more commonly doesn’t blossom till mid-May; while May 1st is the casually accepted date of Beltane.  We formerly celebrated by the blossoming of our apple tree, and then did the cross year Samhain by our apple harvest.  This year, my apple tree bloomed in the first week of April.

Do I shift my seasonal observances with the warming trend or go with a calendar? I have not decided.  But as I grew weary, I lost my balance and flung out a hand to catch myself. I caught myself alright — on a low branch on the hawthorn’s trunk — speared myself right and proper on the “thorns” the tree’s name encapsulates!  There is an old saying from somewhere, “Blood has been shed, the danger is past.”  Shall I hope this is true?


Rites of Spring

quince sipperThe fire is merry in the propane fireplace that heats my house. The feather-filled duvet on my bed is cozy and warm, too.  Outdoors, the grape hyacinths, windflowers, and flowering quince bring color to the garden while all else languishes in sullen chill nights.  Hawthorn buds swell, but show no white.  A fat package full of seed packages sits in the cool laundry room, waiting – oh so waiting.

Tomorrow spring is on the calendar for springing.  A Disney “Bambi” soundtrack plays in my head.  Even with climate change making our winters less snowy these days, we know better than to rush outdoors with tender green dreams!  But I know spring is here anyway.  My body clock chimes with loud insistence  as the sun prepares to wow us tomorrow with 12 hours of equal light and dark.

I know it is spring when:

rackedI want to get rid of half my furniture and every knick knack in sight.  Yes, spring makes me minimalist.  My husband protects us all from my emptying the household.  I satisfy the urge by re-arranging instead.  This year I uncrowded the den/meadery by moving the racked bottles to the family room where we sit at table daily.  This left space in the den for the humongo exercise machine.  Besides, who shouldn’t have dozens of bottles of mead at hand without rising from table, eh?  (Yes, that white ovaloid at the end is now our main fermenter!  Start and finish on one wall!)

spring porchI look at my houseplants like some sort of exotic captives, they need to breathe free and wild OUTside!  Or so I feel in spite of still occasional freezing nights.  Since my dear sons enclosed my front porch a year ago, I can now satisfy the need to move almost all my houseplants from the necessarily* electrically-lit “jungle” by putting them on the protected porch.  Natural light through old nigh-antique glass.  Yes, a new rite of spring here!

* Our 2008 installation of new windows in the house, with ‘heat shielding’ meant that the full light spectrum plants need is no longer available.  Thus, electric supplementation.

My minimalist spring self wants to prune bookshelves.  This begins with cookbooks being gutted by scissors, snipped bits scanned and emailed to my electronic cookbook on an ancient iPad, the rest shredded into recycling.  Who knows where it ends….

I want French Toast.  And no ordinary version, either.  I want it made of spiraled slices of cinnamon rolls!  Even with my clean-eating regimen well into its second year, this craving has me contemplating making the necessary cinnamon rolls to use for tomorrows breakfast after inundating them in vanilla-infused egg and milk.

I will “feed” the stones.  Ah, there it is – for the category “pagan life” – yes, something nice and non-logical?  A ring of stones, some too heavy to move without aid from strapping young muscle men, surrounds my home.  Placement was one of my first acts as a finally un-closeted pagan back in the mid-90’s.  My children each selected deities of storied pantheons that they admired and might wish to worship or emulate as their upbringing as humanist Catholic-rited folk inspired them.  Taking mead, beer, or watered wine to each stone, and perhaps bread or incense is my only pagan rite tomorrow.  It is a nod to those bits of myself that desire no logic, that feed on dreams and nightmares.  It is a meditation of the ages the named stones stretch over – a remembering of where we have been and where we yet may need to go.

spring treeThe Ostara Tree will be taken down and put away.  Ever since my children were small, we followed a German tradition of bringing in budded branches in mid-March and decorating it for spring.  Blown and decorated eggshells, glass ornaments, wooden birds, bunnies, garden implements.  The blossoms blooming before the Vernal Equinox was a sign of luck, we said.  Well, they have blossomed and dried!  So back in the box with fragile eggshells, and the branches go into the yard recycling bin!

Thus into tomorrow I march!  The small tiller gets fresh gas and a new spark plug.  The Labyrinth will be raked, for soon I must walk it again for a fallen Marine.  Ah, Spring — when men’s thoughts turn to love making war.  Sadly, historically true.  Not the “rite of spring” I had in mind, but there is reality biting again.

May you find what takes you forward into the greening season!



Lights, Intention, Action: The Limits of Metaphor – in Magic, as in Gardening

I am in that “zone” for two hours, until my phone shakes me out of it. That place where the rain gently pattering sounds like every drop hits a tin roof.  My husband made me promise to take breaks, thus my phone’s alarm blaring in upon me.  “How,” a friend once said with a very dubious look on her face, “Do you ever maintain a magical focus for those long days of magic/garden war-making; it is impossible!?

waxingNo, not really.  It becomes quite simple.  I set a mood to prepare myself, I tell myself my goals, both pragmatic (getting rid of that one little bastard weed) and magical (setting the magical hounds of death upon Boko Haram) .  My little fire survivor candle-woman, who inexplicably makes me think of the goddess Freyja, holds aloft her candles while showing me her “waxing moon” face.

Later, outside, as the chill of February (which doesn’t kill the weeds I am after!) makes my ankle ache and my titanium-clipped neck throb?  I will call that face, those lights back to mind.  I will hold the warm glow in my mind for 30 seconds and continue.  And if that is not enough?  I will recall another deep cobalt glow beside the Lady Lamp on my desk, she who never removes her regard from a blue marble looking globe beside her.

Watch-lightIt always makes me wistful, this lamp – and I completely understand theism of various sorts as I see it.   How comforting to think some might Being watches and sees and cares!  But of course, I do not believe that — I tried for years and always failed in some manner.  I think “that” which answers prayers, those that do seem answered, is US.  People, our Will and determination — which, obviously, is not usually focused enough to do any good at all.  But I do think, now and again, there is a laser-like beam of determination possible.  Therein lies magic!

TargetThat is what my day in the gardens of the house are about: a laser, a focus, a constant considering of my goal.  I had one weed in mind when I had the failing rain “name” them all Boko Haram in the confines of my gardens.  It is a pretty little thing.  It puts up a spike that blossoms sweet smelling white flowers.  The seeds form long and slender, and when they dry they fly off the stalk like a botanical ‘bouncing betty’ mine effect.  They are nigh indestructible by easy means for a mostly organic gardener.  If I hoe them up and leave them on the ground, they re-root by the next day.  Even in frosting nights, they survive unrooted and the flower spike grows on out of the withering body of the plant, and makes the seeds all the same!  Thus, every bit of the plant must be put in a bin; my composting is not hot enough to stop the process or kill the seeds.  They will go off to the county composting unit!  So how like Boko Haram — wildly producing, hard to stop by anything short of absolutely lethal means.

So it is easy, on my hands and knees, pulling these out of the ground — sometimes so thickly grown that the roots remind me of mushroom mycelium — less than an inch across, barely out of the cold soil and there will be a white flower bud at heart, already ready to blossom into death for the garden plants around it! How like Boko Haram!  Other weeds are safe this day for the most part; a Zen like focus on this one plant makes me see them and little else.

I get ready to sink my sharp garden tool to sweep loose soil so I can finger rake out a patch almost a foot square.  I stop just in time, so focused on killing my little green target I almost missed that they were atop a slab of iris rhizomes.  I would have sunk my tool into them and killed or damaged them.  Oooooh — collateral damage!?  And here I kept hoping my magical strike was “surgical”!  Oh, so wrong, I was.

When I choose to pull out a bunch of these intermixed with seedlings of Nigella (“Persian Gems”), am  I destroying something in Iran?  No, of course not.  Or is it?  If I am doing  sympathetic magic where one thing equals something else — do I have to name other things specifically, or is the damage a carry over as soon as my monkey mind makes that leap of connection?  I am experimenting with hope of sending that laser will of connection to smash murderous men.  Even I must beware of collateral damage, perhaps?

But I won’t get them all, will I?  Not every weed.  I won’t kill something else to get those little green bastards.  Not intentionally.  So, later with the next sunny day there will be chemical war — high acid vinegar shot onto leaves whose roots I could not pull!  So the metaphors that focus me and keep me on task as my body accrues pain that will keep me wakeful after darkness brings me inside?  They hobble me as well.

What would political entities do then?  Ted Cruz would bomb it till it glows as he said – he gives not one damn about collateral damage.  I, on the other hand, am a “why” person.  I ask “Why?” all the time.  Why is Boko Haram so murderous; is it really religion?  Or is it power and money named as religion?  More than sorcerers, witches, and magicians use proxies, eh?  Finding the why can sometimes stop something dire in its tracks.

Somalian pirates are pirates because their economy based on fishing was derailed by no way to keep other people from fishing out their coastlines, for instance.  Caring enough to prevent that could have helped keep the Somalian people from resorting to ransoms for richer countries citizens?  Is there something like that for the Boko Haram killers?  Or are they as I suspect the ISIL murderers are — a few religious fanatics who love power over other people, and a lot of pure sociopaths and psychopaths who want to be loosed upon a human fold like rabid wolves?

For the people they victimize, there is little time to consider those philosophical, socio-political niceties.  The “wolves” of either group simply need to be gone, dead, or too afraid to show their craven cruel faces.  So, my break is over.  The croissants that were rising as I worked are baked now.  I will eat one and return to the misting rain, the cold earth ‘neath my knees, and wreaking havoc near, and of course in theory – afar.