Butterfly Nursery

One of the many herbs I collect each year is nettles. It is a most useful herb for many afflictions and I try to gather as much of it as possible hoping to fill a gallon jug. Nettles grow wild at my daughter’s house between her black raspberry patch and her wood pile. At the end of May the nettles were looking lush and green but not quite mature enough to pick yet so I left them to grow for another week.

When I returned I was shocked and saddened to see that something had been feasting on my lovely nettles. The harvest would not be as plentiful as I’d hoped but I put on my long sleeved shirt and leather gloves and proceeded to gather what was left of them. I spread a large pink flannel sheet on the ground and piled up all I could onto it, gathered the corners together and dragged it into the back of my car.

When I got home there was surprise waiting for me inside that sheet – dozens of fuzzy black caterpillars were working at escaping the closed up sheet creeping in all directions. I knew then who had been feasting on my nettles.

It took at least an hour to pluck all the little beggars off the sheet and the back of my car then dump them into the chicken run. The girls were clucking like they were in caterpillar heaven!

After stripping the leaves off the stems (and gathering more caterpillars and making more happy chickens!) the remains were finally spread onto the screens of my home-made food dehydrator. There, done! Now we just wait a couple days for them to dry.

Well not quite. For the next few days as the leaves dried in the warm dehydrator I kept finding caterpillars crawling out of it. Oh the chickens were so happy! I was not.

Finally the leaves were dried, crushed and placed in the glass gallon jug they were supposed to fill up but only made it half way. Oh well, at least it was half full and not half empty.

A week later I gathered purple clover and the first of the year’s mint and put them into the dehydrator. The next day yet another surprise awaited me when I checked on the drying herbs. A Red Admiral butterfly flew out and fluttered around the room, beautiful with black and red wings. I gathered her into cupped hands and set her free outside. But the surprises weren’t over yet. Later that day I found three more butterflies. The next day brought six more and after that I started to lose count. In my giddiness while catching all the butterflies flitting around my house I realized I apparently hadn’t collected all of the caterpillars from the previous week and the warmth of the dehydrator must have accelerated their transformation. I even found a cocoon on the bottom of the dehydrator that never made it to the next phase of development.

I like the phrase, “When life gives you lemons make lemonade.” Well, Mother Earth gave me caterpillars so I (sort of) helped make them into butterflies.

Next year I’ll be picking the nettles a week earlier.

 

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Seeds

Seeds. Those wonderful tiny creatures that have the ability to pull my tired old bones up and out the door each spring to start life anew.

The Wheel of the Year has finally turned again and I bid the death of winter goodbye and welcome the rebirth of spring. Every year around this time I get into a manic state about growing things. I dig through containers that I’ve saved that seem ideal seed starting receptacles, fill them with soil and begin tenderly dropping all manor of seeds onto their surfaces. My house becomes a greenhouse and I become giddy with anticipation.

This year is a little different in that it is my first spring in a new place surrounded by woods instead of streets and houses. The fallow land encircling me calls me to fill it with herbs, flowers, vegetables and fruit. My mind is reeling with the possibilities around me! This little piece of earth I’ve been granted has become my new canvas, fresh, clean and empty, waiting to be filled. The seeds in those containers waiting to push their way up through the dark earth have become the paint that my hands, the brushes, will use to create a lush exhibition for the woodland spectators around me. New earthy faerie acquaintances have been slowly manifesting themselves to me and seem eager to discover what this mortal will help to give birth to on this land they have nurtured. In a way this is a new beginning for them as well as myself. I will introduce them to new plants with colors and textures they may never have seen before as well as the new faerie beings that most definitely will accompany the new residents. It will be a delicate state of affairs as the old native inhabitants strive to welcome the new teaching them the ways of the woodland as they are teaching me as well.

Now that the seeds are all nestled in their dark beds and I wait to see their tiny heads pop out of the earth I am reminded of the metaphor of the seed that speaks of the circle of life and new beginnings. Just as death is not the end of life so the seed that dropped off the dead plant was not its end. This tiny bit of life, the essence of the plant, holds the life force that now is pushing up through the darkness, going toward the light, knowing that when it reaches it a new life will begin.

One day I will be that seed…again.

 

faerie - For Her Wand - light

 

Springing Forward with the Wicked Witch by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara ArdingerEl Presidente was enlarging his war against his citizens. This meant the roads were more crowded than before with refugees fleeing the capital city for safety among the farmers on the plains and up in the hills. Some of these refugees arrived, of course, at the farm of the wicked witch.

Refugees

Whenever a family arrived, the witch would put on her wickedest face and voice (she’d been practicing) and tell the children she was going to roast them and eat them with mashed potatoes and baby gravy. The children believed her for about a minute and a half, whereas their parents just smiled as each family was taken in hand by the senior refugees and led to rooms where there were new beds. The tenured refugees had (with the witch’s permission) taken charge and somehow found enough lumber to build two new rooms (lean-tos) at the side of the house…

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Aunt Krampus

When I was a child my family would travel to the north country in December to visit my mother’s family. We always stayed with my Aunt Raina who lived across the road from a railroad track in an old farmhouse at the edge of her village. Aunt Raina cleaned houses for a living and so was not very wealthy but she was one of the most generous people I have ever known. She bought me my first guitar, took in orphaned children and would go out of her way to help anyone in need if she had the means. I loved her like a second mother.

There were always fresh cookies baking when we arrived, the air filled with the scent of cinnamon and cloves, honey and raisins. Big thick molasses cookies and tiny butter morsels filled her small kitchen where we feasted on tea, laughter, cookies and tears of joy.

One night the year I turned eight Aunt Raina asked if I would like to take a walk and surprise someone. I loved walking in the snow, loved surprises even more so of course I said yes.

“For this surprise we have to wear costumes,” she announced with a grin and a twinkle in her eye. “This one’s for you.”

She handed me a wool suit the color of dark moss with spots of black woven through then a hat with bells on its long pointy end, brown fur tucked into its opening. The costume fit perfectly as if it were made for me which, knowing my aunt’s sewing skills, it may have been.

We walked silently up the road in the cold wintry twilight of an early northern December, inky clouds spilling over dark purple sky, snow softly crunching under our boots.

“Where is your costume, Aunt Raina?” I couldn’t hold in the question any longer.

Here I was decked out in elfin finery, Aunt Raina’s glitter sparkling on my pink nose and cheeks, a foot long leather strap of huge jingle bells hanging from my green woolen mittens and she looked like she always did; nothing out of the ordinary.

She winked, took my hand glancing toward the darkening sky, “There’s magic in the air tonight. That’s all the costume I need.”

Just as the first star was visible we came to a small house where a candle flickered in a side window. We walked toward it.

“When I squeeze your hand ring the bells till I squeeze it again,” Aunt Raina whispered.

I nodded, excitement climbing into my throat making speech impossible.

We arrived at the window as Aunt Raina squeezed my mitten clad hand signaling my other hand to start shaking the strap of bells.

The bottom of the window was at my eye level so I could see inside the house as soon as the candle was removed from the sill. On the other side of the pane the face of a child appeared with the hand of an adult resting on his shoulder. He looked to be around six or seven years old and when he spotted me he smiled but then his face went cold and white as he looked up at my aunt. At that moment she squeezed my hand again stopping the ringing of the bells. Fear was now very evident on the child’s face. I had to look up to see what was scaring the kid in the window. Surely it wasn’t the face of my lovely aunt whom I cherished.

Surely it wasn’t the same Aunt Raina I had walked to the house with!

Standing next to me still holding my hand was what I could only describe in my child’s mind as a devil. My dear aunt had sprouted the horns of a large goat and the furry face to match them. Her eyes were a glowing orange, and I do mean glowing, like a fire raged within them. All this was frightening enough but then I noticed her mouth had grown a set of sharp pointed teeth between which dangled a long red tongue!

I started to pull away from her grip on my hand when her usual gentle voice whispered to me, “Don’t be afraid, my dear, this scary surprise is not meant for you but for the naughty little boy in the window.”

A calm came over me then. Turning back to the boy at the window, his eyes wide and full of fear I felt the magic Aunt Raina had spoken of earlier. Magic that could turn my sweet aunt into a fearful monster. Magic meant to scare the naughty out of a bad little kid. She squeezed my hand and I smiled, bells jingling as the child turned, crying, running from the window, the candle returned to its sill.

By the time we reached the road Aunt Raina was back to herself and we laughed and talked under the starry sky, our breath like smoke rising to their light.

Aunt Raina told me the boy in the window had been stealing from his mother’s change jar.

“He needed a good scare and Krampus specializes in good scares.”

“Who’s Krampus?” I asked

She smiled down at me squeezing my hand.

“Just ring the bells, dear, and hope you never have to find out.”

 

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November

Forward eye

on the cursor

corner eye

on the window

yellow leaves falling

tiny suns drifting

leisurely to earth,

grey sky hovers

no shadows cast

just showers

of yellow dancers

caressed by autumn wind

drawing my eye

from screen

to window

watching the party

outside.

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The Faerie Witch’s Love Spell

The spell it came within a book

Tucked back beyond the attic nook,

Deep within the pages told

Of secrets kept from days of old,

And then I saw it glowing bright

The answer to my lonely night.

 

Inside the book with pages torn

I read the words one autumn morn

But did not heed the warning there

Among the stories bright and fair

For all that caught my eye that day

A reference to a certain fey:

“ He’s dreaming in his treetop tower

Content to wait for the witching hour

To cast off limbs for flesh and bone

Wander through valley and standing stone

That brings him square up to the door

Where his lady waits on misty shore

With wand in hand and wreath in hair

She conjures him ‘tween earth and air,

And when they meet ‘neath moonlit sky

The faeries know the knot they tie

Will bring her joy and many tears

As well as magic, love and fears.

For mortal witch and faerie lover

Will join as one and soon discover

The veil is thin this Samhain night

And many partake of unearthly delight

Then wake to the cold November sky

Hang down their heads and heave a sigh

For alone they be each on their own side

The veil now dense, the distance wide.”

 

And I am one of witches fair

That conjured earth, fire, water and air

Upon a lonely Samhain night

To bring to me one shinning bright

A love to know and keep till dawn

And caring not if right or wrong.

 

So dressed in green by pale moonlight

I trod the woods that fateful night

And when I came upon the tree

That every night had beckoned me

I raised my wand up to the sky

And to the stars let out a cry.

“You of green within this tree,

Oh shinning one, come down to me,

Oh green one dwelling high above

Come down and bring to me your love

That we may dance until the dawn

Make love till all starlight is gone.

I cast this spell by thistle and thorn

You shall be mine until the morn.”

 

The crystal sparked the tree was lit

With tiny lights from root to tip.

I saw his face atop the tree

His glowing eyes stared down at me,

His voice it floated to the ground

And settled on the mossy mound,

“The night is long my pretty bird,

So take my hand, don’t say a word.

Into the night I’ll hold your hand

Across the green we’ll walk the land,

And you will know such wondrous things

That cause mere mortal hearts to sing.”

 

My feet were bare and so was he

His luminous wings did flutter free.

Our hands were clasped beneath the stars

Wee hours of night becoming ours.

As we walked through hills of silken green

And circles of stone with moonlit sheen

My faerie lover showed me things

That dwell within the mushroom rings,

Where dancing in a moonlit glen

He kissed my lips again and again,

Till lips and legs began to tingle

His breath and mine as one did mingle.

And then beneath the starry night

I saw the often told of sight

A doorway opened in the ground

Among the mushrooms gathered round.

And pulled along a lustrous hall

I felt myself begin to fall

Then caught within green arms so strong

I whispered low, this can’t be wrong.

 

The night stretched out before our eyes

Pushed longingly within our cries

As we made love beneath the earth

Both solemnly and filled with mirth.

Upon his bed of leaves and moss

He left me breathless, at a loss,

For soon I knew the sun would rise

And wipe the stars from out the skies

And he would leave me in a mess

To search the hills for my green dress.

 

Now my life is different it seems

My hair has turned a brownish-green

Everyone that passes me by

Can see the silver in my eyes,

And like the sky that shown that night

My skin now shimmers in pale moonlight.

 

So guard your hearts, oh witches fair

When moon is full love fills the air

But cast you not that faerie spell

For in its wake the tale you’ll tell

Is one of love and then of sorrow

Of time suspended till the morrow,

When autumn’s frost lay on the ground

And winter breathes its mournful sound

You’ll speak about the lovely things

That one can do with faerie wings

And then your breath will catch in time

With memories of faerie rhyme

That fill your nights and clutter your days

And make you walk around in a haze,

And all because the spell you cast

Brought faerie love that could not last.

 

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A Poet’s Dream

I dreamed of writing poetry

like stitching cloth together

with rhyming of fine silk

the body softest leather.

 

Green silk at the beginning

its texture smooth and taut

with golden thread and needle

the layered lines were caught.

 

Then rows of turquoise ruffles

like waves upon a sea

deftly sewn like stanzas

with branches from a tree.

 

Hints of sadness here and there

dark patches glued to leather

meant to hold the broken heart

or mend it back together.

 

Silver threads of metaphor

held the hem in place

while peeking out beneath it

analogies of lace.

 

Sturdy threads of quatrain

woven through the whole

kept the meter buttoned up

in apertures of soul.

 

And then the piece was finished

a garment rife with verse

astonishing as triolet

yet subtle and so terse.

 

It wrapped around my spirit

with words of silken time

to settle peacefully at my feet

a tailored garb of rhyme.

poets dream

 

Holes

It’s common knowledge among faeries that holes in ones socks is a sign that one needs grounding. So imagine my horror when I realized that all my socks had developed holes in the soles. Holes in the soles are the worst kind of holes. Only extreme space cadets walk around with them, their heels sticking to their shoes, tiny sucking sounds whispering around their feet. These holes in my socks weren’t the tiny inconsiderate type that peek at you like candle light through pin holes. Oh no…these holes were big, brazen brutes that threatened to expose near half my foot to the cold reality of my inner boot.

Now, some people will immediately throw away these holey socks and buy new ones. Then within a short period of time like a few days or weeks they start noticing holes in the new socks. This can lead to a vicious cycle of throwing and buying that could be avoided by simply taking some advice from faery, namely – get grounded!

There are many reasons why a human or faerie can become ungrounded or air-headed, as my faerie friends like to call it. Sometimes it comes from too much dreaming both the sleeping and awake kind. Sometimes it can be caused by living in an upstairs home and not coming down or walking on the ground enough. Then sometimes it can strike if you’ve been hanging around too many winged creatures whether faerie or otherwise. Once in a while it’s simply because one is spending too much time in their socks and not letting their feet breathe. And then there is winter, when some of us tend to stay indoors too much or forced by the weather cannot be outdoors enough. I’m afraid the latter reason is my excuse.

Where I live it usually gets very cold with lots of snow in winter so I’m use to a bit of feet-off-the-ground activity this time of the year and I‘m usually prepared for it. But this winter caught me off guard starting out very different with warmer temperatures and very little snow. So it was easy to stay grounded, taking walks and being in nature, feet firmly planted on the ground. That is until a couple of weeks ago when the sky opened up and dumped feet of snow and terribly frigid temps on us. If it had been the usual soft fluffy snow there wouldn’t have been a problem but this snow had teeth; long, jagged, sharp ones and it knew how to use them! Heavy, wet and unforgiving it fell with a vengeance like frozen blankets for hours and hours. When it was over I crawled into my cave and stayed there to wait for Spring to rescue me. That’s when I found the holes in my socks and knew what I had to do.

There are a few ways for a faerie or human to get grounded but most of them have to do with being out of doors and with two feet of heavy snow and way below freezing temperatures these techniques were beyond my very limited shoveling abilities. So I did the only thing I could while in the warmth of my winter cave. I took off my shoes, put on some music and danced.

While I danced I imagined I was in a field of daisies and clover, my feet tickled by their petals, my toes digging into soft earth. Singing birds and a gentle breeze caressed my mind, butterflies floated around my head landing on my nose and chin. For awhile I was transported to that field my feet touching the floor, my spirit feet going deeper until they settled on the earth. When the music ended and my feet were still I could still smell the clear, fresh air of a Summer evening.

I was finally grounded.

Now if this snow would just go away so I can go buy some new socks.

Faerie - Penny For A Dance

 

The Little Whistling Man

A hollow tree grows tall and crooked at the bottom of the hill just beyond the stone wall behind my house. Sometimes when the sun is just about to set I go walking past it and find a spot to sit in the tall grass. From there I can watch that hollow in that tall crooked tree without being seen. I have been doing this ever since the day I saw a little man all dressed in brown with horns coming out his fuzzy hair and glittery golden wings coming out his back. The sun had just set when I saw him come out of the hollow of the tree and stretch, raising his hands toward the tree tops. Then he started to whistle a strange little tune while he walked off into the woods.

Now I go down there as often as I can in hopes of seeing him again. I cannot get that tune he whistled out of my head nor the sight of the evening sky glistening off his wings as he walked out of sight.

I have never seen him since but sometimes in the evening, just after the birds have ceased their song and the last glow of day retreats behind the horizon, if I listen very intently, I can hear the sound of a strange little tune whistling in the trees…and then it is gone. Then I get up and walk past the hollow tree, up the hill and over the stone wall then back to my house. There I wait with a tune in my head and the memory of golden wings. There I wait till the sun is ready to set again.

Dunvegan tree