Fire Goddess who speaks
in tongues of ancient ancestors,
we jump within
your folds of life
bearing your heat
out onto the ice
and dark and night.
We hold you deep within
the winter of our journey
this journey you put
us upon before we
could speak or walk
or be whatever the spark
you placed within us
Fire Goddess who speaks
a blazing inferno
sustain us as we walk
out onto the ice where
we carry your words
of hope and peace
deep within this Solstice night.
I love mushrooms. I love looking at them, painting them, searching for them in wild places. To me they are the symbol of all things Faerie.
Today I was planting some bulbs and came upon a familiar mushroom, two, in fact. The Wood Blewit is one of the prettiest mushrooms you’ll ever encounter. It comes in shades of purple and lavender and best of all, it’s edible. So I carefully picked these two little mushrooms and set them on my kitchen counter. Later in the day I set about cleaning them, gently brushing dirt from them, sometimes blowing dirt off that was stuck in their tiny gills. When they were sufficiently cleaned I set them down on a cutting board and turned to grab an onion when a flash caught my eye coming from one of the mushrooms. I picked it up to examine it and noticed a fleck of glitter on its cap. Then I noticed another and another and realized the entire cap of the mushroom was sprinkled with the tiniest specks of glitter I’ve ever seen, so tiny that I had missed them during the cleaning process. The strangest part about this was that they were very hard to rub off. I had to scrape them off with my knife.
Now, I probably don’t have to tell you that glitter is not a natural occurrence on any mushroom. Loads of scenarios flickered through my thoughts. I have been known to brush off my glitter laden clothes just outside my door where I enjoy the sparkle on my doorstep for months after. But the area I found the mushrooms in is nowhere near my door, not even near my house. I live in the middle of eleven acres of woods in the country so the idea that someone tossed glitter on my property wasn’t a viable one. Then there was the fact that of the two mushrooms standing within a few inches of each other only one of them was glittered.
My logical mind wants to find a practical answer to this conundrum.
My spirit knows the answer.
Nature spirits, which I choose to call Faeries, took glitter which they found somewhere – perhaps on my doorstep – and carried it possibly on the wind, possibly by bribing some insect to carry it on her back, then deposited it onto this one mushroom. Then they set about leading me to that place knowing I had flower bulbs to plant that would give them beautiful flowers to play with in the Spring. In my heart I feel they rewarded me for planting those flowers by giving me not only something to eat but a sign from them that they really are there.
So – does that make my mushroom Faerie Food? We all know we have been cautioned not to eat faerie’s food or we will be lost in their world for a long time, maybe even forever. Well I live with one foot in their world already.
Maybe it’s time to jump right in.
Anyone who gardens in the north knows that this is the season for dirty feet. It doesn’t seem to matter if you go barefoot, wear shoes, sneakers, or mud boots; somehow the dirt from the garden finds its way to your feet. I’ve tried tucking my jeans into the boots, wearing them on the outside of the boots, even going so far as putting a rubber band at the hem of the jeans around the boot. No matter what I do at the end of the day my feet still look like someone has dumped dirt into my boot and rubbed it into my skin.
I blame the garden gnomes.
I saw a garden gnome some years ago. Not one of those statues of garden gnomes you see all over the place, which I believe give them a good laugh. No, this was a real, honest to goodness gnome. Did you know that what people think is a pointy hat on their heads is actually the shape of their heads? Yup, that’s what I saw.
It was a one moonlit summer night when he appeared in my flower garden. He stood about three feet tall and just stared at me as I stared back at him. I got the feeling he was just as surprised to see me as I was him. It was difficult to make out colors due to the blue cast the moon gave everything but I did notice that he was not wearing clothes and he was a bit hairy all over. And, like I said, there was no hat on his head, just that domed point with long, dark hair cascading from it. His facial features were quite flat, eyes that slanted toward pointed ears held close to his head, a wide nose with flaring nostrils and full lips below a large mustache that hung well past his chin and his skin appeared greenish-blue in the summer moon light.
The night I saw the gnome I was wearing my wellies due to a resent downpour which made the garden wet and muddy. When the gnome disappeared – and I mean disappeared, he just seemed to sink down into the earth on the spot he was standing – I finished the ritual I had been doing when he first appeared then I went back inside. As is customary in many pagan paths, I had bathed before doing my ritual so imagine my shock when I removed my wellies and found mud caked on the top of my feet and between my toes. That was the first time I made the connection between dirty feet and gnomes.
That was the only time, so far, that I’ve seen a gnome but I know they’re out there in my garden just beneath the surface. I know they are waiting for me every time I go out to weed or water, gather or plant. They are just waiting to use their own little brand of earth magic to somehow put dirt into my boots. Sometimes I make their job easier by wearing sandals or simply walking around the garden barefoot, letting the dirt toss up onto my feet, squish between my toes. I can almost see them smiling knowing I have gotten their message to not forget what is responsible for making my garden grow.
Now when I take my boots off and knock the dirt out of them heading for the bathtub to wash my dirty feet, I think of that gnome staring at me in the moonlight and smile.
They were lost and alone with no shadows to guide their way, no sense of direction only the wind and rain. The sky had been grey for days on end and at night there was darkness so thick they huddled in a hollow tree with their eyes closed in order to glimpse a little light. They wandered in the rain seeking any glimmer of light; a candle flame, a little camp fire, a glow worm or firefly. But the rain was so steady it put out all the fires and the cold was so harsh the tiny light-bearers stayed underground. Without light there were no shadows, without shadows there was no direction and so they stumbled in circles from one hollow tree to the next.
The children listened to the stories of the elders who spoke of a time in the past when the sun and moon had grown tired of all the complaints of the people and so refused to guide them until they stopped their grumbling, fretting and whining and once again found their joy. The elders warned the people that this had come upon them for the same reason and encouraged them to be brave and find something to be joyful about else their days of wandering with no shadows would continue.
The people grew sad many succumbing to tears which only aided the task of the rain and the sobbing at night frightened the children to tears as well. All hope seemed lost as the people pressed close in a mass of anguish and despair within the damp void of a large tree.
Then one darkest empty night the people were awakened by the sound of a reed flute and the tapping of a small drum that pulled them all up from their fitful sleep. The darkness was so dense they had to rely on the sound of the music to guide them. And so holding onto each other they ventured out into the cold dark rain in search of the sweet sound. As they drew closer to it some of the people began to smile others to hum along with the notes that filled the night air. Some even found they had not forgotten how to dance, the soles of their feet itching to step to the beat of the tiny drum. By the time they reached the source of the music all their sobbing had ceased. Most of them had smiles on their faces and the tiniest glimmer of dawn lay flat against the rain soaked sky. They gathered around a piper and drummer who sat upon a wet mound of green moss playing the most joyous music any of the people had ever heard. Before long they were all dancing and singing, laughing in spite of the rain and dark grey that filled the sky above them.
The elders smiled at one another as one of them slipped a silver coin into each of the pockets of the musicians, then moved toward their people to join in the celebration as a tiny sliver of golden light could be seen on the eastern horizon.
Many years ago I did a ceremony to become one with trees. The first phase of the ceremony involved going deep within the woods and listening to the wind in the trees to discern which one was to be my sire. I found her, a maple, near a stream, standing alone on a moss covered berm, the wind whispering a soft serenade through her branches.
I set my pouch down that was filled with the tools I would need to accomplish the ceremony and then I undressed. In order to become like a tree one must cast off all the encumbrances of the human body. I was first to become naked as a tree, my skin becoming my bark.
The next step was to gather some of her fallen branches that proved easy since there was one leaning against her trunk. I broke it into tiny pieces making a little stack of them within reach of the tree. Then I dug a hole at her base with a knife from my pouch just large enough for my feet to fit into, stepped into it and placed my arms around her in a hug. We stayed like that until I could feel her life force and she mine. I curled my toes into the soft earth at her feet. I felt a hum of life emanating through her bark, entering my heart, climbing up through my feet, a slow steady hymn of life and love as I asked her permission to become one with her spirit. A breeze sauntered through her branches, I looked up, she nodded her assent and a trickle of affection joined her hum of life entering my body. I thanked her, stepped out of the hole and knelt at her feet to begin the final phase of the ceremony.
Into the hole I placed a drop of my blood and the tiniest pieces of her fallen branch, lit them with a match – the only fuel allowed in the ceremony – and fanned them with my breath until the flames took hold. Then I began feeding the fire while humming a tune, whatever came into my mind, a love song to this beautiful tree person. All of the wood I had piled up was fed to the fire and burned to ash. Then I stood and stepped back into the hole while it was still warm from the fire. The ashes from her spent and burned body covered my feet, squeezed between my toes and I felt the warmth of them like the caress of a lover. I put my arms around her again and we stood there, a single entity bound by blood and fire, standing together between Earth and Sky.
Since that day my love and connection to trees has grown to nearly obsessive proportions. At the time of the ceremony I lived in town with a few trees in my yard. Now I live in the woods surrounded by them. I hug at least one tree daily, talk to them as often as possible and plant more of them yearly. But the most interesting thing that happened to me after the ceremony was the overwhelming desire in the spring to drink the sap of the maple tree. The desire is so strong I have begun to feel like the vampire that is in need of the life blood of another human being in order to continue living. But in this case it is the craving of a human who has become part tree by ceremonial transmission needing a yearly transfusion in order for that element to stay alive in her. When the craving first started a neighbor was tapping trees in his yard to make maple syrup and would share some sap with me. Now I have my own trees.
I tapped two trees a couple days ago, with their permission, of course, and today I collected two gallons of clear, sweet liquid, the blood of the maple tree, my friend, sister, lover. She freely gives me her life blood so that I may continue to nurture my tree self. I drink and feel renewed.
I am sure a psychoanalyst could have a field day with this situation but I know what I am. I know that one day a long time ago a tree sired me and made me one of Them and now I am a tree vampire. I can’t help myself, I must feed to stay alive, to continue being one with the trees.
Love is more than
a feeling you have –
it’s more like a tree
standing tall and strong
it’s more like the rain
giving life to the earth
it’s more like the sun
giving warmth and comfort
it’s more like flowers
filled with beauty and grace
it’s more like the ocean
with the power of ebb and flow
it’s more like the sky
too large for us to fathom –
Love is stronger than life
and the universe
And every time someone
they become stronger
for having done so.
I’m wandering from the house to the garden and back again gathering the last of the summer’s bounty. Tomatoes, some ripe but most in shades of green, emerald, jade, piling up in the woven basket hooked over my arm. I snip the few okra left on the plants and mourn the last of their flowers that will never mature. The corn was finished a month ago, the beans two weeks ago and all the squashes, summer and winter, are safely tucked away in the pantry and freezer. All the herbs are drying to be put into savory dishes through the winter months or steeping in alcohol to be made into medicines. The last struggling watermelon now the size of my fist will never be eaten.
And then there are the flowers.
Masses of marigolds, zinnias and cosmos still bloom in patches all over the garden. My house will be overflowing with vases of their beauty for days as I work at picking as many of them as possible. Morning glories, blue, pink, red, white, still cling to the fence so heavy they threaten to topple it. There are new buds on the rose bushes that will never open. This life still teaming around me defies the inevitability of the death I know is about to descend. Jack Frost is coming with his icy scythe to cut down all the life that I and his brother Jack In The Green have toiled to bring forth.
I use to hate Jack Frost. I would envision him as a mean old man all bent over with anger and malice whacking away at all the beauty and bounty of summer. I thought of him as the enemy brutally killing his younger brother Jack In The Green with every swipe of his deadly instrument taking a piece of my heart along with him. Some years he would plod along bringing an agonizing slow death to everything I cared for. Some years he would strike hard and fast smashing my green world into snow white oblivion over night. But every year the results were the same. The death he brought was absolute and all encompassing. There was nothing I could do to stop him. I would work feverishly bringing in all I could, potting up some flowers, searching frantically for the last vestiges of life to save from his icy fingers. It was almost as much work as building the garden had been through the spring and summer.
Jack Frost and I have since made our peace. I know now that he is not that old ugly being I once thought. He is young and strong and has a job to do and does it well. He works to break down all the green into fertile brown soil that will give life to the new plants of the next spring. His wisdom of death brings life. We, his brother and I, welcome him. We watch in awe now as he takes the life that is left in my garden, gently, lovingly lays his crystalline fingers on it putting it to sleep, readying it for the transformation from life to death then back again.
Dead things are not truly dead, not in the way we humans think of death. According to Jack Frost and Jack In The Green life and death are intricately woven together to create all that we know as existence. Death is just the other side of life just as life is the other side of death. Below the surface of my garden in the dead of the cold white winter life rests in the arms of death – waiting.
I think I’ll make green tomato jam with all those leftover tomatoes to give as Yule gifts.
He climbs the hill behind her house wondering if it can be true. Did he really hear her voice, the voice he knew so well from so long ago? Her song fills the air around him, blue and misty like the twilight that he pushes through on his way back into her life, a life she pushed him out of when her fears became too real, when she convinced herself she wasn’t good enough. Then when death came knocking, knocking so hard it broke down the door and she was never the same after that, no amount of prodding or cajoling could convince her otherwise. She simply put away her brushes and her paper, rolled up the unfinished canvases, closed the pan of watercolors, tucked her guitars and drums in the closet behind the winter coats. She was finished. He was abandoned to wander the green lands where they use to meet, where he whispered in her ear of the beauty she could create with her mind, her heart, her hands. He could still feel the hole it left inside her, see the hollowness in her eyes that only knew how to weep after that, could not see any of the beauty they use to, only the fear and the grief – only the emptiness in her heart where love had once lived.
His hands dig into the soft cool earth as he climbs the last few feet out of the ravine. Then he sees her. She is sitting in the flowers singing so softly he knows he is the only one who can hear her. He knows he is the only one she wanted to hear her. So he sits down beside her, fills in the words she can’t think of, touches a few notes she hasn’t thought of, fills her head with all the lost days between them, whispers his joy to be back in her thoughts again, back in her life.
Colors of dawn and summer wrap around them shielding them from the past and a life that could have been. Her music is golden yellow with wings taking it up into the early morning sky, a song of renewal. She is the phoenix and he the ashes. They soar into the rest of her life and neither of them cares anymore if anyone notices their creations. They have the trees for their museum, the birds for their audience. The wind applauses a standing ovation.
He follows her inside happy just to be floating next to her again, filling the hole in her heart, drying the stale tears that have left stains on her cheeks. A whisper, a touch, a breath of midnight blue and she pulls out her brushes, dusts off the yellowed paper, smoothes color and life across its surface. When she is finished he looks down at the image, she whispers and he hears,”For you my beloved Muse – for you.” And glowing off the paper he recognizes the face he has seen reflected in pools of water, off dragonfly wings and her glistening eyes. He sees himself. He sees her muse. And she picks up a river cane flute she has made with her own hands and plays for him.