Bit Bit

And just like that, after painting Wood Duck last month, two have returned to the pond to paddle.  Not for long though, as our dog flushes them out and they wing up through cloudy skies, circling round and round to see whether we’re gone.  Every year they come from wherever they’ve been to shape a nest in the woods to lay eggs in; once hatched we’ll see the whole family paddling, ducklings behind mama and papa until dog gives chase and with a flap and a flurry, into the trees they go.

 

Is it winter as yet?  Sure smells, tastes, and feels like spring.  Three days of rain and the creek flows clearly sweet, burbling and gurgling.  The different sounds water makes as it meanders along is lovely; burbling and bouncing down over rocks, a trickle here, a gush there with a plop or two mixed into watersong.  These warm mornings we’ve been outside by the creek just looking at the water and listening, until a cackle of crows flies overhead and we look up to watch them go caaw caaw caawing, counting crows, and then it’s squatting on a rock over watery ripples.

Today, while the moon is still new and moving from the constellation of The Fish into The Ram, we had a second session sowing seeds in flats of soil.  Drew lines in crumbly dark soil with our fingers and pressed tiny rounds that’ll become cabbage, flat white grains holding tomatoes within, and gnarly knotty squarish bits pregnant with chard into the ‘rows’ and covered them up.  They germinate and grow slower than the kales and lettuces, zinnias and napas that’ll be sown later.  Outside, the first skunk cabbages are peeking out from under the leaves, mosses cover damp logs, and there’s blue green usnea on branches knocked down by rain.  Chickadees and juncos seem to like them, reminding us to gather carefully our medicine as it’s more than medicine for feathered folk, a delicate balance.

Watching what squirrels, chipmunks, birds, deer, and rabbit eat, amongst other woodland creatures, teaches a whole lot about the plant world, which while it’s readily available is also daily sustenance for more than us humans.  These mountains were once filled with ginseng, whose roots were part of chipmunks and squirrels diets, but have long since become a rarity from over harvesting . . . as it’s told, each of the ginseng hunters thought they were harvesting a little, but then they also thought they were the only ones to do so in ‘secret’ spots, until there’s now only a few plants remaining; slow growing as they are it’s to be seen whether they’ll ‘comeback’.  Same with mushrooms, often time it’s people from town who come hunting up the mountain where the lushness suggests enormous abundance.  They come and gather sacksfull, which they call a little bit, generously disclosing the locations of these bounty full places to their friends . . . in the ocean of so much, a sackful may be perceived as merely a little . . . open to interpretation, what one man calls ethical foraging may look like reckless hunting to another.

Often the eyes don’t perceive all the creatures that eat these foraged foods, easy to miss when gathering on a visit to spaces that aren’t home, but are home to others out of sight.  It’s kind of like going through a neighbourhood in another town, walking uninvited through someone’s garden who isn’t around, and digging out potato or echinacea, helping oneself to basil, mint, or cucumbers, just because, well they’re abundant and available and fill-in-the-blank as to the all-natural health benefits.  Of course we don’t do that on private property in neighbourhoods, yet in the absence of ownership and possession, we treat the wilderness as though it’s not also a neighbourhood to non-human residents who wander, scamper, and roam; as though it’s here, a free for all, for human pickings above all else.  It’s a funny paradox, the animal loving vegetarian who harvests sacksful of animal food for human consumption and resale without digging deeply into considering what impact this’ll have on the animals loved and the places of inhabitance.

There are the finest of threads in the forest reaching out in all directions, connecting above and below ground, extending and withdrawing, dropping, sticking, releasing, tip to tip, root to root, everything purposed, a symphony conducted by an invisible hand that is inclusive and inviting.  It welcomes and calls, come and be here too, sit, stand, skip, wander, gather, hunt, forage, pick, stay a while, refresh, rejuvenate, restore, sing along, the wilderness neighbourhood is open to all, only:: come with awareness, come with respect, come as a participant, come as a guest, don’t hold back, be free, come as children do, move rocks, branches, leaves, come and play  . . . while conducting in accord and resonance with place, and then, just like that everything falls into place.  Bit by bit.

 

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Birdhouse

We are a house of birds.  All spring and summer a family of starlings made their home outside a window, up in a hole under the eaves where a soffit fell out.  They’d fly to and fro with worms for their chicks, disappearing and reappearing from in and out the hole.  Later they’d hop out onto the cedar closeby and young starlings would make their first flights, cedar to tulip poplar and back again.  The cedar housed a hornets nest, bald faced, one year; but we are a birdhouse not a hornet house and so they stayed in nest beneath the boughs even when the windows were open.  A few sparrows have visited through those windows, they pecked at the kitchen floor before finding their way back outside, eventually.  Once a bat flew in, giving rise to pandemonium.  Unlike sparrows, who are welcome in our birdhouse, bats are not . . . the thought of a bat flying about at night, landing on my head, or worse, what if they went into my ear while I slept? My great-grandmother told that they folded up real tiny and enjoyed getting into one’s ears, though she also told that they’d get into hair and pull strands around themselves into a coccoon, Eeee!  We got the bat out with the use of sheets, and kept the windows closed at nights after that . . . now the starling abode is home to juncos, they’ve moved in for the winter, starlings long gone.  Winter’s arrived with snow and chickadees with shiny black heads, nuthatches, and cardinals.  They seem to like it here when it’s cold.  Up in the apple trees they peck at fruit, as well as usnea and lichen on the branches.  In the garden, they gather and peck at all the flower stalks we leave till spring comes around, zinnias, dock, marshmallow, goldenrod, echinacea.  We are a house of birds, imbibing as birds. Continue reading

Springing Along

Lilac has perfumed the air and blossomed; the wind and rain have blown away spent blooms but not before we gathered flowers to infuse in a syrup that’s handy to soak pound cake with, drizzle over pancakes, or add a splash to lemonade later in the year, a reminder of lovely lilac days.  Spring is moving along fast.  Knotweed, garlic mustard, and burdock are all big and past their tender tasty prime.  Lambs quarters are popping up with milkweed shoots, asparagus is on its way to ferning, and we’re on our hands and knees turning over wormy dirt where cabbages, broccoli, chard, kale, and lettuce are being given homes.  The roses have begun budding and yellow jackets are buzzing around looking for a spot to make their nests. Little Leif has come and gone.  He spent many a day away from his desert home in these lush mountains, waking to the sound of Lordly Cock crowing, popping out to gather eggs.  He’d put things down on the grasses, where they would disappear from sight, swallowed by the tall greenery  . . . . and oh, his expression, then the search!  Fingers parting the swathes, peeking, crawling nose to ground, looking for his marbles! Continue reading

spring through fall

the pond and creek have been the source of joyful leaping bounteous play all year.  with the spring rains the creek filled up and as it became warmer outside the children found themselves drawn to the water often.  they worked together to dam up a goodly sized pool space that they removed rocks and leaves from . . .. the newts underneath were moved upstream to leafy mucky spots similar to the habitat they were found in.  eventually monkey eyes got some garden hose and set up a siphon out of the pond.  this was used to make a slippy slide with leftover greenhouse material to the pool in the creek.  then summer came along and with hardly any rain the creek reduced to the spring fed flow and the children turned to the pond for their activities  . . ..  snake hunting, wading, log floating, fishing for koi, and frog catching soon turned into leaping into the deep end and swimming.  now its almost winter and the rain and snow melts have filled the creek again.  the children are out floating their dolls and fishing for leaves with sticks by the waterside.  when it freezes they walk on the icy slip and slide, and when they freeze it’s back inside to a warm house 🙂

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gathering time

creek

The gathering time is here again,

To gather with our plant friends deeply drawing in their smells

While they breathe in ours . . .

The sharing time is here again,

To share with our plant friends a smile, a laugh, a touch, a listening

While they speak for hours . . . .

I love this time of year when the smell of propolis is strong up above the spring, mixed with pine, and we’re stopping in meadows, sun streaming over us and our feet go cool into the creek and there, there there is water mint, sweet and refreshing to be with.  Sitting for a while, awareness sharpens, bee sounds are suddenly loud and then become part of the in breath, out breath, woodpecker hello!  There’s a lilting voice and a chatter mixed in with a squeal every now and then, part of the cadence, the new rythym since our arrival, the old makes way for us, generously giving space to life and we join in, doing our water dance in the creek, while a trout darts by a few times and the ants go back to doing what they’ve been doing long before we came . . . .

It’s *that* time of year but it’s not the same even though it’s *that* time, a funny thing this wheel turning us around or are we turning it around or neither nigh-ther . . . . last year we gathered baskets of juicy chickweed and cleavers catching on our clothes, furry burdock leaves, comfrey stalk, flower, and leaf . . . not this year at that time, instead we go play in the fields of fresh blooming red clover blossoms before they’re moved down after which their sweet smell lingers on and we taste it in the milk from the farm on that side of the valley below, and while we gather the clovers sing to us to pick the ones the bees leave, the bee kissed ones, so we do, and we take them back to tincture, to dry, to steep in honey for green mead in the autumn, to infuse oil, and in queen of hungary’s water (to which i’ve added peach and strawberry leaves, chamomile, comfrey, and a mixture of fresh rose petals) . . .  is it even the queen’s water anymore!?

happily we leave much of it to the bees and turn homeward, to motherwort.  she’s so stately this year: tall, filled out and bushy and lightly flowering on top though the bumble bees haven’ t found her yet . . . once they’ve worked her over, then the heat dries her to yellow from the inside out and she looks half baked, parched, spent, changed.  but at this moment she’s in her full glory and whispers of how she can help me later in those long, sunnless days when my temper grows inside me like thunder coiled up keeping me hot when it’s so cold all around, snake rising rising energy that can be spent, discharged in useless words and anger, leaving me parched, half baked, or stored where it becomes an internal heater during the hibernation time yet a challenge to keep in check, so motherwort says she’ll help me with that part and into a jar she goes . . .. yes it’s *that* time of year yet it’s not . . . .

What lies ahead, I wonder, as I watch small hands gather beside me and notice with a start that some of those hands are no longer small but the size of my own, a woman’s hands, and rounding the bend a truck slows down to a crawl and the driver’s a young fella who honks and lifts his hat and smiles and winks and his gaze is upon my daughter, who picks blossoms with care, dagger tucked in her waistband, a warrior, a maiden, no damsel in distress her eyes flash and her nostrils flare as though she’s aware with her flashing skirts, barefeet, and basket of flowers the picture she makes in the green green grasses!  The wheel turns and turns and I plunge the dasher, churning churning, turning turning all that cream into butter . . . .

sweet

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