Monday, October 24, 2011

It’s Never Too Late – The Patience of the Autumn Harvest


Last summer, I was hopelessly drawn to the contrasting shades of purple and pink oregano flowers that swayed boldly within a sea of inexhaustible mugwort. Taking care to avoid stepping on a resident garter snake, I blazed my way through the rushy overgrowth to bathe in the sweet, yet pungent aroma of the sensuous world of ancient herbs, bees and butterflies.

It is customary to pluck a green leaf, roll it between my finger and thumb, and seemingly without limit, inhale the bruised remains before taking it into my mouth to chew; leaving an almost peppery memory for a good part of the afternoon.

Along with Our Mother, I celebrate, nurture and harvest a variety of herbs, flowers and berries. The flowering plants provide a sustainable environment for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds as well as many other creatures.

In an effort to support and protect the Monarch butterfly, I maintain an official Monarch Waystation. The Monarch’s existence and ability to carry on successive generations and sustain their wondrous migration are threatened by the loss of habitat in North America. This is due mainly to the destruction of wetlands and other areas favorable for growing milkweed and various nectar producing flowers, the use of toxic herbicides, urban development and roadside mowing. Also, genetically modified plants have replaced plants that once provided a source of nectar. Land use has shifted dramatically to support the growing of soybean and corn, contributing to the loss of former, more balanced agricultural practices. These and other conditions have devastated many vital, fragile eco-systems.

Therefore, as I stood amongst the radiating, flowering mints, I marveled at the industrious bees, butterflies and hummingbirds flitting about; I stopped. The blend of diverse tones of an assortment of bees made perfect harmony with the lowest pitch being produced by the traditional, fuzzy, yellow and black, bumble bee.

Many times as I was about to reach down and snip a few stalks of oregano to add to my own hearty soups and stews, this untainted chorus would act like a strong arm and hold me back. I paused, scrunched down near the ground at eye level with the winged creatures, unable to literally cut the source of their pleasure and sustenance. Although originally intended for culinary and medicinal use; I simply could not deprive them; doing so would be to deny myself.

The butterflies – not only the Monarchs – delighted in all that flowered and cloaked the gentle, thriving hillside. Although they busied themselves on elderberries, cat mint, red and white clover and too many others to mention, they loved the oregano the most. I filled my basked with an abundance of what grew last summer, but I would leave the oregano as it were.

At the end of a golden afternoon, as the onset of winter brushes against my temples, I realize that the chorus of that sacred space amidst the mugwort is now far and away.

Last night we had a frost. The morning sun tried to work its way through willful clouds. I looked out the window and wondered if it was too late. What remained? I quickly braided my hair, buttoned my red plaid shirt and headed outside with my basket and scissors. The mugwort –flourishing, profoundly green, unaffected by surrounding death – reached my chin. I entered into the reminiscence of summer harmony, where a patch of oregano wearing a veil of faded purple tinged with ivory pink, waited patiently for me.

Journal: Babies Breath

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Autumn Illuminated: Always the Pond

By day, I bathe in the golden light illuminated by the onset of brilliant reds, yellows and oranges emerging in leaves of the abundant trees that surround me. The crispness in the air stimulates the part of my brain that wants to bake things made from apples, cinnamon and pumpkins. The scent of a wood fire reminds me that it is time to cook chili on the cast iron stove and pull out my well-worn, oversized, flannel nightie.

I wander; look at the uncertain sky and remnants of the garden. I sit on the same old wide log that serves as my bench, not caring if I get pine pitch on my clean shorts and ignoring the mosquitoes that have no business being here so far into the next season. I stare out over the pond – leaves fall and land on the mirror-like surface, barely moving. Anxiety attempts to seep in when I half expect the things that I released in the thick heat of summer to rise to the top, reminding me of that which remains.

I think that something bigger is rustling about in the woods and I turn, prepared to face a bear or moose; red squirrels mock me with their shrill chatter and carry on with the exaggerated sounds of their jerky movements on the carpet of dry, dead leaves.

The chipmunk that used to eat from my hand last summer pokes its head out from a crevice in the Prayer Rock. His cheeks are filled to capacity. I speak aloud; congratulating him on his success in relocating after the Broad Winged Hawk forced him away from his home near my front porch. We continue to look at one another straight in the eyes. He pulls back, disappearing into the blackness of the small hole.

I return my focus to the pond. There are so many possible places to rest my eyes in order to find the stillness essential in maintaining the balance that I seek, yet understand is not what is necessary to prevail. The uncertainty as well as the certainty keeps me aware and alive. There is so much to see; I decide that I will look in between the physical matter and contemplate the space.

It is impossible to ignore the swaying, slender, green reeds in the pond. Two nearby leaves seem to be suspended in the air. I search for the stalk that supports them and decide that I would rather perceive them as floating.

Journal: Babies Breath (Nature) 10-11-2011.