Thursday, November 15, 2012

About Thanksgiving: Do We Really Get It?

"Thanksgiving is celebrated at the expense of Native Peoples who had to give up their lands and culture for America to become what it is today." ~ Linda Coombs, Aquinnah Wampanoag ~

For many, the word “Thanksgiving” conjures up the memory of a comforting aroma of a turkey roasting in the oven blended with pumpkin bread, cranberries, homemade pies, winter squashes, and family and friends gathered around a candlelit table.

Now there is a fanatical obsession with “Black Friday”, which has become another tradition that has merged with the Thanksgiving holiday, kicking off the Christmas extravaganza. Do we really get it?

I trace my ancestry back to the founding families of Massachusetts Bay Colony. I have visions of Richard Pettingell and his brother-in-law John Ingersoll making their rounds in Salem Village, keeping a watchful eye on the residents to make sure that they do not break the Sabbath rules. If these rules are broken the perpetrator will go to the stockades; which type of stockade depends upon the severity of the crime.

Richard was also a ‘grand juryman of the Ipswich Tryalls’. It took me a while to pinpoint the exact purpose of these trials. I finally discovered that it was more of the same as when he lived in Salem. He enforced the law against Sabbath violators.

In an attempt to figure out how I could possibly have blossomed from the same family tree as church cops and then later accusers of witches in Salem (through my Ingersoll line); I devoted an entire semester study at Vermont College to the Puritans and their chaos.

This comprehensive study enabled me to connect the dots. The information provided in the above link is straight from the Pettingell Genealogy Book. My grandfather is listed in this book and I can easily trace my lineage back to Richard (My twelfth Great Grandfather).

This era in my own personal history was a major ‘peeling of the onion’ event. In addition to my previous research in Civil War Musicology necessary for historically accurate performances as a reenactor; I discovered my Abenaki roots.

However it was the fact that there were so many religious persecutors in my ancestry that invited me to delve into the principles of Puritan Theology, leading me back to ancient wisdom – to the unknown world of Gnosticism.

As I peeled back each layer of the onion, there was another layer waiting to be torn away to reveal more truth. There were almost too many roads to choose from. It took a great deal of patience, stillness and time investment to continue on this journey.

This was a time of fully realizing that history as I knew it was not at all what took place. The delightful story of pilgrims sitting around happily sharing a feast with the Native Americans is equal to the tooth fairy leaving a quarter under my pillow when I was six years old.

It’s a nice story, but tweaked all the same. If it was a friendly event; what happened next? What happened before? Was there a time out from raping, pillaging, killing and deceiving, to rip off a drum stick and share stories around a fire?

What opened my eyes?
A while ago I was a trumpeter and I managed a British Brass Band. We were hired to perform in a rather large, televised performance in Plymouth Massachusetts: the “Annual American’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration”. We participated with Massed Bands as the brass band part of a Scottish Military Tattoo and Highland Fling. We had done this before at the Highland Games and were becoming well-known for this type of collaboration.

There were Highland Pipes and Drums, Scottish Dancers and Singers as well as a handful of other performers from the Washington DC area. We worked hard to prepare for this event; learning special music, making, issuing and wearing the proper New England tartan on our hats, planning the logistics of travel and pay.

When we drove up to the hall where we were to perform, I spotted a crowd of people dressed in Native American regalia carrying signs. While collecting my music gear from the vehicle, I bothered reading their signs. They were in protest of the celebration of Thanksgiving which depicts a celebration purely from the white man’s perspective.

Some people in the area grumbled and continued on. I stopped to think. What is this really about?

Of the years that I spent as the manager of this band and others, this was the first time we were stiffed. I was disappointed and had to break the news to the other twenty six players in the band who had given up an entire day, traveled to Plymouth and delivered an exquisite performance. According to my friend, colleague and Master Piper with whom I worked; no one was paid - the contract was broken (so much for integrity).

From that day forward, it became important for me to comprehend the events that took place prior to and around the first American Thanksgiving. I understand that the Pilgrims would have starved or fared much worse had the “Indians” left them on their own to face a harsh winter.

It was the good will, trust and compassion of the Native Americans that carried the Pilgrims through this rough spot. After the Native Americans died (in large numbers) from diseases carried by European and English settlers who took over their land, stripped them of their spiritual beliefs and forced them into Christianity; we cling to a story based on love, sharing and reciprocity. Oh how I wish it were true.

I read a local book written in the mid 1800’s that carefully described the bounty system for Indian scalps that could be brought to Boston. The book also described Native Americans as savages. I think there was an identity crisis. What say you?

So…I continue to peel back the layers and have come to know the core. Giving thanks is multi-dimensional. Do we save it all for one day and then rush out to buy more stuff? Do we praise and give thanks for the massive discounts at Wal-Mart and Target, lining the pockets of the filthy rich corporations that manufacture their goods overseas in sweat shops?

It’s all good. If you don’t have the funds you can put it on a credit card (save 10% by applying right there on the spot) or you can put it on lay away and figure out how to get it later. That is who we’ve become. Even in the midst of our economic crisis; we can’t buy enough. When will we learn that the cost of our stuff is paid for with small soul increments?

We can’t rewind. The past is back there where it will stay. However, the past informs the future, if we choose to awaken. We cannot take ownership of the actions of those who came before us, but we do have the ability to accept what is true, honor it and be the change.

How do we do it? We can begin by giving thanks, acknowledgment and love to the memory of the sacrifice made by the Native Americans in spite of immense betrayal. Celebrate the fruits of our labor – the harvest (from earth, heart and soul). Give thanks for abundance of the land and learn more about sustainability, responsible action regarding Our Mother and all of life. Find your tribe. Through sharing, bartering and buying locally, we strengthen our communities and we become strong and we evolve.

I am very traditional and will admit that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I do not base my Thanksgiving story on the perfect illustrations provided in my fourth grade history book. I am a farmer and historian with a passion for folklore, cooking and preserving the harvest. This is a way of life. As a wildcrafter, I am equally thankful for the wild harvest, which is incorporated into my life each day. It is vital to gather with loved ones to give thanks, celebrate and expand our circle of love and to count our blessings always.

See how your life transitions when you are grateful every day; when Thanksgiving is a way of life.
Journal: Sage

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Treasure Becomes the Knowing

If I learn one lesson each day; it has been a good day. Some lessons are weighty and emerge after considerable contemplation. The syncopated pushing and pulling conflicts with my natural pulse. The heaviness settles deep and presses hard against the walls of my heart.

I watch the truth linger behind a soft silky veil. I know that I want it and reach for it. Merging is freedom. However, at times I prefer to look away, embracing my own perception (the one which no longer serves me).

I continue to climb, pulling myself up the mountain hand over hand, scraping against the defined edges of each craggy rock and tightening my grasp when the loose earth falls away. I tell myself that I won’t fall. I will not lose my footing. However, just as I convince myself of this; the silky veil thins and truth reveals that it is best to fall (right then and there).

I let go.
Truth and I are together, swirling inside of the tumbling chaos.
When we land, I am surrounded by a pile of scattered debris… all that descended with me. I can sift through it, ignore it, pack it up and carry it with me, or I can walk away and leave it where it lands. I weave together multiple strands of truth and continue.

I feel the pain of the fall – scratches, bruises, bumps and random scars – all reminders.

The journey waits. No longer afraid; I choose the untamed path, the one with the most unknowns.

I find lost treasure. I rejoice. I hold onto it and marvel at its goodness. I am warmed by its shine and hopelessly muddled by its charm. I am inclined to sing and dance because before there was no cause. In the midst of it; I discover the art of reclaiming that which was never lost to begin with.

When I realize that the treasure was always present; the treasure becomes the knowing.
Journal: Scarlet Lily

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Finding the Moonfield: Unleash Your Wildness

I miss the nights when I played with my children in the Moonfield; a place that explodes in the silver light of the moon, illuminating all that lies beneath, casting distinct shadows typically acknowledged by day. 

A full moon is not required for such brilliance. Take last night for example; the moon is in the first quarter – a perfect night for frolicking.

At one time, my children and I often climbed over the stone wall to the field by the school to our first Moonfield. We had endless space to run freely. That is when we created our game of “Moon Tag”. Just the mentioning of it conjures up the echo of innocent laughter that drifts away to the edges of the field into the long, thin, lines of tree shadows.

Of course this game can be played in sunlight; but there is more magic in the moon.

The object of the game is to chase each other’s shadow – tag the other person without physically touching him or her – your shadow touches his shadow. It doesn’t count if you make physical contact. I started this game with my three children when they were about four, six and seven years of age.

It works well on a variety of levels. It is possible to play the game when the moon rises early in the evening, just after dark. It gives your little one(s) an opportunity to run, laugh and exercise in the fresh air, making way for a good night’s sleep. [Actually, this game is not limited to children. If you were here now, I would initiate a good game of “Moon Tag” with you.]

It invites silliness. I love that part about it. There is no competition. At first it’s a bit challenging to work with shadows as opposed to your physical beings. However, once you get used to it…the game rises to a new level because you now comprehend moon shadows.

Games in nature have depth in meaning. We are able to use the power of our body, mind and spirit in imagination. We are in the wild, living our wildish nature. Batteries, chargers, smart cards and other stuff are not needed, nor do they matter. When we play such games in the Moonfield (or other Gaian places), in addition to connecting with each other, Our Mother and the moon; we connect to our heart, soul, and to the wildness that resides within. We have an opportunity to externalize our untamed nature, which stirs the colors of our vibrancy, stimulating emotional, spiritual and creative growth.

These games played in the Moonfield reclaim that which has been lost in the age of technology, which are weakening the senses. We merge with our vision and values, responding to the joy of being where we belong – out there with our feelings that both tickle and roar within us. We fold up the joy and vitality to carry with us for darker times, to awaken from a psychic slumber, unfolding and returning to it when needed.

I have had many Moonfields come and go in my life; each providing great opportunities for capturing bliss and meaning – both vital to me. Take this newly found wisdom and go play in your Moonfield. Pay attention to the environment and be a part of the lessons woven within. The Moonfield exists in each of us; honor and celebrate your place in it.
Journal: Periwinkle

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Harrowing of the Soul: When to Stay and When to Keep Moving

The change of seasons – a time to welcome the next cycle with anticipation, honoring sacred rituals steeped in tradition and the passing down of old stories sprouted from intuition and ancient wisdom. The end of one cycle and the beginning of another invites us to unravel mysteries, face the unknown, achieving fierceness and awakening to tenderness.

However, in time I have formed a deeper connection with Our Mother, unearthing my wildish side and considering my very basic instinct. I have become intoxicated from seductive blossoms that invite me to touch, feel, smell and taste as if each time was the first. I am in awe of the finding and digging up of accidental treasure – roots and greens and buds and seeds. I bow to the healing power that lies quietly in Our Mother’s womb, waiting for the perfect time to emerge and offer miracles with little or no return. How much we can learn from Our Mother – the great teacher of humility, resilience, balance and forgiveness.

In parched fields carpeted with wilted grasses, along the banks of poisoned rivers, lakes and streams, under fallen trees in ravaged forests, we continue to seek the transformative fire. We gather together with our collective rage as it turns into sorrow before bringing us home to do our work. Through our wandering and taking back; we mustn’t get caught in the rage. Sometimes the healing begins with simple acknowledgement and other times it is hard and gritty. Often it hurts to see this truth, as it may lead to the harrowing of the soul.

As I return to Our Mother over and over again; I return to life. I sit under the sun amidst the harmony of winged creatures and give a tear to healing. I sit aching and drenched in the rawness of rain asking the obvious questions, longing for Her restitution.

We move from one cycle to the next; beginning and ending; living and dying, with hope lost and hope found. Knowing when we know and knowing when we don’t.

I thought I was fine with the coming of autumn, embracing the coolness in underlying shadows, yet in awe of the brilliant hue of death. However, the shiver under the cover of night was my reluctance to leave summer, when I reclaim and resurrect wholeness. With my hands in dirt; my inner life is in motion. I am authentic and instinctual, thriving and glimmering, and I find answers to my deepest questions.

Today it was warm. The rains came and summoned me to play under a pinkish gray sky, somewhere between the world of feeling and thinking. A transparent molted snake skin lying on top of the rich brown earth evoked the hunger. What needs to be shed or disposed of to stay in the wild creative flow? Am I willing to crawl out of my own skin to remain in that soul source? Nature knows that which needs to leave to make room for new life yet to be. You know when you know… when to stay and when to keep moving.
Journal: Babies Breath

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Tiny Black Key: Lost or Found

It kind of looks like a diary key, but might be too small. It’s made of metal and has a heart-shaped hole so that you can put it on a key chain. I know of nothing on the premises that has a lock small enough for it.

It showed up last night on the mahogany end table in the living room. There is nothing else on the table except for a white antique hobnail lamp.

I picked up the key and examined it. It reminded me of the first leather diary that I wrote in faithfully when I was a young girl. I wondered what happened to my dairies and hoped that they didn’t end up in the wrong hands.

I brought the key into my office where it sits on my desk. I thought of throwing it away, unlike all of the well intentioned, random buttons that I have placed in a neat line on the shelf in the bathroom.

I looked at the key again. What if something locked suddenly needs to be opened to reveal valuable treasure? I would have to fish around in the garbage for the key.

Does keeping it make me a hoarder? I do hold onto things that have served their purpose well beyond their intended use. I am apt to think that I might need it at a later time but rarely do. Then the time comes when enough is enough. I throw away all of those useless items that I saved so protectively. When I am in that mood; I have been known to discard things and regret it later. It’s a delicate balance.

The mystery was solved when I asked my daughter (who has been far and away) if she knew about the key. She told me that she found it on the sidewalk in California. So now someone 3,000 miles away might have to bust open her diary to make an entry, re-read mournful confessions and hopes for her future.

I think not.
Perhaps this tiny key of wisdom and compassion was there for my daughter to find and claim, bringing her home to unlock her deepest knowing, allowing her to open the door and peer into what her soul truly wants.

Sometimes it is not enough to be loved and supported, lost or found, exhausted and well travelled. Sometimes you need to find that tiny key on a busy, littered sidewalk… pick it up and hold onto it – the knowledge – the signal that says I can feel. I can return home and give my heart to the entire process.

I will not throw it away.
Journal: Periwinkle

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Prayer: Life After Hope

I have been away; here but away. Today I reclaimed my focus, returned to my passion and resumed my work. When I fall out of step with Our Mother; I lose my integral rhythm. This learning and navigating is a vital part of life cycles – the smaller ones within the larger ones. If I meet with a particularly jarring tempo; it may take longer for my pulse to return to where it needs to be. If I don’t already know how to maintain this balance; I learn.

There is value in everything. Once we filter through the source of the upheavals in our emotional, spiritual, physical and creative selves; we can find the knowledge within and transition from student to teacher. We discover, identify and process these changes as students and when we find the light and lesson that it carries; we become teachers.

This applies to all of the fluctuations that we experience, including the raw and messy ones; they usually present the most significant opportunities of all. The danger is when we ignore our feelings or instincts. When we deny them, we are denying personal growth and missing possibilities. It is when we become fully aware of ourselves that we begin to shape our experiences into useful tools – either for our own perceptions or how we relate to others.

I learned a long time ago to be careful of what you wish for (and pray for). It is important to be careful with the wording. This has been a hard lesson for me on more than one occasion. I learned. I pray carefully and with intent. I don’t bother with the rote prayers that hit the ceiling and fall on the floor. I am clear and thoughtful and never hasty.

If you have read my articles about “Traveling Kids”, you will know the intent of my prayer. It was ongoing in earnest for almost three years. It started out as a desperate prayer, but then I realized that desperation meant fear, and I did not want fear to reside anywhere within my being. Therefore, it was imperative that I release it. How do you do that? I was faced with a challenge, because simply verbalizing or meditating on it or even praying to let go of fear wasn’t enough. I had to learn how to release it myself. Of course you can ask for assistance but it is ultimately up to you to figure it out.

I had to rely on my own transformative efforts combined with Divine guidance. This was a multi-faceted, yet genuine task. I practiced trusting the universe and accepting that everything happens for a reason and as it is meant to. I also had to accept that each of us has our own destiny. So for me it boiled down to trust. It was necessary for me to also have clear boundaries between what was mine and what was not. When I made those boundaries, I often had bursts of rage. This maintained its own value within natural emotional cycles. I felt it, dealt with it, allowed it to fall and then released it as new energy.

As soon as I felt the vibrational pounding of fear at my door; I met it with determination. “Oh…it’s you.” I faced fear for as brief a time as possible, and allowed myself to be taught by it and then recited a mantra in my head repeatedly, taming it (the fear) before letting it go. My favorite mantra is, Sophia is the love that sustains me. (Sophia is the feminine face of God). I am deeply connected to the feminine through my years of studying the Gnostic Gospels and of course my wild nature.

This struggle with fear carried with it a possible threat to my entire being, not only the rhythms of my body, but all systems. I needed to resolve it. Within time, I learned how to trust God/ Sophia and the Universe and I devoted myself to my creative work and nature. I spent much time in solitude and prayer, and found solace in the gentle curves of Our Mother in the wild. I learned how to pray. I learned how to balance. I learned how to hope. I discovered that it was better to stop asking why and focus on what to do with it. I prayed with the highest intentions. I did not miss a day and sometimes prayed several times a day. I discovered that there is life after fear and anger.

About a month ago, my prayer was answered. I didn’t recognize it at first, but it started to reveal itself. It didn’t come free. It requires a great deal of patience and effort for the answer of this prayer to reach full maturity. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Sophia. My prayers are now filled with gratitude. It takes conscious practice to transform our lives and others for the better of the whole. If we take one step at a time; we will not fall down. There is hope.
Journal: Periwinkle, Scarlett Lily

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Skeletons: The Fall of Summer

Summer falls into random patches of green outstretched before me. The meandering of September begs me to follow and sing with it. I have a strong urge to do so, yet I am halted by the heavy hand of reluctance. Where will it lead?

First, I sink my bare feet into the middle of the deepest green – soft, thick, feathery leaves of Yarrow. I sit down and run my fingers through them, recalling when it was hot, when sweat trickled down my spine and when the temperate wind caressed the damp curls pressed against my temples. I filled my basket, slowing down enough to harmonize with bees. Deliriously untamed and perfectly content; the love of my work was made visible.

Skeletons of flowers that once thrived in brilliance now rattle against each other with crooked, broken limbs, trading the magnificence of a grand centerpiece for a symbol of survival. I do not cringe. I do not hunger. I set aside grief and honor their past. I am kind in their presence, grateful for their potential to bring forth new life in the next season.

I catch sight of a few red clover blossoms, surrendering, humbled by the quietness and bowing their browning heads towards the earth. How easy it was before, when the sweetness of a tiny, light purple blossom lingered on my lips, offering a ray of light into the darkest part of myself. Like us all; flowers make entrances and they make exits. Some are more difficult to grasp than others.
Journal: Babies Breath

Sunday, September 9, 2012

O Daughter, Where Hast Thou Been Since I Last Saw Thee?

Traveling Kids Segment

I promised myself that I would not shed a tear when I had to say goodbye. The worst was two years ago when I dropped you off in a littered, abandoned parking lot beneath a busy underpass in Worcester, Massachusetts. Everything was broken, rusted, devoid of life. It was just before sunset and I could not breathe. This was another trip when the heavy hand of dread pressed against my chest harder with each passing mile.

You looked at me apologetically and said it would be alright. Your partner was too busy fixing his pack to notice that I was dying in the front seat of my car. The dog was up for the next adventure, the next train ride, the next handful of food. Somehow I had to find a way to breathe and never do this again.

I couldn’t erase the vision of you reaching for me in your poufy, satin dress, with your new shiny patent leather shoes and perfect ringlets as I picked you up and carried you over a mud puddle. This earlier version of you is a memory, one that I must honor and not allow to haunt me.

The questions churned in my head like a sickening merry-go-round…what could I have done to prevent this? For the thousandth time I thought about keeping you as a prisoner.

I got out of the car and stood by weakly and watched you as the sun finally slipped behind some old, vacant factory buildings. I thought I might throw up. I hugged you so tightly that I’m certain we merged. I inhaled your scent, knowing that it would soon be replaced by road dirt and grime; stuff from boxcars. You held me longer than I expected. I had become accustomed to the definite need to separate, to figure out where you end and I begin. Woman, child, cellist, poet, dreamer, creative goddess, faerie… we share it all. I promised to see you as you and not an extension of me.

I let go. At least I think I did. But isn’t that somewhat impossible? I wanted to scream at you for allowing me to drown in fear. I wanted to scream at those who abandoned us, crossing generations. I wanted to scream at God for playing this trick on me. I thought that if I loved you hard enough, it would be okay in spite of our shared betrayals. Instead, I screamed at myself, inside of myself.

I dared to listen to Mozart on the way home, knowing that he would bring out more tears and help me to find an end to them. I thought that if I suffered intensely all at once that I would purge it and be done with it once and for all. It was just part of an illusion that I once constructed and have long forsaken.

After a three hour drive and emtpied of tears, I made the decision that I would never bring you to such a place again and I would never let you see me cry when you set forth on your next journey.

I know that you were surprised when after spending two weeks with me in Florida; I dropped you off at a highway exit in Tampa…you, your partner and the dog. This time I waved and smiled and honked the horn like I was leading the hometown 4th of July Parade. Your look of astonishment matched my own feeling of awe. I had finally risen to a level of acceptance and trusted God.

This was a significant lesson. Maryjane, how are you going to continue on this journey? Will you fall apart? Will you always think the worst? Or will you have faith, trust and practice unconditional love? Will you choose to be wise and grounded, setting an example? Or will you become weak and dispirited, not the strong woman you are and can be. I was awake. We would be okay. Better than that.

After I got on the highway the tears threatened, but more of a relief this time. I let a few escape but I decided that it was time to finally take this experience and give it to God.

You were better at keeping in touch, texting and calling on a more regular basis. I have become an expert at US Geography, running to the map every time there’s a shooting or a tornado striking near where you are living in a tent somewhere with your ever-changing band, waiting for the weather to clear so you can make a few bucks busking on the corner. I held my breath and texted you, telling you to find a safe place. You did. You assured me that you were on top of it. You were.

We spent time together last summer. Good time; meaningful time. We laughed and played music and cuddled and made promises to each other. I loved sitting with you on the bench by the river watching the red squirrels dash around in preparation for winter. I left you off at your partner’s house where I found myself comforting his mother and wiping away her tears, as both of her sons are traveling kids.

When we visited in New Orleans last winter, I trailed behind as you made your way down ‘your street’ in the French Quarter and everyone knew you by name. They knew you as the girl who not only played the banjo, but who also played Haydn and Bach and the rest of the boys, because you managed to scrounge up a cello. You didn’t want me to see where you lived, but you actually had a room in an apartment. I could exhale.

This time it was you who rode away, leaving me behind. I stood in the hotel parking lot and watched you ride away on your bicycle until you turned the corner and disappeared into the dirty, disheartened city still reeling in the shadows of Katrina.

It’s been a year since you’ve been home, since we sat on the front porch together wondering about the rustling sound in the woods and then dismissing it to praise the moon instead. Once you arrived in the Pacific Northwest, you started to have problems with your phone and I slipped into the mother’s imagination thing every time I tried to call and got the instant recording. Once again, I became a slave to my cell phone, taking it with me everywhere, checking for messages and missed calls. Then I remembered that you weren’t ever alone and that I had placed it in God’s hands. It helped.

After spending a great deal of time camping in the Redwood Forest, you had your cell phone fixed and you apologized for going off the radar. You told me that you would never be the same because of the redwoods. You sounded strong. I recognized you in your voice. I was reassured at the sense of you remembering who you were and from whence you came.

I pray for you every night, even though I know that God is with you. I ask that you are guided, protected, guarded and blessed. I stopped asking my father to watch over you quite some time ago. I no longer accept fear.

The excitement between us continued to build as we discussed your plans to take a Greyhound bus from San Francisco to home; the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I am counting the hours until midnight, when you will roll in. I have prepared your favorite foods, washed the flannel sheets with a hint of patchouli in the final rinse and hung them out on the line. Beatrix Bunny is plopped by the pillows.

I look forward to imprinting your essence and looking at you, brown eyes to brown eyes. A part of me longs to know of your journey; a part of me knows that it isn’t all for me to know.
Journal: Periwinkle

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Maryjane’s Kitchen: The Thing about Berries

When I am not writing, wildcrafting or gardening, I am out of control in the kitchen. I mean, it is necessary to preserve, create and celebrate the abundance of the harvest. In addition to caring for and being a part of nature’s wild process; craziness in the kitchen is the point.

A beloved aspect of my fresh fruit and vegetable creations emerge in the berry picking season, resulting in a limitless array of jams, syrups, desserts and wine. Leaves and roots are harvested for teas – a major element of my wildcraft.

However, the vital, culinary expression of my work is an explosion of creativity and it’s all about my time in the kitchen. Mmmm…sweet.

So far this year, my primary jam focus has been on variations of blueberries and black raspberries (last year was the year of the peaches as well). I delight in the process of infusing mint into the preserves during the last step; before putting on the lids and covers. Not all of them.

How? Into the cooked jam, I insert a small sprig of mint with two or three leaves intact, and the oils are infused with the fruit from the high heat. Then I submerge the jars into the canning bath for processing. With the exception of elderberry, I have done this with rosehips and each type of berry that I use for jam making; it has proven to be worthy of desire.

I don’t cook and prepare everything that I harvest into a major work of art; I also freeze fresh berries to enjoy throughout the winter for various baking projects and mostly to add to cereal, oatmeal, yogurt and pancakes. The latter a heavenly breakfast served with last season’s pure, sweet maple syrup, compliments of the stately maples in residence. Blueberries are my favorite berry for freezing, not only for the flavor but for the abundant health benefits laced with vitamins and antioxidants.

In addition to both the high and low bush blueberries that grace hillsides, over grown fields and pastures and mountains; I enjoy a profusion of blueberries that grow wild on small, uninhabited islands in some of my favorite ‘non-touristy’ lakes. When my kids were growing up, we used to pick blueberries on a peninsula at “camp” every summer and then return home to indulge in unlimited deliciousness.

One spot in particular is quite magical; it’s a secret place that I named Otter Island (for obvious reasons). I used to canoe out to the island in the morning and pick sweet blueberries without having to disembark from the canoe. Of course this was the summer of living in the wild, lakeside, on a pristine wildlife sanctuary. The only modern convenience was a radio. This daily expedition to Otter Island was one of my favorite pastimes, which makes me a little gloomy because my canoe was stolen last summer and I have not yet replaced it.

Wild strawberries also have a way of weaving ancient traditions – hunter / gatherer – into the present. Their season is early summer. I spend a great deal of time amongst swarms of black flies, mosquitoes and wood ticks while harvesting leaves for tea. It is worth the unpleasantness of being in their midst; one learns to adapt. And the berries were mostly an onsite, refreshing treat; not something that I was able to gather in vast quantities for batches of anything other-worldly in my kitchen. Some years are better than others for this. I did have enough now and then for embellishment and a few scrumptious desserts. They are smaller and by far sweeter than domestic or commercially grown strawberries. They are real in every sense.

I am not certain why the black raspberries were so abundant here this season. I spoke with the berry man down the road and he complained that his black raspberry crop was scarce. He and I are not similar. The berries here are completely wild and organic. While his berries look beautiful and grow like crazy, he uses commercial fertilizers and I couldn’t get him to come clean about pesticides. I did mention it as we were engaged in the art of intelligent, polite conversation. I judge not. However, I am vigilant about my commitment to organics and support that way of being.

Something else that goes with berries and not to be overlooked is fresh rhubarb. I make my grandmother’s (the other MaryJane’s) strawberry rhubarb jam and pies. This mélange of sweet and tart was one of my father’s favorites. By frequently cutting rhubarb, staying in line with its growth; the plant will continue to flourish. If you let it go to seed; you’re done for the season.

In the past, I have had great success with elderberries, again using different parts of the plant for various medicinal purposes in both tea and tinctures. The berries are most famous for wine, which I have not made yet and am not leaning in that direction (I am hopelessly in love with dandelion wine). I have made elderberry jam, which was unique and flavorful but I am uncertain if I will do that again right away. I am more interested in the medicinal properties at this time.

There are many elderberry trees on the property that have yielded a good crop until this season. I am still learning about the effects of the weather, which has been a bit severe and less consistent than usual. There is also the probability that there have been more animals and birds consuming the berries. Each season is filled with lessons as well as potential.

Tomorrow is a blackberry day. I will check to see if they are perfect for plucking and if it is time, will fill my baskets.

In the meantime I continue to preserve everything from the vegetable garden, staying aligned with the harvest and the souls of all who came before me. I celebrate a plethora of vegetables through creations that will delight all and in the depths of winter, summon the taste, brilliance and greenness of past seasons.

The thing about berries is that their sweetness is never ending. From stalk to leaf, flower to fruit, plucking to basket and then into the ultimate palatable creation or simply in solitary; it remains a miracle in itself. Paradise reclaimed.
Journal: Bittersweet

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Maryjane on Cows and Dreams

I used to think that I wanted a cow, maybe even two or three so that she wouldn’t be lonely or become too dependent on me for companionship. I didn’t want a cow for the milk, although at certain times, an earlier version of me considered it. That was before I decided that cows’ milk was intended for baby cows. I wouldn’t want any farm animal for meat...I was a witness to that once and it changed me forever, but that’s an entirely different story. So why did I dream of having cows?

I yearn for their gentle spirit, unending curiosity and large chocolate brown eyes. I adore their politeness and patience. When I conjure an image of cows, I find myself sitting on the fence bordering the sunny pasture of my childhood farm. I am reminded of my grandfather in his red plaid, flannel shirt, smoking his pipe and pretending to be cranky. He was convincing at times, but I knew that beneath the scowl and grumbling was a warm heart stubbornly beating away. But now I think, maybe not. After all, I am the eternal optimist, yet aware of a much broader spectrum of the ways of the world and its inhabitants.

I don’t remember him smiling, so it’s a bit perplexing that I have crafted such fond memories of him. Perhaps it is because I was at the age where everything was pure and unfiltered. I simply took it as it came. I secretly believed that he liked it when I hung around the barn and pasture asking infinite questions. That was my childish illusion and I prefer it to other possibilities.

Sometimes I simply close my eyes and I’m transported to that enchanted place filled with the scent of new mown hay, fresh milk and manure. I hear the soft clinking of the iron milking stations and deep murmurs and lowing of the ever tolerant beasts. It was always cool in the barn and somewhat dark with distinctive straight lines of golden light streaming and glittering in through the cracks of windows and huge doors. It is there that I reestablish a sense of who I am and from whence I came.

I learned to love pure maple syrup and my grandmother’s pickles and jam. I can see her in the kitchen of the boarding house chopping vegetables and humming while a single curl hangs over her forehead. Her smile compensated for the lack of her husband’s. I had the sense to invite her to my home when my boys were babies and I was pregnant with my daughter so that she could teach me her secrets. I carry on the tradition today, mingling with the past, honoring the best of the farmer and the farmer’s wife.

Last winter I regained my moral fiber in the final throes of winter whilst collecting heavy sap buckets from my own trees, boiling golden syrup for hours. How deliriously sweet the once dark winter world had become, affording a ray of light. What a gift the maples offer at a time when winter has made me weary.

I never thought that I would celebrate berries with such profundity as when I make jam the old fashioned way, although leaving the paraffin behind. The key ingredients are love, patience and knowing exactly when to pick. Ah yes. Ripe is ripe and so it is.

After a bit of hesitation, I finally gave way to the pickling frenzy, unsure of where it would take me. I now pickle anything and everything that comes from our abundant, organic gardens. I have an eye for color, so the blend is not only based on the flavorful essence of vegetables, herbs and spices; it must be a visual riot of color as well. I trust myself enough now to swap greens for reds and yellows for greens and whites for oranges. Sometimes it’s a shame to consume the collage of brilliant ripeness in the jar. I like that I have created a feast for the eye as well as the palate, the best of both worlds (even more joyous in the harshness of winter).

I used to use my food processor but at some point in time I returned to chopping by hand. Until this writing I didn’t realize that the act of chopping is another means to stay connected with my grandmother, the other MaryJane.

How quaint it would be to go to the gardens, pass a curious cow or two and stop to share a story or secret (cows never tell).

During my teenage years, we lived on a green hillside overlooking the lake beside a huge dairy farm in Centre Harbor. I used to sit on a thick granite stone wall that was well hidden in the trees on the edge of the cow pasture. It was only a matter of minutes before one cow lifted its head and stared intently at me. One by one the others looked up as well and they deliberately walked over to investigate. At first I thought that they would blow my cover, but no one noticed and we became fast friends.

I call upon these places as points of reference in my writing, such as my historical novel (that still bubbles in the pot until it is perfectly ready for consumption). Many scenes take place in or around various vintage barns and pastures and one particular cow, Lizzy, serves as a loyal companion of the protagonist. Being able to tap into this reservoir of rich experience serves me well.

So whenever I think that I might want a cow or two, I really ask myself the tough, obvious questions. I rely on my ability to recall and transport myself back to that sacred place where innocence remains safely tucked away for future perseverance.
Journal: Marigold

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Kiss: Flower Fantasy

The purples were more purple, pinks more pink and thousands of summer yellows dotted the greenest of green. The sky was the color of lightly streaked Morning Glories in the peak of the day. I made my way through the rampant mass of color and uncontained joy to stand somewhere in the middle.

Unchecked and rowdy, the flowers danced with the grasses, bushes and smaller trees to a very different melody, unlike the typical frog sonata, cricket chorus or bird concerto. This raging composition was its own genre; a wild and unending cadenza…debuting for the first time and falling upon my ears.

The thick, fuzzy bees were greatly intoxicated, unable to determine boundaries within limitless nectar. The Ruby Throated hummingbird that used to hover before me dared to land in the palm of my hand and my hair was adorned on each side with two Monarch butterflies.

A fetch of multi-colored, silken winged dragonflies flit and whirled around the edges of it all in perfect unison. The elders, with continuous roots and unbroken boughs ready to embrace, surrounded us, witnessing, doting and looking on like well mannered chaperones.

The pale, patient moon stood by watching, dreaming and waiting for but not in a hurry for the night.

An uncommon flower of the deepest purple brushed against my skirt, nudging my leg, relentless and unwavering. I bent over to see about the fuss. Imagine my joy when it reached up and kissed me.
Journal: Dragon Lily

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Creativity - When to Stay, When to Walk Away

The peaks and valleys of creative energy can often be quite unpredictable. There are days when I am brimming with creative juices that flow effortlessly. During those episodes I’m on fire and can hardly imagine the possibility of falling flat the very next day. It happens.

If you have read any of my offerings, it is obvious that I am rooted in nature; my basic source. I cannot complain, as I have been immersed in my wild landscape, which merges nicely with my inner wildness. When I am in this place of perfection, the unleashing begins. As long as I cannot hear (too many) sounds of human technology interrupting nature’s soundtrack, I’m good.

Last spring I tried to sit outdoors with a tape recorder to capture a variety of twilight birdsongs. I managed to get a few minutes here and there, but was shocked when I realized that I had to stop the recording frequently because of aircraft overhead or a random tractor passing by. I live in the woods, but not deep enough (for me). I started to focus on this inability to hear only natural sounds and basically freaked out because at times one would think that I lived near a major international airport. I do understand that there are military operations overhead. I hear them day and night and actually hear them now as I write this. There has been a great deal of controversy regarding the noise from people who reside in this region and along the inland Maine and New Hampshire border. It doesn’t matter.

The day before yesterday there were not enough hours in the day for me to create. I harvested, walked in fields and other wild places, wrote, spent time adding to my ongoing mandala and sang freely. The sun was hot and I liked it; sweat means you are alive. I had quiet time to reflect and I ate good ice cream.

Yesterday I took on a more serious assignment and got into technical, gritty work that meets today’s heavy issues head on. The subjects ranged from the environment to economics, global to regional, impossible to unimaginable. I often avoid writing about these issues, wanting to keep the bulk of my work uplifting and motivational. I want others to rejoice in the wild beauty of this planet and to see the significance of simple things like dragonflies, a spider web in light and shadows, and the understated bud that blossoms into something abounding and magnificent simply because it is meant to.

How often these simple pleasures are overlooked because we are caught up in the busyness of everyday mundane tasks. We become trapped in our own cycle of mediocrity.

At the end of the day, I finished my task of facing the ugliness that pecks away at us relentlessly and I was exhausted. Not in the way that I am fulfilled and want to collapse from sheer physical exhaustion and satisfaction from crawling around and bending over plants, weeds (to most) and flowers. My head was full like a sponge filled with water, oozing and dripping. I thought that there was no room for anything else, even the good things.

I went outside and rummaged around in the gardens, picking vegetables and the last of the wild black raspberries. I had no energy. I sat on the porch steps and watched the hummingbirds, which usually offer inspiration. I simply fell flat.

A few deep breaths afforded a small dose of liveliness, but it was quickly snuffed out when the jets roared overhead.

I accept that every day cannot be filled with seemingly unending joy. I walked past my unfinished artwork, out of tune cello and I drew a bath with lavender. As I soaked in the tub, my muscles, tense from over thinking, relaxed. Lavender has that affect on me.

I went to bed and read for a while, trying to ignore the normal sounds of an old farmhouse creaking. I tossed and turned throughout the night and woke up weary, heading for the coffee.

I sat in front of my computer sipping my coffee and opened an email. In it was a beautiful photo. That’s all it took to stir my senses. I studied the composition for a bit and felt the inspiration rise within. I walked away from the computer and dumped the rest of my coffee down the sink and got dressed.

Almost giddy, I found myself barefoot in the damp grass. The wild landscape called for me to go this way and that. Plants that were starting to flower the day before were in full bloom. I dashed inside to get my camera. The possibilities were endless.

I captured photos by the pond where the frogs seemed to be waiting for me. I am delighted that we have established trust; they no longer leap into the water (with a deep ker-plunk) when they hear me approach. They look at me and maintain their positions, allowing me to lean perilously over the edge to snap a photo.

My favorite moment was lingering in the field near a Ruby Meadowhawk; a dragonfly. He was vibrant and patient. If I had a mind to, I might have reached out and touched him. We communed for what seemed an eternity. I captured a few photos and imprinted his essence deep into a sacred place that will serve me in the days ahead.

I then harvested mint, marjoram and cat mint before assessing the goldenrod that is almost ready. I sat on my favorite log in the meadow by the pond and absorbed the stillness. The heaviness that was pressing down on my chest had lifted. I gave thanks to the Creator for the sum of what surrounds me; the absolute power of little miracles that are the basic core of who we are, as one.
Journal: Scarlet Lily

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cold River: The Ancestors Who Follow

The water is always brisk, clear and fast moving in Cold River. As a young girl, I often accompanied my father when he went fly fishing, hopping from one rock to another and exploring shallow pools, careful to avoid the rapids that seem gentler today than back then. I had no interest in fishing myself but marveled at my father’s expert skills and the surrounding landscape.

To get to his favorite spot, we passed over Durgin Bridge, a classic New England covered bridge still standing today. Dad told us to close our eyes and make a wish after he beeped the horn. I thought that the horn part was part of the magic but understood later that it was a safety precaution to warn others of our approach.

I was flooded by these warm memories yesterday as I picked blueberries along the banks of Cold River – the river of my childhood. The harmony of the currents beckoned me back to that place from so long ago. Again, I was not alone as my ancestors followed me from one prolific bush to the next.

I harvested a good crop of berries, enough to make the usual jam, pies, syrup and possibly wine (there is still so much aging from last year). The Red Winged Blackbirds called out, allowing me to catch sight now and then, their song mingling in perfect phrases with the delicate breeze.

It wasn’t long before I decided that I must take off my socks and sneakers so to feel the soft grass beneath my feet. This provided immediate relief from the afternoon heat and reestablished my endless desire to connect with Our Mother.

As I picked and ate a good amount of  berries, I gave thanks to the offerings available to me and thought of how fortunate I am to be aware of these simple gifts. I resisted the temptation to actually go to the river and jump in. I wasn’t wearing my bathing suit and the thought of heavy wet clothes was unappealing. Instead, I dipped my feet in and closed my eyes, immersed in my place in the world, exactly as it was meant to be.

When I opened my eyes, they fell upon the sweet mountains that surround us like grand protectors. I thought of the great spiritual connection of my ancestors to the sacred Mount Chocorua and Whiteface, and how it has transcended into my own being and I gave thanks.
Journal: Babies Breath

Friday, July 27, 2012

Moonfield – Awakening

It seemed like forever before the rains came. I know better than to anticipate; waiting like this makes me somewhat edgy. The air was still and the energy thick, influencing the tone within.

I mistook the wind for rain more than once, rejoicing prematurely only to be humbled by my impatience and expectations. It was a wise choice to go berry picking, barefoot, under a fickle sky.

I passed by the once perfect, now departed daisies, whilst following my well worn path. The mints seemed to be reaching out like eager school children, “Pick me! Pick me!” But it simply was not their turn.

I avoided the drama of the Blue Jays’ agitated clamor just beyond the fringes of the trees, the protective, persistent chirping of a chipmunk and the telltale signal of the approaching end of summer from the drone of the Cicada. Clearly in it together, we shared our tension.

However, my breathing came easier with the picking of each berry. From each passing, wordless song in the nearby wood, I reclaimed my inspired center and optimism. I stayed with the task, reeling myself back in when I wanted to wander somewhere else (but I did check on the flowering Milkweed on behalf of the Monarchs).

I considered powerful connections initiated in the New Moon, pondering limitless possibilities. I fought the impulse to retreat to safety, determined to tap into the fullest extent of my potential and higher souled aspirations.

I fell asleep to the sound of falling rain and awoke to the same – a gentle reassuring melody quenching both the parched earth and my spirit. Against my better judgment, I found myself amongst the black raspberries, barefoot (again) and with a tee shirt. My flesh provided a feast for ravenous mosquitoes. Ah, but I did well just the same. I encountered a few spots of mud that squished agreeably between my toes.

The rain stopped, giving way to tightfisted clouds, unwilling to surrender. I took note of a very unique spider that I tried to capture on film but just could not bring myself as close as need be. My peering at him and positioning of the camera caused us both to wonder.

Today I will leave my comfort zone in nature and on the page, and return to my canvas, which has been waiting far too long. It is through various mediums that we find new channels of creative expression and a deeper connection to the source. The seeds have been planted. The time for new growth and creation in the Moonfield awakens.
Journal: Scarlett Lily


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Flower from a Bee – A Lesson in White Clover

It is no secret that when I harvest flowers, I am in the company of bees. Today I wore a flowered skirt with the colors of purple, green, tan and orangey red. I stopped and waited patiently for a curious, plump bumble bee to buzz around me to see just what kind of flower I might be and then bid him farewell when he realized that my nectar is of the spiritual kind.

Although it will delight in my memory with each cup of tea, I really thought that I was done with White Clover this season. While in amongst the Yarrow, I noticed a crop of fresh, creamy white blossoms with an impossible pinkish hue. I tried to stay with the Yarrow a bit longer, but could not resist the allure of the simple beauty and delicate wonder just out of my reach (Yarrow is quite patient with me and my endless curiosity).

So I found myself sitting with them in the middle of a well defined patch. The bees were mostly of the small sort and didn’t notice me as did the bumble bee. I waited a moment to get a feel for the movement of bee to flower before plucking.

Red Clover, although really purple, gets all the fame when White Clover is truly where dreams of bees are born. I admit that I was smitten by the Red Clover for some time, but I have awakened to the sweetness of their smaller, milk white sisters.

Did you notice that they look like an embellishment for an elegant dress, perhaps of antiquity? If I were to have such a dress, surely I would wear a sash of lacey White Clover (the ones with a hint of pink) or an innocent crown of them mixed in with Daisies and Black Eyed Susans.

From my spot on the warm, green earth I could see the other patch where the White Clover moved slightly with the wind. The bees and I were in Heaven, or so it seemed. I smiled as I reached for the next blossom, which was approached by a small bee at precisely the same instant. I pulled back and watched as he and the flower collaborated. I never take a flower from a bee.
White Clover
Genus – Trifolium

White Clover is magical and generally overshadowed by Red Clover. Although I am a strong supporter and advocate of Red Clover for its flavorful offerings and health benefits; I enjoy the same of White Clover.

Raw or cooked leaves of White Clover are edible. It is preferable to harvest the young leaves before the plant flowers. It can be steamed like you would spinach or you can use it in soups and salads.The young flowers are great in salads as well. Dried flowers and seed pods are excellent when ground into a powder and sprinkled on rice and pasta dishes. 

Maryjane's (Organic Edible) Wildflower Cake
I have used the stem and flower (intact) for edible cake decorations.

Crushed dried leaves add a hint of vanilla to cakes, breads and other baked merries. Even the root is edible after being cooked.

My favorite use of this wonderful flower is as a sweet herb tea made from fresh or dried flowers. My Native American ancestors used all parts of White Clover for medicinal purposes in relation to purification, cleansing and healing a wide array of disorders.

Of course like all folk medicine there is a spiritual connection. If one carries either White or Red Clover; it is said that he/she will possess the ability to detect witches and good faeries (I prefer to meet them by chance or with my own intuition).

Sweet White Clover Tea Infusion
Flowers and leaves: Fresh ¼ cup ~ Dried 2-3 teaspoons
Just Under Boiling Water – 1 cup
(1 Sprig of Mint – Optional)
Strain into tea cup and steep 5-7 minutes
Add honey, maple syrup or dash of fresh lemon juice as desired

Journal: Babies Breath

Monday, July 23, 2012

Find the River (Never Let Go)

Yesterday, I planned to take my childhood friend Mela for a swim at the lake.

“The bottom is so sandy, even way out deep.” I told her while plucking and eating luscious black raspberries. “The painted turtles sunbathe on the rocks and sunfish nibble at your toes when you stand on the ledge. You’ll love it.”
As appealing as this thought was, it occurred to me that it was actually the river that I longed for.

I took her for a walk through the gardens and fields, down the pathway by the pond and to the edge of the woods, pausing along the way to mingle with flowers and what others might consider weeds. (The sweetness of the black raspberries was almost overwhelming).

Over lunch I confessed that I would rather take her to the river to visit the waterfalls and walk in the woods. I frequented this place since I was a young girl, going there often with my family and a handful of girl scouts, one time carefully crafting a sit upon made out of a vinyl table cloth, newspaper and yarn. I refresh my creative spirit there. It is a sanctuary, indeed.

We drove up the bumpy dirt road towards the notch and I felt my excitement grow as we neared the falls. I was stunned when I rounded the corner to see the parking lot overflowing with cars with license plates from various states. There were cars parked along the roadway. I stopped, hesitated and reconsidered our original plan to go to the lake. I was unaccustomed to sharing this slice of heaven with tourists. When did the secret get out?

On auto pilot, I squeezed my car into a space; Mela had never been to the falls and seemed excited in spite of my disenchantment. We got out of the car and I stopped to read a plaque that explained the legend of “Cow’s Cave.” Someone had crossed out the part that said, “Some believed the cow died…” Underneath that same person (I assume) wrote, “THE COW LIVED.” I breathed a sigh of relief that someone restored the authentic story. We grew up with that legend and I was somewhat miffed that suddenly the cow might have died. Who said so? If the cow died, the legend would as well.

We wandered down the pathway towards the water. I expected to hear the welcoming resonance of rushing water and was puzzled by its absence. We were met by the sound of people shouting instead. It was more like a crowded beach resort than the sanctuary that I knew.

We approached the falls to see that it was a mere trickle over the huge granite rock. A man stood beneath it in water up to his knees looking as if he was taking a shower with poor water pressure. There was an entire area roped off with signs explaining that there was bridge work being done. Bridge? Who needs a bridge? I looked down river and signaled for Mela to follow. Groups of people littered the river’s edge. They had chairs, coolers, beach floats and I-pods competing with one another.

We continued on downstream and I was taken aback by the low water level. It was barely making it in some places. I recalled areas that we typically crossed from one bank to another, perilously walking on a fallen tree and hopping from rock to rock. Yesterday, any river crossing was underwhelming, requiring a simple step over an almost empty riverbed.

Each pool that we encountered was shallow, almost lethargic. We passed several groups of people until I found a private spot where we could sit on the edge of a rock with our feet in the water; it was not deep enough to swim. What had become of this place I once called Heaven? Where is the river song, now silent?

Below us were two couples with riotous music, a huge blue cooler and drinks in red plastic cups. I tried to comprehend the unfolding scene. Why do they have so much stuff? When I parked the car, I placed my pocketbook in the trunk and then put my keys in my shorts pocket. The only thing I brought into the woods was my camera.

Mela and I sat and talked, catching up on recent news. I had a difficult time concentrating. For me it was not as if nothing else was going on. I watched as yet another family emerged from the woods upstream. They had so much gear, they were struggling. They hauled their cargo on a wagon. Their two little boys had massive yellow Tonka dump trucks, like what my boys loved to play with. They settled in, spreading out their blankets, chairs, cooler, beach bags, newspapers and toys. I sensed a clear lack of joy.

I’m not certain when I became lionhearted, but it has surfaced more in the past decade. In these times I must balance compassion with courage and passion with restraint. It was clear to me that the people I witnessed along this magnificently dwindling river, as humans, have become alarmingly detached from the environment and much attached to possessions. My gut instinct warned me of the inherent dangers of this way of being.

I focused on the boys, who were about four and five years old. They made familiar motor sounds while pushing their bright yellow trucks through the shallow water. Their parents were deeply involved in setting up the false, manmade environment that they dragged down the trail with them.

Weary from their blindness, I imagined approaching them and asking, “What about sticks? Did you know that all boys love to play with sticks? And what about that frog over there? You are missing him! Don’t you want to explore, pretend, and collect precious rocks embedded with glittery mica?” I thought of our many rock collections more precious than gold.

I wanted to urge the parents to allow and encourage their sons to play, imagine, discover and be in awe of the river and woods. This is who we are! I begged silently for them to be part of it; to belong to that which they belong.

I wanted to suggest that they turn off the radio so that they can hear the music of Our Mother – birds, wind, bees and the various tones of water as it moves under, over and around rocks. Be playful in nature. We must remember and honor the divinity of life, for which we belong.

With a fraction of joy, I looked at my feet in the clear, cold water and conjured my river memories. My dreams almost escaped, floating downstream on a tender green leaf. I held tight with help from a yellow butterfly near the mossy bank.

I was thankful to Mela for taking photos as I was uninspired. I lay back on the rock and closed my eyes as the sun warmed my face. What has become of us?

The only requirement when communing with nature is to be completely present. Nature does not call for devices other than what is necessary to capture, enrich or sustain. Know, honor and accept her offerings. If we as a species are removed from or missing these vital elements of which we are a part of, we have lost the ability to evolve.

We must find the river and teach our children and our children’s children to keep it flowing within.
Journal: Bittersweet

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Keeping in Touch:The Other MaryJane

Today I remembered. I carried somewhat large rocks to my new herb garden wheel. I found a rock pile that was slightly buried with decomposed wood and moss. Most of the rocks were the perfect size for boundaries and pathway edges. I rooted around in the pile, which is situated on a gentle slope, and I tossed selected rocks near the five pound bucket that I used to carry them.

I was careful to fill only a third of the bucket with a few good rocks at a time and carry one with my free hand. I opted for lesser weight and more trips, as I want to maintain my strong back and not over do it. Every once in a while I stopped to reframe the chore at hand. I looked ahead at the herb garden and thought of how grateful I will be when I have finished lugging the rocks and how they will serve as a decorative and functional part of the whole.

Quite hot and sweaty, I gave thanks for the cardio workout and expected outcome. When the wind wasn’t blowing, I was surrounded by aggressive deer and horse flies. I have learned that having a determined mindset helps to endure their relentless attacks. If you swat at them or react in a manner that indicates that they are getting the best of you; they have won. Every so often, one will land and bite. However this happens less and less as I create my own vision of them circling and not landing (I wish I knew this trick when I was a kid).

Oftentimes, I stopped and stood with arms outstretched as the fresh breeze washed over me, drying the sweat and reinvigorating my senses. Generally, I try not to lose focus on the project and I monitor each step. It is significant to be attentive to what you do. Be present. For instance, if you are washing the dishes, wash the dishes. Watch how the soap bubbles reflect and capture the light. Feel around the edges of the pot with your hands and notice how smooth it feels when it’s clean. If you think about your shopping list or how you shouldn’t have eaten that chocolate ice cream that you thoroughly enjoyed earlier, you have just missed the moment that you are in. Paying attention to washing the dishes is where I began the practice of completely being present. Even if it seems dull or unpleasant, you should experience it fully and perhaps it isn’t as dull as you imagined. It is what you decide it is.

So that being said, today I found myself watching where I placed my feet when I walked. The ground is uneven and soft in some places and hard and dry in other spots. It is somewhat dusty now, as much of the topsoil washed away in torrential rains and it has been a dry week. It was once my favorite pine grove and it has been cleared. I used to mourn the loss of the grove, but now I am working in the earth to bring about new life. There is purpose in my work. I honor the memory of the grove each time I pull out roots and debris.

After making the last trip with the rock bucket, I sat on a boulder at the edge of the woods and sipped my water. The sky was clear and bright blue with a few real (not manmade) puffy clouds sailing by. With a fair amount of deer flies swarming around my head, I looked past my damp ringlets and marveled at the landscape. Like a spirited artist’s canvas dotted with wildflowers, trees, ponds, vegetable, herb and flower gardens, I paid tribute to all that I loved. At that moment, I was one with my grandmother; the original MaryJane.

I have a vivid memory of her wildly digging poppies and daisies with bugs swarming aggressively around her head.

With untamed curls framing her face she said, “Mary, you will love these.” She put the shocking red poppies in her basket and bent down and dug a few more before turning to the daisies. “They’re my favorite.”

Like my grandmother, I often declare so many plants as my favorite. It’s almost impossible to choose just one.

I watched with deep admiration while I swatted the bugs, unable to comprehend why she didn’t seem to notice them. I now know; I hadn’t discovered the art of acceptance and disregard of such things. I took my flowers home and planted them in my garden, grateful for her wisdom and generosity as they graced my garden wall, multiplying with each season.

She worked tirelessly on the farm. She was not only a master gardener of flowers, herbs and vegetables; she canned, pickled and baked everything that grew in abundance. She also cooked for all the farmhands at the boarding house, as it was a rather large dairy farm.

I am thankful that I had the insight to invite her to my home to actually make a batch of strawberry rhubarb jam. Hers was what would be considered ‘blue ribbon’ and I enjoyed it tremendously. She made her jams and preserves the old fashioned way without gelatin and she sealed the jars with paraffin. She was my teacher. I became a master at jam making, baking, wine making and basically preserving everything that was in season, from peaches and berries to rhubarb. I think of her every time I engage in this activity, which is yearly.

Today, as the sweat trickled down my face and the small of my back and as I took each step, carrying the heavy rocks for my garden, I thought of how I had become like her. I was at one with the earth and our stories, although somewhat different had merged. I am strong of body, mind, spirit and will, just like the original MaryJane. I know that spider bites, torn flesh and tinges of pain from reaching, bending and pulling are part of the joys honoring Our Mother. The fruits of our labor are the fruits of our heritage. I am a descendant of a long line of ambassadors of the earth.
Journal: Periwinkle

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Magic of Plants: The Power of Mugwort

I am constantly learning and in awe of Our Mother and that which surrounds me. I have been transplanting, thinning, pruning and sorting through a variety of herbs and plants that grow wild and in old, well established herb gardens that have been here for decades. These plants have meandered about the property and are mixed in places you wouldn’t expect. So I am discovering, researching, identifying, rearranging and allowing room for healthy growth and companion planting that makes sense.

One project, other than the recent addition of mint and violet gardens, is a huge herb wheel that I am creating. I have many of the herbs in a holding area, and have cleared a spot for another new herb garden. I adore digging in the earth. The smell of dirt alone is pure joy. My heightened reconnection with Gaia has brought about a fresh sense of oneness that radiates from my core.

My latest lesson in all this is related to research. I read that Mugwort is known to promote and enhance dreams. In addition to a variety of other uses, many people make, sell and use Mugwort for dream pillows, or to hang near their bed for dream work. Intriguing.

Herein lies the lesson. There is more to the Mugwort Dream story. If one has a healthy and active dream life, which I do…, this can be too much and actually initiate nightmares. I did not read enough about this before acting on it. I largely focused on Mugwort in relation to moxibustion – a traditional Chinese medicinal therapy – and for possibly brewing ale.

I started with a bundle of Mugwort hanging by the head of my bed. The only thing that I noticed the next morning is that I had an unusually difficult time with dream recall. I never have this problem. I always remember my dreams in great detail and keep a journal.

I did not give this too much thought as I went about my busy day. The following night when I got all settled in my bed, I reached up and rubbed some of the Mugwort between my fingers, tugged off a few leaves and tucked them into my pillowcase. I inhaled deeply, thoroughly enjoying the heady scent before falling asleep.

I tossed and turned throughout the night and my dreams did not seem necessarily bad, but it was hard to tell because they were all broken up and not cohesive as my dreams usually are (in terms of dreams). I realized that I was a bit weary as the day wore on and attributed it to the many changes in my life and that my unconscious was processing accordingly.

Again, the next night, I (foolishly) wondered if perhaps I did not have ‘enough’ Mugwort in my pillowcase. I really only had a few sprigs to begin with. So I stuffed an additional, small handful of leaves into my pillowcase. I really do love the scent.

I had a night filled with terror. My dreams were frightening, disturbing and unlike any dreams I had experienced. In fact, I am still affected nearly a week later. I quickly got out of bed and took my pillow outdoors and pulled off the case and turned it inside out, shaking all the Mugwort leaves to the ground before tossing it into the laundry. I then went into the bunk room and grabbed an extra pillow and fresh pillow case. I took the bundle of Mugwort down from beside the bed and returned it to my herb drying room.

I fired up my computer and googled “Mugwort Nightmares” and got all the answers (that I missed in my initial reading).

The vital lesson for me is to trust my intuition and expand my research, which will strengthen my wisdom regarding the magical properties of the plant world. I am an experienced researcher, but my focus has primarily been history, psychology, ancient wisdom and music. Wildcraft has always been present as a way of life; however, I am broadening the scope. I have a book case filled with books on the subject, many field guides and related reference material. I have been studying herbalism, permaculture and wildcrafting for a minimum of two hours a day, usually more and then I spend several hours literally in the field.

I have discovered that the more I work with herbs and in the wild; the more my intuitive senses are awakening to my Ancient Self. I give thanks to the divine power of nature and all that connects me to the sacred wisdom of the Ancients, which continues to strengthen with each passing day.
Journal: Babies Breath

Monday, July 2, 2012

Birth Day Gifts

June 30, 2012

Today is my birthday. I woke up at about 4:25 AM for no apparent reason. Usually when I wake up too early, I convince myself to go back to sleep. This time I was simply wide awake.

I decided to go downstairs and look out the window in hopes of seeing a deer or moose in the yard. I didn’t.

I sat in my rocking chair and listened to the dawn chorus while imprinting the stillness between darkness and daybreak. After about thirty minutes I rejected the idea of coffee, returned to my bed and slept until about eight o’clock.

When I awoke the second time it felt more like an ordinary day, even though I know that no two days are alike. Everything is transitioning. I sense a sort of pull and rise to a higher vibrational level. I am somewhat restless, but more confident than I have ever been and at a time when an earlier version of me would be in a panic.

I finally have the courage to completely release what does not align with my higher souled aspirations or intentions. I held on tightly to that which was a vexation of spirit and did so because I believed that I needed to for a weekly pay check. Of course being financially secure is important, but at what cost? There is no room for the new when the old bulges at the seams.

I struggled with this conflict for the past few years – you know when days turn into weeks turn into months turn into years sort of thing? The logic is right there. The question begs to be asked. What’s the worst thing that can happen? There should be a rule with that question and that is when you come up with an answer, that you believe it. Otherwise what’s the point of going there?

I realized that although it isn’t the worst thing, (we all know that things can worsen)…being stuck was ickiness in the height of its glory. It sucked. I dreaded the days of being confined. I tried to alter my perception, discover meaning in my work, love unconditionally and release everything.

Usually when I refer to God or the Creator, I think of Sophia…the feminine face of God. Over the years, Sophia nudged me repeatedly, giving me bold, clear signs to leave. Sometimes I remember thinking that if the signs were any more obvious; I would be struck by lightening. She wanted me to leave and we both knew that I did not belong there. Well, sort of. I did belong there, at least until the point when I finally left, because there was something left to learn.

Nothing happens by accident. In the face of dishonor, hostility and unwarranted stress, I reached deep into my reserves and carried on with grace. This is not the first time I have made this choice and it is the correct one. I often wondered how I would manage to sustain this. It helped to meditate in the morning and sometimes on the way home from work it got to the point where I gave a primal scream, which cleared my head. I knew it could not go on.

I am grateful that Sophia followed through with Her plan and that was to release me or for ‘me to release me’ from my version of Hell. Enough is enough. Salvation waits patiently.

My gift is having the freedom to follow my path in peace. I am grateful for the amazing opportunity to be in nature every day, honoring and working in the earth. I am grateful for the act of creating and trusting the ultimate universe.

I have had a wonderful spring and early summer in the wild. Today I sat in a field of white clover with a multitude of bees dancing atop creamy pink blossoms, surrounded by Elderberry and pink and white Aster. I am thankful to be amongst and witness these harmonies and celebrate.

I am especially pleased that the Asters are so plentiful. Many of them are taller than me (5' 4"). I have been harvesting pink and white Yarrow, along with Ladies Mantle and many others.

I got an email from Shelby letting me know that he arrived safely in Vienna at yes, you guessed; 4:35 am. At least I know why I was up at that hour for what seemed random at the time.

Hearing from Anna and Miles matters most on this day. They called within minutes of each other, both being over 3,000 miles away. The umbilical cord is not severed, it continued to grow. Oh to be a mother.

I heard from my sisters via various means. We are so different. I am the quintessential Earth child, while my sisters are considered somewhat 'normal' and mainstream. They are more like soccer moms and I homeschooled and raised my children singlehandedly on a small farm while we hiked, canoed and snow shoed during the day and played music together at night. In some families this situation would be the elephant in the corner of the room, but in my family we have always acknowledged this vast difference. My mother often laughs when she says; Maryjane marches to the beat of a different drum. I respond, You mean I’m an artist? (smile).

My mother called me and we talked about lots of little things, like why the squash plants were growing nicely and then are suddenly rotting on the ends, how her computer won’t download Adobe, my thoughts on Obamacare and politics in general, and what time of day I was born.

My dear friend whom I refer to as my Southern Sister and her husband sent me a package that I received last Wednesday. I waited until today to open it. I’m a stickler about waiting to open gifts until the appropriate day. She gave me an antique maple syrup tin that is shaped like a log cabin. I flipped it over to read that it was from a company in a small town in Vermont that I am not going to mention because it is where the “Medicine Caves” are located. It is not a tourist attraction, quite the contrary. It is the region where my Abenaki ancestors are from. She discovered this tin in an antiques shop in Austin Texas. Synchronicity. And she gave me a cute little tea pot with Red Peppermint Rooibos tea, which I thoroughly enjoy. (I am sipping a cup right now).

So if this is the end of my journal entry, it is because nothing else worth mentioning happened as of yet, but it is still early. I will go for a walk (barefoot) in a bit as the sun is slowly sinking and it is cooling off. I might have to water my (newly planted) calendula and sage. Everything is thriving from all of the rain that we had in the past week. Today I prefer to view a lush and healthy landscape in innocence and ignore the steady onslaught of chemtrails in the skies overhead.

During my walk, I will have a visit with the great White Pines and sit on the Prayer Rock and give thanks for all of my blessings.

The moon is bright and yellow and almost full. Fireflies are gracing the trees, grasses and reeds by the pond.
Everything is coming into sharp focus.
Journal: Marigold

Friday, June 29, 2012

Toxic Shame: Lost Love

How can anyone love him? Including his mother, sisters and girlfriend?

I am responding to the above question that was recently asked by my friend. He described a scenario at an outdoor café involving a young couple. In my friend’s words, the man was a thuggish guy in his twenties wearing a tee-shirt with cutaway sleeves, the mandatory tattoos, for this 'sub-species '. He had a beer belly and a convict style haircut. He had a bull terrier on a leash.

Apparently the man was displeased with the food and he wanted to express his anger towards the cook or the manager. His girlfriend begged him not to.

My friend witnessed the exchange of one syllable words laced with cussing and shouting and he became disgusted. In fact he was so disgusted that he asked me, how can anyone love him?

Well, I would like to address this.

I can only guess that perhaps no one really did love him, at least when he needed it most during the first five [crucial] years of life. With the crushing number of one parent families and the loss of the nucleus of intact homes, it is evident that many of our children have grown up with attachment and abandonment issues.

Many parents are so embroiled in their own drama; they miss the fact that their children need them at all. Children do not only need a parent every other weekend or to be along side of a parent whilst he/she talks on a cell phone or checks email. They need your undivided attention, at least most of the time. Children need to be the focal point; they will be gone soon enough and then you have lost your opportunity to guide, love, nurture and teach them.

I don’t mean that they should rule your life and become tempestuous, controlling monsters. No. They need nurturing, guidance and discipline. They need not be shuffled off to play video games, plunked in front of the television or other sophisticated electronic devices, which can be another set of problems if the gateway to the vast world of information is left unguarded.

Without considering the internet and wireless devices, there are simply too many distractions. Our ‘disposable’ society has basically abandoned the children and thrown the cohesive family unit under the bus. It seems that the children themselves have become the distraction.

I learned a great deal from my experience as a mother who navigated divorce with children. It is important for me to share what I learned from this. The main point is that children who live with a set of loving parents have a substantially better chance of being more grounded and secure in their adult lives than those of one parent homes. No matter how hard either parent tries to make up for the other, whether it be physical absence, lack of financial or emotional support, or the fact that they are not living together as a complete family anymore; the pain and turmoil exists far beyond the reaches of the initial experience.

It has become very clear to me that no matter how hard I loved them [my children], the other factors still exist(ed) and I could not love them away. That was the most difficult and substantial lesson for me. Of course no one can assume responsibility for another. We are accountable for ourselves individually and our respective relationships.

Getting back to the young man at the café… the hardcore language, tattoos, hair and basic threatening presence is no more than the tools of a wounded child rising to meet his challenges as no one did for him when he needed it. He was probably a victim of neglect, abandonment and maybe physical and or emotional abuse. No matter which of these, he had no choice but to fall into the category of bully or being bullied. If he was a victim of bullying as a young child and no one was there on his behalf, then it stands to reason that when he finally got to the point where he could stand his ground, that he does so in an overstated manner that will no doubt lead to trouble. He will not flinch when people glare at him, people (like you) who label him as a punk who could never possibly be loved. Culturally speaking, you are right, which is tragic yet true.

He was probably labeled from the start as the kid who had no advocate; the one who showed up at school with dirty socks and faded thrift store clothes. The perennial scape goat who never got his homework done because no one gave a damn what he had in his backpack at the end of the day. Which was not even close to the name brand backpack, instead he had the cheesy one from Wal-Mart that his grandmother gave him. The one that he thought was really cool until he got teased on the bus, causing him to destroy it or maybe he just tortured the cat instead.

He was the one who got to eat free lunch on the program for “healthy kids” and sometimes, if there was enough money in the school budget, he enjoyed a free breakfast too. Everyone knows who those kids are because there is no discretion; therefore he wolfed down the much anticipated meals in toxic shame, knowing that the weekends were filled with things like canned ravioli, cheese curls and sugary drinks.

Tattoos are a sense of belonging. Many in our culture are not part of an intact family, church, village or tribe, therefore I believe that to compensate for this loss, tattoos may symbolize the natural human instinct to belong (to something, anything). Tattoos are very common now as most of us are aware.

I know that Pit Bull Terriers have become popular. Do you see anything that fits the stereotype here? They are known for their ability to protect, guard and attack if trained to do so. They give the illusion of ferocity, even though they are quite capable of being a loving and close companion. The outcome (again) depends on human involvement.

Of course he has a Pit Bull.  In addition to his crude image, it’s about time he had protection. The Pit Bull fills in for the absent parent, family, secure and loving childhood…the wounded boy has protection, which you will not want to mess with. So it works.

And the girlfriend? She may understand all too well what it means to grow up in a world with unmet needs. Or, she may have had everything handed to her and she sees the ember of this broken young man’s spirit. Some people think that they can save others. Maybe she is saving him because no one was there to save her, or no one to save him. Could they be in a survival mode together, clinging to what could be love, but uncertain of what love is? We won’t know unless we ask.  We won't ask as long as we are afraid.

So now, when his burger isn’t cooked correctly at the café; he has his say. He is finally big enough to raise his voice. It isn’t really the café owner who is the target of his rage, it is all of those who laughed, taunted, rejected and wrongfully and rightfully accused him from the time he was able to realize that it was happening.

I learned from my daughter that it is never what it seems. Everything is wrapped in a package – some pretty, others neat, some frightening – we have a plethora of gift-wrap to choose from. The heart inside of this gift beats in a rhythm unknown to the casual observer.

I prefer not to judge. When we judge others, we are judging ourselves and achieve separateness from the Creator and endless possibilities of healing, correcting and reaching higher levels.

Therefore, I know all too well how pain masks itself within the ink of elaborate and sometimes not so elaborate tattoos, rough talk and tattered clothing. My answer to your question is; how can anyone not love him?
Journal: Scarlet Lily