With good reason, many Wisconsinites are agonizing over the blast of Siberian like cold passing through the region. Temperatures with the wind chill plummeted to 50 below zero in parts of the state last night, creating exasperating problems in our daily existence. We have descended downward to temperatures that could surely freeze hell over.
Dressed in the wool of two sheep, I found myself sweating before I finished feeding and watering the horses. At times, being over-prepared can be no better than being under-prepared. Sweating was my body’s voice of common sense, telling me to restore the balance between the outside and inside climates. Taking two sheep’s worth of sweaty wool clothing off was more of a relief than the warmth that consoled me at the wood stove. Extreme cold weighs heavy on the mind and body. Clothing adjustments will be made, a last minute decision to throw on a pair of ski goggles— borderline genius.
I am grateful for the bitter cold’s wide opening to feel compassion’s inexhaustible warmth. Folks are filling bird feeders, checking on the elderly and helping each other, two-legged and four, survive the cold. Duchess my 23 years wise Pinto mare, insists on standing outside. Even though I’ve hung two heat lamps in the shelter and laid down a good two feet of shavings on the floor. I did blanket her, more for my comfort than hers. She spent most of the night standing in the shelter of spruce trees bordering the pasture; out of the wind, underneath the light of stars, in a good two feet of snow. Who am I to argue against 23 years of horse sense?
I am also thankful that the jet of glacial cold is forecast to leave the area tomorrow afternoon. By the weekend, meteorologists predict the temperature to be in the upper thirties. Mother Nature’s playground is the weather and she has two pieces of equipment in it, swings and teeter-totters.
I am walking in two winters, one outside and one inside. How well I can balance the climate changes in each has intense implications on my life. Winter invites us to explore the hidden closets old thoughts get hung up in and forgotten. Temperature fluctuations outside, mood swings inside, both create chaotic conversation within us. We become uncomfortable but they are necessary to “feel” what we’re wearing. Adaptability is fundamental to restoring balance in one’s life. It is the sheer definition of preparedness— for anything!
Nothing in nature remains full.
Everything contains openness.
When you are open you never feel empty.
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”~ Robert Louis Stevenson
The woods are slow to fill up with snow and cold this winter. I have yet to wear more than one layer of wool when walking Wally. Old man winter’s unpredictable emotions keep me wary. The snow shovel and extra woollies will be kept within reach. Unable to enjoy the usual playful snow activities has left a void in this winter. Then with impeccable timing they came! Slow at first. Soon opening the mailbox needed to be done with great care. Or an avalanche of shiny slippery catalogs would land on the ground.
One staple of the dark white season I can always count on is currently piling up on my kitchen counter. I save them for those especially long dreary days—seed catalogs! They come at a time when forgiveness for last year’s garden disappointments is easy to offer up. I’m ready for another go at the garden’s blank canvas.
I have my favorites, the tried and true. Oh, but on the next catalog page I’m tempted to believe the “too good to be true”. The colorful photos and persuasively written descriptions fill me with anticipation. Small seeds of optimism take hold with a promise to grow.
Life is like a mailbox full of seed catalogs. You never know what opportunities optimism will grow.
Wishing you and yours the best from life in 2019.
Spring seed catalogs
loyal as my old dog
piled up on the table
a late winter mailbox staple.
Slippery glossy pages for some
no frills no fancy for others
black ink on plain paper
for this one.
New and improved promises to create
bountiful blooms on the garden’s clean slate
last year’s disappointments easily forgiven
with one glance to the next page
I escape from winter’s white prison.
Favorite varieties come first
the tried and true-blue
but then there are the new
that make you utter, “Oooo”!
Could they be too good to be true?
Colorful descriptions shout
no pest no drought will kill you out
this one will grow anywhere
without a doubt!
In deep winter optimism can be hard to muster
these light moments keep their luster
dog-eared pages mark the best
scorn the limits on the sum to invest!
In the circle of seasons fall is a restless spirit. These deep months of autumn are one last raucous hurrah before the weather turns the somber corner towards winter’s reverent quiet. Radiant wild leaves that moments earlier burned the sky’s blue, float like embers from a forest aflame. The confetti-colored earth is a sign that winter’s wait is ending. Summer’s party is over.
Chilly north winds usher in a steady stream of grey clouds heavy with rain. For days the dampness soaks deep down into the bones of the land. An earthy scent lingers in the air like the perfumed smoke of incense. There is nothing like that smell to freshen ones state of mind. All it washes over is cleansed and purified for the coming journey inward to connect with self.
Seasonal transitions can be unsettling. They are raw elemental movement measurable in the mindfulness I keep on my mood. Nature is forcing us to face our feelings. In my way of thinking, her influence on our mind isn’t to bring our spirits down as much as it is for us to find ways to raise them up.
Each fall is unique. This year the rain has been persistent and significant. For the most part I’ve been able to keep a sunny disposition despite the seemingly endless string of gloomy grey days. Making monstrous kettles of homemade soup is a delicious way to shine a soul or two… or ten.
This fall taught me…
When you can’t hold the heaviness of dark clouds any longer let go of the rain.
As a child I would steal away time from my farm chores to play among the white pines that grew wide and tall next to our land. They grew best in the coarse, sandy, well-drained soils on the top of small hills. On windy days the sway of the boughs motioned to me like the repeated curl of an index finger beckoning closer. This time of play among the peaceful pines strengthened my spirits gentleness. Many people wish for a heart of oak but I long for a heart of pine.
Nothing escapes pine’s restful rapture. In their company the spirit wanders free and easy. Whose soul isn’t soothed by the faintest tang of pine scent? Gazing at the whorl of branches rise and fall my consciousness slides effortlessly into the flow of creation. In the gentle whisper of the pine, listen for the silence. You will hear things.
Many people wish for a heart of oak but I long for a heart of pine.
The cleanup crew has arrived! Easy access to a food source doesn’t go unnoticed for long by the honeybee. After the honey extraction is complete, all the equipment and empty honey supers are set out for the bees. I took delight in watching the bees collect every last hint of honey. I could hear and feel their joy vibrating through the air. Maybe they even felt some relief. Knowing they didn’t have to “make” all the honey that will sustain them through the cold dark days ahead.
As I sat mesmerized by ceremonial procession from frames to hive, it occurred to me that I was feeding on the bee’s joy. We have easy access to joy’s existence. It’s all around and in everything. We need only to allow the joy, imagined or real, of other beings to be ours.
Joy increases each time it’s shared. Share your sweetness. Grow joy in the world. Allow the joy of others to be yours.
As I pick, the prominent creases in my palms fill with the deep purple, almost black, juice of the elderberries. The plastic fork I use to comb the berries from the stems, jabs and pokes the delicate skin, bursting the deepest flavored berries. I decide to use my fingers to coerce the berries from their stems. An effort to save as much of the precious juice as possible for the medicinal concoction I’ll be making. I relish the intimate hand labor to collect sustenance for my body. Ray Bradbury said it best when he described the art of doing things by hand as something that imbues actions with spirit and enduring significance.
Several years ago I discovered an enviable passion for the medicinal properties of Elderberries. Elderberry’s antioxidant capacity is one of the highest of all wild food sources. A tablespoon a day of elderberry syrup is enough to stave off the most arduous cold and flu season. As with many things, homemade is not only better but cheaper. So 15 years ago along a shallow ditch next to a wild space, I planted ten elderberry whips, a florescent ribbon marking their place in the wilderness. All I could do was let time pass.
The head-high bushes started producing at 10 years. Most harvests now produce enough to share with friends, family and a variety of bird species. The birds have spread the seeds by a method I lightheartedly refer to as “poop and plant”. Our property now has scatterings of elderberry bushes that are exclusively food for wildlife. The serendipitous way “passing it forward” occurred makes me wonder if nature had a plan for my relationship with the elderberry all along. The land has been waiting to welcome the elderberry. Evidenced by its proliferation into the hidden wild areas only a winged-one can reach.
With that thought, I would like to share my elderberry syrup recipe. I’m not really sure you can call it a recipe. It’s more of a creative adventure in food preservation. I hope during the process you feel the hand/heart connection … that your being is imbue with spirit, knowing the enduring significance this one action has on the health and well-being of all that surrounds you.
Ingredients: Elderberry juice (2-3 cups), 1 tsp Cinnamon, 3/4 tsp Ginger, Raw honey
Put clean elderberries into a pot with a good splash of water. Whatever you pick will be enough. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer. Crush berries in the pot. Let them cook at a simmer, crushing and mixing, for 5-10 minutes. A potato masher works well. Once you feel you have squeezed every last drop of juice from the berries, drain the liquid. I use a mesh strainer. To the liquid add the spices. Adjust amounts to your taste. The measurements I gave are a starting point. Add the raw honey at last, after the juice has cooled. Stir well. SYRUP MUST BE STORED IN THE REFRIGERATOR.
I take a tablespoon a day beginning in September. It’s yummy drizzled over yogurt or mixed into oatmeal.