Elderberry

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.

 

Elderberry Syrup

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.

 

Sermon in the Wood

After ceremony, I fly in a bigger sky, on a higher vibe.

It’s a spiritually induced, clean connection.

Intentional attention to the presence of Creator.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

……that walk through the woods sure did me good.

Beginning Fields

An excerpt from Sweet Wisdoms….

Tractor fumes mingle with the sweet scent of freshly turned hay. The sickle cut close to the earth. Tall proud stems and blades laid and dried by the breath of the sun. A steady parade of bulging squares marched out of the baler to be stacked in an orderly fashion on the hayrack, and following each, a cough of fine chafe that stuck to beads of sweat draped across my brow. Bald fields void of lush green begin again.

When the daylight is extinguished I’ll rest, my forearms speckled with tiny cuts from the stems of hay, my fingers swollen from plucking taut twine. To know that this labor keeps hunger from winter’s long reach and squeezes the throat of drought gives my soul temporary satisfaction.

Next summer, I’ll begin again like green fields.

Summer’s Dream

My summer dream is here! The air is heavy with heat, the sun high and still. Endless ribbons of golden light flow through the cloudless sky. In the garden, the green promise of this season’s abundance dangles from every vine and stem.  An early morning surprise greeted me in the blueberry patch. I popped the plumb blue nuggets in my mouth, bursting the sweet pleasure between my tongue and cheek. Maybe tomorrow a few will make it beyond the patch boundaries to the house—maybe.

Having the first crop of hay tucked away in a quiet corner of the shed is the crowning achievement of my hot weather farm duties. Summer’s green fills the pockets of my heart with gratitude and contentment. It’s a priceless feeling of freedom, knowing you have enough.

This time of sun feeds more than the body. I’ll stow away the memories of these soft days to warm my spirit when the landscape turns hard and cold. Summer unfolds life before us, constantly and gracefully, each day a birth of possibility. The dream she has for us is to release our unlimited potential and prosper. May summer’s dream awaken and grow within you.

Take A Crack At It

I’ve been off the grid in Montana the last 10 days. This beauty was growing through the I90 pavement. She took her one crack at life and made it enough.

Sweet Drops

By the shift in the winds direction and speed I can tell the weather is about to change abruptly. The sky’s sunny disposition is no match for the clouds angry demeanor. As Wally and I make a bee line for the shelter of the shed they come, sweet drops of rest.

I take a seat on an overturned pail near the open shed door, peering through the curtain of rain. Wally waltzes over for a scratch behind the ear then lies on my feet. The distinct odor of wet lab cuts through the scent of fresh rain. I breathe in both deeply. There we sit, work waiting, listening to the peaceful rhythm of the rain. Peaceful because there is no hay cut or seed to put in the ground.  Rain and I have a fluid relationship. To a farmer rain can be a curse and a blessing. Weather is a master at teaching acceptance. Over the years, I’ve learned to move with the rhythm of the rain.

While thoughts tossing and turning in my mind are put to sleep by the rain’s song, I feel content. We control uncontrollable circumstances by choosing how we cope with them. Today, I’m choosing to sit and listen to the sweet drops of wisdom coming to rest in my soul.

Shady People

Not everything can live in the sunshine. On my early morning walk with Wally through our little woods, I noticed how happy the trillium and violets were blooming in the shade. Even the fanned-out ferns, which don’t really bloom, were content with their place in this world dappled with light. They made me think of the shady people in my life. How, in the presence of other people’s brightness, they burn. But in the shadows they shine. Their living light a reflection of this calm… cool…collected energy.

I appreciate the different sensitivities in our personalities. It’s not so much that their beauty is hidden but unseen. We have to enter the shadows to fully understand them. Something not all of us are willing to do. Most shady people I know are introverted and extremely creative. I can only imagine the brilliance of the inner light that sources their visions. Sadly, it is a light some can struggle to find. Sunshine and darkness can be equally blinding. That’s when the compass of our higher self gives us direction. Points us to that feeling of home within us. The place that keeps the light on.

We all thrive where we feel alive. I love my shady friends. Not everyone can live in the sunshine. Some people are made for the shade.

Earth’s Breath

On the cusp of this new season, Mother Earth’s breath smells of tender grass, sunlight and infinite possibility. Oh, the ambitious garden projects spring pushes us to complete in the light of one day! I’ve learned much about gardening over the years. All that collective wisdom can be summed up in one sentence. Garden chores may stiffen my bones but they soften the soreness in the world.

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” ~ Margaret Atwood

Put Your Lips Together and Blow

You don’t hear much whistling anymore. Dad whistled his song of life, a gift that unbeknownst to him brought happiness to many over his lifetime. There is playfulness to a sound made through puckered lips, the air tongue-tickled as the breath’s bellows pump, making music on the inhale and exhale, the breath of life’s soul music.

His favorite tune was merry and light, the chorus at the forefront of my memory. I don’t think a day went by that I didn’t hear that tune when I worked alongside him. He loved to whistle during milking time on our dairy farm. The melody danced between the clang of cow chains against iron stalls and through the persistent chug of the vacuum pump. The sound relaxed and eased the cattle. When we worked outside the sound of his whistle was clear and free, traveling far to spread the cheer of his spirit. For some reason even the faint sound of his whistle drew your attention. It had a way of calling you home—calling your heart. At Dad’s funeral, I became aware of the distance his whistle traveled into the hearts of our neighbors, far and near, and how missed it was going to be.

I have memory moments when I expect to hear his whistle. As if I could will it to travel through the dimensions of space and time. My ear searching for the sound only my heart can now hear. Every now-and-again, usually when I’m working on a problem alone, I start to whistle Dad’s song and I am called home. I’m called to listen to my heart and the answer comes.

Dad passed in spring, when the spirit of a new season is ushered in with the songbird’s whistle and the nightly chorus of Peepers, those tiny frogs with the loud chirp, echoing over fields of hope and promise. He left at a time when everything held a song in their heart. Dad had a simple pure-noted purpose in his lifetime. He was a fixer— he worked at fixing life—for his family, friends and neighbors, the earth, his animals and crops. His life was alive with the sound of his own music. What a gift to give yourself. Whistling kept him in tune with his heart, his life a living song.

I can whistle, not as well as Dad, but it’s not stopping me from living to the beat of my own heart like Dad and occasionally I put my lips together and blow.

In memory of Edward Galkowski, Sr.

Share the Road

On a cold, rainy October night I found him coming home from an extracurricular trip. At the last minute, I swerved to miss what I thought was a crumbled up brown paper bag on the edge of the road. As I passed it I thought, “Gosh that looked like a kitten. Could it have been a kitten? But it didn’t move. Please don’t be a kitten”.

A short way up the road I turned around and headed back, parking behind the object to see if I could distinguish what it was with my headlights without actually heading out in the rain. It was indeed a kitten, an orange tabby, head drooped down, body close to the pavement. I hurried out of the car to the listless kitten then slowed, unsure if it would make a run for cover in the ditch. There was no need for fear. The emancipated kitten had little life left. I assumed it had come out onto the road to absorb what it could of the days’s heat from the pavement. Gently, I scooped the wet dazed kitten into my warm hands and held it close to my body.

Once in the car, I began delicately drying it off with a blanket from the back seat. Each wipe across its body revealed the severity of the kitten’s condition. Every vertebra in its backbone was visible, its skin loose, eyes sunken. In the car’s dim interior light I could tell the kitten could take it’s last breath at any moment. I thought, I won’t let it die alone. That’s when I heard it, the faint sound of a purr. Tears gushed out of my eyes. It must have taken all its strength to purr. That was it; I was going to do all I could to save this one little orange life! Home we sped.

I stayed up with the kitten all night, locked in the bathroom because our than, two-year-old yellow lab, Wally, thought it was a chipmunk. I fed it whenever it woke. I was honest with my children about the kitten’s condition. My son, teary eyed, kept telling me to save it. My daughter, a bit older, had no doubts that I’d try my best.

That was eight years ago. We named the male orange tabby Glow because if it wasn’t for his “glow” in my headlights I would have passed him thinking he was a brown paper bag. Glow’s feet didn’t touch the ground during the first month he was with us. He was my daughter’s real life “baby”. He was content to be swaddled in her doll blankets, taken for stroller rides around the house or snuggled with up with in her bed. I attribute his strong desire to both give and receive affection to this time of bliss.

Glow left this world unexpectedly on February 15th. The road brought him to our family and it took him from us. Our hearts are heavy with grief. There is a palpable emptiness in my day. His beautiful soul light  will be dearly missed. He was my constant companion, a keeper of my heart’s secrets, a source of great joy and forever my orange crush. We gave him  a good life and he made ours better for it.

Glow was one of those special  cats with a personality. He took pleasure from the catnip plants scattered throughout the yard and keeping the rodent population on our farm in check. When you held him, he melted into your body, gently kneading and purring in contentment. He gave abundantly of his love but demanded the same depth of affection be reciprocated whether you felt you had the time or not. He taught our family much about unconditional love, joy’s simplicity and the innate ability of playfulness to brighten your spirit.

On the road of life we pass by many opportunities to show compassion and kindness to other beings. Pay close attention to those that spontaneously place themselves onto your path. They are a special gift. This road of life we are on is meant to be shared. It’s the caring we share along the way that makes the rewards of our earthly journey real.

The Lakota have a word, Toska, which is said when parting. It is not goodbye. I understand it to mean I will see you again. Maybe that will be tomorrow, next year or in the Spirit world….. but I will see you again.

Toska Glow….Toska.