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.
Summer is drowsy.
Fall wraps a colorful shawl over her shoulders.
apple fragrance perfumes the crisp air.
In the orchard, youth’s tang has mellowed.
Tart and hard surrender.
Wolf River. Prairie Spy. Lodi. Zestar.
Bashful pink blushes streak down each apple.
Voluptuous ornaments adorn the length of each and every limb.
Branches bow as gracefully as the necks of swans.
Sweet wood bares sweet fruit.
McIntosh. Cortland. Red Delicious. Granny Smith
Teeth crush down through flesh.
Taste the juicy ripeness of a season’s end.
Running sky blue clear.
Soul sweet deep.
Wipe your chin ready.
Gala. Sweet Tango. Empire. Honey Crisp
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.
I wasn’t sure if the cheeks facing me were on the smile end or the seat end of this caterpillar but it didn’t matter. Either way, she made me crack a smile. What a delight to see this amazing cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia) caterpillar in our apple orchard on this dewy fresh morning. She was nearly as big as my thumb!
With a wingspan of 5-6 inches, the cecropia moth is the largest North American moth. All winter will be spent in a 4-5 inch cocoon. In late May, the cercropia moths emerge from their cocoons. The female only lives about two weeks, just long enough to mate and lay eggs.
Because their skin doesn’t grow the cercropia caterpillar goes through several molting phases, each time attaching itself to a silken pad it has spun. When the new skin is fully developed it will literally walk out of its old skin. This cercropia caterpillar is in the fifth instar larvae stage.
If you have the good fortune to see an adult cercropia moth, I promise you will not be disappointed. Their spectacular color and size is something you will not soon forget. The cercropia moth is another example of nature’s marvelous metamorphosis; ever thing in sacred motion.
Moth medicine is that of inner knowing, determination, vulnerability and movement. I wish her well on her magnificent journey of transformation and hope we meet again in the May night, both of us with our wings.
Summer’s youth wanes,
each day riper with fullness,
Phlox’s bright eyes open wide.
A delightfully lovely fragrance,
once cradled in her bosomy blooms,
now billows gently in the breeze.
Hot pink petals aflame,
devour the green scenery,
burning off the heat’s heaviness.
A Sphinx Moth visits,
humming above nectar filled flowers,
long tongues dip into wells of sweetness.
The cool of the evening,
invites me back for a visit.
I sit enchanted by the tall aristocratic beauty.
Phlox, you are the queen of my garden empire.
I bow to you.