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I accomplished quite a bit in the yard today. I came in covered in soil, exhausted, but I feel amazing. There’s still much to be done, but we’re transforming the yard one plant at a time! My husband and I have a vision. It will take years, but it’s part of establishing a relationship with the land, and working with the local spirits to create a magical sanctuary.

I finally started a project I’ve been fantasizing about for years – a spiral herb garden!  My dad helped me till the soil, but I spent a bulk of the afternoon and evening hauling rocks, building a mound, and starting a spiral.  I need more stones, but the basic outline is there.  Hoping to put some herbs in this weekend.  This is woo for many people, but I actually used my pendulum to help me figure out where to start the spiral.  When I got out my compass to figure out where the starting point was oriented, I confirmed it was exactly west.   Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018

The pollinator garden is taking shape.  The border is temporary (made out of panels from an old planter that bit the dust after moving).  Some native plants now have a home here – bee balm, purple and yellow cone flowers, and lavender hyssop.  It’s a start!  Dad tilled this as well, and we found some really interesting things… Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

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We suspect the corner was an old trash heap.  Our home was built in the late 1800s, after all.  We’ve found various old things in the back – doll arms, parts of tools, broken jars, and these aged gardening shears.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

Around the side of the house, my dad found this old compact with his metal detector.  He cleaned it up until it shines.  Such a pretty piece! There’s the remains of an old powder puff inside, but it’s mostly decomposed. Not sure why it was buried where it was…  I plan to do some spiritual investigating, for sure.  I feel like I have the start of a museum.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018

In other fun news, I found wild violets and lily of the valley growing in the shaded part of the yard!  I’m thrilled as these are plants I’ve wanted to work with for years!  Finding these after doing so much work today felt like a positive omen from the local spirits.  

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Emerging hyacinth.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

For the last decade or so, my Bealtaine celebrations have been punctuated by an explosion of green. Every year, I dance the Maypole, all the while taking note of the leaves finally reaching out in praise of sun and rain. This year, I did not dance the Maypole until the weekend after, but I spent the 1st welcoming signs of spring at my new home. This was our first Bealtaine here. My daughter helped me greet the flowers we planted in the autumn. We spent so much of March and April looking at their bed with longing; it was very satisfying to see them emerge and eventually blossom into a colorful display!  The bees certainly approved of our efforts.

Giving offerings to Airmed.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

When working with my garden and the plants who grow around my home, my mind and heart swing to Airmed, a goddess fraternally connected to our plant allies. We made a space for her. Bee helped put offerings of gratitude in the little bowls we put out on her stone.

Outside shrine for spirit allies.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe.

My husband helped me move this half barrel into a corner of our yard. This followed us from our last two apartments. I’ve been placing offerings into it for years, and I even buried my ferrets in it. Renting, I had no other choice! So the little ones follow me, joining our spirit allies. I usually plant foxglove or woodland tobacco in it.

Our May Bush.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018

This is a new tradition for us – it’s something we couldn’t easily do at our apartment – make a May bush! Ours is slightly different from traditional Irish May bushes, mostly that it’s not Hawthorn and isn’t something we paraded around. However, we tied some cloth to the branches of this established bush – mostly ribbons Bee helped me choose. We danced around it, thanked the local spirits, and prayed for good luck upon our home, especially in regards to the productivity of the land we live upon.  It was a show of love and gratitude for the patch of land we call our home.  The bush has since burst into life.  We have decided to treat the ribbons as we do those of our grove’s Maypole – which is based on the tradition of my first grove, Muin Mound – we will remove the ribbons around Samhain and put them into the fire, thus returning the fertility to the land.

Each High Day, I think back to how I spent it as a renter.  I looked forward to owning my own home and having space to establish deeper relationships with the land.  I did what I could before, with container gardens, a failed attempt at worm bins, and delving deep into the apartment complex’s wooded land to make peace there… but now I can finally live out more of my dreams.  We planted seeds in the earth.  We planted trees and blueberry bushes in the earth.  We have a compost pile.  Finally, finally, I can start interacting with the yard I was so excited to work with when we moved in at the end of August last year.

 

March melted away like all the ice we had. Spring is officially here, but it doesn’t yet feel like it. In fact, a chill remains in the air, and we had more snow this afternoon. I find that these transitional times are always a bit messy around Upstate NY. It can also be draining as we look forward to the the coming season with optimism even while we grow dreary of the old.

For that reason, I was grateful for the opportunity to attend a yoga retreat for mothers (of all ages). The focus was on loving kindness, first to ourselves, and then to others. When we stop to care for ourselves, we can project that love outward. I definitely welcomed an opportunity to go somewhere quiet to meditate and do some restorative yoga.  The teacher had such a peaceful presence that I immediately felt at ease.  She had a very eclectic approach that was very informed by a grounding in Yogic and Hindu tradition, but it was also very inclusive, allowing us to explore our inner worlds, speak to our inner guides, etc.  I left feeling refreshed and inspired.  I’ve incorporated some of the meditation into my daily devotionals.

My daughter and I welcomed Spring by building an Equinox shrine.  She was very excited to help.  Before that, we stopped at a gardening center and I let her pick out a pot and some flower seeds.  We planted them and invited Spring to grow.  We’re very excited to start the rest of our garden.  Now that it’s April, soon I will start more seeds and clean the yard in preparation.

It’s that time of year again – there’s a major Christian holiday with vast cultural reach in America.  Pagans like me celebrated the Spring Equinox last week, but many of the people in our lives are excited for their religious observations this weekend.  There isn’t a big Jewish population where I live, so the default on everyone’s lips is, “Happy Easter!”

Unless you’re someone like me.  It’s like Christmastime all over again.

I’ve come up with several ways to respond that don’t give away my actual religious identity and lack any antagonism.  Nobody means to be a jerk.  While “Merry Christmas” has definitely become a political statement to some, everyone who wished me a Happy Easter as I left work or kickboxing genuinely meant well.

The most common exchange:

Them: Happy Easter!

Me: Thanks!  Have a good weekend!

Sometimes people ask questions.  Those have required some quick thinking, but I’ve got some stock phrases ready now.  I’ve become skilled at equivocating.

Them: Is your daughter excited for Easter?

Me: She loves anything that involves candy.

*

Them: Is your daughter excited for the Easter bunny?

Me: She loves rabbits.

*

Them: Are you taking your daughter to any egg hunts?

Me: We went to one last weekend.  (They don’t need to know it was part of a Spring Equinox celebration.)

*

Them: Any Easter plans?

Me: Relaxing!  (They usually say something like, “Me too!”)

*

 

I’m not ready to explicitly tell people, “Actually, I don’t celebrate Easter,” especially at work.  I have to really, really trust someone to say that.

Have you given any vague answers related to Easter questions?  I’d love to see them.

Mysteries

It’s officially spring, but we still have snow on the ground here.  All the same, signs of spring abound if you look!  There are buds on the trees, the chives have sprouted, and several song birds have returned.

Having only lived in this house since the late summer, this is our first spring here.  The process of moving in delayed us from getting acquainted with the local nature spirits as thoroughly as I would have liked.  I’m excited to work more at that this year.

I already started over the weekend.  My daughter and I walked around the backyard to look for signs of spring.  The snow is melting, so we could explore some of the plants.  I was intrigued to discover that what I thought were bushes last year are actually sprouting tree stumps!  My husband and I have been talking about planting trees in the back. There’s one large oak tree on the other side of the fence separating us from the cemetery, but we want more shade and privacy. Turns out, we already had some trees!  I’ll be interested to see the leaves after they appear.  For now, these are little mysteries. I’ve been reading about how to care for them so they grow as strong as possible.  I wonder why they were cut down in the first place?

Warrior Shrine

Many ADF Druids participated in the recent Shrine a Day Challenge facilitated by Rev. Jan Avende. While I did not create a shrine every day, I did participate. I intend to post a gallery of the altars and shrines I submitted, but for now, I want to share one I forgot to upload previously. I’m not sure why I failed to add it to the official #shrineaday album, but here it is now. It’s not very fancy. I actually made it on my bedroom windowsill which has a dark curtain, so it’s a bit difficult to see.

I present my warrior shrine!  It’s actually very significant to me because, for the first time, I actually feel that I’m tapping into warrior energy.  Sometime last year, I started to think about what it would be like to take a martial arts class.  If you’re a longtime reader or friend, you know that I’m very interested in anime.  Some of my favorites involve martial arts, and I even started to cosplay a beloved ninja character last year.  I really admire the character.  In the process of transforming into her physically, I started to think about her personality and how she worked hard to transform herself into someone courageous and able to protect her loved ones.  I realized that I no longer wanted to feel weak and vulnerable myself.

This year I decided to stop wondering what it would be like, and I actually signed up for a martial arts class – Muay Thai kickboxing.

A year ago, if someone had told me I was going to enroll myself in a class full of punching and kicking, I would have laughed at that person.  Now here I am, learning how to block, how to do a roundhouse kick, and conditioning my body to some of the most intense physical activity I’ve ever experienced.  Some days, I don’t want to go to class, but I always feel amazing after.  As Imagine Dragons sing in their song, “‘Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins.”  It’s truly addictive, and I grow in confidence with myself each class.

I try to go into each session with an awareness and gratitude to my body, the Earth, and An Morrighan.  I strive to listen to my body and its needs.  I touch the ground and thank the Earth Mother for supporting me before we warm up.  When I feel my body starting to slow down, I imagine An Morrighan, her wings spread as she flies into battle.  Suddenly, I feel lighter, I feel stronger.

On my shrine, you’ll see a wooden dagger my dad made me when I was younger.  I used to read “Redwall” books, and was always inspired by the Redwall warrior.  The dagger was made in that spirit.  The cards represent An Morrighan, but also qualities of the warrior – an eagle for courage, and a boar for the fighting spirit.  I also included my fighting gloves and focus mitts (the later blend into the curtains).  I built this shrine, meditated on An Morrighan, and blessed them.  It was a meaningful experience, and it has encouraged me to go on.

Cemeteries

I took a walk to the cemetery to watch the mist roll over the headstones. I can’t help but imagine spirits migrating over the land when watching it.

Earlier, I told another Druid that cemeteries inspire me. They’ve been part of my life since childhood as I grew up with two down my road. One accompanied an old, abandoned church. The other is strictly for departed pets. I liked walking to them and through them. As a teenager, I took my boyfriends to them to kiss in the shadows. The dead didn’t mind, though the pet cemetery has since cut down the bushes that offered some privacy.

Now I have a large cemetery behind my home. The dad don’t bother me, though I saw some curious spirits peeking at me when we first moved in. I often go up to say hello.

Time takes on a new meaning where the dead repose. Everyday stress melts like ice soaking into Victorian era graves and oaken roots.

Life goes on. Enjoy it. Find joy even amidst the decay.