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I do consider Samhain to be the beginning of my spiritual year, but I also cannot deny the status quo in regards to modern society.  Generations have looked to the point between December and January as the threshold to a new year and the continual existence of all. I can’t deny the power associated with such a movement, even if I don’t always observe it with much excitement.  Last year I spent it quietly with my husband.  We relaxed.  This year, I’ll likely spend it helping my sister move and then celebrating with some of my tribe.

Another thing I want to do is clean my home as best as I can.  Many people believe that what you do at the end of the old year will follow you into the new year, and that we should strive to surround ourselves with the qualities we want to fill our lives with.  I want my apartment to be cleaner and I want to take more time making it thus.  I spent some time today cleaning and organizing the kitchen.  There is still work to be done but it’s slowly getting better and more user-friendly.

I also find myself looking forward to the green half of the year.  With the Winter Solstice pretty much over (I plan to take my decorations down on the 6th.  There’s an old Irish belief that it’s unlucky to do so before or after.), I find myself excited for Beltaine.  I feel a bit bad about that since I don’t feel as giddy over the next high day, Imbolc, which is sacred to my blessed Lady Brighid, but to me that’s more of a quiet holiday for counting one’s blessings.  The Spring Equinox has never been that festive to me either.  Beltaine, though, is another story completely.  The ground will finally be completely or in the process of thawing.  The leaves will be blossoming and the robins will assuredly be back by then.  It is when my grove erects a May Pole and we dance about it to provoke the Earth Mother into fecundity.  It is a flirtatious and celebratory time!  I find myself excitedly looking through seed catalogs and humming Jonathan Coulton’s “First of May”…

This time of year is also when I find myself a new calendar.  This year I am going to use  The Artisans Guild of Ár nDraíocht Féin 2011 Calendar.  It supports the guild I belong to and features the work of several amazing Pagan artists – including a couple of my dolls!

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It was always easy for me to connect with The Nature Spirits.  Upon reflection, I must confess that it was the Nature Spirits who originally helped me decide to turn to Paganism.  I’ve always been an environmentalist.  At a very early age, I started to learn about animals, ecosystems, and the huge amount of damage humans were inflicting upon the Earth Mother and her children.  At the age of five, I was making “Save the Rainforest” posters with crayons and construction paper.  I hung these at the local ice cream and candy shop.  At the age of eight, I became a “beady-eyed vegetarian” and only ate white meat.  At seventeen, I became a full-fledged vegetarian and am still one to this day for environmental reasons.

My parents raised me to care about nature to some degree or another.  My mother taught me compassion for all living things.  I was warned to never to step on an ant because, one day, I might be that ant.  I learned very quickly that animals do have a soul and emotions.
Even now I can’t help but put myself in their place and imagine how they feel.  My father taught me how to grow gardens full of vegetables. Out of his interest in camping, he taught me simple survival techniques such as fishing, boating, and how to make fires.  He always did so with reverence.  He was a volunteer fireman and taught me that nature, like fire, was to be honored and respected because, just as it could give life, it could also take it away.

I took the teachings of my parents to the next level and came to the conclusion that nature was worthy of worship.  I discovered Paganism around the same time I was becoming a full-fledged vegetarian.  I was amazed that there were contemporary religions in existence that not only honored but worshiped the Earth Mother and her creatures.  I felt like I had come home. This went along well with my maturing environmentalism and vegetarianism.  While I will be the first to say that Pagans aren’t required to be vegetarians (nor should all vegetarians be Pagan!), I do think that environmentalism and, therefore, conscious eating, should be a requirement.  This also isn’t to say that all environmentalists must give up eating meat – simply that it’s important for us to consider where our food comes from.  This train of thinking carried me to vegetarianism, but if it carries others to hunt for or raise their own meat, I believe that those are also conscious, eco-friendly approaches to eating.

Eating local vegetables and fruits has also become important to me.  While it’s harder to do so in the winter, I do my best to purchase organic food to avoid chemicals. My goal is to one day eat locally and within season.  Some environmentally-minded friends and I are going to learn how to can and preserve food this autumn so that we can eat local food in the winter.  In the meantime, I’m working on a small vegetable garden.  Working with the soil, water, and sun to bring life out of little seeds has helped me to connect to the life cycles of nature.  Politically, I’ve started to write letters concerning agriculture and the environment to my representatives, and I am currently working on a letter to send to a local Pagan Pride event in regards to the food offered.

I feel lucky to have grown up in a largely rural area.  While I’m certainly not a scholar on the local flora and fauna, I’m always surprised when Pagan authors suggest that a good way to start forming a relationship with the Earth is to learn about such things as what type of birds live in one’s area, what the first flowers to appear in the spring are, and what plants you can eat.  I sometimes take it for granted that I was able to observe these things first hand or learn about them from knowledgeable adults.  I’ve always been a student of nature but I still have much to learn.  I have an interest in sustainable living and thus I would like to learn about the many edible plants in my own yard.  I’ve purchased some books and have gone to some workshops, resulting in some interesting experimental salads!

In addition to healthy, conscious eating habits, my fiancé and I are also trying to be conscious consumers.  We do our best to recycle, research products, and find eco-friendly merchandise.  I’ve switched to eco-friendly deodorants, shampoos, makeup, and toothpaste.  We are also trying to switch to eco-friendly cleaning products.  At the same time, we know it’s important not to waste and so we continue to use those products that we already own.  We have also made an effort to reduce the number of plastic bags we use by limiting how much we purchase, carrying products without a bag, or using reusable canvas bags.  As far as cars are concerned, we share my little Saturn and get 30-35 mpg. We try to carpool or walk to as many places as possible.  It’s difficult where work is concerned, but I believe that every little bit helps and that even baby steps are a step in the right direction.

I said that I still have much to learn.  Some of my latest lessons in nature have come from the city.  My fiancé lives in the city of Utica and I spend a lot of time at his apartment.  These past few years have presented new lessons – lessons about the flora and fauna of the city. I’m now learning that people in the city aren’t as cut off from nature as I once believed.  In fact I think that urban Pagans who are able to find a connection in a city are probably more appreciative than those of us who live in the country.  The more time I spend in the city, the more I’ve come to appreciate the value of my parents’ forested backyard.  I’ve started to consciously look for examples of nature within the city so that I can maintain my connection.  I pay attention to what the trees are doing, I notice and praise the dandelions poking through the sidewalk, and I smile when I see a skunk ambling across the street at night.  Nature spirits are everywhere and one need only look.

My practical experiences are very spiritual.  When I first started to read about ancient Pagans, I remember reading about how they didn’t categorize activities as either spiritual or mundane – they were all spiritual in some way.  I feel myself entering that frame of mind.  When I am in my garden watering the seedlings, I am engaging in an age-old ritual and connecting to the spirits of the land.  When it rains, I thank the rain because it is helping everything to grow.  When it snows, I pray that the snow spirits will be kind to me.  I think that, while I’ve always had animistic tendencies, Druidry has helped me to develop them to the point where I really do feel that everything has some sort of soul or energy.  I feel intertwined with it all and it makes me even more aware of the delicate balance that exists on Earth.  My conscious efforts to be an eco-minded consumer are ways of affirming my connection and devotion to the Earth Mother and her children.

Of course I also feel happiness simply existing in nature.  I love to go for walks in the forest behind my home.  I have a little shrine set up by a tree – a boundary marker, really.  I feel that it is the true entrance into the forest.  I make offerings there from time to time and visit often to feel the presence of the unseen world around me.  I love to meditate outside, to feel the wind through my hair, to make offerings to the fairies. I feel more alive in the forests, mountains, and lakes. In many ways, the Nature Spirits are my first love and it only makes sense for me to dedicate my life to them as a priestess.  However, without the acts of conscious eating and consuming, the offerings and nature walks would be little more than empty gestures.  ADF has helped me to see that my life’s work is, above all else, to honor, worship, and serve the spirits of Earth.

 

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Mama Nature as Drummer

The nights are getting much colder so I brought most of my plants in a week or two ago.  They’re flourishing in my art and ritual room.  It looks a bit like a greenhouse in there!

Unfortunately, they can’t exactly take advantage of the copious amounts of rain we’ve had recently.  I moved the watering can outside so it can catch some of is.  It’s interesting to hear the droplets bounce off the can.  I can imagine Mama Nature’s fingers tap, tap, tapping on it like a drum.  I feel inspiration coming on…

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Poor Plants

Do you ever feel guilty when you accidentally neglect a garden plant?  I forgot to water my container garden yesterday and now my yarrow and one of my basils is very dry…  I feel so, so bad.  A lot of people probably shrug or lament the waste of money.  Me – I feel bad for the loss of life and the waste of food.  I feel bad because I’m not developing a close relationship with the plant spirits.  How did I not see that they needed water yesterday?  How did I forget?  I could blame my feeling under the weather, but not after I was out having fun anyway.

I’ve been lazy, that is all.  😦

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Time in the Garden

I did a lot of walking this weekend while away and unable to tend my garden, so I decided to stay close to home and pamper the domesticated plants today.  I’ll get back to the forest later this week.  I have two new additions to my garden – a lovely pineapple sage and a hanging basket of various herbs. I was unfamiliar with pineapple sage until today.  It looks like a small tree and is just the sort of plant I’ve been looking for.

I spent some time watering, trimming suckers, removing old growth, and collecting dried seeds.  I also rearranged everything so different plants have proximity to the marigolds.  It also refreshes the look of my patio.  I harvested a couple of tomatoes today.  I’ve got some beans that I plan to pick tomorrow and a cucumber nearly ready to come inside.  I need to remove the oak leaf lettuce and think about planting something else.  I also took an inventory of everything in my journal as a reference for next year.

I’ve found myself talking and singing to my plants a lot.  I want them to know how much I appreciate them, and I want to encourage them to keep growing and stay healthy.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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I’ve got a few tiny mushrooms in my garden.  According to everything we’ve been reading, the veggies are safe and the mushrooms can indicate good soil and benefit the plants.  The shrooms themselves are not edible but the plants will not be contaminated.  We think they’re conocybe albipes.  Pretty neat!

In other news, my interest in herbalism has been resurrected.  I’ve been attempting to study it more.  I want to learn more about how the Celts thought about and interacted with certain plants.  I’m looking for good source material.  I’ve been meaning to read Carmina Gadelica and I know there will be some in that.  But what else?  I read a really great essay by Erynn Rowan Laurie called “Goddess of the Growing Green: Airmid of Ireland.”  It really inspired me.  While at Alex Bay, I found a piece of driftwood and I’m thinking of using it to create an image of Airmid for a garden shrine.  I already made a doll of Airmid, but she isn’t suited to the outdoors.

This is an incomplete photo…  Her shroud has more color now.  😀

How many of you are involved in herbalism?  Any tips or resources you can recommend?

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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I visited a local greenhouse and procured some new additions for my garden.  I bought some spinach seeds as well as a habanero pepper plant, some kale, and salvia.  The later adds some lovely purple to my garden and should be welcomed by the many butterflies that flit around.  (I saw a yellow swallowtail an hour or so ago…) I also bought some more bird seed.  The cats and I love watching our winged neighbors as they visit the patio.  There’s a pair of gold finches who are my favorites.

The garden looks amazing right now.  I would’t mind getting/planning some more.  I may try more beans since the first batch seem to be getting tired.  I can’t wait until we have our own land and we can have a larger garden of raised beds and fruit trees.  *sigh*  Someday…

It is such a lovely day.   I hope the rest of you are out enjoying it as much as I’ve been!

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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