Sometimes, a witch just doesn’t want to brew,although perfectly at home over an iron pot . The wooden spoon stained with all the soups and potions, the stirring to the cycle, or to widdershins, to heat or to cool Sometimes she knows what to do, but would rather watch out into the woods, the still very cold woods, though June is close. The trees are afraid, she knows that, she could tell you that much, anyway, but don’t expect a cup of tea with that particular information. She’s getting a little afraid herself, so there is no time to brew and steep, she is watching. The Beth Root was up on time, that was a good sign, deep maroon and beautiful.
It’s the last Saturday in March, and it’s late enough that it will be Sunday in 3 minutes. The bedroom’s window is open for fresh air, it’s above freezing and everything outdoors is dripping. The 2-3 ft of snow that was on top of the house has run off the eaves and continues, even without the sun, my whole environment is thawing. The window is open and this box I live in finally gets some fresh ventilation, ahhhh, it’s sweet to breathe in. Lots of air moving outside too, fast enough to make noise in the bare trees. Woodwinds? And the snow, it is still everywhere, still over a foot or two, but its condensing back to it’s liquid state, the crystals falling in on themselves, collapsing into water, water that runs off the roof, down the road and through wrinkles of mud, along the banked snow and the edge of the road running faster, taking over, as water is wont to do. The storm from last week that dumped 18 inches, (and over, up here), with drifts over 4ft around the back of this house, seems long gone, Spring is coming and will push it further back, for awhile.
I can understand why poor people would move to the South. the cost of heating and the toll of winter would be unaffordable if I made 20k less than I do now. Bought a good stove and stopped using gas for furnace and hot water floorboard radiators. Just the wood, and the time and work it takes to stack it and we stayed warm all winter, even through 30 below nights, long times below zero and windy, fucking windy and below zero, but we all stayed warm. Amazing. Put a wooden framed box on top of a basement, put a stove in the basement and put a chimney through the boxes roof, and you can dwell warmly and safely with 3 something feet of snow and 30 below zero night times. Amazing.
The Ice Queen, the North, she is good, she is good. She is sleep and she is beautiful, and nothing else makes you love the warmth of a yellow sun and the orange flames burning up your rock maple and yellow birch. There is seduction there in those cold and deeply snowed woods, in the biting whip of her skirts, in her coy retreats that return with all the passion of an avalanche. That dance, you and her, is coming to an end, she leaves with the diamonds you gave to her, of your energy, of your time and preparation, of the lost hens and the triple A calls, she is laden with those jewels you bought for her. She will go, and you will stay. And when she returns, she will take your breath away, again.
Taking an inventory of the year as it comes to an end, is an exercise that assures me I have come to adulthood. So, let’s say when I hit 40 it became a practice. I had the time, I had the sobriety (2 years old at that point.) , and I was, as now, always in my head. For me, it is 80 percent of the time a good place. The other 20 %, it’s hell.
Without further introduction, I want to chronicle 2018 in the most mediocre fashion I can. I find this amusing, as amusing as I find mediocrity. Except for one rather dramatic episode, my hip replacement, my days were filled with dirt. At least until a very early snow in the beginning of November, that stayed as cover, the dirt is covered. I have 10 gallon containers of it though, in the basement, growing some marijuana for myself. The other dirt is from animals, soot from the woodstove, dust, used dishes, pots and pans and knives and forks and spoons. The dirt is there and I wash it away, or grow and dig and replenish it. The wood ash is useful in winter on ice, it melts it straight away until 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and will stop a tire from spinning on the ice when you try to move the car, the car that sits in the parking space which may be scooped out, or just barely dug out, in a poorly defined rectangle open to the road. When all the snow is melted, a layer of wet ash covers the ramped entrance to the house, and it is tracked in onto old and worn vinyl flooring. Which is white. Well, white with a simple pattern that is reminiscent of those wonderful tiles that used to be on bathroom floors. There was a time before gentrification that for an affordable rent, you could get an apartment that was built in the pre ww2, with the original types of tile, and maybe some stained glass, and maybe a transom paned in brass with a pull string, and it still worked. That is why I picked that vinyl flooring, the pattern reminded me of a time when low rent did not mean something terrible. That was almost 20 years ago, when the house had been delivered and set on the foundation. Lo rent now means double wide, with land to boot. In the country, where there is dirt, and we use as much of it as we can, removing it from personal spaces, kitchens and bathrooms.
Dirt is my department. The dirt outdoors is soil, gravelly sand from the road, grass, covered with leaves under the trees, and these gardens that I play in, and make more dirt. All the dirt from the barn goes in, I mix it with the clay and sandy fill, I buy it by the yard and it comes in trucks, I buy it by the bag mixed with peat moss and perlite and mycorrizae. And manure, always manure, over the years it has been chicken, duck, goat, sheep, rabbit, guinea pig.
I was on my knees most of the summer, with a small hand spade and trowel , a fork, and my hands. Sometimes I take to wearing latex exam gloves to save my skin, it has been worn paper thin in places from years of dealing with dirt. I have been paid for cleaning other peoples, strangers, customers, relatives. That sort of dirt is useless dirt, and people should clean their own, but since they do not, I have always had work. I am retired now and just do that for us, the family that lives in the double wide on Tousant Hill Road. The family that is strong together, yet shares no blood. Most of the time we share a purpose, realizing that what seems like lo rent, with the land, would be worth almost a million dollars or more if it were near a dirty city.
What is wonderful about soil, it is as different from dirt as snot is from the mother growing in your kombucha. It is alive, and everytime I hold a handful, there is a galaxy in there. A galaxy that balances the organic elements withing the humus and leaf mold and sand and clay, balances it and makes oxygen for it, in turn digesting and excreting, alive alive oh!
In 20218, through the fall , late fall, and winter months, I have a set up with lights and bags of soil organic sea weed and fish fertilizers, cal/mag supplements, and trays and small pots, and I began growing the onions in February in trays. We still have about 10 lbs in paper bags in the entryway. From late summer on I sprouted Seeds of marijuana, they take a ridiculous long time to grow if you do it naturally and dont clone and such, so, this plant in my grow tent now will be harvested before the year is out.
My old wethered ram passed this year. Many famous people did, but I did not know them. An old friend of Bill, named Bill, also passed. He is missed, and another, Allen, not a friend, but a friendly acquaintance, one that you meet in the rooms of recovery, was buried this fall. Bill passed in Spring. No next year for them on this particular ride, but I am sure they are already transformed and somewhere not too far off. Myself and two other women around my age have had parts taken out, removed, scraped, reattached. I think I win for the biggest joint though. In more ways than one. I am no stranger to pain, but I am definitely a coward about it. The big joints help the pain in the big joints. And I enjoy the effects on my mind, very much. Especially in my profession, there is a lot of time to spend in my head. I know of every single spider on the main floor, and I vacuum around them when I can.They dont mind, they appreciate me removing dusty webs. Spiders do not house keep very well either, so I am needed there.
My conversations with God do not go unanswered, but then, they are simple and awesome at the same time, as only a housekeepers could be. Giving thanks for the work, praising the miracle of the food that comes from the dirt, and from my creator who moves and breathes with me when I do good work. Perhaps they are to do with my age, also. As I cannot lift and carry and scrub and move furniture anymore, nor have a person lean on me as they try to walk and go from here to there, I do not have the capacity to earn my way in the world. For that help, my conversations are wrought with anxiety at times, so I figure out bargains, deals, contracts, to do as much as I can with the dirt and removal of it, in my own home, and to plan and create the meals, when I can, as a trade . My conversations are often about the value of things and the worth of things, and often I seek what value I am , in all of this, the big picture, the “all of this”. If I am passive, and not so active, I am shown wonderful things about how it all works and fits together, from the teaspoon of dirt in my front yard, to the volcanoes on Saturns moons. Of course I am not seeing this, my weed is good, but not that good. But, I am knowing this. There is a sentiment, “Be still, and know that I am God.” That is how the conversation goes. And it can happen when I am on my knees scraping the corners on that bad , poor, impoverished flooring.
In 2018, I received a new hip. I am ready for the dirt that comes with 2019, God willing.
This winter came too early. Almost by a month, it came with snow and a few degrees colder, 2 nights below zero. It came before the last two weeks of November, and today, another foot of snow is added to the land, that already had a foot and a half of it. It is warm enough to ignore the woodstove at mid day. It will eventually have to be kindled and re lit, it is that sort of temperature, not too cold outdoors, but heavy snow falling, about 2 inches on every branch and wire . The overcast November is brightened considerably, amazingly. It came early but this snow is impressive in it’s covering. So much so that I am arguing with my body, my body that prefers rest, whether to get up and get the camera or not. I think not. The commander, the executive function, was with pain for so long, now that the bad joint was cut away and replaced, I just want the absence of pain to be my pleasure, I never ask for much, it is known. So I will lay here and use words instead of pictures to remember the snow. Because in the end it is not the image that is unique, but it is the seconds that have already passed, and my being in it, that is unique to the present. See, it’s gone already. So fickle, such a history we have together, this mind and this body. If I throw in the heart and the spirit, the constant arguing of each other and vying for position of priorities, it is enough to warrant a respite , to dig a den under a laden shrub, to bury my nose from the cold air, like a fox. I learned a theory about centers a sentient being has, and depending on the creature, what center dictates behavior and survival. In woman, and in male, there are more advanced centers, than, say, a fox. Intellectual, Emotional, Moving, Instinctual, Higher Emotional (Holy). Our lifetime struggle is balancing these, using them appropriately, finding harmony within this solar system of atomic formation that can end in consciousness. Instinctual center call on me to be a fox, getting up to feed and excrete, drink and sleep. Emotional and Intellectual center create an image and feeling of safety and repose and beauty, as a fox nestled under a snowy forsythia shrub, lower emotional center sees an image of a fox with a warm fire instead of its deep fur, and may throw in a blanket , and then add colors of warmth with the light ultra violet of snow under a gray falling sky. Moving center is on a sabbatical, and Higher Emotional center is at once humbled and praising , with reverence and respect and compassion for the creatures who are not waxing poetic, but surviving out in these elements. Too soon for them also, I think.
I was called once, I was standing under an apple tree when it happened. It was a prolific apple tree, and it was the first one I had climbed. It grew in Queens, my mother loved the blossoms, and I guess when the house was built on the lot, someone had the intention of growing fruit trees, because about 50 feet from the apple tree, there was a cherry tree. No one used the fruit or tended these, and so, we had the blossoms in Spring, and the birds had the rest. One year there were cherries, Mom said it was because the cat kept the birds away. Our backyard smelled like a cider press in late summer, and I got to study many insects and the nature of bark. It was my world, so it’s no surprise that I got the call while I was there.
It was called the “backyard”, and it was pretty big considering. Dad felt like a Lord, because the lot was extra sized, there was a Linden tree, a dogwood tree, hedges and shrubs, a picket fence on one side, and a chain link on the other. We were fenced, and it made things defined. I could be a dog or a horse, and these were my safe boundaries, outside of the fence and in the house, I was forced to transform to what others needed me to be, a small girlchild, lonely, untapped, vulnerable and unknown, whispering to herself and the grasshoppers, cracking rocks on the driveway and looking up what I had in the Rocks and Minerals field book I had begged my father to buy for me.
That place, under the tree, was the safest place in my home. So, of course the call came. I come from a family divided, I know little of my mothers side, except for reports from my sister, and my now deceased Father. I was never permitted to draw my own conclusions, but I know that the visits were a joy to me, in my isolation. I know that in that house, I have not one memory of being hugged and told I was loved, except from my maternal Grandmother, who lived with us. She was Catholic, and she had the coolest Rosary Beads, and little pictures of Saints, and a small Infant of Prague diorama. She was also the only person who I believed loved me, and somehow, I knew it was because of her relationship with all of that religiosity. She too, was called to love. She had wanted to love all of her grandchildren, and care for them, but my Father did not let her take one of her adult grandchildren in, because she had stolen some money once from a secretary dresser that sat in our living room. Nothing was ever forgiven in that house, it stayed with you in perpetuity. Expressing strong emotion would get you a ride to the State hospital, as it had with my cousin. She was a lesbian in the early 1950’s, so of course, any expression at all that came from her, was patholigized and the verdict was harsh. the verdict passed down by parents who never expressed love, affection, or even interest in whatever was becoming of their change of life child, the one who stayed in the yard for so many hours, the one who did not come in fast enough when Mom called, and was beaten with a belt and left with a swollen lip.
But this is not one of those joyless journals. Really, it’s hard to write about the past truthfully without adding these sort of things, but I am uncomfortable doing it, because I know how having a rough childhood can be used by people to make excuses and seek power in victim hood, so, honestly, it is not for that. I am fine, I really am, I have all the emotions available to a person, and although I am serious, I am not without joy and awe and trust, to this day. If anything, I am amazed that everything turned out pretty well, considering. But this is about being called, when you don’t ask for it, and it is a hard sell because everyone that I know that is left of my family, and many friends, are atheists, agnostic, and are probably much smarter than I am , and that is their reason , they are smarter than I am.
I was under the tree, and, I had been going to church, every Sunday, I had been going to “religious instruction”, Sunday school , etc. My Dad married my mother under the dictates that his children needed to be raised as Roman Catholics, and he kept his promise and , so I went. It was cool and I found out that there was Love that had no demands and that it existed in something called God, who was somehow not a person, but was present in everything that was not made by human hands (even the mosquito larvae I was lovingly raising in an upturned old bowl I had hidden in the hedges). Yeah, it worked, those teachings, I don’t really think they wanted it to, (family), except for Grandma, and I guess it worked for her so she recognized it in her namesake, and we shared that, without talking about it, we couldn’t talk about too much, because it made Mom have nervous breakdowns, and it could make Dad mad. I could say Hail Mary’s with Grandma in her basement apartment, without hearing cynical comments about if Mary was a Virgin or not, about how the Protestants didn’t follow her because it was idolatry, and how the Catholic Church was corrupt and wealthy. Nope, Grandma and I would say it together and her eyes were kind, and she gave me hugs, and I really did not care if my parents were endangering their immortal souls or not, there was nothing I could do about that. I had great comfort in feeling God’s approval , because it was not coming from anywhere else.
I was called while posing in my Confirmation Robes, while I was approaching puberty and scared that my school work was failing and the punishments that would ensue, I was called when the childhood play was no longer accessible to me, while I could feel the resentments adding up like coins clinking in a jar, I was called while I was becoming aware that the only people I was having crushes on and found my attraction to were female, how I could not look away from a pretty womans face, how there were feelings that made me giddy and sick at the same time. If I received any compliment at all, it was that I was “bright”, “smart”, and God knows I was not willing to exchange those supports or risk them by confiding , , because that is how they showed they cared. If it was not something they understood by mutual experience, it was not real, or was caused by “the bad seed”, something Mom would mention now and then, as she felt I had inherited. (I learned about psychotic projection later on in life.) So of course it was not safe to run with the joy I felt, to tell them that I found a new kind of oxygen, that something illuminated me that I did not have words to describe. There was a nun, a young nun, who knew exactly what I meant, but it was torture to not also tell her that I had these feelings for her. Feelings that nothing in my world or the world at that time would allow to be what they were. And what a world that was. The choice was between Freud and Sin, and I fit neither. Later, struggling to work out those feelings and channel them romantically was always awkward, although I could act, (a talent), the deep energy that was alive in my sacral chakra , with that one call, that one little message from above, connected it to something much higher, much higher, and so most adventures of the root chakra, if it was not also felt in the others higher centers, always became pointless,( long periods of celibacy were never a burden to me, they were a relief)…..the novices life began, began with secrets, sustained and protected, by that call.
The tree was cut down several years after I grew and left . When Dad told me, I was sad, and he said,” the dead and rotting apples were too much of a mess to clean up”, that he wanted to sell the house and move to Florida and that no one wanted those old fruit trees. the Apple and Cherry were removed and carted off, I don’t know what happened to them , what one does with good Apple and Cherry wood in Queens. Probably not much.
No one until now knows that it was a sacred grove. It was, I assure you.
The way to appreciate the arrival of a cold front is not to listen to the report, not to look at maps and graphs and charts, running lines and making pies. You have no idea until you look out and be able to see the wind from the north, see the lines in perfect plumb moving and stinging the leaves into a limp dead wilt. White looking lines of crystal sleet, moving with the force to push masses of air out of its way, forming a river chasm. Streaming sideways around the north of the globe, when you live here in Northern Vermont, you have to want to learn to have a relationship with cold, you really have no choice, either you are here, or you are not. My emotional relationship is thus ; I would prefer to be like the vegetation, or at least have that choice, to shed off my metabolism, draw into my roots, and become dormant, albeit aging in the process.
But today I am being grown up about it, and realize it behooves my own strength to get on with the relationship. I am a martial person on the enneagram,( a Jungian contraption in which you can put yourself in to. ). Which means that I process through physicality and experience. Cold is not pleasant to me, and less so as I rest from aging disease in my bones.If I do “too much” my bones develop bones as they grind each other down. I can write about the cold if the martial tendency needs to be abandoned, and move towards Saturn. the Saturn influence lends an observing eye, always arguing against judgement, and it is cold, it’s eye can be cold because it is aware of time.
I lay in my room and I have this wonderfully large window that looks across at some woods. I have called them “Messiers Woods” for a long time now, although they only go in about 100 feet, there are 3 old Beech trees, yellow and white birch, maples of different type, and spruce and fir getting just enough light to set a foot hold. The light coming from Messiers Woods is pewter, all the hardwood trees are bare, orange sepia leaves remain on some branches, but not many, and they quiver as the trees do the wind dance, back and forth back and forth, sometimes barely, near their crowns, sometimes bending over swaying wildly, frenzied. Yesterday and today they danced like that. Mid Autumn up near the Canadian border has taken over, and it is no time to lay around.
But today hollers for procrastination , for more dormancy than activity, however, there is still good chard and kale and carrots that must be pulled. It’s times like these that I remember one of the good things I enjoyed about whiskey. Today I will put the burden on tea to provide the warmth afterward. You see, I managed to stay in bed while typing this, a few paragraphs about the reluctance to step out into 30 degree weather in the wind to bend over to get the last bits of food out there. “Surely going to the co op or Price Chopper makes more sense, I mean, there’s only about 8 meals those bits could be used for!”
That is the segue-way, I can explain to you why growing the food that I can here, provides me with cleaner nutrition, has a flavor that cannot be bought, adds beauty and bees through the summer months, but I can’t make you understand why making it yield and be successful in this place is so important to me. I understand that, but either there are not enough words to explain it , or it would come out in some bad Dickonsonian (as in Emily of Amherst) “poetry”. This ground was sand and clay, rocks big and small, thick with balsam and spruce choking each other out. I managed to carve out several hundred feet and nourished it, gently cleared and harvested only what I had to. I made soil where there was none, and then the growing in that soil, I only get 140 days, 4 and a half months. The rest of the time, the cold is either coming or going. And I get to challenge myself and my life against it. Me, and my companion, my constant companion in this contest, the presence of God in all creation, and that is the wind too, the crystal sleet, the magnetic direction, the circling, the spinning, the endless clockwork. Those are explaining words, I was called to understand the cold, to live cozy inside it, even if it not my favorite subject, it’s a big part of the whole. I wish for a beautiful winter of creative expression and education. Cooked meals and deep thought that walks the ridgeline, but never plummets until it has wings.