Fellows of the Wood and Water

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Dawn during the blue moon eclipse. Unfortunately it was cloudy so the moon wasn’t visible, but the lake sure did look blue as the sun rose!

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Orange blossoms at the Denver Botanic Gardens Orangery! The air smelled so incredible.

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Spring is on its way! Snowdrops are adorning the earth, and a few crocuses and hellebore are peeking through the dead leaves. We have had more visitors to the lake in the last few weeks, including common mergansers, hooded mergansers, northern shovelers, and goldeneyes. Every time I walk to the park I’m excited to see the new travelers resting a while! We are so lucky these birds stop by Colorado during their migrations. In a few months the pelicans and egrets will begin to arrive.

In the thickets and wooded areas we’ve also had many new faces (and plenty of old ones too). The squirrels are in fine form, darting about the yard and nibbling up scraps from the suet feeder. We’ve had our usual flickers, finches, chickadees, nuthatches – red and white breasted – and juncos. They are our winter companions, visiting the feeder through the hardest months of the year. Last week, we had a brown creeper visit the yard. These little birds are extremely shy, and this little guy was enjoying the shelter of the big pine tree in our yard. I love imagining all the different types of birds who come through the yard that we never even see!

We just had another big snowfall yesterday, and today the world feels scrubbed clean and fresh. I’m still working on my de-cluttering project, and am about to embark on my next category this afternoon. It feels so good to be more mindful about the possessions I have, and to have fewer of them! I’m looking forward to some Valentine’s day celebrations next week, and I’m planning on making some chocolate mendiants to celebrate. I’ll be sure to take plenty of pictures!

Sending birdsong and good cheer!

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Midwinter Snow

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The weeks just keep rolling by and now all of a sudden it’s February! Though Colorado has experienced a fairly severe drought this winter, Old Man Winter did visit us a few weeks ago with a wonderful snowstorm. I have to admit, I still feel like I haven’t quite finished hibernating and am hoping we get more snow in the coming weeks.
We made butternut squash soup and brownies, and hunkered down to play games while the snow came down outside. The garden was blanketed in a thick layer of snow, and our green man acquired his own dusting. We are all hoping this snow will provide moisture for the spring blossoms.

In folklore and fairy tales, snow represents cleansing and transformation. In our lives it can make our familiar streets, houses, and trees into the stuff of magic. Snow is also often associated with death – as is winter –  mirroring the inward journey of the natural world as plants sleep beneath the earth and animals retreat into their dens. During this time of year, we are fortifying our inward selves rather than interacting with external forces. I like to think of death during this time of year as an opportunity for rebirth come the spring.

A winter blessing for you all: may you find solace in days spent by your hearth and in your home! I have a few things to catch up on here, as I managed to capture some wonderful pictures of our feathered friends out on the lake, and maybe even a couple little springtime surprises… Sending snowdrops!

New Year Wonder

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Occasionally when the sun sets, you are blessed with the sudden and total illumination of the sky. A few weeks ago, Kevin and I witnessed the most stunning sunset I think I have ever seen! Even when we were past cold, ready to be home and eating dinner, we lingered by the lake because we could not bear to part with that radiant sky.

Now that we are past the holidays, the days around here are slow and cozy. I had a big rush of work right after New Year’s, but now find myself with more time to think and dream and write. I’ve been trying to chase this freedom as much as I can. I’m also embarking upon a huge cleaning spree, inspired by Marie Kondo’s book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up.” I was ambivalent going into this method, because I had my own assumptions and opinions about this book based on its popularity. Needless to say, I read the entire thing in a day and feel so inspired and ready to tackle my cleaning project! I’m starting with all my clothes tomorrow…

This is a magical time of year, when we are still in the embrace of winter, and signs of spring haven’t yet appeared. I’ve been choosing to spend this time returning to the things I love the most: studying folklore, reading, writing, and YES some music. I hope you too, can find the space to reconnect with that is most important in your life.

I’ll end with a lovely little wintery poem I stumbled across on my search for January inspiration.

“The stag bells, winter snows, summer has gone
Wind high and cold, the sun low, short its course
The sea running high.
Deep red the bracken; its shape is lost;
The wild goose has raised its accustomed cry,
Cold has seized the birds’ wings;
Season of ice, this is my news.”
–  Irish poem, 9th Century

Merry and Bright

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I told myself after last year that I would do a better job of blogging around the holidays… turns out it’s a busy time of year and that’s a hard promise to keep!

Filled to the brim with friends and family, the last month has been such a wonderful reminder of the bounty and joy in my life. I always forget just how much making and preparing, baking and cooking and gathering happens this time of year! We celebrated several smaller festivals before Christmas. On December 6th, Kevin and I celebrated St. Nicholas Day, exchanging small presents (placed in our shoes!) and enjoying the Christmas tree. My mom and I also observed Santa Lucia day, by making “Lussekatter” or “Santa Lucia Buns.” In keeping with the theme of celebrating light during the darkest time of year, the Lussekatter include saffron to give the buns a golden luster.

My only qualm with this holiday season is there doesn’t seem to be enough snow! Day after day I check my weather, peer at grey skies, and sniff the air for that metallic fresh smell. Alas, we’ve been in the midst of an intense dry spell in Colorado and snow has been scarce. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more in the new year!

Now that Christmas is over I find myself slowing down and turning inward. After all the socializing and celebrating, I find I need time to recharge and regenerate before the new year kicks in. I’ve been thinking a lot about themes of hibernation and rest, particularly pertaining to Terri Windling’s post about bears and yearly rhythms. Terri explores Terry Tempest Williams’s ideas about bears and the natural hibernation rhythms that come with creative work throughout the year. An inhale and an exhale if you will. During these months of winter, the focus of the writer is on creating. I’ve been struggling to get back in touch with my writing rhythm and create space for myself to move forward with my creative work. My rhythms surrounding reading and writing seem to be off kilter now that I’m not longer consumed with lesson planning! Nevertheless, I find it soothing to know that this is a time to look inward, and to wrestle with the flighty muse.

I hope to make more frequent use of this lovely space in 2018. Wishing everyone a peaceful and joyous new year!

In Betweens {and Martinmas}

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Making a nest I daresay – look at how STUFFED his little mouth is.

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There is a stillness this time of year as we settle into the darker days and colder weather. It’s an in-between time, falling after the vibrancy of October yet before winter truly sets in. We are inhaling, readying ourselves for the bustle and excitement of the holiday season. Around here, days are filled to the brim with teaching! I’ve been so busy creating lesson plans, grading, and reading my mountainous stacks of folktale books. It’s good to feel connected to learning again.

I’ve also been attempting to keep up my daily walks. It’s certainly more difficult as the weather gets colder, but the fresh air and open sky always changes my frame of mind if I’m juggling a million things at once. The geese in the park have been particularly active recently, and it’s not unusual to see five or six different formations fly over, honking to one another. The diving ducks have also returned for the winter. Goldeneyes and Buffleheads are now populating the lake with the usual collection of Mallards. Winter birds always make me think of Gladys Taber. She writes about how the birds that stay over the winter are her true favorites, because they weather the storms with her. She distinguishes this as the difference between true friends and fair weather friends. I couldn’t agree more. I love the chickadees, nuthatches, juncos, and blue jays who visit our feeders in the back yard all year round.

We also celebrated Martinmas on Saturday. We were going to dip candles, but the entire process was curtailed because the wax I bought smelled TERRIBLE, and the dipping pot was too light and floated to the top of the double boiler. Sigh. I will try and procure new wax and a new pot and try again another time. We salvaged the night by making yummy roasted carrot and parsnip soup and lighting candles. Martinmas is all about nurturing your inner light during the darkest time of the year, a message I always feel I need to be reminded of as the days grow shorter. For more on the holiday click here.

Next week we are planning a slow Thanksgiving at home. I’m so excited to cook some delicious food, and have a chance to relax. We also might be getting a certain tree for another certain holiday at the end of next week… Is it too soon?

Sending warmth and light to all.

Halloween

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I’m finally all caught up with posts! It feels so good to not have such a big backload of photos, even though I was excited to post them.

Here are a few glimpses from Halloween last week. We had a wonderful day, carving pumpkins, making soup, and handing out candy to trick or treaters. Tip: sour skittles are king. It seems like no matter how deeply hidden they are in the candy bowl, sneaky little fingers will dig to the bottom to find them. The best handmade costume we saw was a little boy dressed up as an anglerfish. He was incased in a cardboard fish body complete with a lure dangling in front of him. So creative and fun!

I’ve been doing some research about the history of Halloween, and have found a couple interesting tidbits. I discovered they used to carve turnips, not pumpkins, hoping the scary faces would frighten off the evil spirits said to walk about on All Hallow’s Eve. Pumpkins were introduced when the holiday came to America, as they are not native to Europe. In Celtic tradition, this time of year coincided with the festival of “Samhain” representing the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. The veil between our world and the spirit world is said to be thinner during this time, hence the connection with death and with the spirits of relatives revisiting their living ancestors. I also learned that it was traditional to offer soul cakes to folk going about “guising” from house to house. To incorporate some of these traditions, I made “Old Sussex Soul Cakes” on November 1st (aka All Saints Day or All Souls Eve). The cakes themselves were a funny texture, almost a combination between a pancake and a muffin, but were quite good eaten warm with butter. They are seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and decorated with currants in the shape of a cross.

Now we have passed Halloween and Daylight Savings is over, we are truly transitioning to winter. Today was cold and frosty – perfect for chicken noodle soup! It’s an odd time of year, one foot still in autumn and one foot in winter. Some trees are still golden, while others are completely barren. The geese have been migrating in droves, honking to one another as they fly overhead. It’s one of my favorite sounds in the world. The past few mornings I’ve listening to their calls as I lay in bed waking up.

I hope everyone is finding little ways to enjoy this chilly time of year!

Walking with Crows

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The days of October are filled with so much magic. I’ve been walking almost every single day for the last month, and it’s been incredible to see the slow shift around me. The light is certainly enchanted looking. The shadows are beginning to stretch further and further. I think I’m unusual in that I love the darkening of the year. As someone who doesn’t often feel anything spiritual is present in my life, this time of year creates an opportunity for me to reflect and to have quiet space to think. I think I’m the only one who is happy that daylight savings is over! I’m ready to light candles and to create a warm space in the home.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about crows. Sometimes portrayed as sinister, sometimes as tricksters, crows represent magic and healing. This time of year it’s not unusual to see a whole tree filled with crows, cawing and cackling as they eat acorns. I’m not sure if they migrate, but I suppose they must for they gather in such enormous numbers. I saw a huge flock while walking last week, zooming back and forth between the elm and oak trees at the edge of the park. I’m so grateful for their presence, as it encourages me to think about magic even in my little corner of the world.
I’ve also been thinking about the crow’s message of healing, especially during some of these hard weeks for our country. It can feel isolating and frustrating when we are faced with hard news, and I don’t know if I have any answers. What I do know is that things often feel less lonely under an open sky, and things feel better when we connect with one another. Reach out, send a letter, make a phone call, write an email. Send some magic and healing into the world.