Now is the Month of Maying

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A Blue-winged Teal on the lake. I am always so awed and excited by the appearance of new birds in our little ecosystem.

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Another new bird, a Hermit Thrush. We noticed this little guy running around the undergrowth in the garden. Isn’t he so darling?

May Day was bright and sunny and marvelous. I made a flower crown with cherry blossoms, grape hyacinths and lilac foliage and wore it all day. It was the perfect way to celebrate May Day. This holiday comes from the Roman holiday Floralia, which celebrates flowers and the beginning of summer. I read recently that May 1st used to be considered the first day of summer (which explains why June 25th, midsummer, is the “middle of summer.”) The holiday is also associated with Beltane, part of the pagan wheel of the year. When this holiday was later christianized, it retained many of its early ties to pagan celebrations. We celebrate by dancing around the May Pole, singing May songs, wearing flower crowns and having special food. This year our celebrations were rather confined to my flower crown, but we tried to bring some flowers indoors and appreciate the spirit of the garden. May Day is now also International Workers’ Day, and is recognized as Labor Day in Europe.

On May 2nd, it began to rain and rain. It rained all evening and then all day on Thursday. We needed the moisture so badly, and it was so wonderful to smell how fresh and beautiful everything was after the storm. It reminded me of my time living in England and made me feel nostalgic for tea and clotted cream and dreamy green hills. Tomorrow we’re going to have a little derby day party and watch the race. I’ll make sure to catch some pictures of our mint juleps.

Oh! and here’s a little song we used to sing in the Early Music Ensemble I was part of at the Waldorf School. I always think about this song at the beginning of May.

 

Now is the Month of Maying by Thomas Morley, performed by the Cambridge Singers.

For more information on May Day: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Day

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Eastertide

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Spring is really here! I wrote about the equinox in my last post, but now we are truly awash in blossoms. The trees are all popping with colorful and fragrant blooms: palest pink, white, and deep fuchsia. Along with the awakening of the earth, we embrace the awakening of our own creativity and vitality. Kevin and I have been participating in National Poetry Writing Month by writing a poem every day for the month of April. I have to admit, I lapsed a bit recently because I’ve been a bit under the weather, but this has been a rejuvenating way to reconnect with my creativity. The point is not necessarily to write something lengthy or even something good, the point is to create consistency in routine and form a writing habit. What a lovely way to welcome the spring! Kevin and I have also been welcoming the warmer days by sitting on our porch having a nice bottle of Topo Chico (our favorite at the moment) and watching the world go by. We’ve had some lovely afternoons this April, and recently replaced the old dusty porch swing with a cute little cafe table and chairs on the front porch. It’s the perfect place to sit on a warm afternoon, and I’m so looking forward to adding pots and candles to this space for the summer.

Do you remember my cleaning project I mentioned all the way back in January in this post? Well I’m happy to report that I’ve finished! I Konmari-ed my way through all my clothes, books, paper, odds and ends, bathroom products, dishes, decor, and sentimental items (plus a whole lot more). It feel so amazingly good to reduce the amount of things I own, and to take more responsibility for what I do have. I’ve just finished organizing my room and rearranging everything. I think the key is to give everything a home, once it has a nice little place to rest, it won’t clutter up your surfaces. I’ve totally been bitten by the cleaning bug, and I’m helping Kevin and my parents get going on projects of their own. It feels so rejuvenating to live in an organized and beautiful space. I will admit, de-cluttering begets de-cluttering, and I still feel as though I could go further and get rid of even more. Ah well, I’ll have to rein myself in at some point.

We’re having a rainy and drizzly afternoon today, and I love the way the garden smells when it rains. Pure heaven. Sending gentle spring rain to everyone!

Welcoming Spring

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Happy Vernal Equinox! I’m so happy to be spinning into the warmer months of the year. I know, I know, I’m always the first to say I’d like more snow and rain – but this year I’ve been feeling ready for long sunny evenings. Bring on the warmer weather! I can’t wait to be outside in the garden more.

Last Sunday, Kevin and my mom and I planted some spinach and radishes. Any day now we are expecting to see the first few shoots peeking up through the soil. We also spent some time cleaning up the beds from winter detritus. The apple garden (we call our herb / wildflower garden “the apple garden” since there used to be a big old apple tree there) was surprisingly green for how early in the season it is. Herbs were already regenerating, and even little shoots from the tarragon were coming up. I’m so excited to continue to plant! We are staggering our spinach crops this year so hopefully they won’t all be ready to harvest at the same time and we can have yummy greens for longer.

We had a fun birthday celebration for Kevin last week, serving mussels cooked in beer for dinner. Has anyone tried this cooking technique before? It’s DELICIOUS and even better if you drink the same kind of beer with your mussels. YUM. We also celebrated St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday! It was a fairly simple celebration, with a new little shamrock to brighten up the table and Irish soda bread smeared with the best Irish butter. Kevin and I also listened to some Irish tunes on the way to see some of my students in their high school play. All said and done, a lovely festival day. No one is surprised that I’ve already been cooking up plans for St. George’s Day (on April 23rd). St. George is the patron saint of England, so this festival is like English St. Patrick’s. We are already musing over dinner at a local English style pub or some cream tea in the afternoon. Either way, I’m glad to have other festivals coming up soon, especially since Easter is so early this year.

Speaking of festivals – let’s talk about the Vernal Equinox! We celebrate mostly by acknowledging the burgeoning spring with flowers and lovely spring-themed foods. At the moment, I’m teaching creative writing in a high school and for our writing prompt today I had the students write about what they are excited for during their spring break. This was a lovely way to meditate on the wonderful changes a shift in season can bring. I think of this time of year (and any time of year that involves transitions) as an opportunity for new beginnings. In particular I find the equinoxes to be moments of deep change in our seasonal rhythms. The transition from winter to spring or summer to fall always feel like the biggest shifts of the year, demarcating the warm months from the cold months. Now, at the turning point between winter and spring, the air is still cool in the mornings and evenings, but the light lingers a bit longer, and sometimes the wind feels a bit warmer. We just had a snowfall on Sunday, reminding us that winter isn’t quite gone. But as I write, it’s still light outside and birds are chirping their lullabies as they go to rest for the night. Kevin and I have also noticed our inclinations changing from winter hibernation to more external pursuits. We crave the outdoors, lighter foods, cool drinks, and spend more time socializing rather than cozied up with a book or movie. It’s an odd thing, these deeply rooted rhythms, but every year I feel moved by them.

I’m off to go help with dinner. Sending spring sun and daffodils.

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!

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.

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.

Early Autumn

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And so we slip into the magic time of year again.

Though the days are still warm, each morning a chill is in the air and in the evenings the crickets are slowing down. Walking at night, you can hear a solitary cricket creaking slowly in the underbrush, the last solo singer from the deafening August chorus. On particularly chilly nights there is a smell of woodsmoke in the air, and the full corn moon glows in the east. Birds are migrating again too – the pelicans are gone from the lake – and the cormorants and egrets will be next to depart for the winter. Mums are on the porch, apples on the kitchen counter, and soon we will fill our house with squash and pumpkins in October.

Last week, Denver was overrun with Painted Lady Butterflies. Walking to the park, clouds of butterflies flew up from the pavement and hovered in the air. They too are heading south for the winter, traveling 2000 miles from California to Mexico. It was such a lovely sight to see them all, fluttering among the last tomato blossoms, darting amongst the Black-eyed Susans.

The kitchen is shifting for the fall. My mom is a pie baker, and often our house is filled with a lovely smell of peach pie and cinnamon. There is nothing better in the world than a slice of warm homemade peach pie! The tomatoes are bountiful now, and I’ve made our favorite “Valeria’s Pasta Sauce” with garden tomatoes as well as Caprese salad. They come in all different shapes and sizes: Julia Child, Black from Tula, Dr. Wyches Yellow, Ananas Noire, Cherokee Purple, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Green Zebra, and Sungold.

As the season shifts, I’ve been on a new quest for self-care, specifically sleep. Dealing with anxiety, it’s difficult to make sure I get to bed early, especially when I need time to wind down at the end of the day. The night hours are fickle, carrying promises of comfort and solitary time, but in reality only creating loneliness and exhaustion. Going to bed earlier and waking up earlier is my Autumn resolution. Additionally, I’ve been dealing with another typical bout of sinus illness and sore throats. I’m once again reminded of the importance of rest to keep myself healthy as the season shifts to colder and longer nights.

This week, we look forward to Michaelmas on the 29th (read about our Michaelmas celebration from last year here). As the days grow shorter, I’ve been thinking of the inner courage and strength that’s ignited in the Autumn in order to forge through the darkest months. Now is the time to create new resolutions, and to confront the darker parts of ourselves.

Wishing a peaceful first few days of Autumn to all. x