there is a place

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This weekend, we took to the woods to learn how to find mushrooms. We had a gorgeous day, and the woods were eager to share their treasures. Our guide took us off-trail, taught us to let nature lead us. We looked for open, mossy spaces, free of tangled undergrowth, the places where mushrooms want to grow.

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Every species has its ideal conditions for growth, he told us.

I thrive in these cool, damp, shadowed woods.

I would like to unwind time like a ball of wool, get back to the unformed part of myself and let her know: not every creature thrives under the sun. There is a place where the soft, deep parts of you can live.

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Give me the quiet, secret spaces. Let me hear birds and rain at their work, follow truth like a deer trail through the trees.

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A long time ago I lived under a steely sun, among false prophets, confident of voice and reasonable-eyed. They said the path to truth was too difficult to find, I would lose my way. They taught me to harden and to doubt.

But now I know truth spreads itself secretly underground, waits on every trail, waits for me to arrive and take it up at the right time.

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I am un-hardening, un-doubting. I am looking closely for what’s real, what emerges from the fern-soft ground.

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It was the Romans who taught us that time is a line stretching forward, but the Greeks believed time was a circle that comes around and back again. Perhaps that unformed girl is here, only waiting for me to come back round to her.

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Perhaps she will step out now into this kinder world, perhaps she will find a place to fruit and grow soft under this understanding sky.

what i do with myself

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October feels like returning home from a long and tiring trip. Home again to writing, early mornings in the dim little room next to the stairs, view of the woodpile. Cup after cup of tea, laundry humming in the dryer, garden slowly dying outside, to-do lists stacking like cordwood in my journal, breath prayers to keep it all from toppling. // In the morning, cold, my hands ache and the chickens’ feet are mottled red. Summer’s banishment was swift and I wonder about winter, feel the presence of it looming heavy, brittle, just out of sight. More wool socks, I think, another pair of waterproof gloves. Soon I’ll be breaking ice on the water buckets, scurrying to get back inside, my glasses fogging up when I cross the threshold. // France lives nine hours ahead. We text from our beds: her waking, me settling in for sleep, and again at midday, when she says goodnight. The afternoons are the loneliest. // At dinner we talk about the justice of various world economic systems - pick your poison, they all need to be vigilantly humanized - and wonder how to be free and just within our own. I want this in my bones. // I clean the pantry, scrub away the trail of some little creature who came looking for warmth and a meal; my husband lays a trap, rightly so, but I wipe peppermint oil on the shelves and secretly hope it will be deterrent enough. // The youngest discovers 70’s folk music and it plays all afternoon, I make bread out of buckwheat and sunflower seeds. The hippies were right about everything, we say, and laugh. // Someone asks me what I’m going to do with myself now, empty nest and all. Love, tend, grow. There is no economic system for that, it has to be carved belligerently from the one you inherited. // Once, many years ago, we pulled up an old log in the forest and under it curled a clutch of newborn mice, fat commas shuddering in the naked air, their flesh translucent and rose brown, their unopened eyes a tiny violet gem swelling beneath the skin.

hips and haws for the equinox

Today I brought a basket and clippers on my walk and gathered some rosehips and hawthorn branches for the Equinox altar I talked about in my newsletter. It was a cool, rain-free morning, and the sky was the perfect shade of grey to make the greens and reds look deep and vivid. (I never know why people complain about the grey skies here…they make everything else glow!)

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I also gathered a jar full of hawthorn berries to experiment with. Did you know they are good (emotional and physical) heart medicine? I plan on trying a hawthorn cordial and I will dry the rest for tea. Maybe next year I’ll make a jelly with them.

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My simple altar, honoring the gifts of the season, the softening light, and an attitude I want to take into these next weeks.

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This print was a gift from Lesley and it captures what I’m longing for in this time of life so well. I’m learning that I do best when I focus on small, seasonal goals, a week or a month at a time, instead of big, ambitious goals (like say a no-shopping year….sigh). It makes more sense, doesn’t it? Realizing we are tidal in our own way, ebbing and flowing out of attentiveness, circling over and under the same ideas but responding to a changed shoreline each time we approach. Most of this year has been gathering, building, sending, and now I approach the quieter months with a need for rest and contentment, a time of trusting that what we have is enough.

Today the sun rose here at 6:59 am and will set at 7:06 pm. The midpoint again. Tonight after the sun is gone, I’ll make a simple supper of brown rice, mushrooms, some kale from the garden, and roasted sweet potatoes. Earthy things, dark and full of life. We’ll have apples and pears for dessert, some good wine, and welcome what Keats called the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.”

“The hedges are full of berries now, Hips and Haws; Elder-berries and Black-berries are the most conspicious, also the bright crimson berries of the Bitter-sweet. There is a plentiful crop of Acorns and Chestnuts.”

~ September 22nd entry, Edith Holden, The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady

Happiest of days to you. I’d love to hear how you are celebrating your own place on earth and its particular beauties.

Peace keep you,

tonia

September, just this side of the Equinox

I got outside this afternoon in a break between rain showers. It gave me a chance to read a little and see how nature’s been handling things without me the last few weeks. Just beautifully, as it turns out. She’s a little less tidy than I tend to be, but I think she knows what she’s doing.

Easing back into this space with some images from today and a current read.

Growing flowers instead of vegetables may be the best decision I’ve made all year. Look at how happy they are!

Growing flowers instead of vegetables may be the best decision I’ve made all year. Look at how happy they are!

I’ll always grow kale though,

I’ll always grow kale though,

and cherry tomatoes,

and cherry tomatoes,

and big, fat garden spiders. (Big love to my hardworking organic pest control crew!)

and big, fat garden spiders. (Big love to my hardworking organic pest control crew!)

Abby (who now, at 13, and getting weirder by the day, is known as Miss Havisham)

Abby (who now, at 13, and getting weirder by the day, is known as Miss Havisham)

Current read. Ugh. Necessary and eye-opening.

Current read. Ugh. Necessary and eye-opening.

August grace

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If I’ve learned anything this month, it’s how dependent motivation and self-discipline can be on good health. I kept imagining, all through this convalescence from pneumonia, that each next day I would regain my interests, that I’d want to know what was going on in the world, that I’d want to read or write or at least make plans for when my body was well again, but it didn’t happen for weeks. Over the month, I managed to get things done that had to be done, but oh, how I missed the feeling of purpose and focus that I’m used to.

There are so many things I take for granted in an ordinary day. I don’t want to lose this new-found tenderness, this awareness of the grace which hovers over life.

This morning, my daughter and I made big mugs of dark coffee and took them out to the back deck to talk and watch the day arrive. Already, the mornings here are cool and tinged with Fall. By the time Fall really arrives next month, my daughter will be in France, so we are stealing all the moments we can together. Every time I’m with her I’m filled with that strange mixture of pride and fear and sorrow and joy that accompanies sending a child into their adulthood. Being a mother, a parent, is a continual prying open of your hands and heart.

Looking at the calendar over my desk, I see that today is also the birthday of Tasha Tudor. That makes me smile, for I’ve been thinking of her words lately:

“I enjoy solitude. It's probably selfish, but why bother about it. Life is much too important, as Oscar Wilde said, to be taken seriously. I feel so sorry for those mothers who are devastated by loneliness when their children fly the coop and don't want to live at home anymore. They feel lost, but look what exciting things can be done. Life isn't long enough to do all you could accomplish. And what a privilege to be alive. In spite of all the pollutions and horrors, how beautiful this world is. Supposing you only saw the stars once every year. Think what you would think. The wonder of it!”

It’s true. Life continues to open and open and there is so much more to look forward to, so much to treasure.

Tasha always had tea and a nap in the afternoon, so I think I will do the same in her honor today. :)

Looking forward to getting back to posts and books and words. Thanks for your patience, friends.

Peace keep you,

tonia