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Category Archives: Spirit

Surprise in the Feral Garden

The feral garden can be a place of disappointment and difficulty, therefore living in it, and alongside it, is a learning experience. But sometimes, when I’m very alert and very lucky, this wild and unmanicured place gives me secret surprises. As the undomesticated mixes with the civilized, this outdoor world reflects my inner landscape, becoming home to both the contained and the uncontained. We are on a journey together, this garden and I. Digging in the earth is not so different from rooting around in one’s own heart and mind: you push down into the damp wetness to find a stubborn rock living there underground, a shard of bone left like a gift, or a decaying peanut buried and forgotten. Every object is sacred if you hold it up to the sun and squint with one eye.

The space between the containers is where the wildness really creeps in. Mostly I see what I don’t like: voracious iceplant, illmannered ivy, and uninvited creatures that steal our food. But I try to learn from what I don’t like. It is good advice in life to manage what you can manage and leave the rest up to the Gods. I try not to manage this space too much, keeping the role of watchful eye rather than constant gardener. Because sometimes in the inbetween place-the space between the containers- is the fertile soil of secret surprises.

My lettuce seedlings were devoured this winter, and I gave up planting more. Sometimes I get discouraged out here. But the garden knows when I get discouraged and sometimes it sends me a gift. I did not plant new lettuce seedlings this year, and yet look what’s growing in the inbetween place: a healthy, vibrant, almost fullgrown head. How did it get here? When did it appear?

I don’t know, but the lettuce knows.

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Spring Equinox

Happy Spring Equinox everyone! In our neck of the woods, we are spending the week planting seeds, taking pictures of wildflowers, and watching the hummingbird family that lives in our yard. I spent time yesterday weeding iceplant that invades our yard from the neighbor below, turning the compost pile, and sowing herb seeds. The garden fell into sad neglect over the winter, but with some work I’m sure we can bring it back to its former glory. I’m excited to see what Spring has in store for us!

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Full Moon in Virgo

Howl at the moon!

Full Moon in Virgo, courtesy of Mystic Mamma

Celebrating Valentine’s Day with Mugwort for Dreaming

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Mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana) is our plant for celebrating Valentine’s Day. The plant is known as “dream sage” because it promotes good dreams, which helps to heal the spirit. Sewn into a small pillow or stuffed into a drawstring bag, Mugwort makes a wonderful gift to a lover, a symbol that you care about their dreams (and therefore their health and happiness.)

“Dreams are an essential part of health. Dreams help the spirit remember to be normal, to be happy. Dreams help heal the spirit. Many patients have trouble dreaming because they are under too much stress. They cannot relax their minds at night and simply dream. Many patients use drugs to help them sleep. These drugs usually prevent dreaming and may cause patients to wake up with some lingering depression, hung over. Patients who are addicted to drugs or alcohol may have trouble dreaming. Patients with heart disease may also find it hard to dream and sleep.

Dream sage is used by Healers to promote good dreams. Dream sage is also called mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana. It is called molush in Chumash. To use dream sage, collect the stalks, leaves and seeds, dry them and sew them into a small pillow…Place the small pillow under the normal pillow to promote dreaming…The pleasant, sage smell of the dream sage induces aromatherapy that will help promote dreaming. This helps heal the spirit. When the spirit remembers to be normal, the body can heal.

One of the most romantic things a young man can do for his girlfriend is to make her a small pillow of dream sage. This shows her that he cares about her and her dreams. Hopefully, she will dream pleasant dreams about him.”

-Cecilia Garcia and James D. Adams, Jr, The Advantages of Traditional Chumash Healing

I can’t imagine anything more romantic than expressing an interest in your loved one’s dreams: offering them a gift which has the potential to enhance their inner life, their sleepy soft subliminal self, and their sacred essence. Plus, a few wonderful-smelling leaves tucked into a special bag is a simple (and maybe close to free!) present that honors love and Valentine’s Day in an uncomplicated way.

The scent of Mugwort is hard to describe but I would liken it closely to sage, although more complex. It manages, to my nose, to smell of both the desert and the forest at the same time. It is definitely earthy, and maybe slightly lemon-y. I tried a Dream Sage pillow myself, five leaves stuffed into a muslin bag, which was then placed on the underside of my regular sleeping pillow. Personally, I had a little bit of an allergic reaction to it: slightly itchy eyes. But once I removed it from my pillow and placed it by my bedstand instead, the allergy went away. The dream pillow was still close enough that I could catch the occassional whiff, but not so strong as to aggravate my eyes. (Just in case your honey has averse reactions or sensitivity to some plants, I thought I should share.)

If you have sewing skills, you could make a little pillow from extra fabric, or maybe even buy a special cloth for your honey. I used a muslin bag with a drawstring, commonly used in the kitchen for bouquet garnis, and this worked fine.

Wishing you a relaxed and romantic Valentine’s Day with the ones you love and cherish. And wishing you, of course, sweet sweet dreams.

California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica)

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If you live in or near the foothills of the West, you may recognize the California Sagebrush. This bush plant has feathery leaves and a strong odor reminiscent of sage. I’ve heard the taste described as bitter, but I don’t find it to be offensively so. In fact, it’s tasty taken as a mild tea, using approximately a pinky finger-sized portion of the leaves and stem.

In her book Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West, Chumash healer Cecilia Garcia writes, “California Sagebrush is used to bring back pleasant memories. Burn it or put it in a sack and smell it to bring back pleasant memories.” In an article written with James D. Adams (also her co-author of the above book), she states, “Sometimes, when the spirit is sick, just remembering pleasant thoughts can be helpful in healing. The smell of Californian sagebrush reminds many Californians of the smell of grandmother’s house. A pleasant smell, like Californian sagebrush, can help the patient remember long-lost memories. Aromatherapy is a very powerful way of bringing back pleasant memories.” The book indicates using the plant in tea form during the first days of a woman’s menstrual period, for bronchitis and colds, or worn as a necklace to keep insects and bad spirits away.

The above photo was taken on a hiking trail in the city of Fullerton, California. The bush was growing in close proximity to Mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana), a plant I’ll be discussing tomorrow for Valentine’s Day. Garcia writes that the Artemisias are regarded as medicinal plants throughout the world, often used to treat, “…malaria, fungal infections, inflammation, bacterial and viral infections.” Both plants were considered sacred by the Chumash and other Native people.

Longevity study on the Greek island of Ikaria

…and another destination to add to the “Other Places I Want to Live” list.

The Island Where People Forget to Die

Ace of Pentacles

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Chuy drew the Ace of Pentacles.

Tarot cards by The Wild Unknown

Brighten the Corners

Office life can get so boring, don’t you think? Sitting under weird lights all day, no fresh air, even your personality starts to feel stale. Lately I’ve really felt the need to make my desk  and work area feel more vibrant. I needed to bring some of the outside “in.” My lunch trek to Trader Joe’s had the perfect solution: gorgeous warty gourds in fall colors. I splurged and bought three. Such a little change, almost nothing really, but you should see the difference it’s made! Not just for me, but for all the people who walk by my desk throughout the day. So many coworkers have stopped to comment, ask what these colorful orbs are, or pick them up for examination. They are a fun oddity, a conversation piece, a little something to brighten the corners of my work life.

A Walk, a Reflection on New Motherhood, and a Pizza

Before I gave birth to my baby five months ago, I knew my life was poised to change in dramatic ways, many of which could not be anticipated. I just had to wait and see what the changes would be and how they would reveal themselves. I assumed there would be a lack of sleep, changes in my marriage, and an immense amount of love. Most new parents probably go through this same experience. During pregnancy you read all the books, listen to advice from countless friends and relatives, and then wait to see how the pieces of your life rearrange themselves after this new person enters/explodes your world.

The lack of personal time has probably been the biggest adjustment for me. Being a person with perpetual projects, ongoing plans, and endless to-do lists, I was not exactly prepared for how much one little being could thwart my life off course. For example, I have been planning to plant the winter crop for the last three weekends. And just how many seeds do you think I’ve actually planted? You guessed it. Exactly zero. In order to avoid feelings of frustration or resentment, I’ve been trying to cultivate a new regard for time and accomplishment. Maybe the “right” time for planting the seeds was not, in fact, September 1st. Maybe the “right” and perfect time is actually late in the evening on September 29th, and not a moment sooner. How am I to know? Because truthfully I am not the one who moves the stars and the heavens, even though I sometimes like to think I am.

In order to carve out a bit of time and space for myself, I’ve had to get creative. While I may rarely (if ever) have an hour to devote solely to my personal projects, I can usually find ten or fifteen minutes. Lately these magical minutes have revealed themselves right before the start of my shift at work and also during my lunch break. I used to habitually arrive at work at least fifteen minutes early, secretly hoping my boss was giving me brownie points for doing so. Guess what? Neither she, nor anyone else I worked with, noticed. So instead of giving my workplace those precious (unpaid) minutes, I now utilize them for myself. Sometimes I read a book in my car. Or make a long overdue phone call to a friend. Mostly though, I take a walk.

Before having my baby, I walked for one sole purpose: to stay in shape. But recently my strides have switched to meanders. I don’t so much walk as I do wander. I’m not worried about making my body strong: I know my body is strong. It birthed a human, after all. I used to count laps at the park to track my miles. From time to time I even wore a pedometer to keep a record of how many steps I was taking. But I don’t do that anymore. It’s not about how many times around the park I can clock before work starts. It’s more about doing nothing, actually. Well, doing nothing while my feet are moving. (Although sometimes I take pictures of plants or interesting insects.) Often I make it only half way around the block before I decide I just want to sit down. So I find some grass and sit. It’s my time so I do what I want.

Today at lunch I decided to go to the park, even though I had planned to do the grocery shopping on my break. Oh well, I thought, there is still food in the pantry. There is bread in the fridge. We’ll survive another day (or two.) What I really needed was to not be inside a building. To be out in the sun. To claim a few minutes solely for myself. So I took some pictures, inspected the contents of a seed pod, found a pine cone nestled in tall grass, and foraged for some dandelion greens. If I focus my attention on the trajectory of life, there is time enough for everything. I don’t have to fight it, or worry about it. Even if I only have fifteen minutes, I can live deeply inside that fifteen minutes and experience it fully.

The lovely dandelion greens inspired me to make another pizza. I started with a triangle of garlic naan (Indian flatbread). From the garden I plucked some raindlow chard and basil. I also found a crookneck squash. In the back of the fridge was some sliced mushrooms and a ball of abandoned mozzarella. A little tomato sauce went on the naan, followed by the greens, vegetables, and cheese. I baked the pizza in the oven at 375 degress for ten minutes. A great meal to end a great day.

Dandelion greens

Ramakrishna Monastery, Trabuco Canyon

Nice peaceful, hidden spot in Trabuco Canyon. Spent an hour wandering the grounds and taking photos. There was an intense swarm of bees around the shrine so we weren’t able to get too close. They have a huge vegetable garden, a bookstore, and a walking trail honoring the world’s religions. The place is secluded just enough to make it special.

The Vedanta Society Ramakrishna Monastery

 

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