The Soul and Spirit of Garlic

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Author’s kitchen window with garlic and scapes

 

Last night a second

bulb of freshly dug garlic

was waiting for me

at the gate

strung up with rainbow thread.

Such a lovely gift

from my friend –

soul sister, a muse…

The first bulb I hung

by the door

to repel dark spirits.

The second I cleaned,

peeling off layers

until her skin turned translucent

under a waxing moon.

Healers known as “witches”

understood the

uncanny powers of this

herb and used it

routinely to create

a barrier between

“this and that.”

Garlic and old women

have much in common.

Their power comes

out of roots

grown deep in dark ground.

Both ripen with age.

Juicy, fat and aromatic,

newly dug garlic

has the sweetest of scents –

is delightfully pungent

to the discerning tongue.

Not to mention

that ingesting this root

flavors any dish,

creating “perfection” while

repelling all manner

of harmful bacteria

that live on inside an

unbalanced gut.

Outside or inside

The Spirit and Soul of

Garlic reigns as queen!

Curing fresh garlic

takes time

requires solitude

and a penchant for shadows..

much like old women

who have become

wise in the ways

of Nature who seek

forest or desert as home…

The Soul of the Garlic

works underground

protecting heaped up hearts

repelling invaders.

 

As Spirit She banishes

the unholy – neutralizing

dark forces by returning

arrows of harm

to those who sent them.

Both Soul and Spirit of Garlic

heal and protect

as one undivided Whole.

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“The Cottonwood Dance”

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(The Cottonwoods outside my window)

 

A couple of days ago I went to a late spring Corn Dance at Okay Owingeh Pueblo. For the Tewa, spring, summer and fall are dedicated to the seasonal agricultural round and the late spring dances acknowledge the necessity of adequate rain for the newly planted corn to grow. Because the Tewa people have a living tradition each dance is unique although a general pattern is followed – one that has ancient origins. The point of these dances is to pray for rain, help the corn and other crops grow through dancing prayer, and to keep the Earth and her people in balance. One experiences the dance; no words are spoken. Drumming is an integral part of this ritual cycle.

 

There were many participants, men women and children, and a number of clay striped clowns who wore turtle shells on their legs. Both the women and the men also carried and shook gourds that sounded like rain. Both men and boys wore kilts trimmed with bells and shells and turtle shell rattles on their legs. The men also wore brightly colored arm – bands some of which were yellow. Most had feather top knots. The women wore white wrap around high legged moccasins made from the softest deer skin, beautifully belted dresses, predominantly rose patterned shawls, their shiny long black hair hanging down their backs. The men danced in moccasins trimmed with skunk fur. Some of these moccasins were dyed a bright yellow and I wondered if the color had something to do with the corn. Skunks love water so even the footwear that touches the Earth becomes a prayer for rain.

 

Each set begins and ends in one of the four plazas to honor each of the Four Directions with breaks between each set. I attended the first set and at the end of the dance all the dancers (there must have been a hundred or more) entered a ramada for a blessing and then filed into one of the two kivas where secret rites are completed in private.

 

Because it was getting hot I had not planned on staying for more than one set. I knew that the dance would be repeated in exactly the same way in each plaza until each of the Four Directions had been honored and the dance ended.

 

The rhythm of the dance had a hypnotic effect on me that by now I had become accustomed to experiencing. I find these dances deeply moving, perhaps because I have Indigenous roots, and because my life is so tightly woven to the cycles of Nature. I also understood that the Tewa believe that participating in these dances, even as a spectator helped the rain come and the corn to grow, probably the only reason the Tewa allow outsiders to attend the celebrations. These people are fiercely independent and do not share their traditions with strangers beyond allowing visitors to attend the dance. By maintaining this kind of vigilance they have managed to keep ancient traditions intact. One is left to interpret what one sees and experiences…

 

The striking aspect of this particular dance for me was the lack of corn imagery. Instead, everywhere I looked I saw men wearing wreaths of cottonwood, something I had never witnessed before. In addition, the women and children each carried sprigs of cottonwood branches. Fascinated by this change I called the pueblo the next day to find out if I had seen a corn dance. Yes, I was told. I knew enough not to ask impertinent questions about cottonwood branches. Instead I reflected upon the possible meaning of what I had seen, and what it might mean. That night I fell asleep listening to muted cottonwood conversation…

 

I am presently living in an adobe house that is situated under a giant stand of cottonwood trees, trees whose leaves flutter and rustle beguiling me to listen to their songs. Sometimes at night I imagine I hear rain falling…it takes me a minute to recognize that what I am hearing is the sound of cottonwood leaves communing above my head.

 

A day or so later it dawned on me that using the cottonwood boughs, a sacred tree to the Tewa and other tribes because it is associated with water, might have been incorporated into the dance as an additional form of prayer to call down the rains.

 

In Northern New Mexico we are experiencing an unprecedented drought. We had no snow or rain this winter, and thus no spring run off. Fires are burning out of control throughout the region and the National parks have been closed to camping and other forms of recreation. How this is going to affect the corn and other crops that these people depend upon for sustenance is unknown. The Rio Grande is low, and no longer reaches Mexico. A Mexican friend, and builder friend of mine finds this state of affairs confusing because as he asks “Doesn’t the water belong to all the people?” Apparently not, our Government decrees.

 

Meanwhile, I listen to the cottonwood trees with rapt attention adding my prayers to those of the people.

 

May the rains come.

Postscript: Curiously we had our first real rainstorm just a couple of days after the ‘Cottonwood Dance’ and who can know if the trees were listening and helped bring down the rain.

Cottonwoods, by the way have enormous taproots that seek the water table and must reach it in order to survive. Today, young cottonwoods are struggling because the water table has dropped. It is heartbreaking to see how few young trees are actually growing.

Nichos embody Natural Grace

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Red Willow River at Dawn

 

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Nicho in the East

 

A ‘Nicho‘, is a three-dimensional or recessed area used to honor an important figure, saint, or loved one. Nichos originated as an adaptation of the Roman Catholic ‘retablo’, painting of a patron saint on wood or tin.

 

When I was a little girl my parents spent a year in Europe and my mother brought me home a small Greek Orthodox retablo of the Virgin and Child made of silver. It had two small arched doors with tiny nobs that opened onto an etched picture of the Madonna and Child. I placed the retablo on a table next to my bed where it remained throughout my childhood. I opened and closed ornate silvery doors frequently drawn in by something that at the time I couldn’t name. When I became an adult this small silver story moved from night table to table in each house I lived in for about 45 years.

 

The most amazing part of this childhood gift was that as far as I knew my mother had no idea that I had a relationship with Mary or her son. The eight year old child in me concluded that my mother must have magical powers! Even more curious was the fact that my mother, though she had married an ex-catholic, was very biased against Catholicism, so as I got older I became even more puzzled as to why she would choose such a gift for her daughter, especially one she didn’t like much.

 

When I moved into my log cabin in Maine, the very first object to be placed in the house was a retablo of Guadalupe, a Mexican Indian Goddess that belonged to the country people. She appeared to an Indian peasant in the 1500s at the site of an ancient Indigenous Earth goddess Tonsaztin. During the cold winter months, I festooned her with red lights. Although I was no longer associated with Christianity or the church I was still much taken by this figure because she was an Indigenous Mexican goddess and an Earth Mother.

 

Now I am living in Northern New Mexico and have just moved into a casita that has been constructed by a gifted Mexican builder named Mario. I do not own this house. It belongs to my neighbor. However, part of me belongs here. I chose the location, the colors of the walls, the Mexican tile floors and insisted that the house have many windows so that indoors and outdoors could merge as one undivided space. I also asked that Nichos be placed in each of the four directions. The adobe has simple lines and two portals or porches one on the east side that overlooks the majestic cottonwood trees I love so much.

 

Perhaps even more important, as the first mud bricks were laid, my dear friend Iren  embedded “sacred” (to me) objects in the walls while I was in Maine. She also placed sage in the center of the house. To acknowledge the powers of the Four Directions she chose an elk antler and a piece of chert for the North not knowing that I had named my log cabin in Maine “Elk House”. For the East and West (the good red road) I sent her treasured pieces of bear fur from my ursine friends to honor the black bears that had stolen my heart, and who lived around my house in Maine. The potshard she placed in the Southern wall acknowledged the ancient inhabitants that first belonged to this land. (The southern view from the house overlooks Poshuowingeh, an Anasazi ruin, a place I love and have visited countless times).

 

In preparation for this embedding Iren made a drawing of a squared circle and its four directions in her studio, When I arrived later in November she made a copy which I immediately placed on a wall where I could see it every day throughout a long and difficult winter. This drawing reminded me that the casita that was being built with my neighbor’s money began with me, and my clear intentions to inhabit a space that would be in harmony with the powers of this place. Iren and I called the casita “house of the bear.”

 

Winter dragged on, and as the construction continued I was rarely at the site because my neighbor had made it clear that the casita was his and that my suggestions were no longer welcome. I was told that the house would become part of the estate that would be left to his niece; this latter piece of information was no surprise since I already knew it. I had no claims on the casita, only my love for Red Willow river, Iren’s beloved land, and this small chimisa meadow which I had chosen as a building location because the Earth had indicated that I should.

 

Serious doubts crept in along with ongoing persisting illness that plagued me during the course of the winter. On the rare occasions that I did visit the construction site I experienced a peculiar numbing throughout my body. Had the connection I once felt to this small piece of Earth been delusional? … Every morning when I went to the river to watch the sunrise I would silently ask this question… I buried bear root. I made plans to return to Maine.

 

On the first day of May I was visiting the casita with my neighbor when I discovered an owl feather. I had been listening to owls all winter and knew that they lived in these cottonwoods. I also had what I would call an ongoing owl conversation with these great Horned owls that began in Maine last fall and followed me here. Finding the owl feather on this day, a day once revered by country folk/Indigenous peoples as a powerful turning point of the year seemed significant, and my neighbor brought it into the casita and placed it in the Nicho in the East. That same day, May Day, I also began to scatter wild seeds that I had collected the year before around on the red earth… This seeding went on all month with me tending to the care and watering, clearing up construction debris, garbage, trimming beloved chimisa bushes. (with me doing the work the owner has a professional gardener/landscaper who works for free).

 

For the first time I wondered if it would be possible to live here after all – to stop here for a time. The house and land might not belong to me except in a spiritual sense. What I felt was a renewed connection to Place and since I trust Nature’s nudges I went with it.

 

Now a month later I have moved into the casita. I don’t carry a lot of false hope. Money rules the world and I don’t have it. I could never buy this land even if it was an option. That I personally believe that we all belong to the Earth and no one owns it is a perspective that is foreign to most people and is certainly not lauded by the owner of this property.

 

However, with this much said, the day I moved in I felt the walls hugging me. I did belong here! The casita felt utterly familiar, comforting. Most important the structure exudes a sense of inner peace… something I have been longing for.

 

About a day later, Mario found a second great horned owl feather that I added to the one in the East Nicho. By now it was clear that Nature had decreed that bears belong in the West, but owls must embody the powers of East. As if to reinforce this notion, the second night I slept here I heard a great horned owl hoot just outside my window….

 

The first task I undertook was filling the rest of the Nichos. The owl feathers face East. A vase holds precious potsherds in the South. In the West I have placed a picture of a bear I once knew whose name was Hope. Iren’s photo of the squared circle and sacred placing of the objects sits behind a black Mexican luminary… to light up the night. In the North I have placed a piece of luminous black chert and an antler that Iren gave me. There is also a small wreath I made with cypress pine cones that symbolizes Wholeness inside the house and out. I am setting clear and vivid intentions. I am aligning myself with the Powers of Nature to hold and to heal…

 

Some say that two is the number of manifestation…Iren began this process of orienting the casita to Nature and I am finishing it. The casita has been blessed by river water and smudged with sage by me.

 

Will I be stopping here awhile? I don’t know. But I do my best to be as present as I can be to each moment opening myself to the astounding beauty that surrounds me. Nature aslo invites me  to do so with each new seedling that sprouts tiny green wings.

 

However, Everything Changes and the future remains veiled.

 

The light in this house (thanks to my placement of windows) is astonishingly beautiful with its warm sandy walls, wood ceilings, and rust colored Mexican tile. The east portal that looks out on the Matriarchs of the Bosque is a source of ongoing joy, a place to end each day, eating my dinner to the fluttering sounds of heart shaped leaves of the cottonwoods and hummingbirds that twitter and cheep as they dive into the feeders for a nightcap! Each morning I walk to the river winding down through the wild grasses of the old pasture, cross the acequia onto the prickly pear path, listening for the roar of this much beloved churning serpentine ribbon while scanning for birds. When I sit down on Iren’s little bench I look to the sky… Sunrise is a time to give thanks for the gift of each day…

 

And I do.

Eventide

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(door to portal in early morning)

 

The wind is light

fluttering cottonwood hearts

as I pass the sage garden

approaching the portal.

A shady refuge facing East.

Entering the casita

a brilliant white star

burns my eyes.

I turn away –

the soft rust colored tiles

and sand walls

provide calm

contrast as I

put away utensils

in cupboards

floating above cobalt tiles.

My beloved companions

crunch kibbles

on the floor –

all of us happy

to be here

Alone.

I water thirsty plants –

As “earth mother’

I am eternally vigilant

attending to young.

A sinking sun casts

lemony shadows.

A Moon will follow.

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Retracing my steps

to the portal,

inside becomes outside.

The dogs and I

sit on her floor.

Above us rustling leaves

and hummingbirds hover…

The trees

are gilded in gold.

At Eventide.

Peace is

in the air.

Bludgeoned

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Yesterday I blundered

creating sorrow in my wake.

Opening like a flower to vulnerability

I trusted that my words would be

received with kindness and

appreciation.

Instead harsh criticism

stuck a knife through my heart.

Although his cruelty

speaks to who he is,

and not to who I am

the thorn festers

and I weep.

 

Postscript:

 

Yesterday I shared my feelings with someone who has no capacity for receiving. I knew that. Thus, this mistake was of my own making. Why did I try to bridge an unbridgeable gap? Even though I know that this man’s cruelty is more about him than me, it still didn’t change the pain I experienced as his words drew blood. One of my vulnerabilities comes out of the need to create a path to the doors that others must keep shut in order to keep their false faces intact. I have the capacity to see through that delusion – and this quality is a double – edged sword.

 

I am a self directed woman and a sensitive in depth writer – And oh, so happily, I am no longer dependent upon rigid authoritarian male criticism for a sense of worth. I don’t need this man’s approval and this is a source of the greatest joy!

 

This morning while standing at the river’s edge a female hummingbird hovered inched from my face twittering excitedly. I think she was telling me that allowing myself to be vulnerable is a gift that opens a heaped up heart to Nature’s Love that is unconditional modeling Presence and Generosity of Spirit even when people strike out to make themselves more powerful in their own arrogance, stupidity, and blindness.

 

Hummingbirds are vulnerable to freezing but they also possess amazing resilience, and can fly thousands of miles to find home. I am like that hummingbird who mirrors that endurance and strength are powerful antidotes to those who would bludgeon child-like joy.

Datura Magic

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Datura blossoms

open in late spring evenings

their pearl white trumpets

buzzing with pollinating bees…

How I long to

have my very own

leafy round bush

bursting with lavender laced flowers…

Germinating Datura seed has been

one of this year’s greatest challenges.

First I fried some

in the noon day sun

not once but twice,

Drowned others

in too damp soil.

Rabbits feasted on tender leaves

of last year’s seedling – thrice!

When I dug young plants

I severed sturdy root connections

to life giving minerals and water.

Burying broken souls in

high desert soil,

I watched them weep –

bend shriveled leaves,

felt their deep distress

and anguish

– knowing

I was the cause.

Forgive me,

I implored them.

Will my steadfast love suffice?

(It was not enough for

one blossoming passionflower…

a beloved sister for 17 years,

whose demise preceded dying in me…)

I water Datura each clear blue morning.

Compassion and love

flow through pure feeling…

Plants taught me that this

direct form of communication

honors not just plants

but all life forms.

I imagine a startling green bouquet

coming to life outside my door.

I can almost see pointed leaves

emerging out of summer mist

rising from the river

a gift from nourishing rain.

One day last week

for no apparent reason

a few Datura seeds sprouted

from the soil of one twig pot

where I had cast them

carelessly – discouraged

by this year’s seed failures.

A few days later

two green winged leaves

appeared like magic

with seed heads still attached like hats!

Now I think Datura was reminding me

of how important

it is to start from humble

Beginnings – to persist with Patience.

“Do not give up,” She informs me without words.

To cease feeling hope is human,

but I must not close the door

on what I cannot know.

Sacred Datura is a mystery plant –

Medicine from the beyond

for those who are initiated

as I was last summer

through night song,

when a single potted plant

sang through a soaking rain.

Flooded with disbelief,

awed – astonished – bewildered

I stood rooted

to her nocturnal symphony…

Later, returning to my senses,

I reflected.

The old woman in me

is as much in love with plants

as the child once was –

our bond remains unbroken.

Intimate relationship lives on

through unlikely conversations.

Some plants speak more urgently than others…

Datura and Passionflower vines

have called me into prayer

on more than one occasion.

Our roots, stems, leaves overlap –

linked in space

through intimate relationship

time flows

in both directions at once

and present is all there is.

I have spent an authentic life

creeping close to the ground

as a green and purple vine

– my belly close to home.

When entering the field of plants

four hundred fifty million years old,

I too am capable

of birthing

just as seeds

do, sprouting from

dry cracked earth.

It is by this act

of seeding new plants that

I recover my own

lost plant soul.

 

Working notes:

Spring brings on the white heat of the sun and the potential to germinate last year’s seeds. This year I have spent a lot of time trying to germinate seeds, rooting passionflower cuttings, and seeding in pots so that they can be moved and I live with the hope that some will find home in desert ground…

I am walking on air, still perched like a bird on a wire,  – too much air, fire from the sun, and not enough earth and water…

The drought drones on.

This prose arose out out my need to ground myself to the powers of place through the act of seeding in the earth, a process I began a couple of weeks ago on the land around the house in which I hope I will soon be living.

This year I am experiencing seeding and planting as an act of defiance, I think – a response to feeling so uprooted in my life. Participating in this process is also a response that ties me to the seasonal round. With the summer solstice fast approaching the days are too long, too hot, the sky too bleached, the rain doesn’t come… Seeding, rooting, transplanting, allow me to put my hope into the thirsty ground through my love for plants acknowledging my intimate relationship with them. Each day when I water my seedlings and watch as others sprout, I feel a sense of being a part of a greater whole that is always changing…

Seeds sprouting, Passionflowers climbing towards the light, and Datura struggling to adapt to new surroundings are a metaphor for my present life and also embody the miracle of new life unfolding within and without.

The common element for survival is that all, including me, must have thriving roots, adequate water, and access to Natural Light.

 

Aphrodite Rises

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After early summer rain

high desert

gifts us with sweet scent –

wet ground soaks in precious minerals

brings relief from drought,

relentless fire,

parching west wind.

For a brief moment

blazing sun star sleeps.

Long dormant,

wildflowers

rise from the dead

sprouting with tumbleweeds!

Smudged gray sky

provides a canvas

against which a multitude

of greens shiver and shine

–sage leaves are brushed by silver.

Saturated ground bleeds deep red.

An invitation to walk down

chert lined paths that are soaked

in primrose, saltbush,

bursting with crimson

cactus cups.

I can’t breath deeply enough.

Moist air is Aphrodite,

Goddess of Love and Beauty

bringing cracked Earth to life.

The gift of rain is her Grace

falling from cloud soft sky.

Watch for her as

She Rises…