White frost covered grasses and the warmth of a rising sun streams in through the windows at dawn as I kindle smoldering coals in my wood stove. The bare trunks of the cottonwoods bend charcoal against the horizon as golden light flows onto the floor heating cool tiles. A passionflower blossom is a feast for hungry eyes. Tonight, artificial time ends as we reclaim lost mornings, Nature’s original intention. Early nightfall births a sky full of cracked stars revealing ancient patterns for all to ponder.
What is it about darkness that modern westerners find so frightening? Is it the anxiety that comes from never taking the time to reflect upon one’s life? The fear of letting go? Or is more about dread? Encountering one’s own shadow is surely western culture’s greatest challenge. For me, it’s the reality of the opening of the Great Void of empty space that may be pregnant with potential but is also full of black holes…
Yet, this time of stillness, uncertainty, emptiness, and darkness allows me to tap into ancient Earth rhythms as I make the transition from “the going out” “to the return.”
Two days ago I earthed some bulbs in my half moon garden. Planting bulbs that will spend the winter gestating in darkness is a promise of life to come. Perhaps this is why I find this process so rewarding – even joyful.
Yesterday I cleared away the last of the frost withered flowers replacing them with natural mulch. My baby house lizard emerged from his rock lair to peer curiously at me as I gathered the last nasturtium seeds and dug deep into the soil preparing it for spring planting, laying down heart shaped leaves as Nature’s blanket. The compost lizard with his newly shed skin has just joined him… How do these young lizards know where to find the very best place to spend the winter? My half moon garden against the south side of the house is surely the most inviting habitat around!
A great horned owl soars low in the field with outstretched wings searching for food, and later, the haunting cry of the Sand –hill cranes allows me to witness their brief descent onto bare ground to feed before they take to the air, flying over the house towards the river that will, perhaps, help guide them south. The great mystery of bird migration characterizes this month of rapid changes and here in New Mexico the arrival and departure of the Sand hill cranes reminds anyone who pays attention that winter is on the horizon.
I moved my bird feeders from the trees (that until recently provided good leaf cover) to the covered porch. The birds are reluctant to make this shift from tree to human space, but I am patient; this change will take time but I hope that by the end of November the birds will eagerly flock to this protected space to feed.
This morning was brisk and windy and so I was surprised to see baby lizard still clinging to the wall as I began the herculean task of pulling apart a temporary pond that I had dug into the ground and ringed with sandstone last June as an experiment. I dearly wanted to attract toads and frogs to this small oasis. After watching lizards basking on warm pink rocks, bees, butterflies, a garter snake, not to mention birds flocking to this location I was impressed but it wasn’t until the giant toad appeared at the end of August that I was convinced a permanent pool was a necessity. As I dug through the waterlogged mud and slung it into my wheelbarrow, placed the round container in the large hole, began to back fill and replace the ring of stones I called out to the toads and frogs! Please come by next spring, I implored them, knowing of course that so much depends on rain… Then I seeded the area with poppies and blue flax, early blooming flowers, and covered the whole area with golden cottonwood leaves… Completing this job was the last project on my short list and I felt absurdly happy!
These days I am content to create two small gardening spaces, plant a tree or two and create one little pond because less has become more.
After the morning’s stiff breeze ceased I opened the doors to let the fresh air in…
November is the month when natural changes seem most dramatic. Just a week ago the leaves were on the trees and the air was still, and now I feel winter’s chill soaring towards me on wintery winds. We had intolerable temperatures from May to October. Unable to get away, and too sensitive to heat and the smoke from forest fires, I spent months trapped inside my house. For a woman whose life is predicted on her direct relationship with Nature, I lived through hell but learned too that neither body or soul can endure living here year round – an important thing to know…
Some think of this month as “the space in between” worlds. Once, most cultures acknowledged this time that is predominated by the emptying out and by sudden changes and reversals; Indigenous peoples and those with pre-christian leanings still do. Last night I dreamed that a hole opened up in the earth on the west side of the house. This dream reinforces the reality the void that opens in November for those of us who are sensitive enough to feel it – an uncomfortable time.
Completing outdoor chores like gathering seeds and wood and preparing gardens for spring planting helps me prepare for turning inward… Some still gather round the fire for reflection and storytelling, thinking about those who have journeyed this way before. I review my dreaming journal and gather greens to celebrate the first night of winter darkness by arranging them in my giant Mexican frog. Draping miniature white lights around the boughs and then lighting them bathes the room in such a friendly glow that I can barely wait for dark! The first greens for my wreaths are waiting to be woven into a Circle of Becoming. I watch the Great Bear circumnavigating the sky wishing the hunt was over.
Temperate days, frost covered ground, brief gales, and snow on the mountains speak volumes to any who witness this time of stark changes.
I listen to Nature’s voice on the wings of migrating birds, acknowledge and honor the space in between, accepting this cycle of letting go – even as I refuse to accept the continued rape and desecration of the Earth by those who remain indifferent to a Fate that is their own.