Fronds unfurling

20160508_150742On my desk at work, I have a very slow-growing fern.  I’m not sure what variety it is; it actually looks like three different plants all springing out of the same root system.  My lack of talent in caring for plants is locally infamous, and for a while I thought it was dead but just staying miraculously green, because it didn’t seem like it had changed at all in months.  But just last week I was diligently watering it and looked closely, and I was thrilled to discover two tiny fronds of new growth, curled like infant fingers, just starting to stretch out.

It’s been a remarkably long time since I’ve been actively posting on this site, primarily coinciding with my return to graduate school.  I also took on a new career, which is surprisingly engaging on a spiritual level, and picked up some additional jobs to help cover the bills.  Despite being incredibly busy, it’s been a fruitful time of personal reflection as well.  Now that this round of studies has officially concluded, and I’ve put in my notice for one of the extra jobs, a steadier and calmer routine is settling in, and I, too, am noticing new branches of my own just starting to unfurl.  Thus, I’m delighted to return to this small but amazing community with new vigor and perspective.

Before I launch into new territory, I first want to express my very heartfelt gratitude to those of you who have been steadfastly sharing your paths with the world through blogs, podcasts, tweets, etc., because being able to listen to you has meant so very much to me during this time of discernment.  Without you, I would have felt completely weird and alone, but with your generous spirit, I instead feel inspired and reassured.  Thank you.

Summer is panting toward the finish line; meteors are falling like fiery snow; in my neighborhood tonight thunder threatens to shatter our windows, but beneath all that exertion is a quiet, measured, yet hopeful smile.

At the ready,
your arrow


Magic in the Ditches

I’ll admit it — I love most of the plants that reasonable people consider weeds.  I especially love the fluffy floaty kinds that generate horrendous allergies in most of my friends.  I can’t help it!  I root for the underdog.

I never really learned what most of the common plants around my neighborhood were except for those I could eat, like blueberries, black raspberries, nasturtium, marigold, and Queen Anne’s Lace – whose roots are wild carrot (sooo delicious, unless you accidentally confuse it with hemlock).

I found out in my teens that my grandmother Alma used to know the common and Latin names for every plant in the state (or so it seemed).  She made a point to learn them all when she was 14 and left home to be a domestic and a schoolteacher in a one-room school house, a few miles horseback ride from the house where she boarded.  (*grin* It sounds so romantic put like that, but I can only imagine the difficulty of the winters.)  When she passed away, I was only just beginning to get to know her — the real Alma behind the plump and airy Grandma persona — so I made a resolution to try and learn about the plants around me in her honor.

I have another confession.  I didn’t do very well on that resolution.  But in plucky midwestern fashion, against the odds, I decided to give it another go.  I started on a good foot when I took some courses in essential oil therapies, learning the important differences between species of plants that may share common names but produce vastly different oils.  Then baby steps… I bought a tree and wildflower identification guide for my state, fell madly in love with the catalpa trees in the city, then trekked off with my guide under my arm into the woods.  I didn’t go until fall was already creeping in, but I was still able to spot and identify over 20 different species of wildflowers on my walk in one afternoon.  Not only did it boost my confidence in the possibility that I can still learn these things, it felt so rewarding to walk the same paths but suddenly feel like I was surrounded by dear friends because I recognized their faces and knew them by name.  Somehow that experience, and the awe of knowing whoever or whatever created all of them also created me reaffirmed my devotion to the beauty, mystery and connection of the natural world.

Okay, I’m done being misty… probably.  But I can’t promise I won’t still wax poetic. :)

Here are a few of the common faces of my neighborhood of which I am now especially fond:

common yarrowachillea millefolium – named for the legend that Achilles used this herb to treat bleeding wounds during the Trojan war.  I read a rather lovely albeit frightening love spell with yarrow that tells you whether he loves you – by making your nose bleed endlessly.  According to Cunningham, an infusion of yarrow flowers if drunk will improve psychic powers.  This one is easy to spot because of its feathery, fern-like leaves.

new england aster & pearly everlasting

indian pipemonotropa uniflora – a waxy, bell-shaped single flower on a thick stalk, looking rather like an alien fungus

canada goldenrod
solidago cnadensis – a staple of the fields and prairies.

new england asteraster novae-angliae – charming purple stars with yellow centers

pearly everlasting
anaphalis margaritacea – white pearl-shaped buds with yellow centers, like clusters of tiny lotuses

common tansytanacetium vulgare – heavy clumps of bright yellow button flowers. the leaves of the tansy are often used as a substitute for sage in sachets, prompting me to wonder if they could be used as a sage substitute in magical workings.  be wary, however, as this flower contains a toxic oil.

field & bull thistlecirsium discolor & vulgare – gorgeous, purple and spiny, but the field thistle is slightly less prickly. In Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, he gives this spell to call the spirits: place some thistle in boiling water.  remove from the heat and lie or sit beside the pot.  As the steam rises, call the spirits and listen carefully – they may answer your questions.

orange hawkweed

evening primroseoenothera biennis – bright yellow with four petals, has a rather intriguing x-shaped center (sigma) which I’m sure could be used symbolically somehow, eh? also pollinated by the sphinx moths at night, a rather romantic and mysterious notion. this plant was one of three named for me in a dream once years ago.

prairie cloverdalea candida – a slim and unassuming flower but it can send roots over five feet deep into the prairie soil in search of water.  a great emblem for hidden strength and determination if I ever saw one.

orange hawkweed – hieracium aurantiacum  – colorfully also called “devil’s paintbrush” or “king-devil,” this flower was named hawkweed after a folk belief that hawks ate the flowers to improve their vision.  perhaps a nice flower for your altar when you wish to see beyond the veil?

swamp buttercupranunculus hispidus – delicate and cheerful, with five cupped petals.  I was excited to find three of these on my walk.


Speaking of plants that give out fluffy drifting sneeze-inducing seeds, I thought it would be fun sometime to use them for a spell – focusing your intentions on the blossom as a whole, then plucking and releasing them in the wind or blowing on them to watch them fly off carrying a million little seeds to grow and manifest your desires.  Then, of course, I realized everyone and their mother does that all the time, wishing on dandelions.  I am more in love with that practice now than I ever was before, and now I find myself driven to make wishes on every aster, thistle and milkweed I pass as well!

In all, it was a lovely afternoon, I hugged some trees, spun around in some circles and enjoyed seeing, truly, the wealth of magical and wild resources sprouting up all around in those beautiful weedy ditches.

There was also this giant fungus that felt like the chin of a beluga whale, or so I imagined (I’ve never met a beluga – I’m landlocked).

baby beluga

I realize I’m still learning, so if you see anything here I’ve incorrectly identified, please let me know.  :)

Hope all is well for you!


Splendors of June

One of the many pleasures of summer in my city is the antiquarian book fair.  I picked up a lovely volume this go-round with gorgeous illuminated poems, The Old Garden by Margaret Deland, “decorated” by Walter Crane.  First American edition, 1894.  Here’s a little snippet of “Summer” in honor of the season!

Plus some lovely flowers from the garden and my little “special corner” setup:


Daydreams and Dryads

On Midsummer I had a rather lousy day at work, but it was a beautiful rainy evening by the time I left the office, and I decided to blow off some steam by biking down to the lakes.  I was sprinkled by a sunshower as I left the house, that dreamy rarity of rain falling from seemingly clear blue skies paired with bright sunshine, and by the time I reached the first lake, the rain had stopped and there was a glorious rainbow right over the water.

Just off the bike trail I spotted a phenomenally radiant tree with broad fan sized leaves of the brightest apple green and bursting with white trumpety flowers.  I think perhaps it was a basswood of some kind.  The bark was soft and carved with tangled grooves, and its branches twisted about in spiraling asymmetry.

I pulled over off the trail, leaned my bike against the trunk, and settled down in the crook of the tree’s meandering roots.  Above me sprawled the whispering canopy of green and white, all dappled and translucent with evening sunlight, and if I looked ahead I had a perfect view of the rainbow over the blue waves.

My limbs were mighty tired, and I cuddled into my niche in the tree with grateful comfort.  I imagined myself stretching roots deep into the earth, sinking my body into the soft damp and warmth, and I realized I felt myself protected and curled up in the trunk just like All-kinds-of-fur.  (Only instead of hiding from the incestuous proposals of a king, I was simply trying to escape a stressful workday.)

Drowsy, I began chatting amiably to the tree, and I found myself saying, on observing the abundance of flowers she had produced, “My, you’ve been a busy girl, haven’t we?”  I chuckled at the diminishing distinction between myself and my bower.  I asked if she had any advice; she said, “Bend with the wind, and don’t be afraid to lose a few leaves even when you’re growing.”

We had a lovely little conversation, and eventually the evening grew cool and dim, and I determined I ought to be returning home.  I rode past the cemetery and the band shell towards the public gardens, stopped briefly to dip a leaf in the fountain to fan myself, and (in a passionate whim) walked backwards among the roses per the old superstition of Midsummer loves.

I soon made my way back home, and settled in late in the evening, having reflected on my little communion with the tree, I felt it would be a perfect time for a bit of bibliomancy.  So I pulled my beloved Orlando down from the shelf, closed my eyes, flipped to a page and placed my finger.  When I looked, I saw one word: Daphne.

My mythology is a bit rusty, but I knew the name had significance, so I looked it up, and you can imagine my delighted surprise when I was reminded that Daphne was a nymph who, to escape the lustful pursuit of Apollo, transformed herself into a tree.

As Ovid described it (translated by A.S. Kline):

“…A heavy numbness seized her limbs, thin bark closed over her breast, her hair turned into leaves, her arms into branches, her feet so swift a moment ago stuck fast in slow-growing roots, her face was lost in the canopy. Only her shining beauty was left.”

May we all run headlong into our moment of transformation this summer.


Autumn Love


Woodland Creatures

We found this little guy on a walk in early August.  Actual size: about one inch by one inch.  I wonder if the toupee of moss is because he’s self-conscious about his bald cap, or just a fashion statement.

Keep an eye out.