Environment, life

Farmer’s market, murder shack. Tomato, tomahto.

My eyes were still closed when she started cleaning my face. If I weren’t at home, this would’ve been embarrassing, at best — I tried to turn my head away, but she held it firmly in place. There’s something about being a parent that makes using spit as a cleaning solution seem perfectly reasonable. According to some people, having kids endows mothers with super-powered saliva that can clean the most stubborn grime.

This appears to hold true if those kids are kittens, too.

“Ça suffit, Kiko.”

I opened my eyes to daylight, a pink nose, and a face full of whiskers. She started to purr.

It was early Sunday morning, and Kiko objects to my nighttime moisturizer. I spend perfectly good dollars to slather myself in serums and creams, and Kiko, one paw planted firmly on my cheek to hold my face in place, wakes me up by scrubbing them off again. She is a very gentle, caring, and perceptive cat, who routinely perches on the side of the bathtub to pat my cheeks and make worried faces when I’m not feeling well. She also has very definite opinions on skincare. (Gods help you if you try to wear lipstick around her.)

My partner and I didn’t really have plans for Sunday. It’s a day for catching up on housework and running errands — I mop, sweep, water plants, and putter around with other chores, he does laundry and washes whatever dishes there might be. With beautiful weather and an empty schedule, I figured we’d go to the farmer’s market and poke around.

And then we saw the line to get into the farmer’s market stretching around the block. Aw, butts.

“Let’s… Uh. Let’s get breakfast and go to a park, maybe,” I offered. This seemed reasonable.

Of course, “park” could also mean “abandoned ghost town,” in a certain light. So, armed with a smoothie and a largish quantity of chicken and waffles, we headed out to track down the remains of Daniels, Maryland. Neither of us had been there before, and it’s not like we had anything better to do… Why not go for a long drive and possibly accidentally stumble onto a secret forest murder shack?

Daniels isn’t haunted (as far as I know). It isn’t as eerie as Centralia, there are no horror movies inspired by it. A church was struck by lightning and burned down, but, from what I’ve read, the only loss was an expensive ring. There’s no real mystery behind it, either — the population dwindled, and the C.R. Daniels Company decided to shut things down.
(Really, the creepiest part is the idea that a company can own an entire town, and then decide to close your damn house.)

There’s still a very unique energy in places where people no longer live. I feel like that goes double in places like Daniels. Nature driving people out and retaking a space in one blow is sudden, violent, and has a sense of finality. The haunting feelings in those places make sense.

But what did people think as they packed up to leave Daniels? How long did it take for nature to start taking space back, and what came first? Was it the spiders, raccoons, or birds infiltrating old houses? Or did vines climb the walls first, sending in tendrils to pull the bricks and stones apart one piece at a time?

“Viva” “Cloud Nine” “Love You!” “Don’t just exist! LIVE”

In 1972, four years after the C.R. Daniels Company decided to shut things down, tropical storm Agnes rolled through an demolished most of the remaining buildings.

We weren’t prepared for how crowded things were, or the lack of a bridge. Instead of trying to find the remains of the town, this became a scouting mission. We’d need to find the best place to cross, not too near the dam. Somewhere where the bank wasn’t too steep, where there was already a trail worn through the thick, fluffy greenery. We’d have to come back early, when the weather was a bit cooler and there wouldn’t be as many people around.

Frustrated for the second time that day, we hiked along the water. I found a lovely patch of jewelweed, and something unidentifiable scented the breeze with a lemony citronella fragrance. The air was fresh, the mosquitoes were somewhere else, and things were good on this fine day. We paused for a bit so I could bathe some pieces of Arkansas quartz and Herkimer diamonds in the clear water, and I lit a tiny stick of incense as an offering.

When another group needed the spot to launch a kayak, I doused the incense, and we packed up to go home.

We’re going back, though.

We have a plan.

life

And… Frolic!

Things were extremely okay. I’d even say they were approaching neato. Then they were not.

My S.O. had a high-stress presentation, not at all helped by having to do it over Zoom. The effect was like something out of a Terry Gilliam-style dystopia (which, I guess, is kind of where we are now), only without the part where anyone was wearing a giant, terrifying baby head.

I, on the other hand, had a bunch of orders to write, a presentation to plan, two cats who’ve been throwing up just often enough to be Way Too Much yet Still Technically Normal, and about ninety pounds of carpet slowly moldering in the middle of my living room. (I am not good at estimating how long it takes things to dry. I also habitually underestimate how humid it is here. Next time, I will happily pay a cute amount of money to make this someone else’s problem.)

There’s only one way to unwind from this: Aggressive frolicking.

Well, aggressive frolicking after a long drive.

First, we tried to go to Great Falls Park, but they were crowded to the point where park rangers had the entrance blocked off. It’s still a pretty drive with a bunch of scenic spots to pull off, though, and time I spend in the car with this nerd is never wasted.

Plus we found a spot bursting with bright yellow sunchokes and goldenrod. I even made a little bug buddy:

If I’ve got my bugs right, this is a pale green assassin bug nymph. Fortunately, these stealthy little weirdos are only assassins to other bugs, though they can bite if provoked.

Afterward, we found some crape myrtles suitable for frolicking amongst. The flowers smelled lovely, everyone else was sufficiently socially distant, and I was loaded up on enough Zyrtec to sedate a category 5 kaiju so the existence of grass didn’t make me break out in hives.

Most people wore masks, even the ones running or cycling, but some didn’t. We brought ours, but didn’t end up going anywhere where we were in danger of coming in contact with anyone. With an entire area of the park to ourselves, it was easy to avoid breathing at other people (and getting breathed at, in turn).

I think the closest we came to coming within a hundred feet of another person was when this extremely charming family looking for a picnic spot. They rounded a fence to head down a grassy hill, when one of their maybe-four-or-five-year-old children exclaimed, “Oh! What a nice view!” I’m not generally a person of young children or babies, but it was the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.

That was pretty much it — sun, breeze, and the smell of crape myrtles. That’s plenty for me.

See? Idyllic.
Environment, life, Neodruidry, Witchcraft

A Daily Earth-Healing Meditation

Since today is Earth Day, I figured it’d be a good time to post about a small, simple daily meditation that I use to start my day.

It’s a combination of a grounding exercise and a planet-healing. You don’t need anything to do it, other than a comfortable, quiet place to sit (or even lie down) and five or ten minutes to spare. It’s based around the incredibly important role that fungi play in every ecosystem.

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Tiny eyelash fungi on mossy wood.

The Fungi

Though we often picture mushrooms when we imagine fungi, fungal fruiting bodies make up a tiny portion of the whole organism. Beneath them, spread out in a web, is a vast network of mycelium. The hyphae spread out like thin threads, transporting nutrients, secreting enzymes to break down organic matter, and supplying nutrients to the plants that depend on them. Everything in the world relies on fungi for survival, in one form or another. They secrete carbon dioxide as part of the carbon cycle, and can break down almost anything that isn’t actively toxic to them — even plastic, petroleum, or pesticides. Some fungi turn carbon into melanin, a very stable carbon-containing compound, while others help soil retain moisture. Certain fungi increase soil aggregation, potentially increasing soil carbon storage.

Still, fungi respond to a very careful natural balance. While the soil is a carbon sink, soil fungi also return carbon dioxide to the air — especially in situations where elevated levels of carbon dioxide encourage plant growth, increasing nitrogen demand and upsetting the delicate balance of carbon and nitrogen. Fungi can be vital environmental allies, but the balance needs to be preserved.

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A pair of boletes.

Soil fungi don’t just comprise one or two species, either. Every patch of soil could be a host to a thousand distinct species. Just like the natural microflora of the body shift and change in response to illness, stress, diet, and medication, different stressors affect how these fungi grow, compete with each other, and evolve.

It’s never been more clear that protecting the planet means preserving all of the microscopic activity below the soil, not just the plants and animals above.

The Meditation

To begin, position yourself comfortably. Let your shoulders drop. Relax your jaw and the muscles around your eyes. Unclench your hands, and let them rest softly in your lap.

Inhale deeply, using your diaphragm and pushing out your belly to take in as much air as you can. Breathe in for a count of four, gently hold your breath for a count of three, and exhale for a count of seven. Repeat this three to five times.

Visualize your energy reaching from the base of your spine, through your seat, the floor, and into the soil. You don’t have to go far below the grass here — once your energy reaches the ground, let it spread out like the roots of a tree. Picture the filaments of your energy reaching through the soil, touching the filaments of mycelium that connect everything. Let your roots engage with the hyphae, gently befriending. When you have spread your energy as far as you can, begin sending a stream of loving light down through your roots.

Don’t worry if you don’t know all of the ins and outs of your local soil’s chemistry. Visualize your energy stimulating where it is needed, calming where it is needed, and balancing where it is needed. Visualize the soil fungi doing their microscopic jobs to break down what is no longer needed, and return it to the earth in a usable, nourishing form. Let your contact with the living soil recalibrate your energy, grounding you.

Continue this visualization for as long as is comfortable for you. When you are ready, gently withdraw your energetic roots from the soil. Open your eyes, stretch your limbs, and go about your day with a renewed awareness of how our actions affect everyone — and everything — around us.

 

Environment, life

I think we accidentally walked through about six maternity shoots.

Sunday, I stayed home and cleaned my bathroom.

… Is what I would be saying, if I were a responsible adult. Instead, with a forecast of 62° and plenty of sun, my partner and I decided to go out and take advantage of it. I packed us a salad, sandwiches, crackers, and fruit, and we drove out to the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary. Neither of us had ever been before, but it’s been an item on our potential date list for awhile.

Holly branches in sunlight.
Most of the trees were bare, but the holly was so pretty in the sunlight.

(Find you someone who considers walking through a marsh and taking pictures of moss and mushrooms a date activity. For real.)

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There’s a pretty steep drop from the trail immediately around the visitor’s center, but we were still able to get some walking in before I had to call it quits. What trails we were able to get to were flat enough that I didn’t have too many problems. (I only almost fell over once when I got distracted by some interesting lichen.)

It’s still too early for the deciduous trees to be in leaf, but it gave the woods a really beautiful stillness. Without the rustle in the breeze, it was easier to hear the sound of the birds calling over the water — ducks, crows, gulls, songbirds. We even saw a Cooper’s hawk circling above the trail.

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The trail down to the waterside.

Admission to Jug Bay is inexpensive — $6 a car — and there’s a lot to see. We didn’t get to do as much as I’d like yet, but we left the sanctuary abuzz with ideas. (He even offered to get me a new pair of hiking shoes, so I might have an easier time next time around.)  I’d love to get a pair of binoculars for birding, a small pad of watercolor paper, some new brushes…

Cranial sutures in a deer skull.
Beautifully complex cranial sutures in a deer skull, in the Jug Bay visitor’s center.

Not ready to go home yet, we drove a little ways out to the beach. It was still a bit cold and windy, and the tide had shrunk the sand down to a sliver, but the sun and salty air felt wonderful. I did have a visceral pang of pity for all of the ladies doing maternity shoots out there today — I wouldn’t want to be trying to wrangle a gauzy dress and a flower crown in that wind as it is, I definitely wouldn’t do it while seven months pregnant. Not even if you gave me a lifetime supply of pie and a free pony.

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We couldn’t stay for very long, but it was a lovely walk. It reminded me of how much I miss being closer to the ocean (and how strange it felt to have an ocean on the opposite side when I lived on the west coast).

As I write this, I’m bundled into my robe with a mug of tea and a pleasant ache in my limbs. I’m not at the point where I can do everything I used to be able to do yet, but I’m getting closer. 💚

Environment, Plants and Herbs

Squill Folklore and Magical Uses

Every time I find a new plant buddy, I end up spending a few hours reading up on what they’re used for — even things like mushrooms, lichen, and moss. When I spotted these pretty little blue flowers, I was immediately curious. I’d never seen them before, and their color was so vibrant against the brown dirt and handful green leaves poking out of the chilly ground. They were so small, I almost missed them.

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Scilla siberica, wood squill.

I wasn’t able to find much about wood squill specifically, other than that it’s native to Southwestern Russia (despite its other name, Siberian squill).

When most herb lore and magical texts talk about squill, they’re really talking about red (Drimia maritima) or white squill (Scilla mischtschenkoana). All of these are in the same subfamily, Scilloideae, but aren’t otherwise really synonymous.

The word “scilla” comes from the ancient Greek “skilla,” which is of unknown meaning. (A Modern Herbal claims that it means “to excite or disturb,” the way that an emetic disturbs the stomach, but I haven’t been able to verify this.)

For some people, only the actual plant that a spell calls for will do. For others, it’s okay to use a relative, if they’re close enough. This can be especially useful if the plant you want to work with is poisonous, endangered, not native to your area, or otherwise not a super great idea.

Squill Magical Properties and Folklore

Squill root is a money herb.

In hoodoo, placing squill in a container with one coin of each denomination, is used to draw in cash. (Some practitioners say it’s particularly effective if you can get a hold of old silver currency for this spell, like Mercury dimes. Others say that silver objects, like chains or beads, are even more effective than non-silver money.)

Holding squill root in your hands, focusing your intention to be unhexed, charging it, and carrying it with you is said to break all hexes and curses.

Using Squill

Red squill is used as a rodenticide, owing to a toxin called scilliroside. In creatures without a vomiting reflex, scilliroside is deadly.

White squill, on the other hand, has historically been used as a diuretic and expectorant. Compounds called glucosamides, found in the bulbs, are sometimes used in traditional medicine to treat irregular heartbeats. Wood squill also contains cardiac glycosides. This is not intended as medical advice, just an indicator of what kind of practical, medicinal applications it’s used for. As with any herb, medicinal properties can quickly become poisonous properties, so keep them away from children and pets.

 

Considering its medicinal properties and its appearance, it’s kind of easy to understand why it’s a money herb. It’s got that lovely plump bulb full of stored energy — fat like an onion, or the way you’d want your bank account to be. Its use as an emetic and diuretic make sense here, too. Squill has the power to eject all kinds of substances from the body. You put it in a stomach, the stomach’s contents are coming out in abundance.  Metaphysically, it stands to reason that it would be placed in a container with money in the hopes that it’d spew more money into your life.

The emetic and diuretic virtues also go hand-in-hand with hex breaking. If your body needs to purge a physical ill, squill helps. If you need to purge a magical ill, squill helps that, too.

White squill seems to be abundant and easy to find on the market, but there are areas where other varieties of squill (like the wood squill pictured above, or alpine squill) have become invasive. If you’re looking to use squill in your work, I’d suggest picking up a good plant identification guide, and seeing if your area has any invasive varieties lurking around. (Various species of squill are used as ornamental plants. If you decide you want to grow some, be sure to do it in a way that will keep it from escaping into its environment.) You can get the magical ingredients you need, develop a deeper relationship with the plants themselves, and remove damaging invasive species from your environment at the same time.

 

 

 

divination, life, Neodruidry

Turmoil and the Ten of Cups.

I’m not going to write on the state of the world right now. In the words of Dave Barry, “I don’t want to write it, and you don’t want to read it.” It’s impossible to create a picture of my internal landscape without looking at the externals, though, so suffice it to say that we’re on the brink of war, an entire continent is on fire, and to many things suck to even begin to list here. Worst of all, many of them are things that were predicted would suck in this exact fashion, so even just existing is a bit like being given the Ludovico Technique using a slow-motion train wreck.

Internally, I’ve been working on adjusting my dose of antidepressants. I’ve finished my Dedicant Path work, so all that remains is to have it reviewed and see what needs to be corrected or elaborated upon. There was another(!) leak, this time in the building’s gas room down the hall, and getting it fixed involved calling emergency maintenance in the middle of the night on New Year’s Eve, waiting, being not-terribly-surprised when no one showed, and then calling the gas company and hoping they’d be able to find a way into the gas room the following afternoon. They did, it’s fixed, and now all that remains is to wait and hope that the new management company will see fit to replace the ancient, inefficient, leaking fixtures and appliances.

With the oven and gas room fixed, I can finally cleanse and bless this place the way it should’ve been a month ago. Constantly smelling gas didn’t seem to be a super great omen for that, however, so I’ve been putting it off.

I’m getting stronger day by day. I’ve been able to do things I couldn’t before, and my physical endurance and mental fortitude are improving greatly. I will always have some degree of disability, but it constricts my world much less than it used to even just a few months ago.

I’ve been working on creating my own tarot spread, cobbled together from the spreads I most commonly use, and the kind of positions I inevitably end up tacking on for clarification. I like it so far! There are a few things I may change, but that’s for Future Me to worry about.

I’ve also been doing a small, meditative ritual every day, and regular trancework. Writing it down has been interesting — the way I usually receive and process information from these jaunts is generally very coherent and linear, even the metaphorical bits, so I never really felt the need to jot things down for further exploration. Journaling hasn’t so much changed how I receive or interpret the messages, but having a record of them makes it much easier to pick out sychronicities from journey to journey and elsewhere in my life. I’ve gotten a lot of water lately, but that’s a subject for another time.

So, amid this mix of good news and bad, I was a little hesitant to draw a card this week. I didn’t last week, for just this reason — there was too much unresolved, demanding too much energy, for me to sit down and put down a coherent string of thoughts about it. I think I’ve said it before, though I’m honestly too tired to check: Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to.

It’s a pitfall of reading for yourself, or even someone whose situation you’re very invested in. When we’re too emotionally bound up in the answers, they’re difficult to interpret truthfully. I don’t find this to be the case for a low-stakes one card reading, but, if something’s weighing heavily on me, I’m more inclined to ask someone else to read for me — or at least compare their readings to my own to find the commonalities. When I feel like this, highly invested in things that seem to be spinning out of control, it’s usually a challenging time for me to read for myself.

Anyway, without making a long story longer, I drew the Ten of Cups.

The Ten of Cups is one of the most positive cards in the deck. It’s come up for me before, when my S.O. and I finished writing a book. We just recently finished posting the first leg of Ane’s circus caravan’s journey on Phoenix & Rook, and I did also just finally finish my Dedicant Path work… So I’m really beginning to wonder if this card’s going to turn up for me every time I finish a big piece of writing.

No complaints here. I could some some peace and fulfillment — as could we all.