Following a Pagan path is never easy. There is no-one to tell you what to do or interpret lore, it’s all up to you. What you do, how you do it and how you deal with the consequences of your actions.
This year is proving more difficult for me than most. My job disappeared last November, so incoming resources are tight. I’m trying to grow as much of my own food and medicines as I can while finding a useful way of filling my time.
The weather is not co-operating. “Flaming June” began with gales where we feared for our safety, slugs have devoured a large proportion of my seedlings and the ground is more waterlogged than I have ever known it.
It would be good to blame someone or something for all these challenges, but I suspect there would be a sound void on the receiving end. Corporations don’t care and Nature doesn’t either, it just is.
There are many scientific explanations for our weather over the past few years, many relating to the height of the jet stream in summer. For the past three years it has failed to reach its normal altitude, bringing us monsoons instead of sun while northern Canada suffers drought. It isn’t fair but it is what is currently happening.
How do we cope?
We could escape. A cosy bed, an alcoholic or drug induced stupor; all have their attractions but don’t seem to help in any major way if relied upon for too long. There are only so many cups of tea you can drink.
My refuge is the garden (or hedgerows if I am away from home). It has given me a plan comprising three simple words: notice, wonder, act.
It all started with bees. Watching them buzz around me I noticed how many different kinds were present. I wondered what they might be, so I started to learn about different kinds of bumblebees and habitats and what I could do to encourage them.
Then it was the apple tree. Both the news and my parents had been talking recently about the loss of fruit due to the bitter cold weather and high winds after early blossoms. All my parents’ fruit trees were bare. Last year I relied on those fruit trees to make puddings for my parents. I wondered what would be available to take their place.
I was pondering all this while standing underneath my ancient cooking apple tree. It was here when my house was built in 1957 and could well have been part of the nursery beforehand. The sight of two tiny apples at my feet made me look up into the branches. There were many more apples growing amongst the leaves.
There would be fruit this autumn. Not as much as last year, but there would be some.
The third pointer came from a vegetable – a mangetout pea to be precise. In a solid mass of green a glorious purple and white flower emerged made radiant by warm sunshine. It was so beautiful. As I looked along the row I noticed a pea pod. The bees had done their work already, boring into the flower to drink nectar and pollinate the flower so the seed pod could grow.
As I watched, the message appeared to be that whatever the circumstances, the plant would grow. It would follow the directions in its seed structure. It knew what to do. It might not produce the food I wanted, but it would do the best it could. I could help it by removing unwanted plants from about the base and provide a nutritious soil to grow in, but that was all.
There would be a harvest. Every year will be different because the weather and growing conditions will be different. It may meet our needs or it may not. It is what it is.
There are many meanings to extract from my three messengers. Bees are association with fertility and sexuality, without them our world would be sterile. Their aerodynamics remind us to follow our dreams because achieving the impossible can be accomplished. The Celts associated them with hidden wisdom, showing we must search and work before gaining knowledge and inspiration.
Apple is one of the twenty Ogham trees. Its meaning is cornucopia or abundance. It gives us so much – food from its fruit, medicine from its bark, flower remedies from its blossom and warmth from its wood. It opens our awareness to just how much we have around us if we care to look and notice.
Peas are such interesting plants from a large family. They nourish both us and the soil and their relative, the ubiquitous cleaver, helps the lymph system to flow freely throughout our bodies.
We can gain so much by spending time with plants. Using all our senses, they will help us understand the present and retain hope for the future.