Monday, May 22, 2017

Green Witch's Report

Come into the Garden with me!
'Tis Spring and there's so much to see!
Take my hand, we'll make the rounds...
If we look closely, no telling what will be found!

Like Goody Prymm, plants are grown for their uses...
But also for their beauty and contemplative leanings...
Here the creatures feel welcomed, from the friendly green the Owls that roost in the Cedars.

There is a tiny herb bed within the greater Garden...see the tin barn spire that marks its center?
And around it are four stones, marking North, South, East, and West.  There you will find Basil just beginning, Lemon Thyme and Garden Thyme, Italian Oregano, Comfrey, Mexican Oregano with its pink tubular blooms that seduce the tiny hummingbirds, French Tarragon for deliciously sweet vinegar salad dressings, Lemon Verbena, and of course one of my favorites, Sage, an herb you either love or strongly dislike (I'm removing the word hate from my is used so casually's not a word, in this Green Witch's opinion, to throw around carelessly).  And asleep under this herb bed are Spider Lilies and St. Joseph Lilies to bloom in other seasons...

I appreciate and collect Rocks and Shells for my Gardens.  Their colors and textures add so much...
My Gardens speak to me (and I to them), but I also like them to speak to my visitors or just to passersby...

These little white Shells were gathered along the shoreline where I lived as a little girl....and are now a welcoming committee...

(While all the other pictures are current, this one is several seasons old, but I "shell" use the concept again this summer!)

Sometimes the Garden plants itself!  Here there is Larkspur and Tickseed and wild Spiderwort, which later will have understated blue flowers, as sweet as can be... and variegated Black-eyed Susans filling in where needed!

Goodness knows, I didn't plant them, but they seem happy, don't they?  And there are other herbs here on this side of the Garden, Tansy being one of my favorites.  It will grow taller than I, just you wait and see!

The Echinacea is a social butterfly, always inviting more of its kind with each passing season...

That's fine with me...the more the merrier!!  And the Lilies arrive in time to show their colors of cream, yellow, orange, and grapefruit reds...

My last Spring's newcomer...a "black" Pincushion Flower which, now being in its second year of perennial growth, is really bushing out, reaching a height of three almost three feet!  A treat for the butterflies when it finally blooms in full! The blooms will fan out in the most deliciously deep purple-black flowers, now just beginning to show themselves.   Lori...have your seeds sprouted yet?  ;)

I have both real and imagined creatures that live in the Garden...this fellow sporting a top hat and tails...and the sweet little Screech Owl, who lets me get soooooo close...

There will be more to see with each passing day...Inspiration just flows after a stroll in a Garden...

***With a nod to The Primitive Hare for some of the freebie lettering I'm using in my design (I would never steal), as well as the printed 35-count Anne Boleyn linen for the ground.

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

Saturday, May 20, 2017

In Preparation: Lessons From the Garden

"Never does Nature say one thing, and Wisdom another."


The rain just kept coming down, meaning that, aside from necessary chores, yet another spring day was to be spent, cooped up indoors.  Remember was restless, and the prospect of sitting still and stitching her sampler held no appeal.  Goody Prymm, however, had a smiley countenance as she peered through the leaded diamond pane window out to the gardens, nodding her approval and stating that the rain was a necessary boost for healthy growth.   Already, tiny shoots were sprouting up through the dark, well-prepared soil, a promise of healing herbs and plants to be harvested throughout the summer and into autumn.  Remember just sighed audibly and rolled her eyes, as impatient youth is wont to do, Goody Prymm noting it and stating in a matter-of-fact and low tone that all things come in due time...that herbs are mild, and their action slow, requiring good air, good water and, most importantly, a grower's contentment of mind.  Then old Imagination turned and walked into the lean-to.

There she summoned Remember to join her, entreating her to first go to the great cupboard and bring what Remember had come to refer to as Imagination's "Book of Secrets."  The book always fascinated Remember, the handwritten scribbled notes of discoveries and treatments in the margins of pages and pages of plant sketchings and curative recipes.  There were at least three different pairs of hands that had contributed to these pages, maybe more, proof that this book was a treasure handed down from Imagination's distaff side, generation to generation.  Upon entering the lean-to, Remember saw Goody Prymm standing there short-statured, arms akimbo, assessing shelves lined with earthen drug jars and myriad Delft pots, half-stocked with dried herbs, salves, ointments, tinctures, and all manner of healing mixtures.  There was much work to be done in the interim before the newly growing gardens produced their magic.

And so the lessons began.  Some curatives, Goody Prymm explained, had to be made using fresh herbs, but many could be prepared ahead of time...some necessarily so.  Tinctures, for example, she said, involved grinding the leaves, roots, and seeds with mortar and pestle, covering with alcohol and, after three weeks, adding spring water and then storing in a cool, dark place, where the tincture could be kept up to five years, a process which took foresight and planning.  Tinctures, she continued, could be added to teas to be taken internally, bringing relief and comfort to the ill and suffering.  They could be added to fomentations, too...strong herbal teas in which a clean cloth is dipped or filled with various herbs and then applied to the affected parts.  And here she cautioned her that all things can work to the good...or to the bad...depending upon how they were applied, Goody Prymm eyeing Remember as she explained these things, pleased and relieved that Remember, bright girl, was taking it all in with keen interest and proper sober reflection.

Some herbs, she continued, could be used fresh or dried...poultices made from comfrey, for example, were excellent for applying to wounds, fractures, and leg ulcers---even areas affected by the gout.  If it were winter and there were no fresh herbs to be had, dried herbs would then be soaked in boiled water until soft and then  mixed with slippery elm powder to make the poultice adhere; afterwards, the mixture would be applied to the affected area, around which would be wrapped a clean cloth.  A decoction of leaves would work nicely in many cases but, depending upon the severity of the issue, using the comfrey root was far more potent.

And there were syrups, which involved simmering the appropriate dried herbs in the "tree water" (as the Indians referred to it), straining it, and storing it in a cool place.  If bark were to be used for remedy, Goody Prymm always adhered to the Indians' way of thinking:  that bark growing on the sunny side was more potent than that growing on the shady side of a tree.  Here, the Wise Woman inserted that Nature was a wonder in what it need only to listen and observe to discover its potential, her old finger tapping on the copious notes already recorded in the margins of the book.

Goody Prymm, healer and midwife, went on to explain the process of preparing salves for all manner of skin conditions, using comfrey, lavender, pine needles, and elderflowers, to which was added green walnut hulls and whole, smashed horse chestnuts for pain alleviation.

The lessons continued throughout the day, the two of them working side by side, mentor and pupil, in the process to make the best use of last year's harvests.  When they had done all they could for one day, Goody Prymm gently handed Remember the Book of Secrets, telling her that this spring Remember could begin to add her own notes to the book and, taking down a tea mixture of mugwort, thyme, and yarrow, went to boil water.

Before sitting down to tea with Goody Prymm, Remember walked to the window and glanced out, the ceaseless rain still drumming against the rooftop...still feeding the gardens...and smiled, thankful for its gift.

***With a nod to Clarence Meyer and David C. Meyer's The Herbalist's Almanac:  A 50-Year Anthology, June 1991; Ellen Evert Hopman's A Druid's Herbal, 1995; and David Potterton's Culpeper's Color Herbal, 1983.

© 2017 Nancy Duncan 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Undula, the Sea Witch!

Introducing the Bonnie White Hare's latest creation...Undula, the Sea Witch!

Her origin is the sea around the Shetland Islands, where she swims the cold, deep green waters under a Crone Crescent Moon, looking for sailors who have spoken well of the sea.  She can, after all, hear what they say, so sailors would be wise never to speak disparagingly of the sea (if they do, she could bewitch them and bring about their destruction!), and they should be sure to return their first catch of the day to placate her.  If they speak of the sea with sincere praise, she brings them a rope with three knots.  If the sea is becalmed, leaving their ship stranded, the sailors need only untie one knot to bring a gentle, southwesterly wind.  If they need yet more wind, they could untie the second knot for a stronger, north wind.  However, if the third knot is untied, it brings a tempest with great fury!  You see, the Sea Witch ties the wind in knots...that is her power!  Her rope here is actually an antique trot line that I found in an antique store some while ago.  :)

 We all know that witches spin, and so I've made my Sea Witch no different (see how she even sports the pointy witch's hat), except that she uses a spindle shell for her spindle, spinning seaweed into beautiful strands.

I have layered her body with hand cut dyed wools, all hand sewn with cotton thread.  Her flowing hair, and magickal tail are hand-dyed wool locks from a friend in central Sweden (thank you, Renee!!).  I've stitched little blue stars to accompany the yellow, cloud-strewn moon.

The background is a gorgeous hand dyed wool from Olympic Wool Works (thank you, Darlene!), while the backing is a charcoal-colored material, part wool and part rabbit fur.  It is stuffed loosely with fresh straw and is sewn together by my version of a herringbone stitch, with various hues of eggplant wool thread.

The Bonnie White Hare is all about "Where Imagination Weds the Past."  It was clearly the guiding mantra of this folk pillow!

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

Where Are Goody Prymm and Remember?

Why, they're in the lean-to, assessing their tinctures, syrups, poultice herbs, salves and the like...Goody Prymm knows that her time is nearing and she must teach Remember everything!  So they have retrieved from the old cupboard the book of secrets handed down to Goody Prymm from her mother and her mother's mother.  Join them soon, if you will...they won't mind a little peek...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Finding Magic

You can find it in the Full May Moon, which gives off a mysterious pink-gold light...

It's in a tiny screech owl that lets me get close, she keeping one eye open...

It's turning wool fluff from a faraway friend into yarn!

What's more magical than these?

Today, it's creating a Sea Witch, swimming in cold green waters under a Crone Moon!
She can tie the wind in knots!
And, like all witches, she spins...using seaweed for her wool and a spindle shell for her spindle!

Woolen "Sea Witch," imagined but not yet completed...

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

Monday, May 8, 2017

Keeper of History

Goody Prymm had been gone a long while this day.  Remember knew she had broken trust by reading her letters.  Ashamed for the betrayal, she quickly gathered the pieces she had read, bound them with the hemp twine to the others, as yet unread, and closed and locked the desk.  Carefully placing the desk back from where it was brought down, she put all things in order once again...but in her mind, there was anything but order.

Dusting her hands on her skirt, in walked Goody Prymm, all full of good cheer and telling Remember to grab her shawl...they were going down to the shoreline.  Without a moment's hesitation, her eyes wide, Remember did as she was bid and out the door they went, full of bustle and anticipation.

Goody Prymm had long ago promised Remember that she would take her to the ocean.  The day was fair and unseasonably warm, and perfect for a walk on the strand.  Along the way, Goody Prymm began to tell her of whaling.  Her voice like a meditation, rhythmic and expressionless, and yet comforting, she began to speak of long ago, when Indians would harvest the whales that the sea had given up to the beach.  They would butcher them, long strips of blubber used to cook with and rub on their bodies to deter biting insects.  Of the bones, they made fish hooks and all manner of implements for life and survival.  And, if the whale were fresh, the meat was food for the people, as little waste as possible from this gift of the sea.  They believed, she continued, that the Great Spirit placed all living things on this earth, each of which had a unique purpose...the birds to migrate, the trees to produce fruit, the fish to swim near the shore.  And pausing, she took Remember's hand, squeezed it and, looking squarely in her eyes, explained that people, too, had a purpose.

Walking on, Goody Prymm thereafter referred to the whales as "Pootop," the Wampanoag word for "whale."

The early Colonists had an entirely different purpose for harvesting Pootop...primarily for profit, as the oil was prized for making high-quality candles, among a myriad of other uses, even to flatter vanity, as the whalebone was used in the making of women's underclothing---stays to bind linen pieces together that would be laced, pulled tightly, constricting the breath to an uncomfortable degree.  The Colonists' whales, though, were not gifts from the sea.  The whale was hunted with harpoons, impaling the creature as it swam frantically away until exhaustion set in, the final blows of long lances tearing into its vital organs.

Now, the Colonists and the Indians worked together to hunt whales along the coast, using small sailing vessels.  Time changes everything, she told Remember, her old eyes reaching back in time, and yet somehow to the future.

When they arrived at the shoreline, they stopped, Remember now understanding why Goody Prymm wanted to make such haste.  There on the shoreline was a black whale, a Pootop, breathing its last.
They walked slowly up to the dying creature, Remember speaking softly and stroking it, its small eye watching her all the while. Out in the water not far from the shoreline swam a young whale, clearly the mother whale's baby.  Remember worried whether the baby would be able to survive.  Goody Prymm quietly and comfortingly explained that when a baby Pootop is born, the mother must bring it to the surface for its first breath of fresh air.  After that, she would support it until it was strong enough to be on its own.  She said the size of the calf suggested it would be fine without its mother.  And placing her aged hand on Remember's shoulder, softly told her that the young Pootop would be alright, and that it was time to go back.

That night, in the quiet, Remember wept for the mother...and she wept for the baby that would have to go on without her...

***With a nod to Historic Nantucket, vol. 44, no. 3 (Winter 1996), pp. 98-100; and from "Oil and Bone," by Nancy Shoemaker, from Common-Place:  The Journal of Early American Life, Vol. 08 No. 2, January 2008.

***The photograph is from a relative who lives happily in Cape Cod.

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

Saturday, May 6, 2017

My Face: The Bonnie White Hare Runs Through the Field!!

[For just a moment, a flash, she may escape her captors...!  Quick, look!  She may be gone in a trice!]

I look in the mirror.
And see my face...
But so much more...

The lines at the corners of my eyes
Reveal much laughter and happiness in my life.
Happiness for me...and more so for those I love and have loved.

My skin is not so supple...but doesn't an aged tree have bark with rivulets
Which speak nobly of its time spent on this earth?
My eyes are not as clear as in youth...but they have seen so much beauty
And deep sadness, too...though not as much as many have seen.

There is wisdom and joy in my countenance.
Reflecting the joy of teaching youth for decades
And helping them to find their gifts.

There is openness for all cultures and races,
As long as they harm no one.

There is love and concern for those who suffer.
They inspire me and make me stronger and more compassionate.
And there is even love for those that hold anger, making their hearts cold
And hardened to others and their tribulations.

My Lord says to love my enemies.
I trust in Him and His Word.

He says to forgive.
I can and will do that, knowing He is my Guide.

For I know that my face...and all the faces in this world...
Are the face of God.
If you seek to find that Truth, you will.

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

For my sweet followers and encouragers...I will do my best with what is happening here with the invasion of my precious privacy.  Writing is like prayer to me.

Dedicated to those who are hounding me...