Sunday, May 28, 2017

Gardening as Defense Against The Darkness

    There is no denying that the current national and international vibe is stressful and depressing. I can only spend so much energy on freaking out over what I have no control over. So I have turned inward and have been focusing on creating and maintaining my personal environment. The last few months all my spare time and money has been going into adding to my edible landscape. This is the year of the berry. From the beginning I have held a vision in my head of a self-sustaining, productive mini-farm. Each year I have added something new, the first year I went a bit wild and planted a Texas King fig, two Stanley prunes, white Himrod and red Suffolk grapes, lavender, sage, and rosemary. Since then I've added raspberries (with limited success, so far), rhubarb (with even less success), a raised strawberry bed, a Brown Turkey fig, and 3 more apple trees to go with my 3 old trees.
   This year I am making great strides forward. I built 4 raised beds in my front yard, raised to get them above the high water table I have in my front yard, and well prepped since they are going over grass. I have planted 2 Goji berry, 3 Honeyberry, 3 lowbush Cranberry, 5 Gooseberry, a Jostaberry, and a Currant. I also added asparagus, a Brown Mission fig, a hardy Kiwi. and a Red Aronia (aka chokeberry). In the raised beds, since they are prepped and ready and the berries will take time to fill them out, I also planted carrots, sugar snap peas, Haricot Vert bush beans, sunflowers, sweet alyssum, and marigolds (to repel insects).
    In the manic gardening mode I have also managed to wrest my garden area back from the blackberries. I have 6 tomato plants, yellow crookneck squash, yellow zucchini, pole beans, small sugar pumpkins, Yukon Gold potatoes, and sunflowers.
    I am leaning towards the permaculture form of gardening. Weed and grass smothering ground cover, mulch, companion planting (pumpkins with the beans, sunflowers with the squash, and all the intermingled raised beds), and composting. I am building a second hugelkulture (raised bed based on how fallen trees decompose in the forest) and will plant it with perennial herbs in the fall.
    Another aspect I am paying close attention to is my magic herbs. I am starting seeds of Rue Herb-o-Grace, Mugwort, Wormwood, Feverfew, and Chamomile. I will get more seeds to start for fall plantings.
    Getting my hands in the soil, touching the Earth, feeling a Spiritual reconnect that I have been needing for some time. This has been important to me, even more important in the current world clime. I feel grounded and connected. I feel I am doing what I need to do to step further away from dependence on outside forces. I feel I am doing everything I can to counter and combat the negativity that is rampant in our world. The Hedgewitch is rising, I am channeling the wisewoman, the crone, Danu, Gaia.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Note From The Past

   I jot things down. All kinds of things. My desk is littered with notes to self, ideas for projects, workout plans, recipes, reminders, phone numbers, books I want to read. It is a bit obsessive. I finally broke down and started putting things in various journals. I have several with their own more specific contents: Quotes, business ideas and product designs, workouts, sketches, and one for oddities that don't fit any of the other journals.
    The point behind this is that I jot things down on random bits of paper. Today, I was picking up a small avalanche of papers that I had boxed up to burn, because they had too much financial and personal info to just toss in the garbage. Some of these were from a purge from boxes that have moved with me several times, boxes marked, "Misc Stuff From Desk." Yeah, that kind of stuff. Some of it was old, old, old checkbook registers (like 15+ years old), old tax stuff, random bits and bobs. You get the idea. Anyway, one neatly folded piece of paper caught my eye because it had a quote scribbled on the back, "There is much to be Known and above all much to be Loved, be it the turn of the Seasons or the shape of a river pebble." I stuffed it in my pocket because I wanted to transfer it to the journal of quotes (told you, I am a bit obsessive). I don't remember writing this quote down, and was pretty sure it was from a few years back.
    So, I finished with my random chores, made myself a cup of tea, and then remembered the paper I had stuffed in my pocket. I reread the quote, savoring it, and thinking it was a timely and timeless note to self. Then I unfolded the paper it was written on, It was two pages, I glanced at the second page first, just because of how I unfolded it, it was typed, on an actual typewriter, and the first line was "For children, the most important thing is that they are allowed to build a conceptual model of the world that allows them to both understand the world they encounter and cope with the new aspects of the world that do not readily fit their model." My first thought was that it was something from a home-schooling seminar I may have attended. So I looked at the first page. It was a letter to me.
    It was a letter from a friend, an honest-to-god penpal from about 20 years ago. His name was/is Graeme, and he lived/lives in Ayrshire, Scotland. We never met face to face, never talked on the phone, I don't even really remember how or why we started corresponding. But we wrote to each other, via international snail mail, for several years. This was before the internet was very functional, besides he didn't have computer access in his remote farmhouse on the edge of nowhere. Hell, I don't think I had a computer or an email at this point either. Yeah, it was that long ago.
     The letter was long and well written. I remember always being astonished by his intelligence and education, he had a degree in philosophy. He was a mentor. We had met while I was exploring Celtic Druidism, as was he. He had a vast wealth of knowledge of so many things. This particular letter was written shortly before Alban Eilar, the Spring Equinox, probably 22 years ago. Reading it through, I was struck by the topics that were covered, including climate change, family, our mutual struggles with winter depression, and the education of children. It could have been written this year and still been pertinent to my life
     One line, a quote from one of his favorite authors, John Ruskin (we both jot down quotes, you see), was, "There is no wealth but Life."  This, as you may know, has been a driving force behind many of my actions these last few years. The soul deep knowledge that my life is far better spent pursuing what is important to my life, than it is in the pursuit of money, status, or climbing a corporate ladder.
    I'm going to keep this letter, tucked away in one of my journals, as a reminder. As much a reminder of a friend and mentor, who reached out to a stranger halfway around the world, to share ideas, spirituality, and a piece of their life and soul. I had nearly forgotten Graeme, not quite, but nearly. It was a Note from The Past, a voice in the darkness, a reminder that although things change, the important things remain the same. Thank you, Graeme.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Subconscious Nagging Me

    I had a dream last night that a family wanted to order 5 of the stuffed dragons I used to make. And another dream that I was loading my truck with stuff to take to a farmer's market. I am thinking my subconscious mind is trying to drive home a point, I have been wishing for quite a while now that I didn't work on Saturdays. Partially because it keeps me from being able to sign up for any races, partially because Saturdays at work are brutal and stressful, but more and more it is because I am wanting to be able to take various goods to farmer's markets on weekends.
    It gnaws at me that I am chained to an employer. Yes, I like the knowledge that I will get X amount of dollars every month. But I hate that I work so hard to put money into someone else's bank account. And I do work hard, I take my work responsibilities seriously, I strive to keep my team on track and focused. I have never worked so hard to get people to work hard, and it exhausts me physically and mentally. There is no way I could manage to do this 5 days a week, and it makes me feel drained on my days off. It is no secret that I feel I am being seriously underpaid, with no hope for a raise. But I doubt it would be different anywhere else. These days the battle cry for most employers is "Do more for less."  It is the norm these days.
     So, once again, I am struggling with the desire to be self-employed. Hell, if I am going to live like a starving artist, I might as well actually be able to feel like one inside and out. But it always comes down to the fear of needing a certain amount of money to survive, not to lose my house, and pay off my debts. I wish I had the nerve to take that potentially fatal leap and either quit my job, or find one that was more flexible. This will take some consideration. I know one thing that holds me back is my loyalty to a few of my coworkers. I hate the idea of leaving them in a lurch. But g'damn, Don't I need to look after myself and my own health and sanity?
    The time has come to start taking steps towards accumulating an inventory. I am thinking new and used, handmade things for home and garden, maybe some herbs, repurposed miscellany. I have a journal filled with thoughts, ideas, designs. I just need to make myself take the step. So, build an inventory, be prepared, and then find an outlet. Maybe just aim for a few events now and then, to inject a little income as well as start building a name for myself. The Hermit of Marquam needs to take the next step, my subconscious seems to be nagging me.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Doing My Best

    There have been so many things to write about lately. So many thoughts ricocheting around inside my skull. So many things of both great importance and trivial. So many that it overwhelms me and I can't seem to write anything. It is like being faced with such a vast amount of work that I can't manage to do anything but turn my back, pick up a book, and disappear into an alternate reality. There is too much, too many thoughts, an endless flow that keeps me awake at night, and plagues my waking hours. With the current state of the world I wonder that anyone can sleep at all. Are we on the brink of war? The brink of climate change that will surely end the world as we know it? So much, too much. It is all I can do to not lose my mind.
    We are facing dark times, I have no doubt. Our country is in the hands of a lunatic and his puppetmasters, and there is little we can do but sit back and wait to see what fresh hell he can lead us into. We are confronted daily by his atrocious, outlandish behavior, and the continual blunderings of his inept and idiotic staff. It is a daily assault that is slowly numbing us to feelings of outrage, beating us down into a grim feeling of a shell-shocked new reality. We raise our voices against the regime, it is all we can do. We support the groups we can. We protest as best we are able. I can only hope we can hold out long enough to see the regime toppled by their own heavy handed, brutish behaviors, and that right will win over might, Where is Superman, with Truth, Justice, and the American Way?
    Lately, my best form of protest is to continue with the plan of self-sufficiency. I plug away, one day at a time. I plant more edibles, ponder ways to make a living outside of the "American Dream," I look at every alternative I can think of to take me another step further away from dependency, and The Man. I hold onto my dreams with both hands, and fight to not lose hope. Some days this is more difficult than others.
    Surprisingly enough, despite what feel like the gathering of dark forces just over the horizon, I have had fewer issues with melancholy this winter. Yes, the weather has been cold and miserable for far too long. Yes, my financial situation is a bit bleak. Yes, my job is wearing me down bit by bit. Yes, we are teetering on the brink of a global flux. But, despite all this, I have managed, most days, to maintain at least a modicum of my eternal optimism. I think it is largely due to the fact that I am not relying on anyone but myself for my happiness. I am the captain of my fate, the sole hand at the tiller of my ship for one. It keeps me balanced. And at the end of the day I can look at what was accomplished and know it was entirely my own doing. For now, this moment, that is enough. I am doing my best, and that is better than a lot of people can say.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Ongoing Ponderings

    An ongoing train of thought/contemplation for me this winter, as well as over the last few years really, is wondering What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. Actually, it is because I don't want to grow up, but I still need to financially support myself. I toy with so many different ideas. Ideas, plans, dreams, schemes, fantasies. My mind goes off on all tangents. Sometimes when I swim my mind launches into some amazing scenarios. Sometimes it is merely what I would like to do with my home and garden, sometimes it is ideas to make money, other times it is closer to the fantasy of being able to be a reclusive artist. I don't know what to do. I feel like time is running out for some routes, since age is definitely a factor for anything requiring lengthy schooling. Other ideas, I look towards my grandmother Pearl, who was an artist right up to the end. What to do? I don't know. I wish I had the courage to just jump. Just go after whatever I want to do and damn the fears of money. But that isn't realistic is it? I do have financial obligations (including back taxes that scare the hell out of me). For now I think I just need to find the motivation to complete projects that are all around me. Little things, in my house, in my garden, in life in general. I need a sponsor.

All Things All At Once

    I feel I have been avoiding writing because I don't want to spend too much time dwelling on all the external forces that are doing their best to make me feel beaten down. But it builds, with the inevitability of a pending storm. Today I feel it looming over me with dark storm clouds that are more oppressive than the ones I see out my window. So much. Some little, some overwhelming. Our current political situation has me constantly on the verge of panic, Fight or Flight, but it is mostly beyond my control. But all adds up to the straws that may break this camel's back.
    My car is dead, from a deep water incident followed by an attempted theft. It is too rainy to work on it with my meager knowledge and I can't afford to have someone else fix it. Thankfully I have my truck, but it has dodgy tail lights and guzzles gas like a parched alcoholic; Work is maxing me out with the ongoing "do more with less, and for less" mentality that is pervasive among most companies these days. I would like to find a different job, but can't until I have more dependable transportation; My dogs are fighting, so they have to be kept separate all the time, cutting into the peace of my home life; The rain isn't stopping, so everything is squishy, muddy, soaked. My plants are drowning and my septic is backing up; It is cold and wet, preventing spring plantings, and keeping my heating bill high and my spirits low; I have back taxes that are coming back to haunt me, with threats of wage garnishment, and I have no money to pay; I have chronic pain that drags me down over time, makes me feel tired and drained, and hampers my wishes to run and train with any intensity; My weight is up a little, and my energy is down a lot. Cause and effect, one way or the other? Metabolism? Hormones? Weather? I think the long, cold winter is the biggest culprit, sapping my will, encouraging hibernation; I am feeling a twinge of loneliness, knowing that a partner would make a lot of these problems have less of an impact, but having little desire to have to conform my life around someone else (yes, I do love my solitary life 95% of the time... it is that other 5%)
    Financial, physical, emotional, meteorological. It feels as if all aspects are dragging me down, weighing me down. Every small task takes a major effort. I am doing what I can to manage all the forces that seem to be coming down against me:
    Weather? There is nothing to be done there, but I am going out into the cold and wet to handle the chores that can be done. I have been cutting blackberries with a vengeance, starting out easy then going all Edward Scissorhands until I am bloodied and I have piles of brambles higher than my head.
    Taxes. That is the big stressor, no doubt about it. I was notified in November that I had failed to file my Oregon taxes for 2011 (?) and by their estimated filing, with interest added, I owe about $3500. I can't argue. That was when I moved into my new home, was reeling from a disastrous, toxic relationship, and was having a mental meltdown. I don't know if I filed or not. But I have to pay. I finally called and talked to a nice rep, I am trying to work it out, but it has me stressed to the max. I will do what I can, but you can't squeeze blood out of a rock.
     Financial. See "Taxes" above, but also the ongoing stress of living at poverty level. Yes, this is partially my own doing, because I am choosing to work less and spend time on the things that money can't buy. Even if I were working full time at my job I would still be at the poverty level, but I would be stressed beyond my ability to manage. I would be dysfunctional, depressed, and angry. I would not be able to spend time with family, or working on my own home. I would still not have enough money, and would have no time for what I need to keep my sanity. So, sanity takes precedence. The frustrating part is doing a job that should pay about twice what I am being paid, and knowing that there is no raise anywhere in my future. It just won't happen where I work. But, again, I am working on finding ways to increase income and reduce debt, so there is that. I still lose sleep over it though.
    Physical. Damn, this is a tough one. I hate that my body hurts all the time. I keep swimming, that has been my fountain of youth. I have increased my strength training with the idea that if I can't be fast I can at least be strong (ish). I am currently doing 30 days of no grains, no baked goods, no dairy, and very minimal added sugar (I decided I still want my tea sweet). In some ways this is not that tough for me since I am already gluten free, eat minimal dairy (cheese only, and that in strict moderation), and don't eat many sweets (I am missing dark chocolate, I admit), and don't add much sugar to anything (except tea). On the other hand, being vegetarian it is tough to not have whole grains. I am used to rice, quinoa, teff, and some pasta now and then. But in the week that I have been doing it I am down a few pounds, feel less sluggish, and seem to have less tendon stiffness and pain (that might be a coincidence, but I will take what I can get).
    Emotional. Nothing to see here, just move along. Seriously though, I am not looking for someone to "complete me," I am very complete as it is. I have had too much experience with emotional vampires, manipulation, lies, betrayal, toxicity. But everyone has, so I won't dwell. My past has made me who I am; tough, resilient, self reliant, independent. These characteristics, fertilized and grown to fruition by past relationships, are also what makes me disinclined to pursue another relationship. I am not appreciated for who and what I am, there are expectations of making me change, become somehow less than what I am. I won't. I will not change who I am to conform to anyone's idea of what I "should" be. I will be me, all the way, head up, and confident. No more, no less.
     So life goes on. I dream of sunshine and warm breezes. I envision my gardens, herbs, and fruit trees growing verdant and laden. I will swim, train, and fuel my body. I will treat my body as the temple and fortress that it is. I will let magic and art into my life wherever and whenever I can. It is all I can do. And hope for sun.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Call It A Day

This week has felt a bit too familiar, with demons popping up like whack-a-moles. I know it is because my birthday is around the corner, combined with nasty weather, car problems, and the death of my favorite cat. Yesterday Mania paid me a visit, which was fortunate, because I needed that frenetic energy to make it through the day. I could have used it again today, but it abandoned me to the less desireable embrace of Melancholy and stress. Can't have one without the other, I know. But g'damn, Mania could have hung around for a few more days, I need the ambition and drive that it brings, even if I have to fight the brain fog, attention deficit and ping-pong thought process that skips along hand in hand. Can't say that Brain got back on track today though, it was every bit as scattered and spastic, but without the benefit of hilarity. By the gods, I am tired though. The last 36 hours have drained me dry. What a difference a day makes.