The Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice is an important moment for us here at Green Hope Farm. It is the moment when the Angels start the transfer of the divine plans for the next growing season into my consciousness. Until the Winter Solstice, these plans are completely unavailable to me. This is why when you ask me in the fall, “What’s up with next year’s gardens?”, I can only answer that I have no idea. This is why my seed catalogues don’t see any action until after the Solstice. This is why it’s January when my desk becomes a wilderness of garden designs, seed and plant lists, cut out Flower photos, rulers, garden books, and half drunk cups of tea.

To back up a step, let me share an earlier part of the dance through the seasons with the Angels and Elementals. The autumnal equinox marks the true beginning of the next growing season. This is the time when the Angels go into a kind of seclusion from the world of form to plan the next season’s gardens. I don’t know exactly the criteria they use for this planning process. For us at Green Hope Farm, the process includes deciding what Flower Essences need to come forward to serve a larger community of people and animals and how the Flowers behind these Essences should be grown in the gardens. I know it involves helping Green Hope Farm and the mandalas of our gardens be rose windows expressing the light of divinity moving out from the earth. I know it involves things I simply don’t understand. But I also know that it is a time for me to ask for help. I know that anything I say at the autumnal equinox is taken into consideration when the gardens are designed.

So, at the autumnal equinox, I harvest the Venus Garden Essence of the season, I give thanks for all that has been, and I float out my hopes for the next growing season. My requests to my Angelic companions used to be a much more elaborate list of specific requests than they are now. The longer I work with the Angels and Elementals, the more I know that I don’t need to ask for things in such a detailed way. I have learned that such an approach is actually counterproductive because it locks the gardens into the limitations of my understanding of how things work, whereas if I give a more general request, I can receive much more support in dramatically bold and unexpected ways, ways I could not have imagined or known to ask for.

Now, instead of specifics, I try to be really, really general. If I ask for help on the issue of acceptance, the Angels will know best what sort of configuration and ingredients should compose the gardens to help me with this issue. If I ask for the gardens to help me grow in love for God, the gardens as designed by the Angels can take flight in directions so far beyond my own conception of how to accomplish this task. And when the dust settles. after these plans have manifested in form as the gardens of that growing season, I can look back and be grateful. I can acknowledge that I never would have thought a plague of locusts or a vegetable garden of 114 Broccoli plants would have helped me that much to love God more, but they did.

If the autumnal equinox is a time of asking and letting go into the mystery, the Winter Solstice is a time of light and clarity returning. For the last two decades, I have celebrated this night by gathering every candle in the house, taking these candles out into the snow, and lighting them in the dark of the night. Whomever feels like joining in comes out with me and sings. We sing any song we want to sing, standing around this circle of beautiful candle light. In this way we give thanks to the Angels who’s night this is, to the return of the light, and to the divine that cradles us all and is our essential self. Plus it is just plain fun to light all those candles and sing our hearts out!

This year will be a bit odd. It’s still very warm here. The candles will sit in green grass, not snow. It makes me feel more now than ever, that we need the closeness of Angels and the wisdom of their guidance through these swiftly changing times. So as a warm breeze blows over us tonight, some group of us will be clustered out in the night, giving thanks for all that is and celebrating that we are all in this together, two footed, four footed, and winged ones. And I know I will be comforted knowing this. The Angels will see us through.

The Perfect Tree

Imagine a twelve foot Christmas tree with four feet cut off the top and bottom. That’s right, imagine something resembling a rotund shrub. Then imagine several strands of lights on the shrub and a fuse blown in the last chain of lights so that none of the lights work. Then imagine a lone ornament hanging on the shrub. You got it. This is our tree in all its glory.

Standards are slipping and the old me that might have tried to hold onto them for dear life doesn’t seem to be here this year. Instead, I’m enjoying the silly truth that our holiday tree may well look like this through to New Year’s Day Valentine’s Day Easter when we cut it up and place it on the perennial beds. Dead lights on a fir ball. It has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it?

I figure if anyone else in the family really minds the tree’s new look, they will open the big box of ornaments at the foot of the tree and start to decorate. I have my reasons for being too weak to decorate the tree myself. Reading Delia Smith’s Christmas Cookbook in which her timetable for the holidays begins in October really took it out of me. It’s probably dangerous to laugh that hard. It was also very grueling to get those chocolate coins ready for the kids stockings and convince the stockings that they are going to LOVE being a size 2 stocking and not a size 18 this year. It’s a lot of work to be the fashion consultant for four Christmas stockings. I may have to lie down on the couch in front of the fir ball tonight and read some more humorous literature. Martha Stewart’s Christmas cookbook should do the trick.

Thoughts on a Holiday SOS

Let’s face it. This is not the easiest month to be a woman. I mean, most women only have four hands and this month they need twelve. When a woman finds a nano second to email us this month, it’s often one word, HELP.

I was mightily impressed with the eloquence of the following SOS email. It summed up the condition of being for womankind in America in the month of December and wasn’t the kind of half fried, typo ridden thing I probably am answering you all with this month. My only complaint about this email is that her remark about almost being done with her shopping puts her wildly ahead of me and I suspect most of us in the shopping category. But please don’t correct me if I am wrong and I am the only woman who is not on top of her shopping. I would rather think that I won’t be alone with a thousand glazed eyed men on Christmas Eve when I finally get to the shops. I have modified my shopping marathon over the years to only doing stockings for the kids. So far, I have plenty for Ben’s stocking, a few things for Lizzy’s and two bags of golden coins for the toes of the stockings for Will and Emily. That is it. When do I panic? Don’t tell me that either.

Back to what I was saying before I drifted off into my own private shopping reverie. Here’s the email that says it so well from a dear old Green Hope Farm friend named Catherine,

“What Essence would you recommend for assistance in staying sane amidst all the holiday madness? I seem to feel a fairly high level of stress/anxiety/pressure despite the fact that most of my shopping is done. The atmosphere seems to be pervaded with this frenzied activity that we MUST partake of and I am having difficulty screening it out. I love this time of year for its darkness, depth and potential for deep silence and drinking in the sacred stillness. Help!”

It’s a rough job I have, testing possible helpful remedies for a situation like this. Of course the old standby, Anxiety Essence, goes in my water. I think the Red Clover in this is a particular support in not getting caught up in the hysteria.

I also love Maple for its centering, grounding energy. It reminds us enough is enough in the most sweet and solid way.

I also keep going to the often overlooked but incredible Essence friend Rose a Parfum de l’Hay. This gorgeous Rose is all about feeling satisfied with what is. The Guidebook says “It helps relieve us of any feeling of lack or sacrifice, revealing the abundance and complete harmony of what is already in our lives. It energetically releases any restless desire for more, bigger, better or different by bringing us into the fullness of the Now.” This definition still feels a bit stuffy to me and not quite as emphatic as I would wish. The Essence has more snap to it. There is something about this Rose Essence that short circuits any escalating situation and returns us to knowing the wholeness that already is. That’s big this month of the year.

Of course there is always the combination remedy, All Ego Contracts Null and Void. Was there ever a time of year more in need of this one? It helps us break old bindings and think anew about what we really feel called to do and what can let go of with no attachment.

When Catherine emailed, the Angels also suggested one other remedy, The Alignment Garden, and that felt profoundly right. Again, this is one that I described in the Guide with too many words, none of which do justice to this Venus Garden beauty. The gist of its service is to help us know what our soul calls us to do and to help us stay in alignment with this knowing. If someone knows that December for her precious soul is really meant to be about being quiet, it helps her find the peaceful calm to do that, resistant, almost like teflon, to the demands, expectations, and general hysteria around her that would call her from her purpose.

Do you think Emily and William will buy this when they get a stocking with a few chocolate coins in it?

Yes, yes, I know, life, especially in December, is a compromise. I have to go out and get a full stocking’s worth for Emily and Will, but working with this Essence, I can do this more lightly. It can even be fun! With this Essence’s help, I can go out and be in the world, but not of it, so to speak. There is just something about the Alignment Garden Essence that helps us live out these necessary compromises with a light heart because we are so suffused with a joyful knowing that our lives matter and we are right smack dab in the thick of them.

Love and Blessings to all of you on this Monday morning!

Battleship Grey

Throughout the Green Hope gardens there are inviting places you can see from the house or office windows. There’s an adirondack chair under the spreading branches of an oak tree, a welcoming spot under a friendly cluster of a half dozen plum trees, and a weathered wooden bench overlooking one of the goldfish ponds. In summer this bench by the pond basks in the sunlight with fragrant herbs all round, but even in winter it’s a place to sit and watch the mysteries of ice on a small pond.

The Angels and I have composed these moments in the garden and others like them to give all of us looking out the windows what I call mind journeys. Some days, we just don’t get a moment to sit in the oak’s cooling shade or watch the fish in the pond, but when we look out at these scenes, our mind goes there and we feel refreshed.

One of the reasons we put our “Pelaton,” the free standing screened in sleeping porch, right where it sits just at the bottom of the main vegetable garden and next to the Rose garden is because I wanted to be able to look up from the kitchen sink and take a mind journey to this wonderful place, even when Rhino and I are too busy to leave the sink. Mind journeys are one of the underlying principles at work in the gardens here and one of the great solaces of my busy life, but today I thought about a different kind of mind journey.

When I walk into my husband Jim’s sixth grade classroom, it’s also a mind journey. I am greeted by an abstract painting of a tropical landscape and numerous tropical trees and plants. Their leafy green welcome begins this journey for me, but it’s the maps that Jim has covering his walls with that really get me traveling.

His maps aren’t like those ones on rolls that disappeared up into the top of the blackboard when I was a kid in grammar school. His enormous world maps are always on display. They are laminated and can be drawn on and erased, drawn on and erased. And Jim has drawn all over them again and again. They have all kinds of arrows and squiggles and remarks. Some lines follow rivers. I wonder as I look at these river squiggles, “Was that the route of Lewis and Clark’s expedition?” Some lines block out regions as if to explain geologic or political changes. “They must be talking about the Civil War,” I think. Some marks spill out to float across various oceans. All of the marks suggest exploration. All of them make me curious. The maps look like trip tiks after the trips, all marked up in a way that helps you remember the journey better. This coffee spill happened in Rapid City South Dakota. That sort of thing.

I know that Jim takes his kids on mind journeys when they are working with the maps. And the mind journeys keep going, because I am still journeying when I look at the maps long after the classes are over. I wonder not only about the places on the map but also how all the marks on the maps came to be. What were the conversations going on when all that magic marker got used?

In the far corner is my favorite map area. This is where Jim makes big hand drawn maps dealing with whatever he is reading aloud to his class. He loves read aloud. So far this year he has read The Giver by Lois Lowry as well as Roald Dahl’s two autobiographies Boy and Going Solo. Going Solo takes place in Africa so I bet there was a map of Africa in this corner when his students were listening to that story. Right now he is reading Little Tree by Forrest Carter. He reads this every year and tells his students before he begins that he is going to cry at the end. He always does cry. I think of this as about the best gift you can give sixth graders, getting to see a grown man cry. I imagine his tears must encourage them to stay in their hearts and stay true to their feelings as they journey on from sixth grade into our big, messy and glorious world.

Often Jim reads Bill Bryson’s romp about the Appalachian trail, A Walk in the Woods, though as with many of the books he reads, he has to do a lot of fast editing of swear words with this one. He has a gorgeous long skinny map of the Appalachian Trail to hang when he’s reading this. It primes his kids for a trip he takes them on in the spring. They go to the White Mountains for a intensive learning and camping experience on the Appalachian Trail.

Another perennial favorite is The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz. Sometimes I visit when Jim is reading The Long Walk aloud to his kids. Then the hand drawn map shows Slavomir’s perilous and real life journey of escape from a siberian work camp down along Lake Baikal, through the Gobi desert, and across the Himalayans into India. This is an epic story with an astounding map.

Kids in our present school structure spend a lot of time boxed up in one room. All the mind journeys into other worlds whether they are prompted by beautiful art, a bower of tropical plants, a plethora of maps, read alouds, or watching their teacher cry help to transform what could be a confining and dry experience into an expansive meaningful adventure.

So, I was chagrined when Jim came home last night with news of the 20% rule and other new edicts. Jim’s classroom is twenty feet from an outdoor exit. He has two enormous windows with four five foot casement windows opening onto solid ground level earth. In almost any circumstance short of a nuclear attack, I find it hard to believe his kids could not safely and swiftly exit the building by door or window in less than a minute or two, but new concern about the fire hazard of paper on the walls leaves him having to remove maps and posters so only 20% of his walls are covered with paper. His wooden walls are also to be painted battleship grey this week because the wood is not considered fire retardant enough and the school can only afford battleship grey paint. Hello! Do they want the kids to wear correctional institution uniforms too?

For many years Jim had an enormous sectional couch in his read aloud nook with many soft chairs and cushions so everyone had a comfortable spot. When he returned to school this fall he was told that some organization formed to protect teacher’s safety had mandated that his couch and the cushions had to be removed from his classroom to “protect him from lice.” I am not kidding. Though he felt he could manage a lice infestation without risk to his personal safety, other more official folks felt differently. The couches moved to our son, Ben’s new apartment in the dorm where hoards of high school students now happily hunker down for a visit with their dorm advisor, Ben. And Jim’s read aloud corner is less cozy. Trees and maps but no pillows.

Now this? Will he have to get roll up maps and hide the world away after each social studies class? Will his hand drawn maps have to be taken down each day so no one can take a mind journey to Lake Baikal except during read aloud?

Jim will think of ways to keep his kids connected to a bigger world and their imaginations no matter what, but these new edicts made me mad!

Why don’t all these officials get busy with real problems like global warming. It was 63 degrees on the top of Hogback Mountain in the Green Mountains at midnight this past weekend. I was driving back from seeing Lizzy in a dance concert in Bennngton, Vermont. It was so warm we drove with our windows down. If these officials need things to fuss about, let it be about real problems like climate change, not this other kind of mind numbing micro management of young people’s lives.

I think I need to go to my sink, wash a tea cup with Rhino, and look out the window to take a mind journey to the Pelaton! Here and down at Jim’s school they still haven’t outlawed windows. But then, Jim isn’t home from school yet so I might have spoken too soon.

One of the Angels Suggestions Today

Here was a question in today’s email. I have included my answer to this Green Hope friend’s query because of the Angels’ suggestion which felt so right for so many dogs.

We have Golden Armour. My dog Jake (3 year old yellow lab) has been demonstrating anxious behavior when away at doggie daycare-wanting to be with ther owner and pushing forcefully at doors to be with her. He also wouldn’t go outside when they put new wood chips down on the ground. Further, he has been getting up on the couch, which he is in not allowed to do when we are in another room or upstairs. The day care owner also shared that the increased number of dogs at daycare makes him more anxious.

I was wondering if you folks had any recommendations?”

My response was, “I am glad you have Golden Armor. I would most certainly keep giving this to Jake so that he can buffer out as much of the overstimulation at doggie day care as he can. You might also consider Neediness and Anxiety for Jake.

The Angels suggested that you give Jake a good brushing with a few drops of the Flower Essences in his brush when he gets home from day care each day. They offered that this might help him shed his stress as well as the anxious energy of the place and the other dogs. They noted that this would help him really GET that he is home and therefore free to relax and let go of his anxiety.

While this suggestion felt very calming, grounding and centering, the Angels noted that Grounding Essence could be added to this group if he still acts agitated after a few weeks of the brushing, if this trio isn’t quite enough. I suspect he really misses you and this would help him to reconnect and feel your love and share his love for you at the day’s end before routines of the evening must prevail.”