Goldenrod Grandmother

6a00e54fcf73858834022ad3a419d5200d-800wiSolidago sway and sing
of summer’s ending.
Life transcending.
Gilded golden on the wing.

Goldenrod Grandmother, where are you now?

It seems like only yesterday the path to your stone cottage was worn from our footsteps. During the day we came for your soothing elderberry syrups and your clover and linden teas. And when the shadows lengthened and curled around behind the evergreens, we would slip along the path for rose petal and hawthorne tinctures to mend the cracks in our broken hearts and agate amulets scripted with sigils to banish our fears.

On that  summer day we last saw you, the milkweed pod split and its silky white seed tails scattered across your fingers and floated down the meadow. The blood in your veins quickened to the rhythm of the cicadas  and as you set off to gather herbs, you hummed your own heart song to the purple loosestrife, orange jewelweed and the cloudy white flowers of virgin’s bower that climbed through the thickets and sparkled in the green overgrowth.

All morning you gathered tangy wood sorrel and succulent purslane. You dug stubborn burdock root and snipped the brittle stalks of dusty green seeded nettle that you carefully laid in your woven willow basket. And as you worked, the cicadas sang on and the sun rose higher until its honey warmth poured down upon your head and shoulders from above. It was only then that you stood up stiffly and realized that you would need a strong staff to lean on as you traveled home.

You rummaged through the ground for a fallen branch, but there was none to be found, so you picked up your basket and began your journey home. The path was stumbled and steep and your heart beat more quickly. You paused to catch your breath in the soft green filtered shade of the cedars that grew on the edge of the forest. The cedars sighed softly as a light breeze moved through their sweet scented sprays of green. “Our branches are too delicate,” they whispered, “And none are strong enough to support you.”

You continued on, your basket pulling your arm and your feet dragging along the rooted path until the cedars gave way to ragged Scotch pines who creaked and rasped and muttered crossly, “Go your way old crone. The needles on our branches are too sharp and they would poke you as you walk.”

Still struggling, you came upon a dancing family of spruce trees, their branches clasped together in a ring. “Oh no, grandmother,” they laughed. “Our branches have too much sap on them. You would dirty your hands and ruin your skirt.”

And so you laboured on until you came to a fragrant grove of balsam. Their citrus earth scent was like a hymn to the heavens and it lifted your spirits to breathe it deeply, but they too would not give up even one branch. “So sorry healer woman”, they sang in unison, “We have nothing for you. We need all our branches to reach for the sky and to send our prayers to the Goddess herself.”

By then, your heart was filled with such heaviness that you lowered yourself to the ground and your skirts billowed out around you. You watched as the auburn sun floated level in the western horizon and its golden light burnished all it touched. The cedar boughs trembled under its warm kiss, the spruce trees swayed in their sacred circle dance and the Scotch pines sighed and finally settled. The scented song of the balsams flowed into the air and made the Goddess smile. And there, hidden among the grasses, you found an old stem that was strong enough to raise you up and help you carry on.

As dusk fell, you took those final steps home. Your aches and pains evaporated and the wearisome weight of your long years fell away. We heard you singing your heart song to the sturdy stem that helped you on your journey home and your voice floated higher and higher above the trees until your keening drifted far and wide and it was full of love and lightness of being.

Some say you were transformed into a beautiful winged fae and wherever you flew, golden dust poured among the meadow grasses and a new plant began to grow. Its stems are straight, sturdy and strong and its golden yellow blossoms nourish us and lighten our hearts.

Goldenrod Grandmother, where are you now?

Does your heart song still hum in the gilded corbiculae of honeybees who visit the bright and brilliant goldenrod that dances tall among the swaying grasses?

Do you still gather the greenest herbs in the sunniest meadows?

Do you still search for the deepest roots near the clearest running streams?

Do you remember us Goldenrod Grandmother?

We remember you.

 

This piece is dedicated to my friend Amber Westfall who originally told me this beautiful story based on a folktale.  Visit her Wild Garden here: http://www.thewildgarden.ca/

Image used with permission:  High Tor Guardian by David Wyatt.  Visit his shop here: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/davidwyatt?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Old Nettle Woman

We are this land amara hollow bones
Image: We are this land by amara hollow bones

Old Nettle Woman finds me.
She comes to me in my deepest sleep.
She fills me with chlorophyll dreaming.
She whispers strength that flows from her fibrous roots,
and smiles the truth in the sting of her tiny needles.

Old Nettle Woman leads me to the creek side.
Her skirts rustle softly as she walks,
a delicate breeze in dark green leaves.
She settles on the bank beside me.
Her slender hands pull her prickly shawl closer,
and she gazes green on flowing water.

I bend my head to hear her soft voice,
and she spins a story of her lover the sun who courted her in the spring
by kissing and warming her tender maiden leaves.
She hums of crystal incandescent green and how she became so full of love for the sun,
that his light filled her and she unfurled her leaves,
And stretched her stems to reach for him in the deep blue summer sky.

Old Nettle Woman sits up straight while she sings of growing taller.
And then she smiles wickedly,
and weaves a tale of summer days when she pulled the sun so close to her
that the heat of their passion
burnt the tips of her leaves and left her panting in the dry dusty heat,
until the autumn rains came
and tiny droplets were succulent on her thirsty foliage.

I feel her scratchy seed clusters brush against my cheek,
and I strain to listen  more closely.
The heat of their passion is singing in the dusty mist of pollen as it is released.
Her tiny black baby seeds dance around her in the breeze.
Some settle around their mama and others fly across the creek
to live and grow in parts unknown.

All her children are beloved equally.

And I realize that she and I are the same.
The sun loves us and
our children fly in the breeze.

Old Nettle Woman bows her head.
She is of the water and the soil and the air,
and though her roots have begun to pull her back,
it is her passion for the sun that will most sustain her
when the winter snows begin to fall
and she sinks and settles into the earth below.

If you like this poem, listen to Bones and Feathers, a beautiful song by Emily Portman

 

Finding Awen

Image:  Diane Perazzo 2013
Image: Diane Perazzo 2013

Where is Awen?
It is where I find myself riding that wave between the earth and the sky
and in the magic between the lips of two who are about to have their first kiss.

It is in that gap between my fingers and the keyboard,
In that instant just before a baby takes his first breath.
It is on tip of a dragonfly’s wing,
And the space between a mountain and a valley.

I find Awen in the break between the beats,
The pause in the breaths,
The gap between sleepy eyelids
And in the spot where a tear falls.

It is the anticipation that lies between the preface and the introduction
And in the tremble of the end of a deep base note on my djembe drum.
(and at that tippy place where it’s edge touches the ground at just the right angle).

Awen finds me.
In that second between wake and sleep and then between sleep and wake
And in that moment when I turn my aging body from one position to another in the middle of the night.

It is at the edge of a blade, the tip of a knife, the pierce of the skin.
It is in a single note (high or low) and in the point where the two notes blend.

It is part of the touch of a spider’s foot on her web and
That moment just before the baby cries in the night and just after his last sigh when he falls back to sleep, full of milk and softness.

It is at the end of the best novel you ever read,
and in the stretch of your muscles when you pick up your child for the last time before they become too big to carry any more.

It is in the turn of a reel,
the retrograde of Mercury,
the beliefs of the righteous,
the call of the dammed,
the switch from over to under and outside and in.

That is where you can find Awen.

To Selene

Moon Goddess Selene

Cycles and circles; darkness and light.
Lovers unite and waters flow within and in spite
Of the brick and concrete walls that we sit within.
Helene brings us on a journey from science to myth.
And rings, sings, pings a bell thrice.
The smoke drifts
In through our bodies and subtly changes us.
We close our eyes and hear a deep boom as the concrete walls dissolve.
For once and forever, in this moment and never
The constellations envelope us
With their infinite beauty.
 
Image source:  http://fineartamerica.com/featured/moon-goddess-diana-swensen.html