Saturday, January 26, 2013

Honey? I'm Home!

Bees and honey became important very early in my life. My brother and I grew up right next to a citrus grove where someone kept bees. We knew honey because old men sold it next to the grove, in a dark little house that smelled like beeswax. We sweetened our breakfast cereal with honey and poured it on our waffles; syrup and sugar were more for Dad. We homed in close to the beehives at the heart of the grove, as close as we could get. Run and you got stung. Walk away slowly or freeze and you were fine; there would be other occasions where stings were unavoidable.

One year I wrote a school essay about the place. We were reading Thoreau, and I waxed philosophical about the furry bees and the rainbow colored lantana blossoms. As far as I was concerned at the time, going in there was going back to nature. (What an awakening I had much later, backpacking in a national forest.)

When I grew up, I went away to college in another state. I never got used to their sourwood honey; highly prized and highly priced, it was still not enough flavor for me. I stayed in 'Other' for twelve years. While I enjoyed it and needed to be in my own world there, it never felt like home. I bundled up and felt cold. My skin was hungry for sunshine and warm breezes.

A few years ago, I moved back near my childhood home. The grove is a park now and has just a few healthy citrus trees left in the mix around the walking trail, but the honey house remains and so do the beehives.

And let me tell you, I have been fairly lusting over that honey. Week after week, month after month, I tried to locate whoever was keeping the bees and kept missing them entirely. It's not the type of honey or the quality; it's just that it would be home to me.

My dear brother finally tracked down a lady who came to check on her bees. She didn't get much honey out of this particular location, but she happened to have one little jar of it. He told her all about our childhood and the old man we knew who once owned the grove, and she tried to give my brother the jar for free. No way, lady. I would have paid practically anything for it. To me, this was like taking home a bit of Brighid's sacred flame, or some water from Merlin's own spring in Glastonbury.

We tasted it and found more mystery. I immediately thought of tea tree; he thought he detected Brazilian pepper. Pest plants or not, I am savoring the sweetness right down to my soul.

It takes so little, and yet so much, to make a ritual. When I was alone (and yet not alone) I held up the little jar of honey to the morning sun and looked at the light through that honey-colored filter. I thought of the flames burning up there for billions of years. I thought of my own life-flame within me, and all the little sparks and flames from all the generations before me, living on through me and my family now and whoever comes after us, and all of the names of our ancestors and the names of the Divine flame.

I said thank you to the flame within us all.

May I always know I have a home. And may it be worth it all, to all of us, to have come this far.

Then I poured some on my oatmeal, just like I did as a kid, and it became part of me again.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Elderberry Tincture

First I must say I'm a firm believer in the spiritual and mental value of the occasional rare cold or flu. Like a woman's monthly cycle, this state of being changes your focus, brings you back to the essentials, and makes you appreciate small things (like breathing, or not being in pain).

However, maybe you would like to keep your colds and flus rare. I know I would. At the first sign of sickness, I try to get extra sleep--no going out on the town until 3--and I take some of my homemade elderberry tincture.

It's ridiculously easy to make. Finding the ingredients is harder than making it. There are just two ingredients: elderberries and vodka. (There is also a way to make it with glycerin instead of vodka for those who don't drink, but I haven't tried that.)

Fresh berries are best, I'm told, but so far I have only been able to get dried. They work fine. Your local witchy store probably carries these.

The vodka doesn't have to be anything fancy. You can actually go very, very cheap with this ingredient. I suggest doing so, in the interest of making large amounts of tincture.

Take at least one part berries to four parts vodka. Put the berries in a jar and pour the vodka over them. Close the jar and put it somewhere dark. Leave it alone for at least six weeks. You can take it out and shake it once in a while, but you don't really have to.

If you need it before six weeks, you can make do with similar storebought remedies called Sambucol or Sambucus. They do cost a lot.

Once your tincture is ready, you can drink a shot of it (if you can stand the taste) or slip it into food or drinks. You may want to sweeten it when you do this. Try it in oatmeal, smoothies, tea, and sodas. Use at least one measured teaspoon. A large medicine dropper is most convenient.

Leave the berries in the jar if you like so the tincture can get even stronger. Just don't be tempted to use the same berries for two different batches.  Use new berries every time for the best results.

Enjoy being healthy!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pushing Off and Other Metaphors

Pick a New Year's, any New Year's. It could be Samhain in October or the secular holiday on January 1. I don't know how much you believe the all-knowing Google, but some Pagans apparently consider Imbolc, Yule, and Beltane to be the beginning of new years as well.

I don't get it. I don't have to. The important thing is that we take time to be still and be thoughtful and think over what is to be. And hey, if it takes a hangover to get into that frame of mind, that works. At least you got there, and it is a reminder to sit calmly and live gently, ever so gently, if only for a day.

It was time to break through the agony and fury of the latest full moon. I don't usually feel them that much, but this one just knocked the wind out of me, psychically speaking. There was nothing I could do to feel it less. There was nothing I could do but feel. And feel I did.

There is only so much you can attribute to everyday stress from work, the holidays, the minor necessary busy-ness of life. This was a greater force. This was the difference between standing outside on a cold night and actually jumping into an icy lake.

It may or may not change your life, but it certainly makes you take notice, whether you think about it or not. All you can do is gasp and know that you are alive.

Then you take another breath and another and another. And you realize that even though it's not always comfortable and you're not always as focused or motivated or perfect or anything else as you could be, you are here and you have the now.

And it does make a difference when a full moon shakes you up and a new year hits your reset button. My everyday travel blessing feels less ostentatious these days but somehow stronger for all its repetitions. My smiles are more real now than they were in my ancient yearbook pictures. I have pushed my boat off from the shore and I am coasting freely through the wide open water.

I am free.

And what's more, I'm learning to steer.