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Sunday, October 19, 2008

MIND/SPIRIT/something like that

So I might have to makeup a new topic heading for these posts that are not quite worldly enough to be MIND but not quite SPIRIT material, just random musings. MUSE, perhaps? Anyways...

I was talking to T the other day, and he brought up what I think is a very interesting thought. Basically it goes this: pretty much every task or project, large or small, that you takes on reflects somehow on your entire life, or rather how you want your life to be. Specifically, in my case, T wondered if all the work I'm doing on the garden is a metaphor for what I'm trying to do with my life in general.

When I started, the place was not quite a mess and had a decent basic setup, but it was a mix of boring bare dirt that was heavy and compacted from being ignored for too long and ugly invasive overgrown old foundation plantings. The first thing to do was to uproot and throw out everything I didn't want and dig up the soil, throwing everything in to an ugly, albeit temporary, chaos. This part is the most backbreaking and the least immediately satisfying - especially discovering bucketfuls of gravel in the soil that make it impossible to do quick work with the big shovel and force me to crouch down and pick each one out with a trowel - but even more so overall, as each day of work just reveals more of what still needs to be done. Deturfing the new flowerbed means I need to dig up all the newly-exposed soil there. Digging up and loosening the soil means I need to amend it and plant before the frost, as well as moving a good volume of soil somewhere else, as decompacting it means there seems like about twice as much as there used to be. And at the end of the day, it still looks far worse than I want it to, with mounds of bare soil everywhere - very unfinished.

Making all the plans for the future is a bit more fun, but still just as hard work. All the pretty plans and drawn-out diagrams, while certainly fun to put together, have to work with the existing space and criteria using plants that will work in the area, considering all colors and textures of each plant (flowering, fall color and any winter interest). I want the garden to be lovely and useful in all seasons, flowing gracefully through the year without any "down time," as well as being low-maintenance (taking care of itself, basically) and pleasing not only to those people who see and use it most often but everyone else who might come across it. It's going to take some years to get it to that point, and I realise that no one else is going to want to work on it, as least not as much as I'm willing to do, so I need to commit to this now.

I'm sure I could go on with this and find many more metaphors and probably some interesting revelations, but right now I need to go finish packing, as I'm leaving for a visit to Ohio early tomorrow morning. Yay!

-N

Monday, October 13, 2008

BODY/MIND/a little SPIRIT: Just some loony musings

This morning I began to have a strange feeling. If I had to place it in my body I'd be torn between putting it in the pit of my stomach and at the nape of my neck, just at that place where if someone grabs you there, your shoulders automatically hunch up. A couple of times I felt physically ill. I shrugged it off on the fact that I'd just eaten egg salad one time and found dozens of nasty white grubs in the turf I was digging the other time - but these things do not usually affect me, especially the grubs - I've been digging and de-turfing for a while now and come across hundreds of the little buggers in the past few weeks, and this is the first time that the bile has actually risen in my throat at the sight of them. I even got rather weepy a couple of times - I was thinking about W, it's true, but I thought I'd gotten to a point where I can think about him without instantly breaking into tears. But most of the time it's just a sort of eerie quiet nagging - or, as a song that just played on my Pandora station puts it, "a vague feeling of dread." Very apt.

While poking around on the intarwubs today I noticed on the nifty little gadget that my friend now has on her blog that it is, in fact, a full moon tonight. Now, let me say that I have not been keeping track of this at all, but it does seem to me that I've noticed before, at times when I felt undefinably uneasy, that it turned out to be a full moon. I've definitely had many times when I just felt "off" for some reason, even way back when I was a young'un - I verbalised it then as a feeling that "something's going to happen" but nothing ever really did, that I recall.

Noticing this possible correlation today, I did some more poking of the wubs and, while I can't find any definitive scientific studies or that kind of thing, there are a lot of comments on public forums from people saying that they feel different around the full moon, particularly mothers saying that they can track their children's behavior by the full moon, or rather that they can guess when the moon is full by how their kid is acting (it makes a difference - if you look at the calendar and expect your child to act up around a certain time, I assume that you will be more likely to notice instances of acting up around this time). Other people say that they can never sleep the night of a full moon, and wake up with the night sweats in a cool room.

There's also the thought in the back of my mind that I am feeling this way because there is something I should be doing right now, something thatI am neglecting or forgetting, and this unease is just a reminder to do it. As soon as I sign off here and drink my warm milk, I think I'll go light some candles and ponder a bit, maybe figure out what that something is. I definitely want to keep tracking the mood and matching it up to the seasons and moon phases, if there is a match. I probably won't do it entirely here, but instead write it down in a notebook and summarise my findings. Goodnight for now.

-N

Sunday, October 12, 2008

BRAIN/SPIRIT (I guess): Jobs, injuries and some musings on fall

First off: I have a job! Woohoo! It's a full-time (and, I am assured, frequently overtime) position as a barista/cashier at an awesome coffeeshop on the Duke East Campus. I work 8-4ish 5 days a week, and lemme tell you I am NOT a morning person at all, so the fact that I have free coffee literally at my fingertips pretty much makes up for the fact that I have to get up by 6:15 to be at work on time. It's decent pay, too - a lot better than the 3.50/hr I was getting at Young's, even without tips here. Once I get a paycheck or two I'll start posting about setting up accounts and budgets and earning credit and all those money matters - not terribly interesting things to write or think about, but definitely things that one needs to know.

Secondly, the reason I'm inside at the computer in the middle of the day when it's bright and sunny outside and I still have a lot to finish in the garden before winter: I'm not sure exactly how I did it, but I must have pinched a nerve in my leg or something - there's a shooting pain running from the outside/back area of my left hip all the way down to my ankle whenever I step on that leg or try to use it in some way - that is, pushing the shovel into the soil. I tried switching legs, but digging apparently uses both of them pretty thoroughly, so I'm SOL for now. As well as that, my mom accidentally took my keys when she left for church, so I can't even go into town and chill - I'm stuck here at the house, hobbling around with just the cat for company.

Having nothing else to do, this obviously has me thinking a bit. This time of year, when it's still warm (well, warm to my Ohio-accustomed body; the locals are all in long pants and sweaters already) but the leaves have started to turn and fall and the noontime shadows get longer and longer - this is the time of year I feel most restless. Part of the reason is that this time of year more than almost any around here, you can actually see the wind - every time it blows, it catches the leaves and picks them up and carries them along, so you can clearly see its path and not just guess vaguely at it when it ruffles the grass in summer. The sight of a stream of leaves being carried along by the wind has always raised my blood and quickened my pace a little - heightening the desire to follow them, to chase the wind as far as it goes. I've never really done this - hikes and camping trips quell the desire temporarily, but I'm always promising myself that someday I'll do it for real, just pack up what I need and take off, following whatever path is set before me and never stopping, only pausing for rest before jumping up and off after the wind again.

And now I'm literally stuck here, alone and bored, unable even to lose myself in physical labor as I usually do, at the very time when sitting around is the last thing I want to do. I can't help but wonder if there's a lesson here somewhere - the problem is, I'm not quite sure what it is. Ostensibly there's the message of "you need to settle/slow down a little, whether you want to or not" but that's only the most immediate thing to do. Am I being told that the dream of wandering around as the wind blows me is childish, and it's time to give it up for more adult things, or just that in order to achieve that dream, I must first spend a period of...dormancy? preparation? something along those lines.

Of course, the message could be something along the lines of "suck it up, get dressed, go outside and work through the pain, just get on with your life, as you always do." Then again, it could also be "if you just suck it up and ignore your body, you are going to end up getting hurt even worse, as you always do."

I think the first thing to do, in any case, is allow myself a little more time to heal and sit back with a cup of tea, keeping a sharp eye out for any more messages. If any come along, I'll be sure to write about them here.

-N

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

BODY/MIND: Digging is hella good for you!

Apologies for the nonexistent post yesterday - I have been working like a dog for the past couple of days, and LOVING it. My parents asked me when I first came back down here if I could do anything for "the grounds" - they're thinking about selling the house in a few years, and the lawns and gardens and various other areas around it leave quite a bit to be desired. We live pretty much in the woods, which means grass does not grow well even in the areas that we do bother to rake, and the rest is ankle-deep in oak leaves year-round. Way back in the woods there's nice stretches of moss and wild ginger and such, but the area nearest the house needs to look much more cared-for, both for our enjoyment now and also for when the house goes on the market.

Right in front of the house there's a little bed with some established boxwoods and an azalea, and a roughly semicircular area that used to be split into three "slices" when my sisters and I all lived here, and we'd each have free rein with our section. That's long been overgrown with some boring, uber-invasive liriope and all the other flowers had died except for a huge spindly Brazilian blue sage, which I tried to salvage by dividing the huge-ass clump of roots and putting it in several pots, but we'll see next spring if that did any good. Then there's the sidewalk, some sickly lawn and the "natural area," which started as a place we were too lazy to mow and is now a kind of rocky leaf-covered desert with a few trees here and there and the ugly concrete well cover.

First thing to physically do was rip out the liriope and all its roots (and lemme tell you, it did NOT want to go) and dig up the entire front garden area, avoiding the bushes, to loosen up the soil. Still working on that, but right now there's about a 4x8 space that's dug up and loosened to a depth of a foot, pretty tough going as our soil is heavy red Carolina clay and full of stones. I also convinced my parents (well, I convinced my mom, and now my dad just has to put up with it XD) to cut out some of the lawn and put in another bed across the sidewalk from the existing one. I laid the edge I wanted out on the lawn with stones and cut about half the turf off that area today - OMG! Grass is evil, not only because it's a monoculture that sucks the soil dry but because it personally hates me. I worked for at least a couple hours basically just scraping the grass off this area, not even started on digging it yet. I think I might need one of these for that.

Digging is fantastically good exercise. I have to use my legs to shove the spade into the ground, my arms to pry the soil up and lift it onto my pile, and my abs and torso constantly to stabilize the whole process. As a result, I hurt like a mofo, especially my back, since I'm constantly bending, twisting and straightening again, and my forearms, from prying the stones stuck in the soil loose with my hands and then throwing them to the side. But it's definitely the good kind of hurt - I can feel myself getting stronger, can actually feel my muscles getting harder. Just a little bit, but it's there. So I don't feel quite so bad for skipping my runs for the past couple of days, especially as I'm starting work in the garden at 8 or 9 in the morning and working for several hours straight at a time.

Besides all the physical labor that has to be done, the main real work is actually planning what all is going to go in the nice new beds once they're done being loosened and mixed with fertilizer and such. This is not a small project. I've got to take into account the fact that my mom doesn't like to do work in the garden, and my dad usually doesn't but on occasion will do far too much. They both like foliage and fragrant plants, especially as my dad is colorblind and can't tell the difference between red and green, but can certainly appreciate nice shapes and contrast. On the other hand, the garden needs to look physically appealing and inviting to everyone who views it. So basically my job is to figure out, of the certain plants that will even grow under these conditions, what is the perfect mix of architecturally interesting plants, fragrant plants and regular flowering plants, and how do I arrange it in such a way that it needs the least amount of care? Added to that, I need to make the garden interesting all year long, and any one plant blooming at any particular time needs to fit in with everything else - the color scheme will change from season to season but everything needs to flow together seamlessly, with one plant coming into its prime just as another in the same space fades for the year. Now, don't get me wrong, it's a fascinating project, and exactly what I've been studying on my own for years and years, but it's SO HARD. After thinking and drawing and researching for about a month, I'm just starting to get a set idea of what I want where for spring alone.

My mind has been so busy - trying to get to sleep last night I kept thinking of all the different plant combinations I have in mind for a particular area. Nettle tea has definitely helped - I've got tons of energy and the mental stamina to research plants for hours on end while I'm not working outside. I'm now drinking 3 or 4 cups a day; still not using the full cup of herb as suggested by Susun Weed, though, about 1/3c per 3c water and it seems to be working just fine. If it's worked this well with this little (relatively), however, I'm wondering it I won't be something of a hummingbird once I try it full-strength. Whatever happens, I'll be sure to document it all here! And I'll post pictures of the work in progress and the rough plans I have as soon as I can take them.

Goodnight, all

-N

Saturday, October 4, 2008

BODY/SPIRIT: Still More Nettles, and some thoughts on church

This'll be quite a brief post, as I need to get some sleep before going to church with my parents tomorrow and I've only got a couple of points anyways. First off, I've noticed that in the few days since I've started drinking nettle tea, I haven't gotten any new zits and the ones that were there seem to be fading nicely. There wasn't all that much to start with, just the lingering effects of stress and the hormonal switch from going off BC, probably exacerbated by talking on the phone for hours on end, lol - but the fact remains that the only factor in my life that's changed in the time it took for what was there to start to clear up is the fact that I've started drinking the tea. It's not completely conclusive yet, of course, but certainly seems promising. I've also found that the tea tastes better when cold and stronger than most regular teas, and the pint I had today in the afternoon gave me the energy to make quite a start clearing out some ridiculously invasive groundcover in the front garden.

Second - yes, you read that first sentence correctly, I am going to church tomorrow. It's not exactly my cup of tea - especially when stuff is mentioned about "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess" - no thank you, sounds a little too Borg-y for me - and during Communion, when I have to sneak out and hide in the bathroom, as it's quite a small church and the sight of the music director's daughter pointedly sitting in the front row and not going to the altar would cause some tongues to wag, and I don't want my dad to have to answer awkward questions. But I do love the music.

One of the reasons I'm going tomorrow in particular is that my dad has asked me to sing a particularly lovely old hymn that fits my voice nicely. I've sung in church before and always get complimented - I don't say this to brag, but to point out a fact I'm only beginning to realize myself - that I have a wonderful gift that I can use to make people feel closer to...well, whichever name you care to use, it all ends up as the same One anyways. That's why I still love "church music" - old hymns and classical masses in particular send such a shiver up my spine that I'm certain the air would be full of all kinds of beings hanging there vibrating with every note, if I could only see them. I feel that all music, particularly those pieces written specifically for the purpose of making people feel closer to their god(dess), whether it be Christians to YHWH, pagans to the Lord and Lady, or anyone else you care to think of, has the ability to connect anyone with their particular deity of choice, through the universal language - the simple combinations of notes that somehow strike a chord (pun, sorry) in all listeners' hearts.

A pagan friend of mine disagreed with me on this point, and disliked it immensely whenever I sang "church" music. Whether it was a hymn in English or snippets from masses in Latin or Russian didn't matter, just the fact that it had ostensibly been written to honor and glorify the Christian god made it entirely unpalatable to him. This hurt me a little when he told me - not only because those are some of my favorite songs to sing, but also the fact that he couldn't see how almost any song can be used simply for the pure joy of music, to revel in the voice or talent that your own gods and goddesses gave you, whatever you choose to call them. When I sing songs about Jesus in front of the congregation, they're seeing him, I'm seeing my own Goddess, but we all end up in the presence of holiness, and that's really all that matters.

-N

Friday, October 3, 2008

BODY/BRAIN: More Herblore on Nettles, Running (plus some turtles)

So I drank a pint of nettle stuff today (a little too strong to be called a tea, a little weak for an infusion); didn't notice the too-many-thoughts thing again like the other night, but that may be because of the fact that's it's much more noticeable when one is trying to clear the mind and sleep rather than doing daytime things. I haven't exactly been exploding with energy or anything, but I am definitely more awake and alert than some days recently. I think I'll stick with the same recipe for another week or so, at least, and keep tracking any progress (or lack thereof).

After my current stash is used up, I'll definitely be getting some more, not sure if I'll be going back to the local store, though - as nice as they are, I was doing a bit of poking around on the intarwubs today and realized that if I'd continued to buy from them I'd be overpaying rather a lot, especially considering the amounts I'd buy if I keep up with this. The local store prices their stuff to reflect the fact that most people are only going to buy an ounce or two at a time, and for those who are just making a cup of tea or such every couple of days, that's fine - but I do want to see how drinking the full infusions makes me feel, and it would add up pretty fast. However, Mountain Rose Herbs has a huge selection of happy organic herbs for much more decent prices than I'd first seen - 1 lb of dried nettle leaf is $8.50, versus about $18 at the local place. Shipping might drive up the price again, though, but at least I've got an idea of about what the price should be if I buy specifically in bulk rather than by the ounce.

Speaking of nettles, here's a brand-new article from Susun Weed! Go read it!

On running - I've been trying to start back up running again, with middling success - I was doing alright at actually getting my ass out of bed around sunrise to run a few miles, and then my euphemism came around and previous experieces of literally crippling cramps (I was lying on the floor screaming for about 10 minutes) as a direct result of exercise scared me off, although I know I should have tried to keep up with yoga or something. However, Aunt Flo is gone again and I AM going to get up and run tomorrow, rain or shine. This means I'll probably have to sleep in my running clothes with my shoes right by the edge of the bed and three or four alarms set, but damn it I am running! It's too late to do this before tomorrow, but I also want to check out the nice running trails nearby and bribe myself to get out of bed with the thought of running along a river or something.

And a last thought to leave you with: I went down to the Eno (the town river/protected park area) today, just to sit and dip my toes in the water for a while. Peering across the river (trying to get used to my brand-new glasses XD) I saw what seemed at first glance to be part of a stacked-stone wall sticking up out of the river near the opposite shore. However, a second look told me that it was actually a log almost completely covered in turtles sunning themselves - about 20 of varying sizes, from about the size of my hand to as big as a dinner plate. The log wasn't all that big, either, so they were pretty much stacked on top of each other in places! Turtles aren't terribly cuddly-looking things normally, but these were totally snuggling up to one another and it was just too damn cute! I was all like "d'awww!"

Goodnight all, sweet dreams of cuddly turtles,

-N

Thursday, October 2, 2008

BODY/BRAIN: Herblore on Nettles




Was doing a little research on nettles to try and back up what I'd remembered, and see if I could find anything else. First off, I went to Susun Weed's fantastic site, which is an absolute wealth of information about herbs, weeds, womanhood and sooo much more - I can spend hours there! But for now I was looking for one thing in particular, so I mostly restrained myself to these two pages. A quote from the first:
"[Nettle] stimulates the kidneys, cures diarrhea, stops internal bleeding, cleans the blood, and is an important source of iron, calcium, and vitamin C making it valuable in anemia. Nettle tea has been used to treat asthma,wheezing, and shortness of breath. The tea is also diuretic and has been used for cystitis and high blood pressure."
and the second:
"Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) builds energy, strengthens the adrenals, and is said to restore youthful flexibility to blood vessels. A cup of nettle infusion contains 500 milligrams of calcium plus generous amounts of bone-building magnesium, potassium, silicon, boron, and zinc. It is also an excellent source of vitamins A, D, E, and K. For flexible bones, a healthy heart, thick hair, beautiful skin, and lots of energy, make friends with sister stinging nettle. It may make you feel so good you'll jump up and exercise."
Sounds great! But I noticed one problem. The dosage given on the first page is 2 t/c of boiling water, steeped for 10 minutes and then taken 1/4 c at a time, 4 times over the course of the day. This is pretty much directly contradicted by the other page, which promotes drinking not teas but infusions of herbs - 1 oz by weight (about 1 c by volume) of dried herb brewed in a quart of water anywhere between 4 hours and overnight, and subsequently drunk over the next 36 hours. The first seems like a surprisingly small dosage, but the second seems like almost too much. I've decided to go somewhat in-between, and right now am brewing about 2 T in a pint of water, for about 30 min before refrigerating. I'll drink a little tonight to see how the taste is and finish up the rest tomorrow morning.

Most of the sites I saw didn't say much else that was new, but I did find this interesting video on Youtube. A quote from about halfway through:
"It keeps your mind very very active, too; I drank a whole thing of nettle tea one night and I couldn't go to sleep all night - my mind was just ruminating, ruminating, ruminating..."
Aside from the fact that "ruminating" is a fun word to say, I think I can already back this up a little. Last night the small amount of nettle tea I had (1/2 c, if that) didn't so much make me feel zomguberawake like coffee might, I DEFINITELY had the whole thoughts-randomly-filling-the-head bit - it was more than a little overwhelming at one point, actually, although that might be more the effect of hormones right now. A cup of warm milk (yay tryptophan!) and a little chilling helped, but yeah...this is NOT a tea to drink a nice warm cup of right before bed. I'll be trying valerian in a while though, so stay tuned for that ;)

On price: if I were to go with the recipe from Susun Weed's article on infusions and drink a quart of the stuff every day, it would run me about $35/mo - that's about $18/lb in my local healthy hippie store, figuring I'd have to buy that much every two weeks or so. However, the good several scoopfuls I bought myself are enough to fill a jar that I think holds 1 c, tamped down a bit, and cost me a grand total of 45 cents. So far it looks like I've used barely any at all - dried herbs are fluffy! - so I'm guessing this much should last me about 2 weeks, if I use it every day. Not a bad price at all, considering. More tomorrow on the effects of drinking a cup or more of this stuff at a time.

-N

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A couple notes on format and such-like things

So I've decided to take a tip from many other more experienced bloggers and institute specific topics on which to write, based on the aspects listed in the first post. I don't know yet if I want to do it by days of the week, so for now I'll stick to writing about whatever comes to mind or seems most pertinent, and label the blog with the heading/tag that fits the best, trying to stay on-track as much as possible (we'll see how that goes...I am a rambler of legendary prowess). Topics are below, VERY tentatively named:

  • BODY: everything dealing with exercise, diet, and the putting-into-practice of the herb lore and such that I'll hopefully be learning
  • BRAIN: everything that can be classified under "knowledge" (not necessarily "wisdom" ;) ) - that is, the actual herb lore itself, learning to deal with the mundane realities of life like budgets and jobs and making do with what you have, etc etc.
  • MIND: the aforementioned art, music, culture, literature, etc etc. This might be a discussion of a book I really liked or a show I went to or a great idea I had. Basically, the not-necessarily-practical workings of that muscle between my ears.
  • HEART: no Captain Planet jokes plz :P I can't think of a better name for this one right now - basically, everything about interpersonal relationships.
  • SPIRIT: various meditations on pagan-ness - perhaps stuff like my thoughts on sabbats, esbats and different seasons, attempts to better learn things like runes and tarot, or essays on how I'm trying to carry stuff over from circle to everyday life. All cosmic two-by-fours will go here.
Questions? Comments? Personal experiences? Ideas for better titles (please!!!)?

And before I forget, my first actual update (!):

BODY: So I went to the local hippie healthy store and bought some dried nettle (Urtica dioica) to make into tea. It's supposed to be chock-full of iron and calcium and vitamin C and lovely things like that, and basically works like a wonder-weed: gives you loads of energy without making you crash, strengthens your immune system, makes your hair, skin, nails and all of the rest of you healthy and vibrant and glowy and stuff. I made some tea tonight with about a teaspoon or two in a cup of water and sipped a very little, but then remembered that I might not want energy this late at night and so stuck it in the fridge for tomorrow. More on that later.

For now, goodnight.

-N