You don't have to understand the world. You just have to find your own way around in it. - Albert Einstein

Sunday, 30 September 2012

of the Garden, and what it's been up to while I was away

It was wonderful to come home. I love this house so much. And the garden - well, the garden has a life of its own and has had its adventures during  my absence.

The fruit trees, including the enormous cherry plum, have had their blossoms come and go - I missed the bridal shower breezes of the early spring. I missed a terrific storm, I hear, and a season of cold, bitter winds.

Thanks to the attentions of my neighbour the compulsive gardener, the backyard was cleaned up within an inch of its life, and my herb garden - that is to say, the Garden of Things that are Undesirable to Possums - was blooming extravagently. The California Poppies in particular had advanced in their efforts for world domination and had to be thinned out considerably in order to reveal the beautiful herb garden that has developed out of my truce with the possum. I transplanted some into pots so they can go live in my mother's garden.

This rosemary was just a tiny cutting when it first came here - and now look, it's grown into decent, respectably prominent shrub.

The lemon balm and the mint have grown rampant and are begging out to be harvested. It's always nice to have fresh herbs for a herbal tea, but I feel inspired to look at making some syrup or tincture, something a bit more adventurous and Crafty.

This was my special bonus surprise - an experimental broccoli seedling has yielded a lovely little head!

And how did the possum miss that one, you might ask? Well, that was the strategy of my experiment. I planted the seedlings below the extremely aggressive and unfriendly spikes of this palm.

I found some breathtakingly stunning colours in the geranium foliage.

The rose bush had been neglected and was overdue for its winter prune. I set right to cutting it back, and suddenly realised that I had been given a beautiful rosewood wand.

And it's been raining. I feel like I'm starting to breathe again.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

of an Exercise in Following Instructions, and Faith in Practise

"Take three seeds, and put them in the bitterest place."

I had been praying deeply, asking for guidance. There's been Stuff going on, people, major Stuff. And when I wonder, 'what will I do?", this is what I do. I turn to the Goddess and ask her to show me the way.

And this what what she had to say. "Take three seeds..." It soon became clear that She wasn't going to talk to me anymore until I had taken on this message.

It's not so common for me to receive such concrete, deliberate instructions in my spiritual guidance. I was intrigued, piqued and puzzled. Um, what does that mean? So I pondered.

It sounded like I had been presented with a Quest of sorts, a mission to carry out just for the sake of following Her wherever She may guide me. I thought of a book I had read a little while ago, a beautiful children's story published in 1872, The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald.

In the story, the little princess meets her Grandmother, apparently a spirit-woman, ghost, or perhaps an angel, living in the attic in her castle. The Grandmother gives the princess a golden ring and tells her to use it to call on her if she ever needs help. When things go bump in the night, and the princess is frightened, she takes the ring and follows the fine, long, invisible thread that leads from it. She trusts that the thread will take her to her Grandmother, and she follows it, even when it guides her outside, up the hills and into the dangerous wilderness, on and on and finally into the mountain through the mines that were built by miners and goblins.

It's a story about faith, crazy faith that doesn't make any sense at all, but works out in the end. It's how I live my life and make choices, to some extent. I follow the invisible thread of Grandmother's instructions, Her guidance, even when it takes me into the wilderness, or dark and scary places. I often have no idea why I must do the things I do, only that I know the Goddess has asked me to. I choose to obey, knowing the consequences of choosing otherwise.

This task bestowed upon me seems abstract and trivial, but it is not for me to question these Mysteries, only to have faith and to follow. During my preparations, someone would occasionally ask me, hey Lady Demelza, what's that you're doing? And my answer was always, I have no idea, I'm just following instructions.

First I had to translate the rather vague description into a tangible act, an event that would mark my devotion to my Beloved Grandmother. 'Take three seeds' is literal enough, but where, oh where on Earth is the bitterest place?

First I turned to my most recently discovered magickal tool - the google search engine. Who'd'a thunk it, right? Google tells me that the bitterest place on Earth is the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. And while it looks like an incredible place, I thought that an intercontinental trek might be taking things a bit too far - geographically as well as metaphorically. I had to refine the parameters to the local area and engage my own Magickal Answers search engine.

What is a bitter place? It's unusual to ascribe the quality of bitterness to a geographical location, rather than something more or less tangible - a food, or a feeling. I thought of salt. I thought of thick black mud, mangroves, lagoons and swamps. I thought of rivers running brown with natural tannins. I thought of the nighttime and the winter. I asked everyone else what they thought of in response to the phrase 'the bitterest place.' There was much debate and checking of maps, but eventually we settled on Lake Tyagarah, a coastal lake which is home to a natural forest of tea trees. If you've ever accidentally tasted tea-tree oil while using it for medicinal or therapeutic purposes, you will understand how I made the connection.

From there, the synchronicity kept lining up. We discovered that the lake is by a three-way crossway, hence a place sacred to Hecate, who reminds us to honour the bitter experiences in life. Two of those streets were called Black Rock Road and Grays Lane - suitably dark and gloomy. When we finally got close to the site we were looking for, I saw this sign and shuddered. A bitter place indeed.

I didn't even know that they used 1080 poison up here. I saw enough of its effects while living in Tasmania, where it is widely used to kill native wildlife, and the beloved family pet often becomes collateral damage. I won't go on about it any more or I'll just get upset, but you can follow the links I've put in if you want to know more.

We got closer. This was the next sign we saw. Um.

A short walk along a scrubby path, and suddenly I was here, at this picture-perfect, shining lake. It struck me as odd that I had come looking for a bitter place and found myself in such a stunningly beautiful place. But that has always been the lesson of bitterness and the things in the shadow - to realise that they are beauty too.

The three seeds came from an apple, the sacred fruit of the Goddess. I would have found pomegranates or olives to be acceptable offerings, but on the day, apples were easier to come by. I took my apple down the lake's shore and cut it crossways, revealing the Five-Pointed Star, the Pentagram at its core. I scried for a message in its shape, as I like to do with the middles of apples like this.

By the edge of the lake, the roots of this tree formed a miniature of the mud flat I had been imagining.

Here I buried my three seeds, anointed my third eye with the waters of the lake, and said my thanks and blessings.

But... what happens next? What does it all mean? 

Buggered if I know. I'm just following instructions.

Friday, 7 September 2012

in which our Heroine is Sucked In by Dodgy Marketing Claims

Our trip to the big town the other day has certainly brought to light some interesting labelling procedures.

Littletree's friend Miss J was out with us for the day - and I am happy to report that she scored a great haul at the oppies, going home with a whole new outfit and shoes. When she announced that she felt hungry and wanted a snack, I suggested we just nip up to the supermarket on the corner. We needed bread, so I found that, and then asked Miss J to just find the nearest suitable snack. It happened that we were right by the section with tinned fruits and all those little snack packets that involve fruit to some degree. Miss J picked out some jelly-fruity thing that you suck out of a plastic packet. We asked Littletree if she wanted one, and the clever girl! - she asked straight away "Does it have chemicals in it?" Miss J dutifully read out the ingredients, I assured Littletree that they sounded okay to me, and she accepted.

Then we were heading straight for the checkout when we went past the 'health food' section - the bit where they have packets of nuts and seeds and gluten-free things. I noticed some biscuits on special, and grabbed a pack.

Sorry about the blinding flash on that shot. The brand is Macro, which is owned by Woolworths, and the biscuits are described as a 'recipe without nuts' - White Chocolate & Berry Macaroon.

None of thought to check the ingredients - not even the extremely vigilant Littletree. We just accepted that it was 'healthy' because it was in the 'health food' section. Yes, I should know better by now. Well if I'd needed another eye-opener, I'd found it.

Finally, Majikfaerie actually looked a little further at the packet. She read out the ingredients, and shocked us all right out of our socks.

Coconut (preservative (223)), sugar, wheat flour, white chocolate chips (10%) (sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa butter (29.5%), milkfat (9%), vegetable emulsifier (322 from soy), glucose, mixed berry pieces (7%) (strawberry puree (23%), blackcurrant puree (9%), raspberry puree (4%), blueberry puree (4%), invert sugar, humectant (glycerol), sugar, wheat fibre, gelling agent (440), acidity regulator (296), natural flavours (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry)), margarine (animal fat (tallow from beef or sheep), water, emulsifiers (471,322 from soy, 435), flavour, acidity regulator (270)), currants, egg powder, whey powder (milk), natural flavours (vanilla, coconut), raising agents (500,450).

Did you notice that? Other than all the numbers. I won't even start on those. I mean the TALLOW FROM BEEF OR SHEEP. Can you believe it? Coconut biscuits that are NOT SUITABLE FOR VEGETARIANS. Macro is supposed to be a brand that creates choices for those with dietary restrictions, but apparently they haven't noticed that a large number of health-concious people are, in fact, vegetarian.

If you happen to be one of those people who have a serious nut allergy, or a child with such, you might have been feeling reassured by the prominent 'RECIPE WITHOUT NUTS' claim - unless you made it to the fine print to discover that 'this product has been manufactured in a peanut and tree nut free facility. Whilst we have strict protocols in place and have tested for peanuts and tree nuts where possible, the raw ingredients in this product cannot be guaranteed totally peanut and tree nut free due to limitations in current testing technologies.'

I checked the Woolworths website to see if I could find out anything more about these biscuits, or about this whole nut-free gimmick, but I couldn't, because, according to the website, these biscuits do not exist. I tried every permutation of words on the label in the Woolworths search engine, only to be told repeatedly that no products match the description I had given. I did discover this claim about the Macro brand - "Woolworths are proud to bring the Macro Wholefoods Market product range to families and health conscious shoppers. Macro Wholefoods offer great tasting, nutritionally sound and quality products at an affordable price. Ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat are kept to a minimum without compromising on taste."

Oh, really? Back to the label. Just ONE of these biscuits contains 11% the daily RDI (recommended daily intake) of saturated fats, and 9% the daily RDI of sugar... and who ever eats just ONE biscuit, right?

So, we've got allegedly nut-free sweet biscuits that can't be guaranteed to be nut-free and are not suitable for vegetarians. Woolworths is happy to put them on their shelves but not to admit their existance on their website.

Nobody felt hungry anymore.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

of the Healing Powers of a Soft Cloth

Yesterday, there was a trip to the big town to check out op-shops. Excitement much?

I found this cloth printed with pictures of babies doing all kinds of baby things. So cute. A lovely little gift for a mum with little ones.

Then I happened to notice the label.

Use only as directed. For the temporary relief of pain and fever. Consult your healthcare professional if symptoms persist. Panadol is a registered trademark of the GlaxoSmithKline group companies.

I always knew that textiles have inherent healing qualities.