Now that Mabon's come and gone, now that we're heading madly towards Samhein, it's that time in the Gardening Year when we begin to clear stuff out. One of my magical Sisters (whose home is deep in a grove of gorgeous old trees) and I were joking at brunch today about how we're already into that time of year when raking up leaves becomes a primary chore. (Her yard is already much more carefully-raked than mine. It's only going to get worse between now and late November when my white oaks finally drop their last leaves.) And all those dead leaves (and, in my case, acorns) have to GO SOMEWHERE; here at Hecate's Cottage, they go into big brown paper bags that the county will come by and pick up to turn into mulch. But the leaves aren't the only things that need to be gotten out of the garden. There are dead, branchy stems left over from the now-harvested-and-made-into-frozen-pesto basil. There are old stalks from daisies and obedient plant and Asiatic lilies and anemones. (Compost bin, here they come!) There are wisteria vines that have been pruned back and there are pots of brugmansia to be cut way back and brought inside for the coming Winter.
And, at the same time, it's now the season to do a lot of planting in anticipation of the Spring and Summer that we hope, as did our great-great-great-great-many-times-great grandmothers, will certainly (yes?) come. So this past week I worked w/ Landscape Guy and his crew to put in two new trees, innumerable hostas and astilbes, some new drancunculus, Darkness iris, and giant white alliums. Right now, I'm staring at a box of 75 snowdrop bulbs, sitting on the table, tapping their fingernails, and saying, "Well? When ARE you going to get us into the ground?" With so much new stuff, it's still a time of watering; I likely won't have to put the hoses away and shut off the pipes to the outside until nearly Yule. Until then, new roots are still growing and water is important.
Finally, this time of year is the beginning of that season that, if we're honest (and, we're not; most gardeners lie worse than golfers, fishermen, hunters, tennis players), many gardeners love every bit as much as we love High Summer: the Time of the Winter Plan. It's a perfect period (you can do it while raking! or sitting in front of the fire!) to mull over what worked (marigolds in the herb bed), what didn't work (Burpee's Summerlong basil, everything from White Flower Farms), what you want to try next year (black poppies and white peonies), what new adventure you'll embark upon when, sometime between Yule and Imbolc, you give in to the garden porn of the catalogs and begin buying new seeds, seedlings, etc. Just now, hope springs eternal, everything seems possible (maybe just a dozen new ostrich ferns and that corner WOULD look perfect; next year, I'll find a place to put wormwood where it won't kill off the surrounding plants; if we "just" move about a hundred day lilies out of the gardenia beds and into the woodland . . . .")
And, of course, as I plant, and pull up, and water, and rake, (and try to ignore the snowdrops), I think about how much this liturgical season mimics (as, how, based upon it as it is, upon what goes on in the garden, could it not?) what is going on outside. As above, so below. As outside, so inside. As in the manifest world, so in the world of the psyche. Just now, with the veils so thin, my ancestors and deceased friends and lovers show up and offer their advice. I'm likely the only woman in my neighborhood raking, saying, "Shut up!" bagging leaves, shouting, "Who asked you?" pulling up stems, murmuring, "Well, OK, you may have a point."
I adopted the practice last year of setting an intentional word to organize my goals and objectives for the coming year. This year, the word has been "Vitality" -- an attempt to introduce more health and more energy into every area of my life. For the coming year, I'm pretty sure that the word is going to be "Elegant," which, for me, implies, a serious editing, a cutting away of all that is extraneous. I meditate upon that word from Samhein until Yule. Just after Yule, I make a screen-saver for my computer with images, words, and phrases that convey my word and I write a global list of goals for the coming year.
Between Yule and Imbolc, I work on a more logical, strategic plan.
What are you raking up and throwing into the compost bin? What are you planting just now and watering? What plans are you hatching? What does this season mean for you?
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I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."