Nearly Beltane Potpourri

photo-17

* This weekend, I dug up a few clumps of daffodils so that I could divide them before the hostas that also live in those beds leaf out and make it impossible to dig there. Then, I had to dig, by hand, forty (Count them! Forty!) holes to plant the new bulbs. I don’t know who the Goddess or God of earthworms is, but I owe Hir an offering. My Bit of Earth is blessed with many big, fat earthworms and it’s impossible for me to dig anywhere without sacrificing a number of them.

Although the inestimable Miss Parker took a rather cavalier attitude towards earthworms:

It costs me never a stab nor squirm
to tread, by chance, upon a worm.
“Aha! My little dears,” I say.
“Your kin will pay me back one day,”

I’ve always taken a more reverential attitude towards them. I’ll be glad to make their food if, one day, my ashes compose this Earth.

In The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, Amy Stewart writes:

There is a diagram of an apple tree pinned to the wall above my desk — an entire apple tree, meaning that the drawing shows its roots as well as its trunk and the branches. The tree itself is only five or six feet tall, but the roots extend an astonishing twelve feet into the soil and spread much wider than the outer boundary of the tree’s canopy. What’s fascinating about the drawing is this: the part of the plant that we think of as the apple tree is, in fact, a fairly insignificant part of the full plant. It’s just a squat, knobby protrusion at the top of a graceful, expansive system of roots.

Or is the tree at the top of the drawing at all? In some ways, the tree really seems to be at the bottom of its enormous root system. When I turn the picture upside down, so that the roots are on top and the tree is underneath, a much more graceful creature emerges. The limbs run like rivers in every direction. The shape of the root system is perfect, as airy and symmetrical as any arborist could hope to achieve through years of careful pruning.

When the drawing is turned upside down like this, I am forced to think about the tree’s function in a different way. The branches and leaves and fruit are significant, of course: they provide the pollen for honeybees, branches for nesting birds, fruit for the gardener, and leaves to carry on the endless respiration of oxygen into the air. But now that I’ve taken a second look, I see that the roots are the real body of the tree, and I wonder, in a way that perhaps I’ve never wondered before, what kind of life those roots have underground. How far does the rainwater penetrate? What does the [E]arth look like below the surface? If you asked someone what the ocean is like below the surface, most people could give you a reasonably accurate description. But how little most of us know about life below ground, even in our own backyards.

I realized that I understood very little about the plot of land under my own house.

***

To know the land for what it is, to find its heartbeat, to expose its soul, you have to go underground where it lives and breathes.

Grounding is the most important part of my spiritual practice and I want to know my Bit of Earth on the level that Stewart describes. And that involves, to a very large extent, being in relationship with worms. And their Goddesses/Gods.

It’s my religion, what can I say?

* More on knowing your own landbase.

* I had company for dinner this weekend and served, inter alia, radish salad. It got raves and, when I sent the leftovers home, the leftovers got raves in my guests’ bread and butter letters. I originally found the recipe at Sauveur and have adapted it a little bit.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups radishes, sliced as thinly as possible (I use the same knife that I use to peel carrots, saving for my weekly lunch the bits of radish that can’t be sliced )
3 Tablespoons sugar
1½ Teaspoons kosher salt
1 or 2 generous Tablespoons sesame oil
3/4 Teaspoon black sesame seeds
3 or 4 scallions, thinly sliced

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Slice radishes and place in a bowl with cold water and ice cubes. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

2. Combine radishes, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.

3. Toss radish slices and sliced scallions with sesame oil and sesame seeds.

4. Serve.

Radishes are incredibly easy to grow from seed, especially recommended for children and beginning gardeners, and can be planted from early Spring to mid-Autumn. (An easy way to know how far apart to make the rows or to plant the seeds? Take your garden trowel and either a Sharpie or some nail polish. Use a ruler to make one inch marks on the handle of the trowel.)

Radishes were domesticated in Europe prior to “Pax” Romana. They are low in calories, high in fiber, and very good for cancer survivors.

We Southerners cannot think of radishes without thinking of Scarlett O’Hara becoming ill after eating a radish on an empty stomach, but she wasn’t the only Southerner to survive on radishes. Many African Americans made do, especially in the Springtime, on radishes, as well, usually, in the same style as French peasants, by slicing the radishes on buttered biscuits or bread.

More from Michael Twitty on the terroir of Southern gardens.

Do you have a go-to radish recipe?

* Because I love you, please go read this, and this, and this and this.

* April is National Poetry Month. I know people who say that they don’t like/can’t grok poetry. Yet most of them can quote song lyrics until the cows come home. And the lyrics of many songs began as poetry. I blame their perceived dislike of poetry on the way that we teach poetry today. Poetry, if it does nothing else, should touch our root chakras, should move us from “this” reality into “that.” Poetry can be one of the most important building blocks of ritual.

And here is America’s Poet Laureate, you may disagree, but I don’t think that there’s any higher title. America’s poet laureate is Natasha Trethewey, an African American woman. She writes from a sense of place that should resonate with every Pagan.

Beltane: is coming.

Picture by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

One response to “Nearly Beltane Potpourri

  1. I too love earthworms! It seems like there’s no better reward for puttering around in the garden than in discovering that that tiny plot of land is grateful for it. The flip side to this, of course, is that earth worms aren’t native to North America, and that in some areas they’re even considered a dangerous invasive species. The university my sister is hoping to attend is actually doing a massive study on the harmful effect earth worms are having on the local woodland ecosystem (in Maine), and what can be done to counteract that.
    As always, thanks for the beautiful post!

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