Tag Archives: They Say a Witch Lives Here



It’s finally, really, truly Spring! The picture above shows one of my Japanese maples leafing out in the woodland garden, just beside a Japanese temple pine and an old acuba.

Today, on Twitter, @selenafox shared this lovely video:

Hail Flora! Hail Persephone! Hail the Maiden!

Here, in the Magical MidAtlantic, we’ve been acknowledging Spring ever since Eostara, but it’s only this week that it’s felt as if the trees really went green, the pointy things (hostas, jack-in-the-pulpits, lilies, toad lilies, and ferns like flames) began to emerge from underground, and the birds began to join my morning meditation. (In the Winter, I have coffee, silence, and what Dylan Thomas called the “close and holy darkness.” In the Spring, I have coffee, growing light, birdsong — what Gerard Manley Hopkins called “Lo! Morning at the brown brink eastward springs! And [Sophia] over the bent world broods with warm breast and with Ah! bright wings.”)

Here, hat tip to @allisonlily, is another lovely meditation on Spring:

Then I see it, my special spot, the birch trees about to burst open their buds, everything hanging in anticipation. Narcissus flower everywhere underneath the white boles, running down through the patch of woodland that hides the stream from prying eyes. Spots of yellow, like little suns, laugh and smile as they stretch towards our nearest star.

I walk beneath the birch trees, looking at the fox den and rabbit holes. I find my place, a clear space of ground and here I put down my bag. Looking around me, there are branches everywhere as the recent winds of springtime have brought many down. I gather some up, together with pieces of flint and quartz that lie upon the mossy earth. I make my circle of sticks and stones, and smile at the thought.

Lighting the incense, I walk around the circle several times, then place it carefully upon a bare patch of earth. I take my bottle of water and allow a thin stream of water to bless this sacred space. Standing at the four directions I honour them for all that they are. Within the centre I recognise and remind myself of the three worlds: land, sea and sky. I use the ritual gestures that I have created over the years to emphasize my words, to bring them into action. I breathe in the air, filled with the scents of spring, face the stream and call to my goddess.

“Lady of the sacred flame. Lady of the sacred water. Where fire and water meet is the greatest power. I honour you with all that I am, for all that you are. Lady of healing, lady of transformation, lady of poetry, lady of creativity. Show me your mysteries. I open my soul to you, to hear your song.”

A wave of energy comes towards me, nearly knocking me off my feet. I balance, and turn around, knowing that there is incense behind me. I move carefully around the incense, walking as if through treacle or dark, sticky molasses. I need to lie down. The Earth is pulling me down, down into her mysteries. Carefully I lower myself to the ground, a pair of hawks overhead crying as they circle, riding the thermals.

I close my eyes. The earth thrums beneath me, the sky singing above me. I hear it. I hear The Song.

The entire post is worth a read.

Here are a few more pictures from my garden: here in the shadow of Columbia, in the State named for the Maiden, in a spot where I’ve done magic for over a decade, in the place where the great-great-many-times-great granddaughter of the tarragon that I planted is sprouting in the herb bed, where the great grandson of my first cardinal shows up when I’m brewing coffee and demands that I put out seed with which he can court his lady, where, just now, the gentle rain is making the grass so green it would make your heart ache.





May it be so for you.


Watering In


For Yule, Landscape Guy gave me Jenks Farmer‘s wonderful book, Deep Rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners. I finished reading it on my last business trip. I’d recommend the book just for the pictures and for the stories about the great characters/gardeners from whom Jenks has learned over the years. Muriel Rukeyser was right about stories.

In one chapter, Jenks recommends, whenever possible, watering by hand rather than with an automatic irrigation system or with sprinklers. You know, carrying water to the plant in a watering can and standing there making it rain in just the right spot and by just the right amount. Or taking the hose (and, when we do it here in the South, a glass of iced tea or wine, depending on whether it’s a morning or an evening watering) and standing in the garden, watching it, listening to it, watering by observation. At the end of the Watering-In chapter, Jenks says:

Collect and focus the energy of moving water in the soil and air around a plant. You might call it chi, positive energy, lining-up, or paramagnetic force — whatever you call it, it pulls together your own energy with that of moving water, plants, and life in the soil.

Those simple actions and involuntary connections make life rich. One tiny action can set off a chain of scenes in our minds. Sometimes during a watering conversation, I’ll hear in my own voice an inflection, a tiny change of tone when I’m getting excited. I’ll then recall an afternoon, years ago, on a road trip with a friend, looking over a vast desert, my friend fixated, holding my shoulder, imploring me, saying “Now? Now you must be excited! Say it out loud!” Or when I water with a coffee can, I see the smooth twisting of water becoming a muddy stream of cypress pond water, pouring from the bottom of a tiny tin that my father picked up to nurse along a newly planted ocean tree seedling behind a barn that he dreamt of renovating, of making into our house.

Watering-in does all of that for me. It’s so elemental, something that builds unforgettable connections. When you teach someone to water-in, make sure it’s a fun experience, an important moment; it may be a moment they associate with watering for the rest of their life.

It’s such a sensual thing to do, watering plants. The feel of the water, the sight of the plant, and the soil, and the water being sucked into the soil. The smell of wet dirt. The sight and sound and presence of the birds who show up and want to play in the water. And when it’s hot, of course, I water myself a bit, too.

How do you water? Do you have a memory of learning how to do it?

Picture found here.

Bonus Sunday Garden Blogging

Last Winter’s brutal cold killed nearly all of my Spring camellia buds, but it looks as if I’m going to have quite a crop of Autumn camellias.


They Say a Witch Lives Here

Gwyndolyn cottage storybook Homes

I wish that I’d read this article about making a house a home before I bought my little cottage. Please read the whole thing, whether you’re still dreaming of your own home or whether you’ve lived for years in the place you were born to inhabit.

I especially like points 7 and 8:

7. When you hear the great-horned owl calling, take your daughter out into the night. Listen with her, and let the certainty of a second child bloom in the whos.

8. When your daughters run to you, calling excitedly about a frog or praying mantis, push aside whatever work lies before you, and show them by your keen interest that what they have discovered is the real work. Let them take down your field guide and flip the pages. Let their wonder feed your own.

I knew that I really lived here the first time that G/Son, then only two, and I lived through a thunderstorm here and then went outside barefoot, walked in the stream in front of the house, and sent prayers to the Potomac River. I knew that I would stay when I tucked him into bed, full of roast chicken, and apples, and cheese, and sang him to sleep under heavy covers.

I am the Witch of this place.

May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

Litha-time, and the Living is Easy

It’s been said and said that this past Winter was brutal here in the Magical MidAtlantic. The snow came far more frequently than we’ve learned to expect and, worse, there were days, and days, and days of bitter, bitter cold. The weather kept us indoors and damaged even the plants that it didn’t kill. Every Witch I know shakes her head when asked about her rosemary: “Didn’t make it. Had to plant new.”

And Spring, when it came — and it was slow to come — lingered on longer than it often does, with cool days and cooler nights. Even after I grew brave enough to plant some of the front porch planters, I’d step out in the morning and find the sweet potato vines withered up and unhappy over how cold the air had gotten overnight. They came back, well, all but two of them, but it took them a while.

But now, here, just before Litha, we’re finally getting what I think of as some real Virginia heat. It’s already in the 80s when you wake up in the morning, even early in the morning. (The birds have been “at it,” as we say here, for several hours already.) And you have to wake up early in the morning if you’re going to get anything done outside. (Well, I have to. I’m an old woman who spends most of her days at a desk, inside an air conditioned office. You can acclimate to working outside in this weather; Landscape Guy and his crew were over yesterday and then the lawn guys were here. But they’re young, and strong, and they do it every day, and even they are happy to stop for water.) By eleven o’clock or so, the sun is intense and I need to escape to the spot on the screen porch, directly under the ceiling fan, glass of ice water with mint at hand.

I was outside before six this morning, hoeing weeds out of my wee vegetable garden. How so many weeds can fit in such a little garden is one of life’s mysteries. It’s as if my garden is a tardis for weeds. The peppers, and squash, and cardoons, and Swiss chard, and bok choy, and lettuce that I started from seeds back in March are now big plants, a few of the peppers already beginning to turn red, the pattypan squash sporting giant blossoms that make me consider: fried squash blossoms now or actual squash in a few weeks??? So far, actual squash is winning, but I could always change my mind. The mint is out of control; the basil is huge; the parslies are finally beginning to grow; and the new rosemary bushes are beginning to branch out.

And just as we say that the Winter was “brutal,” we say that the heat is “oppressive.” Once the birds settle down from their crack-of-dawn concert, the world does get quiet in this heat and it is a different kind of quiet from the frozen silence of a mid-Winter morning. On days like this, we’re always half-expecting rain; it’s how, as often as not, the world resolves all this pent-up energy, here in the MidAtlantic, by late afternoon or early evening. And it matters because, when the temperatures get this hot, if it doesn’t rain, we’ll need to go water. Plants need more water in this heat. And, so, after I had battled the weeds to a blister on my thumb, I spent a lovely half an hour watering the Empress Wu hosta and the wisteria, the sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus), the datura, the toad lilies, and the ferns. If we don’t get rain tonight, I’ll have to hook up the sprinklers and do the woodland garden and the front beds.

I love these long, hot days. I love the humidity. I love the welcome relief that even a bit of shade can provide. I rejoice in the lightning bugs and the way that what I eat has more to do with what absolutely must get picked NOW than with anything else. Today, the Swiss chard has got to be picked, so I’ll be making a recipe that my friend Ina gave to me.

Cook some pasta. Sautee chopped Swiss chard w/ some onions and garlic. Chop up some basil and the zest of a lemon or two. Drain the pasta, mix in some ricotta and the Swiss chard. Top with basil and lemon zest, as well as some red pepper flakes, if you like. Eat immediately.

What are the days just before Litha like in your landbase?

Late Spring in the Garden

I thought you might like a garden tour today.

Here’s one of my jack-in-the-pulpits:


Shortly after the jacks bloom, the wisteria flowers:


Then, the iris open up:


And, just now, the foxgloves are in their glory:



What’s blooming in your garden? In your life?

Remembering Spring


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

Some People Play Fantasy Football; I Play Fantasy Gardening


I had dinner with Landscape Guy last night and we were commiserating with each other over the plants we’ll likely lose due to this deep freeze. Nothing to do at this point but sit inside our snug cottages and hope.

Well, of course, that’s not entirely true. Most gardeners spend the Winter months plotting and planning the coming year’s garden. And, right on time, the garden catalogs start showing up in our mailboxes. This week, I got my Dutch Gardens catalog and found myself enjoying the fanciful plant names. It would be fun to have a garden full of plants with Pagan names.

Various Goddesses and Gods could be represented by Lady Liberty Dahlia and Lady Liberty Peony, Green Goddess Calla, Jupiter’s Beard, Coyote Mint, and Mars Magic Alcea.

Purple Dragon Lamium, Firespinner Ice Plant, Bonfire Euphorbia, and Dragon’s Blood Sedum for our love of the Elements.

Maybe Pagan Purples Delphinium next to the Purple Dragon Lamium? Blue Moon Wisteria growing on a trellis with New Moon Globeflowers at the base?

A nod to the Summerland with the Apple Blossom Dahlia Mixture and a shout-out to Samhein with the Pumpkin Dahlia Mixture. Old Court Shasta Daisies in honor of the Old Ones?

Who wouldn’t want a Black Sprite Centaurea in the garden? Maybe in the center of a bed of Goblin Gaillardia?

I wonder what plants would go in a Tarot garden? (It’s going to be a long Winter.)

Picture found here.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Spent time going through all of this year’s photos in order to make my annual “G/Son Calendar” which I gift to his ‘rents and other grandparents. Kept coming across garden pics that made me happy. Here are a few of my favorites from this year’s garden on my Bit of Earth. I hope you enjoy.

Jack in the Pulpit

Jack in the Pulpit

White Heron Iris

White Heron Iris

Black Iris

Black Iris



Garden Dragon

Garden Dragon

Queen Anne's Lace in Front Cottage Garden

Queen Anne’s Lace in Front Cottage Garden

First Basil Harvest of 2013

First Basil Harvest of 2013

Autumn Camellias

Autumn Camellias

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

The Oldest Flowering Plant in North America

Lately, my daily practice is more and more a matter of getting grounded enough to learn from the mycellium that connect everything in my little Bit of Earth.

(Random mourners at the funeral: “You can’t deny, she was an intelligent woman, a successful lawyer, very well-respected in her field. Imagine her dying out in that back woodland and no one finding her for days! They said her hands, and mouth, and lungs were full of soil!

Accumulated a nice nest egg, owned her home, paid her taxes, always voted, bought cookies from the girl scouts, donated to the local library, did a lot of pro bono work, and brought bundles of herbs and baskets of muffins when new neighbors moved in.

Too bad she went so crazy in the end, imagining she could talk to the fungi attached to tree roots or some such! Just think! She spent her evenings thinking that she was “talking” to fungi and that they were the Earth’s brain cells! They say she died happy, though. Wonder who’ll get her Hermes collection.”

“Well I heard she fancied herself a Witch. It was a rather extensive collection, wasn’t it?”)

One thing that I’ve learned is that mycellium value very highly the ability to communicate/carry information between not only, say, my two Japanese Temple Pines, but also between, for example, the Temple Pines and the Bracken’s Brown Magnolias, and the White Oak, and the Daisy Gardenia shrubs, and the, well, you get the idea. And the soil keeps shifting and the plants keep shifting and the mycellium that connect the plant communities of the Eastern MidAtlantic to the plant communities on the other side of the Appalachians are very important. Information, for them, is material; it’s cells, and microbes, and droplets of sugar water, and it’s also concentrated sunshine, and it’s also the way that the stars were formed. They’ve/It’s been doing this for a long, long time. The planet didn’t just get connected when someone developed the internet. (Some say that mycellium are “sentient,” which, duh, of course they are, and that they know when you are present. After you walk, “the very ground leaps up” to absorb the nutrients you’ve left behind. Of course it does. And that makes walking a holy act. Maybe that’s one reason why I love to go outside barefoot.)

And, so, I was delighted today to read this story about one of America’s oldest flowering plants. I wonder about the mycellium that connected its roots to those of its neighbors. The article says that:

There’s also a much more recent history of this fossil that’s just as fascinating. Jud[, the student who wrote about the fossil,] did a bit of research and found that it’d been excavated in 1971 by a former Smithsonian curator, Leo Hickey, who went on to Yale and died in February before working with Jud to re-analyze the fossil after all these years. Hickey had found it during a dig at the Dutch Gap, in Virginia, in sediments that were exposed over a century earlier, by freed slaves who were forcibly taken from the Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony by Union troops and forced to dig a canal in August 1864.

While digging, they exposed ancient fossil-filled rocks, and a few decades later, in the 1870s and 1880s, scientists worked there to collect fossils and create some of the Smithsonian’s first fossil collections. Later, Hickey and other researchers returned to collect remaining specimens.

Jud honored this recent history in naming the ancient species that this specimen represents. “Potomac refers to the Potomac Group beds where the fossil was found, capnos is a reference to living poppies that are quite similar to the fossil and apeleutheron is the Greek word for freedmen,” he says. “So the new plant will be named Potomacapnos apeleutheron: roughly, ‘freedmen’s poppy of the Potomac.’”

I love that. I want to go see the site in my state where this earliest flowering plant was found. I want to pour a blot for the Freedmen for whom this Potomac poppy was named and for the likely-still-extant mycellium that talked to its roots. Maybe they’ll talk to me.

What’s the gossip in your landbase?