Chop Wood, Carry Water…

octobergarden
October garden – nearing Beltane.

T’other night, I started a post about witches. Over at my other space. Because it’s a wonderful, troubling, difficult, interesting, and joyous subject. But oy vey! Quel topic, friends. So I’m having a break and popping in here to catch up…

Today is one of those voluptuous October days, in the deep South of the world, that has a body just gazing in stunned wonder at the lusciousness of it all.

This time of the year makes the sometimes hard work of Winter living at Rapunzel’s a kind of fabulous reward for being here. In truth, I’ve never seen the garden so luscious, nor so many creatures thriving here.

I take my tea out into the garden, as I do most mornings of the year, and I sit with the Moo, (aka, Mrs Miggins); feeling the luxury and softness of the warm air.

The days roll closer to Summer, moving towards nights that stretch langorously from dusk to midnight. Those nights that seduce you outside with their scent of jasmine, and all of the strange, bewitching night sounds. And oh the stars in these mountain skies!

mooandbench
My sweet, but wycked companion…The Moo. This was moments before she stuck her claws in my favourite new-old dress. Just for larks.

And I think about the rhythms and chores of this life up here on the mountain. How these rhythms can demand a lot of my energy and time.

It’s the chop-wood-carry-water life. And I’d never have it any other way.

This is the life I dreamed of making and creating, many years ago. A witch, pottering about in a cottage in a forest. And a big element of that is really experiencing the seasons in a less mediated way. Even when they’re confronting, unromantic, and not altogether fairytale-ish.

I’ve had friends and acquaintances feel sorry for me over the years. To them it seems as though I’m deprived, or it’s just too much work, (some days it can be). They are aghast that I walk home with shopping, rather than drive, (I don’t like gyms, and I can’t abide being sedentary, so it’s good incidental exercise). Some of them are a little horrified by my op-shop habit ; ) And why I buy pretty much all my clothing from op-shops, (but I do have some beautiful clothes).

There are certainly some days, (those freezing, dark mornings) when it feels too hard, when I grumble about all I have to do before my day begins. But that passes.

Because it’s what I choose. It’s voluntary, and that in itself is a privilege, of which I’m well aware.

I’m often bewildered by what I perceive as the challenges of other people’s lives. The amount of driving they do, the busy-ness and constant appointments, endless shopping, and out-sourcing. The sitting for long hours inside windowless offices, enduring office politics and mind games.

To me, that’s hard. Maintaining a certain standard of living seems hard, to me.

I don’t want to sound self-righteous, or as though I’ve got it all worked out. Because I so haven’t, of course. I’m still locked into a system, like nearly all of us are, unless we go and disappear into the wilderness and live a prepper-type of existence.

But I often see such longing around me, and a frantic kind of consumption that seeks to compensate for the franticness itself. An ensnaring cycle of trying to soothe stress, or boredom, or noise, or overwhelm. When it’s hard to take a breath, instant gratification, numbing out, accompanied by FOMO* can so easily become our default mechanisms when we feel disconnected from our deeper, often buried rhythms.

Our tender human selves are not made for all that.

Yet here, in this life now, despite the struggles and challenges that I face, (we all have them, hey?) I don’t feel disconnected from the natural world. Although I do feel I’m constantly side-stepping the outrageous demands of a wider culture that has normalised us to be frogs in a pot.

I’m claimed by different rhythms, through necessity. I have to confront the cold, and the heat; and move with the changes, from brittle frost, to soft blossom. I feel more and more woven into the fabric of this place, recognising the echo of nature’s cycles in me.

And I experience more than ever, a greater sense of anticipation and celebration for each season and cycle of the moon. That I’m belonging to beauty – included and embraced in a way that our youth-obsessed culture never includes women as we age.

It would be a wrench, if I ever have to leave here. Me, this creature of quick-silvered change and restless movement who is usually able to move on so easily. And even though I’m a child of the sea, this land has hidden my seal-skin, and bound my heart, utterly.

In Winter, I must collect kindling. Mostly from the wild, fae area of my garden. Collecting fallen elm* twigs and branches. Giving thanks, whispering love songs.

great elm
I’m extremely blessed to have a beautiful, (and increasingly rare) English elm tree as the great guardian of my back garden. It’s about 40ft high, and around 40-50 years old. I recently removed a whole lot of choking jasmine from the trunk and branches, and cut though some gnarly old fence wire that was girdling the poor soul too tightly, and cutting into the trunk. I like to think this one is breathing easier now.

During those cold months, I wake in the morning with my breath steaming in the air. The house is so cold, and dark; and frankly inhospitable. But I know that in order to be warm, I must light the fire. So I step warily onto the icy floor, and whip my woollen shawl about my shoulders.

But in order to build the fire, there are mornings when I must empty some of the teetering pile of ash that’s accumulated. So I scoop them up and take them outside, into the bitter air, and offer them up to the roses.

I get the fire burning and build it up, until it’s burning fiercely. Then I light candles and incense, and put the kettle on for tea. On those dark days, I don’t feel compelled to throw all the lights on, but instead remember that the darkness belongs to that quiet season.

When we moved to Rapunzel’s, we made a conscious decision to remove the energy-guzzling gas heater that was here, before the wood-burner was installed. That heater allowed the mere the flip of a switch to warm us. Without any inconvenience, without giving it a thought, I could sleepily rise and turn on the heat, going about my day. That’s if there wasn’t a power cut, (of which there are many up here).

But I didn’t want that kind of convenience. I wanted both the work and the warmth of a real fire, and a sense of greater self-sufficiency. Because there’s nothing as cosy as a fire. It has that ancestral pull. Every one of us here at Rapunzel’s is drawn to gather around the fire. To read, to chat and cuddle animals; to gaze silently into the flames.

In Winter, I can indulge in long, hot baths, because our water tank is full. The work of the garden slows, and I can observe more, and sink into the dreaming work of gardening. The imagined tendrils of a future Spring.

Now that we’re drawing closer to Beltane – the beginning of Summer in the Celtic calendar** – the nature of the work is different, of course. There’s a lot more work, and the pace is speeding up. Yet these new rhythms connect me more deeply to the season.

veggarden

Throughout the warmer months, I must spend a goodly amount of time each day ensuring that plants are receiving water and protection from sun when its at its most fierce. We grab quick showers to conserve precious rainwater. We prepare for bushfire season, and remain vigilant on hot days. I accept that this is part of what I have chosen when I chose to live here.

And the living here, the labour of it, is inseparable from the love.

xxx

On another note. It’s been too long since I regularly visited and read blogs. And in fact, I need to organise myself a proper blog-feed. Because now that I have a bit more energy and time for such things, I’m keen to discover new places to visit. So if you have any bloggy recommendations then I would be greatly appreciated. And if you have a blog of your own you’d like to remind me about, then please do leave the link in a comment below, if you are so inclined, sweet dears. xx

 

 

*I choose JOMO, (an acronym coined by my dear friend Mel in this post. Which is just perfect). Whereas FOMO is the Fear of Missing Out, JOMO is the Joy of Missing Out.

**My own seasonal beliefs are a hybrid of the old Celtic seasons, and the local indigenous ones. I observe the Celtic seasons in that they are very true to me ancestrally, but also in terms of the angles of the light throughout the seasons. The land here may be very different to that of my ancestors’, but the changes in light remain true to those Celtic seasonal rhythms. In regards to indigenous seasons – there are 7 seasons according to the Kulin people. This is Kulin country, where I dwell, and they describe these mountains as “cold country”. September-October is Poorneet Tadpole Season, when there warmer temperatures, frogs spawning, currawongs singing, and flax-lilies flowering. (source)

 

6 thoughts on “Chop Wood, Carry Water…

  1. I was thinking much along the same lines recently as I was carting this year’s supply of firewood into the shed from the driveway where a litttle old man deposits it directly from the forest each winter. I was annoyed at first about having to have a sore back again, how I didn’t get to paint that week. But then I realized it’s a very small price to pay for living the way I do. (In a small, run down cottage on 10 acres of land far from traffic, potholes in the road, weeds everywhere, no proper sewer, and gasp, slow internet. Delightful, yeah? *G*)

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    1. Ah, yes. Delightful indeed Pia ; ) I just spent days stacking some firewood for next season, (with quite a lot of huffing and puffing over how time-consuming it is, (with too many bitey bugs).
      But now that it’s done, I’m all aglow with my halo of glee and smugness. I have to laugh. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “claimed by different rhythms”, indeed. i am too, 150 million% with you on this. and others do seem to find it strange.

    i like the magic of building a morning fire, and the quiet of limiting lights in the dusk and dawn times. i like walking (and loathe gyms). i like finding treasurable clothing at op-shops, knowing that it won’t look like everything else about, and that it didn’t require any more energy/resources/ill-paid labour to produce it because it’s already in the use loop. i like having a link to the seasons, being part of them.yes, there is some work involved in your life, and yes some limitations; but how beautifully free it feels. our culture has no respect for physical labour and a horror of limitation. and the price (apart from global injustice and a planet in distress) is exactly what you describe above, and what i see daily in other people: a sense of missing out, a frantic pace, a vicious cycle in which one is always busy, yet also always bored or overwhelmed and unsatisfied. frankly, looks like misery to me. collecting wood, preparing nourishing food, tending the garden, even cleaning house: these are all work, sometimes bloody hard work, but it is satisfying. and free.

    if you hear of any blog treasures, do share. i imagine you already know about anything i’d suggest; but i like sarah anne lawless. tom hirons’ poetry blog. myth & moor. gather victoria. beth owl’s daughter. monarch astrology, if you’re into that. i put rubbishy poems and occasional rants on various and sundry.

    enjoy poorneet tadpole season!

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    1. I think we have similar rhythms and responses to the seasons; and generally, ways of being in the world. And I do feel what you say: that it’s work, but it’s satisfying and free. Even free-ing.

      Thanks for the blog suggestions! Some I am familiar with, but others I’m not, and am eager to check out. xx

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  3. all of the emphatic ‘yeses’ here again! It’s my fondest wish that we would have a woodstove here in the patchwork farmhouse — it positively SCREAMS for one — but alas, the landlord is reluctant because of insurance and that sort of thing. Still, I live in hope. There’s a deep and old magic in the building and tending of a fire for warmth…it tugs at all of my cells.

    I think the reason I’ve chosen to remain ‘under-employed’ is that my job keeps me close to the rhythms of the earth. I’m outdoors, in all weathers, and while it’s unbelievably horrid sometimes, I wouldn’t exchange it for cubicle life. Right now, the organizing of winter herds is happening, moving the horses into fields and paddocks closer to the barns, getting the round-bale feeders put in and sorting out heated water tanks….all part of following the change of the weather as the nourishment of the grass ebbs away and the threat of frost is real.

    And at home — starting the work of tucking the garden into bed….oh but the garden was brilliant this year, I thought I’d never want it to be over…but I woke up the other day being ready to bid it goodbye, to let the work ease off until all that’s required is filling bird-feeders and keeping the Ladies toasty and warm.

    Cycles and rhythms….they’re desperately lacking in the ‘civilized world’ — to a great detriment, i think.

    loved this, love you. xoxo

    ps. I’m always up for new bloggy treasures — i doubt i read anything that you already don’t! xo

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    1. Oh but I can absolutely *see* a woodstove in the patchwork farmhouse! In fact, I imagine you with the most Molly Weasley of woodstoves (the best kind in the world), with a steaming kettle atop, and the smell of baking bread. Don’t give up the dream! I held onto my own woodstove dreams, (moste subbornly), for 2 & 1/2 years.

      I’m so in agreement with you on preferring tough physical labour over cubicle life. I couldn’t handle the latter for one moment, at this stage of my life.

      And I do so love that phrase “tucking the garden into bed”. My grandma used to say that, and I always loved that idea as a child. I used to think that meant reading the plants a bedtime story. Which I feel, wouldn’t be amiss at all! ; )

      Much love to you dear heart. xx

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