Youngblood Blog

Writing weblog, local, topical, personal, spiritual

2011 Year of the Leap: all the ONES: 01:01:11

Ice follies 2010-2011

We just passed solstice: solar ‘standstill’, the point when the Sun appears to come to rest at the center of the galactic plane. It seems to stand on celestial equator, pausing in time, moving neither north nor south.

Two more winter solstices to go and we shall again coincide with Galactic Center on December 21, 2012, when the Great Cycle calendar of the Maya comes to full rest; pause; restart.

This year’s solstitial preparation for the New is a good time for pausing. For all of us:

To contemplate how much we shall change in the coming year — because the Human Race is changing fast and we have changed radically in the past year —

To give thanks for the road that brought us here to this point in space and time and for this moment — before plunging into the maelstrom once more —

To bless all those immediately around us NOW — as well as our loved ones far afield — “absent friends” — and family gone to fresher fields —

A time to remember and a time to look forward —

[Refrain of Auld Lang Syne here optional]

New Beginnings
ღ♥ღ *♥- ҈ -*※ HAPPY DAKINI DAY ღ♥ღ *♥- ҈ -*※
Yesterday (December 30) was also, by good fortune, a pan-Buddhist Dakini Day: the eleventh moon of the eleventh month of the lunar calendar of Metal Tiger Year.

Time to wish the Buddhist prayer to all —

Having reached the ultimate wisdom of the spontaneously accomplished four visions, may we be enlightened in the primordially-pure Youthful Vase Body.

OM MANI PADME HUM

Photobucket

May we dedicate all positive words to the enlightenment of all sentient beings in Six Realms of Cyclic Existence

To attain pure awareness which is displayed in the Skull of the Absolute Expanse, may we invoke the variegated desirable qualities of rainbow rays and may the Orbs of the Six Lights shine.

Return of the Dinosaurs -- or was that Minneapolis?

On December 21st, the Sun entered the third earth sign of the zodiac — Capricorn — at 3:40PM PST 10 days ago: ‘beginning’ winter in the Northern Hemisphere, according to old tradition. Recent earth changes and climatic trends, however, have made winter begin a lot earlier annually for most of us.

Astral Weather Vane, a division of the excellent Humanity Healing voluntary organization, gives this prognostication for solstice 2010 and oncoming year of 2011:

The festivities begin with a Full Moon (activating 30 degrees of Sagittarius and Gemini at 12:15AM PST 21 December).
Adding more significance and potential turbulence to this start of a season is Mercury in Sagittarius square to Jupiter in Pisces (5:00PM PST).

Astral Weather Vane says:
If this sounds familiar, the reason is Mercury and Jupiter already made this square pattern in the heavens on November 25 and they will do so again on January 11, 2011 [close to the time of another lunar eclipse Ed.] This is all due to Mercury’s current retrograde cycle from December 12th to 29th.

Mercury 90-degrees to Jupiter can equate with tensions in communications and disruptions to travel schedules.*

For the solstitial and New Year period, Humanity Healing recommends sending out healing thoughts and prayers to people in need, humanity and the kingdoms of nature. “Uplifting and enlightening our entire home planet is a keynote of every solar-lunar, monthly high-cycle. Individual and group meditations are advised.”

World weather Hogmanay 2010/2011, courtesy weather.org

*I empathize with this announcement, as I was personally involved when Northern Europe was in the grip of an ice storm December 9th (when I attempted to escape the wintry blasts only to be thwarted and held captive in an Amersterdam airport hotel overnight — in order to APPRECIATE the full weight of snow I was escaping). The freeze lasted until well after the solstitial eclipse.

In the coldest December for a century (since records began in 1890) Great Britain made a series of unprecedented individual payments of GBP25 per week to residents for the whole month of December. The ‘cold-weather payment’ was paid by the British Government to needy elderly frozen residents — over five million of them — for four weeks of December 2010 ‘when the temperature averaged 32ºF or below for six successive days and nights’.

Britain remained in the Big Freeze until only a brief brush with the Atlantic Gulf Stream’s northwesterly drift (December 28-29) through Cornwall, Wales and western Scotland allowed the coastline to hold the shores (and airports) open over Hogmanay.

Hogmanay
This last night of the Old Year — in case the strange tradition of the emergence of male Scot inadequately clad in freezing temperatures is an unfamiliar one — is traditional but freezing time for Scots to emerge from hovels/caves/pubs/boozers to booze some more in the freezing streets while singing a jolly Hogmanay blast of song. Once again re-entering the cave/pub/drinking establishment for the rest of the wee hours until January 1st is well and truly ‘welcomed in’.

While a temporary temperature reprieve has set in for a few days — Edinburgh streets are still paved with snow — the storm moved (again uncharacteristically) west. The northerly airflow hit the northern Atlantic waters and Northeastern Seaboard of the USA was next to receive the Nordic blast – storms and temperatures plummetting in high jet stream shivers across the Atlantic and freezing in the northerly states of Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where only a dusting is usual.

Of course Minneapolis/St Paul is having its usual subzero delight of Northern Winter. We’ll temporarily ignore Minneapolis/St Paul. The Pacific NW continues balmy.

Asterisk Saga explanation

Capt. Robert Falcon Scott's ship the 'Terra Nova" waiting for his return from the South Pole January 12, 1911. He never returned.

*I, for one, am more than grateful to be where I am at this very moment. Not only have I braved, Capt Scott-like, Antarctic-clone snowdrifts on my Grampian hillslope in early December; sledge-and-suitcase strapped to manoeuver a farmtrack totally infilled with nine-foot swathes of swirling white: to reach a (patient, angelic) waiting taxi at the farm one mile below in the black whitescape at 4a.m. —
— only to be turned back at the airport — by officious and insensitive airline officials who seemed unaware that Aberdeen was the only airport operational in Scotland at the time — and I was three minutes late for the gate —

— to be re-routed (at great expense) to Minneapolis/St Paul — which was the very last place on the planet I wished to go to — only to be carefully mismanaged by the same officious staff, I take it, to arrive too late in Amsterdam to make a Mineapolis/St Paul connection. Thank you, Snow Angels.

To be cossetted and carefully and gently and kindly assisted by KLM staff (endless compliments here) and rerouted to my correct destination, San Francisco, one day late, but hotel, sustenance and accommodation/internet efficiently and freely given, while making very little drama out of a crisis.

And not — at that time — being aware that Schiphol Amsterdam was the ONLY OTHER airport open in Europe.

Two days and several continents later, I arrive to relative balmy winter of rainy northern California and am grateful to leave Europe and its frozen Angst behind.

Thank you Jupiter square Mercury.

Runup to solstice.

Silence.

Run up to New Year and the January 4th partial lunar eclipse which will serve as a signal that some of the Angst may be over… but don’t hold your breath.

wild snow wolves... or just wild snow...

At solstice the Earth goes through one of its two sacred time shifts in its annual orbit when the Sun appears to stand still on the Celestial Equator.

Time for hibernation: or meditation: or both. To prepare for what’s to come:

The leap into 2011: all the ONES: 01:01:11.

This year of 2011 may be the year we as a species make that quantum leap. Are you ready? I think we’re in for a wild ride.

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December 31, 2010 Posted by | astrology, astronomy, calendar customs, earth changes, elemental, energy, festivals, New Earth, seasonal, winter, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Arbor Day and Earth Week

Trees: without them and our wilderness, we as a species are lost

‘Archetype of our oneness with the earth’

We used to call it Arbor Day. On the hinge between Aries and Taurus, when the Sun enters this celebratory earth sign in the western zodiac calendar: that’s the day John Muir was born in 1838. A native Scot who emigrated to the United States and changed the face of a nation, Muir was the original arborist: lover of trees.

Wolves being hunted to extinction following a change in legislation to the US Endangered Species Act

It wasn’t easy. In early 19th-century Britain or the US, wilderness wasn’t a concept naturally entertained by Victorian huntin’ shootin’ choppin’ mentality. [It still isn’t, one might argue, when considering the recent Obama administration’s upholding the Bush cancellation of sections of the Endangered Species Act: which has resulted in wholesale wolf-massacre in the US States of Montana, Idaho, New Mexico and Alaska].

Muir had similar adversaries. A naturalist and explorer of nature, his favorite wildernesses were in northern California, and it is there that his perseverance eventually paid off.

His activism was instrumental in saving swathes of western wilderness which eventually became the National Parks of Yellowstone, Yosemite Valley and Sequoia NP. The Sierra Club, which he founded in 1892, is now the most important (and vociferous) conservation organization in the United States.

His essays, letters and books have been read by millions.

At first, however, his petitions to conserve large areas of natural beauty were ignored. In the USA, it was a time of railroad expansion, the explosion of large cities, and big business in politics and in agriculture.

In his opinion, the high Sierras and other wild mountainscapes were being ravaged by livestock grazing (especially sheep, which he termed ‘hoofed locusts’). He personally spent weeks, sometimes months, in this high country, documenting and writing about the need to allow areas of such magnificence protection from grazing and (by analogy, its later counterpart,) the human and vehicular footprint.

He was persistent and he was inspired. The wild nature of California captivated him, from his first moment of exposure to its awesome grandeur.

Yosemite by Ansel Adams

“We are in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us” John Muir

He had, after all, grown up in rural (but ‘tamed’) Scotland, where the wildcat was close to extinction, where wild boar no longer existed outside zoos, and where in his grandfather’s time a royal patron, King George I (‘Big Geordie’), had commissioned a granite bridge over a tributary of the River Dee at Invercauld, so he could be wheeled from Ballater to the hide to shoot; and where, incidentally, he is credited with killing Scotland’s last wolf in 1722.

Muir saw huge vistas of the Cairngorms, Deeside, Donside and the Ladder Hills have their natural tree populations annihilated by sheep, deer and rabbit. He dreamed of a world that might be otherwise.

Grandeur of Yosemite inspired Muir's lifelong work for wilderness

Muir arrived in San Francisco in 1868, and immediately set out to spend a solitary week in Yosemite. He later built a cabin there, where he lived for three years. For months at a time he would wander alone in the wilderness, making notes, carrying ‘only a tin cup, a handful of tea, a loaf of bread, and a copy of Emerson.’ It is here that he and his correspondent-in-Nature Ralph Waldo Emerson eventually met in 1871; Emerson traveling from Harvard to meet the man who lived the life he merely wrote about. His visit lasted only one day, but he promised assistance, and offered Muir a teaching position at the prestigious university, which Muir declined. ‘My work is here’, he said.

In 1872, the first National Park was created by federal legislation, on the strength of Muir’s efforts, at Yellowstone, Wyoming. It was to be the precursor of many others in the continental United States, including a total of nine national parks, now administered within the State of California by the National Parks service.

After his meeting with Emerson and over the following twenty years, Muir gathered, collated and compiled volumes of data on geology, natural history and plant and animal life populations of the Sierras. He envisioned Yosemite and the Sierra mountain range as pristine lands where original wildlife might roam, breed and proliferate, unimpeded by artificial (human) regulation. It was a difficult concept to instill. And his vision suffered throughout his life, wherever conflict surfaced between wilderness and ‘business.’

In one respect he was visionary, in doggedly hounding US Congress, and in writing for pro-conservationist magazines and organizations.

‘“Few are altogether deaf to the preaching of pine trees. Their sermons on the mountains go to our hearts, and if people in general could be got into the woods, even for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way of forest preservation would vanish.”


In 1873 and 1874, he made field studies along the western flank of the Sierra Nevada, on the distribution and ecology of isolated groves of Giant Sequoia, one of the few redwood groves left in the world in virgin stands. In 1876, the American Association for the Advancement of Science published Muir’s paper on the subject. In his personal essays, however, he valued nature for its spiritual and transcendental qualities.

Mount Whitney, at 14,500ft, the southern terminus of the John Muir Trail

His work inspired countless Americans, whose culture at the time was focused on the growing phenomenon of sky-scraper building and nationwide travel. He got them out of cities and back to nature. His work inspired photographers like Ansel Adams, painters such as Bierstadt, Jorgensen and Virgil Williams and he might even be seen as the father of the naturalist movement ‘EarthFirst‘. In the words of his biographer Steven Holmes:

“Muir has profoundly shaped the very categories through which Americans understand and envision their relationships with the natural world.”

John Muir in 1907 - wildman to the end

In 1903, after an inspirational (but chilly) night in a tent at Glacier Point with President Teddy Roosevelt, whom Muir was invited to take ‘to the wilderness’, the President rearranged bureaucratic legislation, and consolidated the boundaries of Yosemite, which had been split and decimated for earlier conflicting ‘business interests.’

Many wilderness areas are named after him: from Muir Woods and Muir Beach in Marin County, north of San Francisco, to the 211-mile John Muir Trail, which runs from Yosemite through King’s Canyon NP and Sequoia National Park, to the 14,500-ft peak of Mount Whitney in central California. A glacier in Alaska bears his name. He was instrumental not only in establishing the structure which became National Parks, but in the resulting expansion of National Forests, including areas with protected ‘Reserve’ status. In addition, State Parks now proliferate throughout the US. California, alone, has twelve regions of state parks (CSPs) administering 278 parks on 1.4 million protected acres.

So, what has happened in the bigger picture?

John Muir would be delighted to know that in 1964, the US government passed the Wilderness Act, to protect around nine million acres of wilderness. Arbor Day was traditionally a celebration conceived in the midwestern state of Nebraska (a treeless zone), as a springtime event to encourage the young to plant a tree. And two Earth Days appeared on the American calendar–one ratified by the United Nations and celebrated on equinox, March 21st–when both hemispheres receive equal amounts of light and dark and when the sun appears to stand directly overhead on the equator; the other, April 22nd, has gradually superseded Arbor Day; their celebrations now interchangeable.

Recently, with the advent of the blog, acceleration of internet communication and a focus on Earth-related activities, New Earth consciousness, Earth Day has expanded into ‘Earth Week‘. That, too, would please Muir.

But what of his homeland? the sheep-munched treeless wilderness of northern Scotland?

Cairngorm National Park

Cairngorms National Park was established in 2003, the largest of 12 national parks in Britain at 1400 square miles, literally 10% of the landmass of Scotland. Stretching from Grantown-on-Spey (north) to Glen Clova in Angus (south) and from Ballater on Deeside in Aberdeenshire (east) to Laggan and Dalwhinnie (Aviemore) on the A9 (west). Its supporters describe great vistas, mountainous peaks (all less than 4000ft) and the Tourist Board of Scotland heralds it a shelter for a quarter of Scotland’s threatened species, and home to 25% of its native trees.

That in itself is disturbing.

Its ‘Angus glens’ the ‘haunt of red deer and golden eagle’; ‘heather moor vivid with summer color’, and ‘wild tundra of high mountain tops’ tell the story.

Every last vestige of hunting forest put to the torch by Robert Bruce, 1308

Brief historical recap: in the early 14th century, Robert the Bruce murdered his (Comyn) rival for the throne of Scotland and pursued his son through the hunting forests of Aberdeenshire until he cornered him in his coastal Buchan fortress and – having proclaimed himself monarch – confiscated what was left of Comyn lands. On the ‘royal’ progress north, every last indigenous native Caledonian pine was either burned to the ground or used as live torches to light the way of the conquering army. This deliberate extinction of the species–and the wildlife it harbored–was Bruce’s way of destroying the Comyn hunting forests, themselves a symbol of wealth and source of self-regenerating food and fuel supply. His act (colloquially called the ‘Herschip o’ Buchan’, harrying of Comyn lands in Buchan) totally changed the face of Aberdeenshire, from which it has never recovered.

What Robert Bruce’s actions created – a treeless raised beach from the Grampian mountains to the sea – was not replanted. Except for small pockets on landed estates where tree regeneration was encouraged, an agricultural zeal took over the desolate wasteland, capitalizing on open countryside with few obstructions.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Highland estates cleared out their resident employees–crofters–to make way for agricultural innovation: turnips and sheep. While these ‘clearances’ were more specific to Caithness, Sutherland and the western portions of Scotland, some effects were felt in what is now the Cairngorms National Park. Where sheep were introduced, trees died; were not replanted; not allowed to regenerate. Where deer population had been nurtured and maintained in small numbers in remnant natural forests, for hunting, with the exit of human monitors, they overpopulated and devastated their own environment.

Thus, the Tourist Board’s ‘heather moor with vivid summer color’ and ‘wild tundra’.

Tree planting has begun again in the agricultural hinterland

The tourist brochure’s proclaiming its 1400 sq.miles as “harboring one quarter of the nation’s native trees” is also misleading. One tenth of the landmass containing one quarter of the nation’s pine, birch, aspen and alder? sounds a little drastic. Especially if compared with John Muir’s Yellowstone. Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres, or 3.5 thousand square miles, has more trees per acre than all of Scotland put together. It is true that Aberdeenshire, a region half the size of Switzerland, still has fewer indigenous trees than it should–for its kindly climate–support. But that number is growing: private plantations are beginning to take hold again.

The good news is the story of Glen Affric: and Trees for Life. This Scots charity has gradually (through donation) been purchasing 600 square miles of ancient Caledonian remnant forest west of Inverness, and has begun the mammoth task of replanting original species of oak, alder, Caledonian pine, juniper, birch and rowan (mountain ash).

Regeneraton of Caledonian pine -- a rewarding task

While their goal is not to service the forestry industry, but rather to provide habitat for original animal, insect and plant subspecies, (with the possible future reintroduction of wild boar and wolf being tentatively suggested), the group recognize that some felling and forestry operations may be appropriate.

‘We envision our work to restore the Caledonian Forest as not only helping to bring the land here back to a state of health and balance, but also having global relevance, as a model for similar projects in other countries.’

Other small parcels–once adjacent to hillfarms, and escaping the ‘set-aside’ agricultural brainstorms of the 1980s–were maintained by individuals, and planted with pines, which are now starting to look mature.

John Muir would indeed be proud of his ancient heritage and the inspiration it has given new groups to start again.

Old growth 1000-year old redwoods felled in early 19thC lumber operations

The best news, however, is back in California.

In Muir’s time, after the (1848) Gold Rush, California was inundated with new immigrants. His beloved trees came under great threat. In the 1880s four hundred sawmills north of San Francisco were churning out lumber from felled redwood giants–a process which accelerated after the 1906 earthquake–in a need for timber to rebuild the city. In 1920, however, the Save the Redwoods League began purchasing groves that would become the backbone of California’s redwoods parks. It continues adding to this day.

In the 1950s–the post-war boom–lumber mills were cutting in excess of one billion board-feet of timber per year, a level maintained until the mid-1970s, when clear-felling vast acreage of virgin trees was still allowed.

…Until science and sense stepped in.

Science argued, but the battle was won by 1990s tree-sitters, those brave souls who camped out in makeshift treetop platforms while Caterpillars, chainsaws and chokesetters bumped and strained and devastated beneath them.

To explain:

Old growth virgin redwoods now protected in State and National Parks

In 1905, the Murphy family started Pacific Lumber, believing that by leaving some of their old growth redwoods standing, they could sustain an industry, well into the 21st century. But Pacific Lumber was purchased (by hostile takeover) in 1985, by Houston-based Maxxam, and clear-felling became the norm. Like the Amazon rainforest, Maxxam were clear-cutting eighty acres of California redwoods at a time–eating into the company’s (and the State’s) last remaining virgin stands. When CEO Charles Hurwitz attempted to clear-cut the largest remaining block of old growth redwood, in Headwaters Forest in Humboldt County, in 1990, tree-sitters — ‘Forest Defenders’ — scaled remaining giants the size of a Boeing 707, and moved in.

They were supplied food and refreshment by allies via pulleys, by night, their hoists and ropes removed and burned by loggers, by day. Tempers ran high; lives were lost; protesters murdered. But State legislature listened and stepped in.

Headwaters Forest was purchased in 1999 by State and Federal government agencies, and put under permanent protection. Clear-felling practice was legally reduced to a 20-40-acre maximum.

The logging industry finally sat up and paid attention. Its own resource was decimated; salmon runs and ecosystems had suffered in a mindless race for economic gain, with only ‘table scraps’ left, in the view of Humboldt State University forest scientist Steve Sillett. ‘The challenge now is to improve management on the 95% of redwood landscape (felled) that is just starting into regrowth.’

Sequoia sempervirens, redwoods as big as a Boeing 707

Growing trees like a crop of grain is no longer the enlightened view. Scientists from HSU have discovered that the older the redwood, the harder and more disease-resistant is the wood, and the tougher its ability to withstand weathering, damage; i.e. you get more value out of one 1000-year old tree than a thousand 10-year olds. Forestry attitudes are changing too. Heavy Caterpillar earthmoving tractors, that caused such erosion (skid trails) and consequent pollution to streams and spawning pools, are being replaced by smaller, lighter shovel loaders on tracks which leave the forest floor intact. State law now enforces a mandatory buffer zone of trees, along streams and rivers, and salmon and other fish are returning.

They are on target to create new forests (in one hundred years) like the ones protected in the Redwoods National and State Parks. Muir is by now roaring with delighted laughter in his (redwood) coffin.

So, when they ask you ‘what did you do for Arbor Day, Mummy or in Earth Week, Daddy?’ it may no longer be adequate to say you took the dog for a walk or raked leaves off the driveway. With renewed focus on the Earth, a show of determination coming from youth groups and in education, we may be inspired to show our ability to replenish, regenerate and restore parts of our planet we’ve been gifted as custodians, to bring back to life.

During Earth Week at least, the gardener in us is being asked to wake up.
©2010-2012 Marian Youngblood

April 23, 2010 Posted by | authors, calendar customs, culture, environment, gardening, history, nature, New Earth, organic husbandry, seasonal, sun, trees | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Astrological Giants move us through our Changes

Jupiter the giant ruler of Sagittarius

In the Western zodiac, the month of November is often one of change: the early part of the month is ruled by powerful Scorpio, the life-and-death sign with a sting in its tail. It is an ancient symbol of huge changes and upheaval – fixed water, or ice – and almost totally unforgiving. If you’re not ready now, November will make you question everything you’ve ever been taught, heard or assumed was real.

This year the heavy burden of change in earth’s systems, world governments and weather patterns is sometimes laid at Scorpio’s door. But a much greater force was at work: Saturn, the great planet of sidereal change, slowly and inexorably moved out of the communicative and meticulously-ordered earth-sign of Virgo, where he has ruled, written in stone, made careful lists and acted in a predictable manner for the last three years. On October 29th 2009, he entered Libra, the zodiac sign of partnerships, cooperative ventures, balance and – above all – change.

Solar system hemmed in by the planetary giantsChanges at the end of the year are expected as we in the Northern hemisphere descend into winter; but Saturn’s influence is huge. Just as the moon affects earth’s ocean tides, the ringed giant’s great orb reaches from its distant position in the sixth solar orbit to touch and move this little world of ours in the third planetary belt round the sun.

At the beginning of November this huge astrological catalyst of change had already joined forces with the sun in Scorpio and world mayhem, freak weather systems, and cultural upheaval were apparent: floods, tsunamis and out-of-season storms added to wars and conflict, famine and a breakdown in communications in both Old and New worlds. We are only now recovering from the effects of drought and starvation in some African regions and deluge and homeless scenarios in the North.

Saturn the planet of change and upheaval

Saturn’s move to Libra affects physical, mental, emotional realms. We were being given a nudge of giant proportions to move out of our physical, earthbound concepts and into the spiritual.

It is a surprise and relief when, following the double Scorpionic portion dished out to us in mid-November by the New Moon, that Saturn’s new position in Libra should be accentuated by the sun’s transition on November 22nd into jovial Sagittarius. This zodiac sign is ruled by abundant Jupiter. It allows us a respite, a time to remember our place on the planet, our blessings, our way forward. But it, too, heralds change.

Sagittarius is a fire sign, sent to melt the icy waters Scorpio dragged in with its lethal tail. The archer, sunny of disposition and sending arrows presaging abundant flow to come, allows the glow of Thanksgiving and a glimpse towards the festivities of midwinter, but he reminds us that more work is round the corner as we are moving into a New Age. It helps to know, however that his ruler, Jupiter presently stands with Neptune, the planet of change and the spiritual, the mystical and unknown in forward-looking Aquarius; so our path, while difficult, is overseen by angels.

A trusted astrologer friend says:
“November 22-30: This is a highly creative time. Pay attention and focus on the little signs. Push the boundaries of what you perceive possible. Stretch your imagination. Resist the temptations of the status quo. Ask the right questions, ‘why not’ and ‘what if’. Be brave.

“Mostly just be in your own spirit, take time to meditate, try to remember that the Universe is ordering things in right timing; that in moving from a place of trusting, your own ability and power to create will open up. Spend time with others you like to be around and keep cutting clutter and non-essentials from your life.”

As the month draws to a close, we are being challenged to seek even greater clarity and depth of meaning in life, in our relationships, in our day-to-day interaction with others, work colleagues, family and strangers alike, so that we start to evolve in spiritual understanding of our place on this special planet Earth.

And at month-end, as we move into December, Mercury aspects challenge us to release stress and restore clarity of thinking. Mercury the messenger and communicator-par-excellence may get us through the hard part.

December begins with a powerful double-whammy: a Full Moon in Gemini on December 1st coincides with giant Uranus’ turning direct.

Changes and new directions are on the cards – in spades.

But we have help. Angels and giants are around to help us through.

This is an occasional astrological blog posting, as we move through the year. I am aware that many are familiar with the Western zodiac and its implications. However I hope to encourage a friend who understands the ramifications of the Vedic astrological system of the Indian sub-continent to join me in the next blog post. It is a fascinating system, with many parallels with Western and even Chinese texts. I think it will be something to look forward to.

November 24, 2009 Posted by | astrology, astronomy, consciousness, culture, New Age, weather | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sunflower Blues

Ideal giant

Ideal giant

One Swallow does not a Summer Make:

This is what a sunflower is supposed to look like. All things being equal, you plant the seed in March or April (not outdoors in Scotland; on a windowsill or in the greenhouse, because it’s 57degrees N 2ºW where I am: that’s the latitude of Juneau, Alaska); water, love, watch and wait. About the last week of May it’s usually all right to plant it out into the garden. And in any given summer, Nature takes over and you get a sunflower: you know that big yellow thing with petals circling round a yellowish – sometimes blackish – centre, which bees love and when the seed sets, birds come and perch all day, pecking.

An attribute to any garden: that’s what they say in the horticultural centres and supermarkets across Britain: there, of course, they’re trying to sell you a potted plant because they think you haven’t been on the ball enough to plant your own from seed.

I do it every year. I plant seeds from last year’s sunflower success or a couple of big stripey ones from the birdseed bag. It doesn’t matter: in the Northeast of Scotland, you need all the encouragement you can get: any seed that sprouts is a success; if it flowers, it’s a glorious success. If it sets seed, then it has to be the summer of 1976, 1996, 2006: you know, a ‘bumper’ year.

So this March I found a really fat stripey seed – the last in a packet of ‘Giant Sunflower’, a big smiley yellow and black face to show you what to expect on the well-worn packet. In it went. Watered it, spoke to it, watched the curved thick neck pop out of the compost in its pot with joy and anticipation.

‘Plant out when all danger of frost is past’: they always say that on Thompson & Morgan seed packets. They must know they have customers in Ultima Thule, on the edge of the Arctic Circle. They have to cover themselves in case someone complains their product didn’t grow.

swallow babes about to fledge

swallow babes about to fledge


This year I waited until June. Frosts had to be past. Swallows were back, firmly in residence, busily building nests and laying eggs in mud scoops on rafters in my sheds. I had in the intervening months been carefully transferring the giant baby from pot to bigger pot in the greenhouse. At waist height, she was ready for the move.

I’d made a new ‘border’ the year before. What an inadequate Victorian description. I nearly killed myself digging out a section of unmown grass on a sunny slope; adding chicken manure from my faithful avian friends, and backfilling with rich mulch left from prolific leaf-fall on the driveway the previous autumn. A gardener’s delight: deep rich flower bed, simultaneously cleared avenue, so cars can actually get up the hill to my house, overgrown with and surrounded by Nature’s bounty. The sunflower and I were just dying to get into the new earth and get ‘established’ (another gardening term they’re fond of in catalogues).

June went well. I planted out other beauties cossetted and nurtured in the glasshouse through an uncertain spring: sweet peas, poppies, nasturtium, nicotiana (‘tobacco plant’) and penny black. People who read about and plant their annuals direct in the earth have no idea.

But things were looking up.

July 2009: best strawberry harvest ever

July 2009: best strawberry harvest ever

Days lengthened to become endless wonderful light-filled experiences one following another. At 57ºN by the middle of June there are roughly three hours of ‘dark’. It’s not quite the land of the midnight sun, but it’s close. You can read a book outside at midnight. And this June was a balmy month.

At solstice and lasting for around two weeks there was a remarkable heatwave. That’s what we call it in Scotland. In other places in Britain they call it ‘summer’. It’s when the sun shines consistently over a period of a week or so; you know, blue sky, no wind, temperatures rising into the 70s. That’s Fahrenheit. I never could get my mind around Centigrade, except for the boiling point of water. Up here near the Arctic circle there’s really no point converting your way of thinking about temperature, because any minute it’s going to change.

This unprecedented spell of warm allows plants and humans to believe all is well with the world. That Scotland is just another place on the planet where life goes on like other ‘real’ places and the garden is a room added to the house. The rural idyll envisioned by Charlotte Brontë and Thomas Hardy.

By the first week of July I had the best crop of strawberries I can remember – ever – coinciding with the second week of Wimbledon. At this latitude, that is a miracle.

Giant sunflower with support

Giant sunflower with support

Sunflower Sally was stretching up there; the stem was big like a fist at the base, needed stakes to keep her in position – in case a stray gust of wind should arrive and surprise…

The rest of the border was coming along nicely, everything starting to flower and send out scent into the warm air. It was like paradise. Green sward, pink, peach, blue, violet, red and orange blossoms mingling with ferny foliage, bees’ buzz, birdsong; hardly a cloud in the cerulean sky. It lasted another week.

Then Scots summer returned to normal. Wind blew from the west, clouds scudded, rain fell on fields and felines, hens stopped laying, day followed night. You know, the usual. Great for growth, they say in other parts of the world. Very green, they say in places where they have forest fires, ground cracking and drying up from lack of water. Yes, very.

I needn’t go on. You get the picture.

August followed July. It rained. Hurricanes Ana and Bill hit the Bahamas and the tail end wound up battering the East coast of Scotland. Crop circles appeared in English fields with regularity until harvested; then the phenomenon was relegated to blogs and picture files. No crop circles in Scotland – Cosmic Consciousness knows better than implant a design in a place where there’s nothing to harvest until mid-September. If you’re lucky. No people either, to come and analyse and gawk.

P9092422_2It’s now the middle of September and farmers round here have finally had their prayers answered: three days of ‘open weather’ (that’s shorthand for no rain) to cut, bale and bring in their barley. They’re all doing it. The air is still warm, buzzing with the distant sound of combine harvesters and tractor loads of grain to-ing and fro-ing from yellow field to dry barn. Nobody has come to marvel at my 12-foot special: tall, stately, erect (staked like a buttress) and still green. They’re all busy. The days are shorter, nights cool. Crisp.

They say if there’s a polar shift, the East coast of Scotland will be the most desirable place to live on the face of the planet. No people means endless vistas of green, space to ruminate and meditate and gaze at mountains and plain. No sticky problems getting to work on overcrowded motorways and packed trains.

Giant Show of Green

Giant Show of Green

In a polar shift, days would be shorter but warmer; sunflowers would blossom; and pigs might fly. I’ll stick with positive affirmations. You know, visualization of the mighty solar orb sending light beams for one more month…

Time to go outside now and see if she’s showing the merest hint of yellow.

One swallow does not a summer make. Or one sunflower, for that matter.

September 11, 2009 Posted by | environment, gardening, nature, New Earth, organic husbandry, rain, sun, weather | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments