Dear ones, We are here in the early year, the space between, where the beginning is still looked for though it has already begun. There has been a shifting in the background of everything. The quality of cold turning to the crispness of transition. That faint signaling that the earth is full of slow waking. It is easy to follow your gaze around, to see bare limbs and the skeletal remains of Teasel and Buttonweed, to feel lack. To feel the emptiness of dark winter cold, the pulling at all warmth. As the Hunger Moon rises over us on the 16th, we feel the scarcity of late winter. All around us the berries have been picked over, their half eaten husks tenacious on the ends on dark branches. The acorns are cracked or bored through, their caps sinking further away with the thawing and freezing of soil. If the year was a day, this would be the bleak, damp cold right before the dawn. Eyes searching the horizon after the long long night for any sign of morning. ::::::: I have always worn winter like a yoke, my body moving ever forward through its darkness, slowly, legs catching in drifts. The lift and shift heavy as the lack I perceived was fastened as a partner next to me. This has not been the season of fullness, of power, of creation for me. It has been a toil, a depression. Yet, I find myself here, writing to you of power, of connection within the lack. With this in mind, I am holding out these thoughts and fragments to you as an offering. Take what warms your belly, what fuels your mind, and place the rest as kindling into your hearth to see you through the cold night. Part 1: Scarcity In another February, years before this one. In a postpartum haze of loneliness, breastfeeding, and depression, I began a project. I jotted down skeletal notes every morning when my baby woke me around 430 AM crying for milk. In the evening, when all the lights turned to red and our house was full of the darkness of hushed silence and careful footsteps, I sat down to write. I wrote through the dreams I remembered upon waking. I wrote every detail as vividly as I could remember until the writing turned away from memory and entered a bridging. I wrote until a word solidified from the dream. Once I had the word, I drew until the paper felt like a container. Then I wrote again, laying down ritual and question within an answering text. The following is an oracle card created in this project. A card that was calling to me from an unfinished draft, stashed away and hungry. ::::::: DARKNESS: This card asks you to embrace darkness, to place yourself somewhere deep and muffled. To open your eyes in the absence of light and sit with yourself. Sit with the unknown and notice the vastness held there. You are part of the limitless, the unknown and the depths. Allow yourself to feel your boundaries, your body map, slip away. This card asks you to step into darkness, to seek out the most expansive void you can find. Our world is inundated with light, illuminating all the quiet, late spaces of our lives. Pushing away the night: the veiled mists of Nyx’s journey through our realm. Without this contrast, this pull toward depth and expanse of void reflected in the dark of night and life, the light becomes blinding. Our vision remains more and more on the surface, distracted and darting for focus. This card asks you to stop, to turn off the lights and step into a closet, to journey out under the open darkness of night and feel it hold you. Feel the yawning void within you reaching out to find itself mirrored and expanded, feel yourself dwarfed and vast within the blackness. ::::::: Bibliomancy from “Ask Baba Yaga” by Taisia Kitaiskaia: Yr body is a wish in the river, weeds round yr wrists, Moon bringing you a tincture. At the bottom of the river, ghosts toss stones to one another & light candles in their bellies. ) You do not need to wrap yrself around a spark, you need only to lie open, your back in the dark water. & Every-thing has its fear— the leaves & stumps, the nails in the wood, the eye of the fish. :You are never alone in the mystery : you can Be love itself , a candle in the belly of the ghost. Part 2: Abundance Here, I offer you two songs of healing, words to echo into the open night of the moon. ::::::: Bibliomancy from “Ask Baba Yaga” by Taisia Kitaiskaia: You stand before a door blackened by fire. ) Turn from this gutted house, go down the green hill, seek water — there is always water, if only a trickle. : Sit, listen til slowly yr body leaches its fear. ; There is nothing to do but surrender to the sweetness inside things: this is Healing. When you are well, yr body will pull you on in fresh strength. ::::::: Excerpt from “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer from the chapter “Defeating the Windigo” : But tonight I am alone and the wind is rising. I heft my cast iron kettle, the biggest pot I have, onto the stove and set the water to boil. I add to it a good handful of dried berries and then another. The berries dissolve to a syrupy liquid, blue black and inky. Remembering Nanaboozhoo’s council, I say a prayer and empty in the rest of the jar. Into a second pot, I pour a pitcher of pure spring water and onto its surface I scatter a pinch of petals from one jar, bark shreds from another. All carefully chosen, each to its purpose. I add a length of root, a handful of leaves, and a spoonful of berries to the golden tea tinged with roses pink. I set it to simmer and sit by the fire to wait. The snow hisses against the window, the wind moans in the trees. He has come, followed my tracks home just as I knew he would. I put the sweetgrass in my pocket, take a deep breath and open the door. I'm afraid to do this but more afraid of what happens if I don’t. He looms above me, wild red eyes blazing against the horror frost of his face. He bares his yellow fangs and reaches for me with his bloody hands. My own hands tremble as I thrust into his blood stained hands a cup of scalding buckthorn tea. He slurps it down at once and starts to howl for more, devoured by the pain of emptiness, he always wants more. He pulls the whole iron kettle from me and drinks it in greedy gulps. The syrup freezing to his chin in dripping black icicles. Throwing the empty pot aside he reaches for me again but before his fingers can surround my neck, he turns from the door and staggers backward out into the snow. I see him doubled over overcome with violent retching. The carrion stench of his breath mixes with the reek of shit as the buckthorn loosens his bowels. A small dose of buckthorn is a laxative, a strong dose is a purgative, and a whole kettle an emetic. It is windigo nature, he wanted every last drop. So now he is vomiting up coins, and coal slurry, clumps of sawdust from my woods, clots of tar sand, and the little bones of birds. He spews Solvay waste, gags on an entire oil slick, and when he’s done his stomach continues to heave, but the only thing that comes up is the thin liquid of loneliness. He lies spent in the snow, a stinking carcass but still dangerous when the hunger rises to fill the new emptiness. I run back to the house for the second pot and carry it to his side where the snow has melted around him. His eyes are glazed over but I hear his stomach grumble, so I hold the cup to his lips. He turns his head away as if it were poison. I take a sip to reassure him, and because he’s not the only one who needs it. I feel the medicines standing beside me, and then he drinks. Just a sip at a time of the golden pink tea. Tea of willow to quell the fever of want, and strawberries to mend the heart, with the nourishing broth of the three sisters, and infused with savory wild leeks the medicines enter his blood stream. White pine for unity, justice from pecans, the humility of spruce roots. He drinks down the compassion of witch hazel, the respect of cedars, a blessing of silver bells. All sweetened with the maple of gratitude. You can’t know reciprocity until you know the gift. He is helpless before their power. His head falls back leaving the cup still full. He closes his eyes. There is just one more part of the medicine. I am no longer afraid. I sit down beside him on the newly greening grass, let me tell you a story I say as the ice melts away. She fell like a maple seed pirouetting from the autumn sky... ::::::: Where can you find sweetness within this hungry time? What medicine have you brought with you from the warmth of summer, the shifting energy of spring, or the harvest of fall? What things are grating at your window trying to get in? What is consuming and defiling what you love or what is good in your world? How can you meet this force in your own home, in your own sphere? What medicine do you have to reckon with or bring change? Make yourself a small space of abundance, a shelf, a piece of table, a windowsill. Fill it with reminders, with the unabashed things, those things bursting their sweetness forth with abundance. Spend time in this space every day until the new moon, collecting that trickle, so that you can begin finding the sweetness even within the shy and hardened things around you. So that when the moon is once again dark, you greet it as a friend, ready to move into the newly greening world. About the Author:
Jenni Ashby is a grower; of words, children, plants, community. She is invested in people and process, and believes that every creator needs someone to champion their ideas/vision/projects: to be a voice of encouragement and inspiration louder than the self-doubt that can easily take over in moments of isolation. Jenni received her MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University and is currently studying with Cornerstone Birthwork Training as a Full Spectrum Birthworker. She lives in Colorado Springs, CO with her partner, sons, and cat.