Curanderismo

Open My Eyes left

[Open My Eyes by Catalina Salinas]

If there is a thread running through these days in New Mexico, perhaps it would be the book, Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya.  My friend Virginia Marie had told me before my trip about an event we could attend related to the book, so I got a digital copy and read it on the plane on my way here.  It is about a young boy growing up in rural new Mexico around the time of World War Two, and his relationship with the curandera Ultima who came to live with his family when he was seven.  A curandera is a traditional healer in the Mexican (and New Mexican) tradition.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center, has a special exhibit on visual interpretations of the book.  The event we attended included a talk by Toñita Gonzales, curandera and educator, and Dr. Eliseo Torres, author and scholar of Curanderismo at the University of New Mexico.  Virginia Marie is herself a curandera, as well as an Episcopal priest.  The talk began with a ritual to honor the four directions and the Creator and the Mother Earth.

Curanderismo includes the use of herbs for healing, and many other modalities.  It works in conjunction with western medicine, though for many years was viewed with suspicion, as most traditional healing methods have been viewed. It includes making a relationship with plants, treating them with honor and respect for their power to heal us. Ultima would always say a prayer to the plants before she dug them up for use in healing.  I think about the plants I have been getting to know back in Maine.

Back at Virginia Marie’s home, we also watched the movie that was made from the book.  Today, she will do a healing session with me, though in reality, this whole time has been a healing ceremony.

Open My Eyes right

[Open My Eyes by Catalina Salinas]

Hawk Talk

Hawk – Version 2

I was sitting outside in a little park writing in my journal, and a young hawk started vocalizing at me–almost like a bark or squawk.  She flew across the little grassy area, and was sitting in the tree when I took her picture.  She came back to the tree above me, and then flew off with another bird.

Meanwhile I was writing in my journal and working on a part of myself that I’ve been troubled by.  I was trying to sort out how to stop being critical, or thinking I know better than someone else.  Rather than try to get rid of a part, a more helpful practice can be to befriend the parts that we don’t like.  So I decided to name that part Athena Advice-giver.  Since the goddess Athena was born from the head of her father.  And I know my critical self was born from the critical side of my father, and from the critical side of his mother.  I asked Athena what she needed.  I wrote a lot.

And then the hawk came back again squawking at me, and flying around the park.  Getting my attention.  She really did seem to be talking to me, rather than occupied with something else.  Maybe she was just annoyed that I was sitting there.  Or maybe she just enjoyed my being there.  I got up from my writing and took pictures of her with my phone, and a video so I could remember her calls.

And writing again, another voice of wisdom came to help Athena evolve, to honor her essence, and bring it to a deeper maturity.  It said:

If you keep thinking you have the best way, you don’t get to learn the wisdom in other ways.  If you stay open to all wisdom, your own will grow–remember that. The wisdom of the hawk, the wisdom of the white pine, the wisdom of your partner, the wisdom of the groundhog, the wisdom of the drum, the wisdom of the desert.  Remember your curiosity.  Curiosity can be the antidote to criticism.  

Let yourself be curious and honor the wisdom of all beings.  They are your teachers.  Each being is wise.  And you are not the only one to deal with these challenges.

When I walked back to the apartment, my friend Virginia Marie told me that hawks represent transformation.  They often appear when we are in ceremonies of transformation.  My writing is a form of ceremony, and this time in New Mexico, a ceremony.  So I give thanks!

Healing Waters

Healing Mineral Waters Jemez Hot Spring

I am on retreat with my friend in Albuquerque, and we started off by visiting the Jemez Hot Springs, and soaked for an hour in their healing mineral waters.  All of our tensions floated away, and our bodies and souls felt renewed and relaxed. I loved that we were under the watchful arms of an ancient Egyptian river Goddess.

My intention for this time of retreat is to re-emerge myself in Spirit after a long hard winter, to prepare myself for the transition ahead as I retire this summer from my work as a parish minister, and venture into the next phase of my journey.

Times of big changes are liminal times, sacred times, but perhaps also times of anxiety and danger.  I want to stay true to the leadings of my body and spirit that have brought me to this crossroads.  One of those leadings came from the weariness of my body, its chronic illness and auto-immune flare-ups that left me bedraggled and exhausted. I know it is time to stop pushing it so hard.  How fitting for my first day here to bring my body to these healing springs.

I am also already absorbing so much nurture from deep conversations with a sister in spirit who understands the call of ministry and justice, and who understands the lessons of the body, the lessons we learn from limitation and illness.  I am nurtured by this sister traveler into the country of elderhood.  River Goddess

 

Emergence

Daffodils OpeningI love this week of the year in Maine!  The daffodils just opened today around one of the cherry trees.  Everything is late this year, the weather has been colder than usual.  But they are also just in time, because I am going to New Mexico tomorrow, and I was worried I would miss their grand openings.

Rhubarb opening

[Rhubarb]

I have also been watching the emergence of the perennials we planted last year.

Who knew that rhubarb looked so weird as it comes out?  Like a translucent reddish egg splitting open with wrinkled up green brains inside.

Sea Kale emerging

[Sea Kale]

 

 

 

 

And the sea kale is purple and wrinkly too.  It will get much bigger as it grows!

The turkish rocket looks healthy and multiple.  This will be the first year we can really taste these perennial vegetables–I hope we like them!  I’ve also now planted some lettuce and carrots, and the snap peas are just breaking the surface of the soil.  Margy is going to water them while I am away for these next few days.

turkish rocket

[Turkish Rocket]

The (Future) Pond

the future pond after rain

With all the excitement about the rain barrels toppling, I didn’t get a chance to share this other effect of the big rain storm:  our future pond actually looked like a pond (with a little island) on Tuesday.  I only had time last summer to dig up the grass and top soil for most of its surface, meanwhile using that soil in our new annual veggie bed.  This is the slow project–bit by bit digging and removing soil (and putting it someplace else) until the pond is as deep as it needs to be–a few feet in the center, with a foot deep shelf at the edges for plants.  Eventually, we’ll use a pond liner.  The water was gone by the next day.

Asparagus Drama

Asparagus Crown

Asparagus Crowns positioned

I am trying to catch up on my blogging about all the garden excitement last week, but then we had some more drama this week.  On Saturday, I was able to plant the second asparagus bed, along the side of the garage.  (Sylvia and I had planted the first bed last Wednesday and then started digging the trench for this one.)  Saturday, I finished digging the trench–which also involved pulling out lots of big and small rocks.  Then I added compost and a bit of rock phosphate and wood ashes.  I positioned the crowns on little mounds, spreading out their roots in a star shape around the center.

Asparagus Crowns buried

The part I couldn’t photograph was me trying to lean over the big pile of dirt on the side, to actually reach into the trench to position all those crowns.  It was pretty funny.  After that, I covered them with more compost, and then soil.  As the spikes emerge, you are meant to keep covering them so that only a couple inches show, until the soil is even with the ground again.  So this next photo is rather boring, just a trench of dirt really.  But now you know what is hiding underneath.

 

THEN, on Monday night we had torrential rain here in Maine.  Tuesday morning, when I woke up, this next photo was what I saw out my window.  The rain barrels and their foundations had toppled over.  I had extended the trench a couple feet beyond the garage wall, along the side of the rain barrel, thinking that the asparagus would be lovely next to it.  And all might have been well once the trench was filled in again.  But when the rains came pouring down, the soil was weakened, and the barrels were at their heaviest.  The cement block near the edge must have sunk down, destabilizing the balance of the barrels, and the whole set-up collapsed.  The cement blocks fell into the trench.

Rain Barrel calamity

I was able to pull out the blocks, and move the barrels, but will have to wait until the ground dries out a little to set them up again.  I guess I had better fill in that end of the trench before I do it too.  Margy always is reminding me that mistakes are a part of this process–that I am learning as I go along.  Yep–don’t dig a hole next to your rain barrel foundations!

To Be of Use

Biddeford Pool Ocean view

One evening, during my first year in college, my best friend Lori and I were sitting in the quiet candlelit chapel of our campus. A few other people were also there, scattered about the pews. I remember feeling we each seemed so isolated in our private meditations. I was moved to reach out and take the hand of my friend. Little did I realize, at that very moment, she had been wrestling with her own inner spiritual struggles.

Feeling a certain despair, she had just prayed, “God if you are real, I need a sign. It doesn’t have to be a miracle; I just need you to touch me in some way.” Then, I innocently took her hand, and it was the touch of God she experienced.

I shared this story with my colleagues last week.  From Wednesday through Friday, I was on retreat with other Unitarian Universalist ministers at Biddeford Pool, by the sea.  They had invited me, because of my upcoming retirement, to share my “Odyssey,” my story of ministry.  So on Thursday evening, I talked about the long path and the many transformations that have been a part of that ministry journey, starting with this story of my being used unknowingly by the Spirit.

Years ago, even as a child, I had opened my life to that Spirit, that Mystery, that flowing River of Life.  Ministry has meant, for me, at root, that opening to be of use.  At different times in my life, that has included many different types of work.  Most lately, as a minister in a congregation, I have been preaching, offering pastoral care, teaching, writing, going to many meetings.  But ministry is not always about our intentions or our plans or our activities.

I shared another story that happened only a few years ago.  At that time, I was planning to join my congregation at our annual retreat at Ferry Beach.  We were happy to be including a visiting UU minister from Burundi, and I was going to drive him to the retreat.  But then I got sick with a bad cold or flu–can’t remember which.  I called a member of the congregation to see if she could give him a ride instead.  She did, and later she told me that it had changed her life.  She was transformed by hearing his story, and she eventually went to visit Burundi with other UUs.

I was struck by how even our limitations–even getting sick–even being missing–can be an occasion of unknowingly triggering a blessing for someone’s life.  If we are in the flow of Spirit, the flow of the River, even our flaws can be of use.  This gives me great comfort as I deal with health issues that drain my energy and interrupt my intentions and activities, and are the impetus for my decision to retire this year.  I remind myself to trust in that same Spirit who has been undergirding my life and my ministry for all these many years.  Trust in the flow of the River.

 

Planting the Orchard

Peach Tree

[Contender Peach]

The new trees are here!  Once the frost was off the morning, I went out and started planting.  I took the eight bare root trees out of the box first and letting their roots soak in fish/seaweed solution, while I started digging in the beds we’d already prepared last June.

I had a fright before I went outside–I thought to take a look at planting suggestions in the Holistic Orchard book, and he suggests putting Rock Phosphate and Wood Ash in the holes–I hadn’t been thinking of that.  But then I found a bag of Rock Phosphate in the garage from last year, and we have a can of wood ashes, so we were all set.  These help the roots to get a good start.

I started with the “Contender” Peach tree, since it seemed to have the biggest roots.  It was a job to get all of them spread out and under the soil.  I feel my age when I am digging and kneeling in the dirt moving things around, and then getting up again.  I was happy to use water from our rain barrels to give it a good soaking.  This is a self-fertile tree, so one will do fine by itself.

Myke & Jersey Blueberry

[Myke & the Blueberry, Photo by Margy Dowzer]

After a short rest, I decided to plant the two blueberry bushes next–because they were little and easy.  We got one “Blueray,” and one “Jersey.”  Then I moved on to the “Honeycrisp” Apple.  The apple needs another tree for fertilization, but we’ve got a lot of wild crabapples around so that should do.

Finally, I planted three Hazelnut bushes. We decided to get an experimental hybrid hazelnut, Corylus Cross.  These shrubs are produced from crosses of three hazelnut species: American hazelnut, Corylus americana; beaked hazelnut, C. cornuta; and European hazelnut, C. avellana.  The nuts from these shrubs will likely be larger than American hazelnuts, because they are crossed with the European variety–(which is the kind that we usually can find in the store–small enough as it is.)

Margy diggingMeanwhile, Margy came out, and we talked again about where to position the “Illinois Everbearing” Mulberry tree.  We decided to get the mulberry because birds love them, and they can draw birds away from the other fruit. Plus the fruit is good for people too.  But we didn’t have a bed ready, and we decided to put this one further back in the yard–partly because it is a standard size and we don’t want it to shade the solar panels. Our other fruit trees are dwarf or semi-dwarf.  Margy took on this project and is still working on it.  After planting 7 trees or bushes, I am taking a break!  We still have the small plants to do, but I can hardly lift my arms.

Asparagus Beds

Asparagus BedOur plants from Fedco are being delivered some time today!  And, I still have to dig the beds for the 25 asparagus plants.  I started the other day, by turning over the soil behind the house, and getting rid of any weeds there.  Saturday I dug a trench, and then put some compost in the trench.  It still needs more compost!  I also got rid of a no longer used drainage area filled with small stones and dirt–I moved the stones and dirt to under our water spigot.

Aparagus Bed part 2My understanding is that for asparagus crowns, you make a mound in the middle of the trench, and then position the roots around it, each crown about a foot apart, and cover with a couple inches of soil, gradually filling the trench as the small plants grow, keeping a couple inches of shoot exposed.  This particular bed has room for about 12 of the plants–so today I will try to dig another bed near the garage.

I am feeling a little bit panicked and excited about all the plants to plant:  along with 25 asparagus crowns, there will be an apple tree, a peach tree, two blueberry bushes, three hazelnut bushes, (those garden beds have been ready since last summer).  Also a mulberry tree which we hope to put further back in our yard.  Also a licorice plant, and 3 golden seal plants which will go into pots until frost danger is past.  Our friend said we could put them in her greenhouse for a few weeks.

So, not much time to write, but I wanted to make a log of the garden’s progress. Now out to dig for a while before going to the office.

Planting Peas

Planting peas

Friday, March 30, on the day before the full moon, I planted 32 sugar snap peas in the garden bed that I created last fall.  It seems early, but the ground was workable, and I set up the string trellis for them to climb, and re-attached the rain barrels near the back of the garage to make it easy to water them.  (And today it is raining!)  We’ll see how they do.  I will plant more a couple weeks later so that we get peas ripening in stages.  And we’ll add lettuce and carrots and spinach which like to grow with peas, and maybe other things too.  Last year I focused on perennials, but this will be an annual bed.

We noticed last spring that this area was free of snow before other parts of the yard, and got some good sun.  In permaculture, observation always comes first!  So we put this spot into our plan for a veggie bed.  Then, as I was starting to dig out the pond late last summer, I needed to put that top soil somewhere.  So I laid down cardboard over the grass in this spot, and then added layers of soil with compost and grass clippings and other amendments to create a raised bed.  There is still a long ways to go before the pond will be done–who knows how many more raised beds it will inspire?

By the way, that long black hose you can see in the photo is an overflow from the rain barrels, and eventually will be attached to another length of hose to be the water source for our pond.