New plants & new garden

yellow jasmineI think the best garden I ever had was in pots on a screened-in porch when I lived in South Florida. I had no access to a yard for growing, but I had a great selection of plants there–everything from henbane to calamus and more–and they were in really nice decorative clay pots of all sorts. The porch looked out onto a lot of trees. There were squirrels who came to give hell to the cats. We loved being out there. Sometimes I’d even sleep out there when the weather was nice.

The memory of that garden is helping me now. One of the reasons I chose this place was because they offered raised beds for the tenants to use. But this place has been so contaminated with drama and craziness from one kook tenant with way too much time on her hands that for me, the whole raised bed idea is no longer desirable. I do have big windows, so I wasn’t too upset, knowing I’d be able to grow a lot of things inside.

But it’s been a lot of years since I’ve grown plants indoors. All these decades I’ve had substantial gardens in my yard, I never had any houseplants except for some mandrakes. I haven’t got any interest in growing the standard houseplants. I thought if I’m going to focus on growing inside, then I’d really love to learn about some tropicals like jasmine and other good smelling flowers. So I’ve started collecting these plants and hope to branch out into orchids as well.

So far I’ve got two jasmines (photo above shows the yellow jasmine, Jasminum humile), a stephanotis, a New Zealand violet, a parma violet, several hoyas, and a couple of passionflowers. My goal is to fill my home with fragrant plants that I can not only enjoy for aesthetic reasons but learn to work with magically.

I have big south-facing windows here, but they might still not provide enough light, so I’ve got some lights on my wishlist for when the time comes. Right now everyone is doing well with the sunshine that comes in.

mandrake babyI did start a batch of mandrakes VERY late this year. I don’t have a basement here, which was ace for germinating mandrakes. I might have used the unheated maintenance storage area on the first floor, but I just didn’t think of it. Instead, I tried something completely different that I think will work for others in my situation: I created a good temperature fluctuation for the mandrake seeds by putting them on the top shelf of the fridge at night and then taking them out to put on a propagation mat during the day (max 70F). I did give them a brief 4-hour soak in a 1:9 solution of 10% hydrogen pyroxide (just like you get from the drug store) and filtered water. Then planted them in Jiffy pellets as I usually do. As of today, I’ve got germination.

I’m really looking forward to building my new indoor garden. Today I’ll be potting up the new plants. I’ll keep you posted as I move along with it.

Finally! The Witching Herbs Book is For Sale

witching-herbs-bookMy book has been printed, and it is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, metaphysical shops, and regular bookstores. You can get signed copies from me at my shop.

I worked on this book for years. Sometimes I gave up on the idea of ever finishing it; other times I worked like the devil to get things done. I changed my mind a bunch of times about whether I wanted to publish it myself or go with a traditional publisher. In the end, I went with Weiser because they asked. I am very pleased with the job they did on it–it’s beautiful. I look forward to doing workshops and giving talks about the subjects of herbs used in witchcraft and the plant spirits associated with them. Thank you all so much for being patient with me while I got bogged down in the work of it over the years.

The Power of Memory

nostalgiaIn the past 3 or so years, I have returned to making art with a growing passion that has come to overwhelm all my other interests. I’m grateful for this gift, which is turning my winter years into a time of renewal. But something that keeps coming up is how powerful the past is, in particular, memory.

Today I felt that again when I lit a stick of this incense. Years ago (decades ago), when I was a teen, I often burned incense, and back then, pretty much all incense that I came across was from India and stuffed with synthetics. I remember how much I liked Nag Champa (“buy from reputed dealers only”). My clothing actually smelled like it, which I considered positive. But when I started art school in Chicago, I discovered Japanese incense at a little Japanese gift shop nearby, where I also bought a tiny book of Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji. This particular scent, Morning Star sandalwood incense, became my favorite (and I still love Japanese woodblock prints, witness my Hiroshige¬†address book).

The other day I was tooling around online and happened to see it for sale. Even the color of the box brought me back to other times. I hesitated to buy it, because it’s not an expensive incense at all, and here I am with so much incense I make. I felt almost embarassed to buy it, as if I was craving some cheap candy from childhood. But I had a feeling that its scent would unlock a lot of doors of memory. So I bought it.

I got it today and right away fired up a stick. And the scent, yes, is a key. But I realized it’s not just simple nostalgia, a looking longingly towards the past, because the past was mostly not a very happy time in my life. My present is far better. It’s a nostalgia not for a time but for a feeling–the hope and energy I had as a young artist. That comes back to me more and more now, as I take each step forward in my art and as I remind myself of the passion I had then, when I wanted nothing more than to be an artist. I had forgotten that passion for so many years, buried it, because I thought it just could never come to fruition.

Until a few years ago, when I realized, hey, I’m getting old–if I’m ever going to be an artist, I better start trying. And I have.

The power of memory has influenced where I’ve chosen to live. One of the reasons why I wanted to rent a loft when I moved here to Rhode Island was because as a young artist, I very much coveted a garret that was visible from a side street near my first apartment. It was a bit ratty but had a large bank of slanted north windows and a tiny balcony aside that. How I wanted to live in that place and to have the life I imagined would go with it!

The loft I have rented has ten very large windows, although none on the north side, but my godz, the light in here is incredible. It inspires me every single day to do more artwork, to live up to my own idea of what I would have done had I lived in that garret–paint, paint, paint, and interact with other artists. I’ve become friends with other artists living in my complex, and it’s wonderful for me. Not since art school back in 1972 have I had the opportunity to just chat with other artists about making art. I am very grateful I have come to this point in my life.

I know I’ll be burning some of this incense every day, reveling in its pleasant scent and enjoying the further unlocking of the power of memory.