The Dracaena, derived from the Greek word for female dragon, and also known as the “spirit of the dragon” tree, has brought me comfort through dark times. She reminds us that chaos is necessary in bringing about positive change quickly. This tree supports us during conflict, and encourages us to turn inward to find strength and solutions. She is the perfect Christmas tree for 2020!
When we think of pine, our first thoughts are probably as a Christmas tree, or using the evergreens for wreaths and swags. Pine wreaths were originally hung on doors for protection more than decoration, replacing the dead black chicken which was once hung on entrances to discourage witches from entering. They were honor bound to count every feather before they could go inside. Thankfully, pine needles replaced the feathers, undoubtedly more fragrant than rotting poultry! Witches have very active minds and often get distracted and lose count, so instead of starting over, they will probably go next door. (You may want to advise your neighbors to get a pine wreath.)
Pine cones can be used to make roses, wreaths, garlands, and in table arrangements. The internet is overflowing with ideas for using pine cones as crafts.
They can be covered with peanut butter, rolled in bird seed and hung out as bird feeders.
Use tongs to dip thoroughly dried pine cones in melted paraffin or beeswax, let wax drip off and dry on wax paper or foil.
Turpentine, another gift from pine, is a distilled oil made from pine resin. Some of my most cherished moments in the art room have been surrounded by the fragrances of turpentine and linseed oil.
Amber -Pine's Gift of Golden Sunshine Energy
Pine gives us another gift! Amber! It is said to have the energy of liquid sunshine, to make the wearer more beautiful, to attract wealth and success, and dissolve opposition.
Amber has been identified in over 300 shades. Most of us are familiar with the golden yellow and orange ambers, but it can also be an orange-red, brown, green, black or even violet, though very rare.
Amber is made from the fossilized resin of the pine tree, and to be classified as true amber it must be over 100,000 years old! That is miraculous, don't you think? Copal, or Columbian Amber, less than 1,000 years old, has not yet fossilized but is also beautiful and truly remarkable. There is something sacred about pieces that have been part of the earth for so long!
Amber is revered in the Far Eastern Asian cultures. Asian Indians regard amber as the 'soul of the tiger', endowing the wearer with courage. Egyptians placed a piece of amber in the casket of a loved one to ensure the body would forever remain whole. Early physicians prescribed amber for headaches, heart problems, arthritis and a variety of other ailments. In ancient times, amber was carried by travelers for protection.
Wishing you all a holiday season of fragrant, protective pine and the warmth and sunshine of amber!
Last night my friend Nancy and I celebrated Diwali, the festival of light over coming darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. We sat at opposite ends of the table for a scrumptious dinner she brought from the Sunshine Grill, then colored, talked, and listened to a friend’s virtual Gypsy Jazz concert. We may have long dark evenings ahead but the light from the Diwali celebration is promising!
And as always, herbs played a significant part. Ganesha is nestled in a bed of marigolds, and a rose, lavender and sage potpourri provided a bed for the pierced candle and votives, as walls as Ganesh and Ma Durga. (I didn’t have a Lakshmi statue, so she graciously agreed to fill in!)
India is celebrating Diwali, the Festival of Lights, and Children’s Day, happiness and joy.
Let’s join them!
This newsletter from my dear friend Rameshji and his beautiful wife will give you more information. You can also read about his new book, Soul Selfie, below. It is available on Amazon and I enthusiastically recommend it!
Date : 13-11-2020
A SPECIAL DIWALI
This year the festival of lights (Diwali) coincides with the festival of joy and happiness (Children’s Day) and teaches us how we can live life, childlike:
1. Children may create a mess, appear untidy, have runny noses and sticky, dirty hands but we love them nonetheless as their hearts are always clean. They neither hold grudges nor nurture feelings of anger, ill-will or negativity; thereby showing us that the inside matters more than the outside.
2. Like children, our focus should be on bhavana and not merely on rituals and ceremonies. We should aim to express internally, not just impress externally.
3. Children are always eager and enthusiastic to burst crackers, design rangoli, meet relatives, taste sweets and participate in all festivities. We too, should have the same level of energy and excitement towards life and should make the most of every moment given to us.
4. The innocent smiles, mischievous giggles and infectious laughter of children shows us that life should not be taken seriously all the time but should be filled with lighter moments which spreads joy in everyone’s life.
5. Just as the diyas light us up soon after we light them, children also begin to impart valuable life lessons to us while we raise them. We must be open to their perspectives and allow them to be our guiding lighttoo.
So, this Diwali let us not just light up our homes but light up our lives by cherishing our children and embracing our own inner child!
Years ago, my only brother Benjamin, who proudly declared himself a curmudgeon, was complaining more than usual. He had served in the Navy, later the Marines, and was retired with a disability in what he called his ‘brain housing group”. He had a very dry sense of humor. For years we were estranged but reconnected and became close before his passing.
He never married or had a family. His career ended much too soon. His health wasn’t good because he smoked, drank, and was sedentary. He had reason to be unhappy. I usually let him vent and tried to remain nonjudgmental, but his focus was getting more and more negative and having conversations with him was becoming painful.
When I feel despondent or depressed, listing what I’m grateful for shifts my perspective from lack to abundance. At times, it’s the last thing I want to do. Feeling sorry for ourselves can be part of a process and I had a feeling my brother wouldn’t be open to the suggestions. None the less, I asked him if he’d consider making a list of 100 things that made him feel grateful. He made it very clear he didn’t like my suggestions and thought it was a waste of time.
Several weeks later I picked him up for our weekly breakfast before church. He didn’t like church, but he loved breakfast, so he endured the service to spend some time with me and eat enormous amounts of bacon, eggs, sausage, toast and home fries. This particular morning he seemed unusually cheerful.
After we placed our orders, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded sheet of lined yellow paper. His smile increased as he carefully unfolded the paper and pressed out the wrinkles. He was obviously enjoying the anticipation. At long last, he handed it to me and watched for my reaction.
Things I’m Grateful For was the title, and under it there was a list of 100 items. The first 98 were all the same - he had listed ‘my sister’ the entire way down the page. #99 was cigarettes and #100 was alcohol. How I miss him.
He died four years ago on November 3, the day after the anniversary of my father’s death, November 2. This time of year is bittersweet. Memories mixed with loss color my autumn.
This year, with the pandemic, isolation and separation from my daughters, my friends, and the interaction of community through music, the arts, festivals, neighborhood events and classes make turning to gratitude more challenging and more necessary.
It just occurred to me that I haven’t added anything to my ongoing Gratitude list on this website since 2020 began. The list is long. One daughter recovered from a dreadful and frightening case of Covid 19, and we did a virtual Baltimore marathon to celebrate her recovery. My other daughter was married in August to a man we all like and admire greatly. My garden has been abundant and sharing with neighbors has helped keep me connected. We’ve all been healthier because of it. My 16 plus year old puggle Zippy, though blind and deaf, still joyfully looks forward to his meals, hugs and spending time on the porch.My Enhancing Your Life with Herbs course was well received and I’ve submitted another 6 week virtual course for spring. I’ve connected with some of the most extraordinary people through zoom! Everyday as I walk though my neighborhood and see the gardens in bloom, trees in vibrant colors, houses creatively decorated to celebrate the seasons, and socially distanced smiles from my neighbors, I’m reminded that we are immersed in miracles and beauty.
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!