In between the hours of gift buying and cookie making there is a pause.
Can you feel it?
Between the time spent navigating family politics and trying to get the tree to stand straight in its stand there is a stream of quietude that runs just beneath the surface.
Can you hear it?
Across the world this time has been marked in sacred observance. With monoliths of stone and underground caves, geometric earthworks that all align to the same mystical compass — The Winter Solstice. For thousands of years people have built structures to memorialize the power of this event, the longest night of the year before the return of the light.
To this day we can still watch the dawn flood the underground chambers of Ireland’s Newgrange, the grass-topped temple built over 5,000 years in the past. Or witness the first rays of Solstice light run down the center of the Eqypt’s carefully calculated Temple of Karnak. The lightlines of the Winter’s Solstice still run throughout our lives, with its earth deep promise of rebirth and renewal.
Winter Solstice at Stone Henge
Today, however, we are called to observe and invoke the stirring magic of this time in perhaps the most profound temple of all – our own selves.
It is easy to tap into the mysticism of this season when sitting in front of a candlelit cathedral or watching the stars wheel like a choir across a pristine sky. It is much harder to feel into the ancient magic of this time when we are in the full-on hustle that is the carpooling, present wrapping, event planning and people pleasing that seems to define our cultural celebration of the season.
The complexities of this time can feel scattering, but this is also their gift. For many of us there may be no central sanctuary (tradition, or church, or otherwise) in which we place our belief during the holiday time, and so we hear the call to become a temple unto ourself. A place in which light is anchored, tended, given as much celebration as the first ray of sun at the temple of Karnak. With each complex fractal of modern life the light becomes, not broken, but multifarious, proliferate. A flame scattered amongst many hearths. An ancient flicker of hope and renewal that we each tend in our turn.
Solstice Sunrise at Newgrange
And so this video blog below is about tending that flicker, that inner light. Because no matter what tradition we come from, we can all tap into the magic of this time to re-infuse the holiday season with mysticism, meaning and life. Whether it’s with earth magic elixirs or rituals of reconnecting with the natural rhythms of light and dark— it is within our power to reignite our ancestral connection to this time.
We think of our lives like a timeline but, really, they are poems just waiting to be experienced.
Poetry has always fascinated me. Like moonshine spirits, poetry holds an essence that is both distilled and incandescently free. It belongs to no one but itself, and it captivates you totally.
In poetry the true magic happens in the unseen.
There is a Zen saying that I stumbled upon once that has always stuck with me. A good poem is like a fishing net. It is not the well-twined rope that makes a net so effective, but the emptiness that exists inbetween. Unlike a longer fiction, each word of a poem is thoughtfully placed to reference an even greater meaning. A good poem offers us a single lotus flower, floating in an empty pond, so that we are invited to dive into an understanding of the unspeakable gorgeousness that lies just beyond.
True magic happens when we begin to view the events of our own days as droplets of meaning in a much wider lake. When we can sit in wonder of the day-to-day. When we can experience our lives as poetry, an opus that is ultimately pointing towards something inexpressibly grand. Just like when we are given a book of poems, and asked to find the meaning, sometimes it can seem as though the days we’ve been handed are just a collection of disconnected memories. But open to your life with a poetic mind, eyes trained on the unseen, and you will find a stirring gateway of meaning.
Live in the midst of poetry.
The first poppy blooming in your garden. The way warm honey dissolves in your tea. A chipped dish, the flecks of mica in concrete. Every gesture, every small movement in our life has the ability to point our gaze towards the ineffable, the magnificent, the intangibly radiant.
In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, postulated that the ultimate driving force behind humanity wasn’t the search for security, affirmation or luxury… but the ache for meaning. And that the need for meaning doesn’t just belong to the poets and professors of the world— it is part of the longing of every human being.
When we can connect to the experience of our lives as a poem, we naturally sink into meaning. All we have to do is leave some space in-between. Whenever you can, however you can. Summer, with all its bustle and fullness, is a clarion call to simplify one’s life. To let go of all the million details of plant, harvest and seed and take long moments to just enjoy. Read a book for an hour at sunset. Go swimming on a Tuesday. Spend a whole weekend trying out new popsicle recipes or create a fairy altar with your kids. There is a reason why summer is the season of vacation. It’s meant to be a time of ease.
As John Keats so beautifully described, “A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving into a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore, but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out, it is an experience beyond thought.”
Your life is a poem, allow yourself to experience its beauty.
Healing is about communing with the cycles.
Like the circles of sun and tide and horizon, our lives are intimately guided, nudged and nurtured by cycles. Winter, spring, summer and fall. The dry season, the monsoon. The cycle of seed, flower, fruit. The wheel of constellations through the night sky. Maiden, mother, crone. In native north American belief systems, as in many indigenous cosmologies, everything was seen to be moving in a circle. Our lives, the heavens, and healing itself was part of the interconnected wheel of death and life. And some of the most profound medicine on earth arose from simply recognizing which cycles you were moving through.
Any imbalance asks us to make a change in the unconscious patterns of how we live our lives. True medicine begins with recognizing the subtleties of our own cycles. Noticing that every time you push yourself a bit too hard you are laid up with a migraine. Or that you always seem to get a chest cold after Christmas spent with the family. Or simply knowing that some days you will wake up sad. And it’s okay, it will pass.
As a woman, my path into holistic healing was intimately tied to recognizing my own personal cycle. Publicly, I’ve kept a bit quiet about the details of this initiation. But the first gateway to my medicine path opened when I began experiencing chronic yeast infections as a teenager. Over time, those chronic infections led to chronic muscular and finally nerve pain. It was journey of five years and some of the deepest healing came when I became an apprentice to the wisdom of my womb.
I dismantled all the things that kept me from courting a deeper relationship with my own hormonal, emotional and spiritual cycles. I quit birth control, I began fertility charting (a practice I still maintain now, over 100 cycles later), and I started studying herbs and natural healing. Instead of resisting the cycles of inconvenience and discomfort, I embraced them. I began to see my own hormonal cycle of budding, flowering and fading as a deeply important aspect of my identity and my healing. A homing beacon, always reminding me of what was important (rest, self-nurturment, gentleness) and inviting me back home.
For centuries, women in this culture have been unduly alienated from their natural cycles. Whether through the oppression of female folk knowledge, midwifery or herbcraft. Or simply through the demeaning, downplaying and disregarding that characterizes our society’s approach to bleeding today. But this alienation hides a much deeper fact– that our cycles themselves are healing
As Nayyirah Waheed so beautifully captures, “I bleed every month but do not die, how am I not magic?”
When women begin to connect into and honor their cycles, something pretty amazing happens. We stop working against ourselves. We let go of the paradigm of self-abashment, the patterns of belittling. We tap into a deeper and mystical understanding of just how incredibly powerful we are. In some cultures women were considered so potent while they were bleeding that they chose to separate themselves from the normal day-to-day workings of society and rest in a ceremonial space. Today, this power often remains unrecognized, but not unfelt (Case in point: A pretty kinetic friend of mine had to stop touching electronics when she bled because everything she touched would literally blow a fuse. This stuff is real).
In celebration of all the powerful women connected to me here, I wanted to offer some of my cherished gateways to help you nourish and connect: a peek at my go-to herb for helping women to heal their cycles and an invitation to join me this upcoming moon for She Cycles. An e-course created by Falan Storm (with contributions from some truly rad women, myself included), She Cycles is a deeply thoughtful gateway into a new relationship with yourself. With insights on charting, herbs, diet, ritual, history and womencraft— She Cycles is a rich resource in every sense of the word. She Cycles is only open for a limited about of time so if you are interested in joining this year’s moon cycle, skip over to the website before June 20th.
S H A T A V A R I
In Sanskrit, Shatavari translates as “she who possesses a hundred husbands.” A gentle medicine, shatavari is a nourishing hormone balancer, immune tonic and adaptogen, as well as an aphrodisiac. This sweet and highly nutritious root has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 5,000 years as a rejuvenative— encouraging physical strength, youthfulness, fertility (especially in female bodied people) and improving memory. Classified in Ayurveda as a “rasayanic” herb, shatavari encourages energy, vitality, peace of mind and a deepening of love and compassion.
Used extensively for minor hormonal imbalances, shatavari can help relieve the symptoms of PMS, menopause, and pregnancy, and increase fertility. Shatavari has a soothing and overall moistening effect— this root will get your proverbial juices flowing. Shatavari is a wonderful remedy for people with fatigue, poor appetite, and anemia. This root has a long history of use as a galactagogue (or plant to help increase milk flow in lactating women). Considered a yin tonic, Shatavari is also a soothing demulcent for any digestive, urinary or respiratory irritation.
Food is the first medicine. And this medicinal aparagus root is one of the most nourishing medicinal foods on earth.
Shatavari is the first herb I recommend when women are looking to bring some gentle attention to their cycles, to nourish their bodies and rebalance their hormones.
Try 1 powdered tsp of this sweet plant ally in your daily regime to help bring glowing health from root to tip.
Need some recipe inspiration? Try some Golden Moon Milk…
GOLDEN MOON MILK recipe
1) Measure out milk (cow, goat, almond, rice etc.) into large mug of choice
2) Pour milk into small saucepan on the stove
3) Heat on medium until shimmering. Whisk in 1 tsp Shatavari powder and ½ tsp Turmeric. Stir for a minute.
4) Pour golden brew into your cup and add honey to taste. If you like pepper add a few cracks of fresh peppercorns (pepper makes the anti-inflammatory compounds of Turmeric more bio-available)
5) Sit back, sip and enjoy
Note: If the milk tastes too bitter for your taste try using more milk and honey.
For me, it began with the plants. By which I mean that it was the plants who first helped me to see that the world is alive with medicine. It started slowly, with noticing how blackberry blossoms can dust a hillside like snow. With seeing the dandelions sprout between the pavement, the plantain flourish in the driveway. With hearing the way two maples will rustle together in full leaf, like grandmothers in conversation. A sound that wasn’t just a sound, but a whispered realization of the aliveness happening all around me. The Anishinaabe people have a whole word, just for this kind of conversation. “Si-si-gaw-d,” the sound trees make when they talk amongst one another.*
It began with the plants. They were the ones that first taught me to recognize this world for what it is— a living tapestry of consciousness and connection. But once I opened to this reality I was able to remember what all our ancestors knew intimately. That this entire world is animated by energy. That there is no “it,” no “things”— only beings. And that every being has its own medicine.
And so it was that I opened to our earth’s most ancient medicine— The Stones.
* For a beautiful and storied reflection on si-si-gaw-d and the richly languaged world of the Anishinaabe (Objibwe) people check out Ignatia Broker’s book Night Flying Woman
Stones have been considered emissaries of healing, power, and creativity for millennia. From the Egyptians to the Celts, the Central American empires to indigenous societies throughout Australia and North America — stones are foundational to a diversity of medicinal practices and spiritual beliefs. Stones and crystals are mentioned in many ancient religious texts, including the Bible, the Hindu Vedas and the Koran. The oldest written reference to stone medicine comes from a hieroglyphic papyrus dated in 2000 B.C — but the recognition of stones as medicine can be traced much farther back in human imagination. Stones are an intimate part of humanity’s relationship with the more-than-human world. They are gatekeepers for our interaction with divinity, and with mystery. Stones are part of the fabric of human history. Like the blue stones of England’s Stonehenge, transported over 150 miles to their final resting place, or the quartz crystals found in burials throughout the world, including a California grave dating from as far back as 6,000 BC.
In Chinese medicine, stones have been a part of medicinal prescriptions for thousands of years. In fact, they were used as the original acupuncture needles and are still an integral part of Chinese materia medica today. We hear the term “crystal healing” and we have a tendency to write it off as new age. But stone healing isn’t new at all (unless you count the crystal technology that fuels all our cell phones and computers). Calling upon stones for healing is as ancient as humanity itself. Whether we were marking our handprints with ocher on cave walls, or burying our dead with serpentine. For millennia human beings have recognized stones as medicine
It isn’t that stone healing is new. It’s just that we’ve forgotten.
Learning to engage with stones as medicine is a way of expanding our consciousness beyond the bounds of what we’ve been handed, opening our hearts to perceive a deeper, more complex reality.
How many of us grew up thinking of rocks as the very definition of an inanimate object? When we can see stones as alive — elements of our world that have been most rigorously denied their behinghood — we can truly transform our perspective of life. We can begin to engage with a reality of the world that is much more life giving, life recognizing. If stones are alive, then absolutely everything on earth is venerable, powerful, and worth honoring.
If stones are alive, how could we deny beinghood to any other life form? If stones are alive, how could we condone strip mining a mountain or building a wall between us and our neighbors? When stones come alive, all the divisions that have created so much strife in our world begin to dissolve. When stones come alive, a true revolution in thinking can take place.
Over the past several months I’ve developed a class to help open the gateway to this kind of transformational thinking and medicine making.
How Stones Communicate is a course about beginning to work with stones, and opening up to a more luminious world. Grounded, de-mystified, practical, and story-rich, this class will help you open a dialogue with the stones. To hear the si-si-gwa-d of the stone realm, and find a new language for understanding the medicine inherent to this world.
The class is yours to keep forever and is available to you whenever you are ready. In the meantime, check out my impassioned video about this stone medicine revolution below. Hear about the history of “Woo” and why embracing stone medicine is an integral part of the healing on this earth.
The frost is simply dazzling these days. Stretched out across the yard and far hills of moss like a sparkling net of stars. Lately, I’ve been mulling deeply into this time of cold winds and warm cheerful stoves. I recently moved into a new home far out in the hills and hollers of Appalachia and have found myself beginning each new day with such quiet appreciation — of the evergreens and rabbit tracks, silent does and rustic woolen clothes. I love this time of the year. When my breath begins to follow me around in little puffs of smoke and I’m allowed to simply stay inside with my cast irons and concoct. Between the rush of shipping medicine to every corner of the country, packaging blends for family and friends, and preparing for my Holiday magic + Medicine Making Class, I’ve been spending every other waking moment celebrating the season in the best room of any cozy cabin… the kitchen.
There’s a certain kind of magic hour in my new kitchen. A mid-afternoon faery-spell when the sun pours in and kisses my suncatcher window with light. For an hour every winter-noon my kitchen is lost in a dazzle of winking rainbow-light. Scattered across the bare wood floors and walls, a small flock of color ripples from left to right, anointing every surface with a ethereal crystal, before they simply disappear, take flight. This is my absolute favorite time to create new magic.
My good friend Juliet mentioned the idea of creating an adaptongenic sugar cookie a few months ago. At the time I thought, “By golly! What a fabulous idea!” Needless to say, the idea stuck to me like a burr to a gathering basket and I’ve been waiting until the holidays rolled around (aka. until it’s completely kosher to make…and eat…batch after batch of sugar cookies) to try it out.
Now, I love snickerdoodles. Not just because they are a fun word to throw out at a party and pretend you speak fluent German (despite having some deep German ancestry, I can’t lay claim to knowing much at all of the language! Regardless, I’ve been “snickerdoodling” in a heavy German accent every chance I get), but because they are everything a holiday cookie should be: Soft, chewy, crispy, cinnamon-y and sweet.
As much as I adore the holidays– with all their bright lights and white pines, warm cinnamon and cheer– they can also be (a tad) stressful. In the midst of a serious north pole whirlwind of holiday to-do’s, I was grateful for the chance to sit down and play with some of my favorite stress-relieving herbs (in cookie form, of course). Stress can come in lots of different guises– wintertime bugs and blues, an entire turkey to roast or a whole evening spent in itchy Christmas sweaters with your uncle Lou. Adaptogens, as defined by David Winston, are a kind of deep inner support, helping our bodies “adapt to stress, support normal metabolic processes and restore balance.” (If you are interested in learning more about adaptogens, definitely take a peek at David’s book Adaptogens). Often called rejuvenatives in other traditions, Adaptogens are herbs that help us to feel graceful, strong and energetic… no matter what stresses may be manifesting in our outward environment. In this recipe I’ve included my three favorite adaptogens for coasting through the holiday season: Ginseng, Shatavari and Astragalus. One a sunny day, kitchen-rainbowed day this past weekend I put on my flowery apron, turned up some swinging holiday tunes, and got to creating this truly scrumptious batch of relaxing holiday cookies.
Crafted with three different adatopgens for stress-release, stamina and overall good cheer this holiday season, these Snickerdoodles are as rejuvenative as a hot evergreen bath at the end of a long day. Paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and humbug-free, too! These rich cookies, sweetened with coconut sugar and dark amber maple syrup, are simply divine dipped into hot cocoa or paired with warmed apple brandy. Craft a batch for your next cookie swap or take the edge off a frenzied evening of present wrapping with these medicinal treats.
Dosage: 1-2… err 5 ? cookies (Take a load off, Mr. Claus).
Recipe makes about 30 cookies
- ½ cup butter, softened
- ½ cup coconut sugar
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups almond flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 4 tsp Ginseng powder (Panax ginseng or P. quinquefolius. If using P. quinquefolius please make sure the root was organically grown and not wildcrafted! Our precious native ginseng continues to disappear at an alarming rate out of our forests)
- 4 tsp Shatavari powder (Asparagus racemosus)
- 4 tsp Astragalus powder (Astragalus membranaceus)
- 3-4 tsp Cinnamon powder
- For rolling in:
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- Let butter soften to room temperature. Using a mixer, beat together the butter, coconut sugar and maple syrup until creamy .
- Add in your egg, a dash of vanilla, and beat again until well mixed.
- Add in almond flour (making sure there are no large lumps), baking soda, salt, cinnamon and adaptogenic powders (Ginseng, Shatavari, Astragalus)
- Beat until mixture begins to ball up.
- Line your baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a spoon dole out large quarter-size semi-balls of cookie dough. They’ll be a bit sticky at this point.
- Place your cookie semi-balls on your baking sheet and refrigerator for at least an hour.
- Pull out your snickerdoodle semi-balls when they are thoroughly chilled.
- Preheat your oven to 350 depress. Shape your snickerdoodles into orderly balls and finish by rolling them in the cinnamon/coconut sugar mixture.
- Place each ball back on your baking sheet and flatten slightly with a spoon.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes. They’ll still feel pretty soft when you remove them. Let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng or P. quinquefolius) – Perhaps the best known adaptogen on earth, Ginseng is a mighty root with a long history of use in both Asia and America. A powerful tonic to increase long-term energy and resiliency, the entire plant was considered sacred by many indigenous people (including our local Cherokee). The forests in our native Appalachia used to be carpeted with Ginseng, but the popularity of this medicine (particularly in the East) has led to the widespread practice of ‘Sang hunting, virtually decimating our native populations. For this reason I highly suggest only buying ethically cultivated ginseng! According to David Winston, both ginseng root and leaf was employed as a ceremonial medicine and called upon to help improve hunting, provide protection, improve the chances of the love-lorn and enhance the power of other herbs. Modern scientific trials have found ginseng to be particularly helpful with those who experience adrenal exhaustion (most outwardly identifiable as dark circles under the eyes) and chronic fatigue. It helps reset our immune system and de-tangle an overly stressed nervous system. Ginseng is also known to be quite stimulating in the bedroom. How’s that for some holiday festivity, Santa baby?
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)- An ancient Ayurvedic medicine, Shatavari has been in continuous usage for thousands of years. Known to help enhance physical strength and maintain youthfulness, Shatavari is considered a rasayana herb of longevity in Indian tradition. The name translates as “she who has a hundred husbands,” and thus has been used as an nourishing aphrodisiac and fertility enhancer for millennia. A wonderfully nutritive adatogpen, Shatavari root is particularly supportive for those with low appetite due to stress and chronic fatigue. Most commonly used today as a gentle hormone balancer, as well as mood regulator, Shatavari has a sweet and nutty taste that lends itself quite well to baked sugary goodies.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)- Sweet, moistening and nourishing, astragalus is a wonderful immune tonic as well as adaptogen. A premier herb in traditional Chinese medicine, astragalus deepens our own roots, giving us a strong foundation of robust health as we enter the winter months. A tonic in all senses of the word, astragalus is best taken on a regular basis (an adaptogenic cookie a day keeps the doctor away!). This nutritive rotos works to strengthen the overall functioning of our immune system, so we are more resilient to all those common wintertime coughs and colds. A mild adaptogen, astragalus is my favorite tonic for nourishing a healthy disposition all winter long.
Recently I had the spectacular opportunity to learn how to weave a Black Ash pack basket. There were a few variants in the weaving technique (regular loose plaiting at the base, hexagonal plaiting up the body, and a dash of weaving) but, all you really need to know is this: stars. If you can see the stars in the pattern and wear the big, beautiful, butterfly-light basket on your back…then it’s perfect (in my book at least).
It was long process. From start to finish the whole basket took four full days of work. By the end of it my fingers had bled at least once on the rough ash and I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing the open nets of an infinity of hexagons. Here is how it begins: Find the most perfectly beautiful and straight black ash in the woods and cut it down. (This lovely log was felled and painstakingly carted all the way from Minnesota). Then, pound the bark off with a lead pipe. Every inch of the whole length has to be struck…at least twice. Once the bark has been removed, you can start to excavate the layers. Each layer need to be pounded as well, and then tenderly peeled and split (if needs be). It’s a strangely cathartic and slightly exhausting activity. You must be careful to overlap each hit, peeling with equal strength and tenderness and then rotating the whole length as you go. A log like this is precious. It’s the accumulation of a serious bit of work and planning. Those who are in the possession of such logs often treat them as if they were their first-born.
We spent almost an entire day trimming the layers into straight pieces and then cutting them down into equal sized 1/4″ strips. Then we began. This open plaiting piece is the bottom. From there you weave an additional strip in and begin to turn the whole basket upwards.
You need to keep all of your splints wet enough so they’ll bend and twist deftly around one another. We periodically dunked our working baskets into large buckets of water. These few days out on the farm were so brutally hot, our dunking buckets often became makeshift mini-swimming holes. The hardest parts of the basket were the transitions: from plaiting, to weaving, to hexagonal plaiting. But, once you get the pattern, and your mind no longer has to thread each movement like a needle, you can just drift away. The whole time I was there, I barely thought about anything but the day, the slow formation of my stars, and the breezes that blessed our tent like rain in the desert. I can’t remember the last time I sat in one place, doing one thing, with one incredibly sweet group of friends for days on end. It was a revolutionary escape, and I loved it.
When i got to the rim, my hands started to bleed. It was intense and exacting. You want the rim to be as tight and straight as humanly possible, weaving in and out of splits that have been bent backwards upon themselves. This makes the basket strong as well as flexible. When you’re done weaving, you take pliers and tug each split down to cinch the whole rim upon itself. We all finished at different times, but took a break towards the end of the last day to snap a photo.
I think my favorite thing about baskets is how much character they exude. The process might be the same, but the products are so vastly different. Baskets are incredibly intimate portraits, not only of their individual makers, but of the moment, the mood, and the magic of intent.
I am still in wonder. Not only of these beautiful creations, but of the collective stories behind them. Hexagonal plaiting is a technique that has been used across the world for thousands of years. This specific design was exhumed from the tomes of time by our instructor, Zac, who reproduced the basket after a winter of mulling over a far-eastern antique pack that hung on the walls of his teacher’s house. Once upon a time these were woven by a people whose entire world revoled around the isolated hills in which they lived. Now, here they are– rewoven, resurrected and remembered. It’s an enchanting honor. Not only to be made privy to such knowledge, but to able to carry such a long and storied history with me into the future, upon my very back.
Okay, so it was me. I couldn’t help it! I suprised my roommate and his friend this morning with an impromptu Easter Basket.
Chocolate, flowers, honey and lollipops. What more could you really want? Oh…and a wish lantern! Apparently you light a small flame inside this lovely paper creation and it will slowly rise to the sky. This evening we’re planning on pouring ourselves into the night with a bottle of wine, setting this delicate little globe alight, and watching as it billows up, up, and away with all of our new spring wishes…
The inspiration for this basket began with one little clay egg. It was perfect…. and isn’t that always how good ideas seem to sprout? With a tiny, delicate and perfect blueprint.
Happy Easter/Passover/Spring Everyone!
This year I was inspired to make real, honest-to-goodness valentines. You know, those traditional heart-shaped treasures festooned with lace and smothered in floral and velvet. There is something about handmade valentines that strikes a forgotten chord in us, like the relighting of a candle. Once upon a time Valentine’s Day was all about the sweet, the chivalrous, and the simple. People handmade small trinkets and cherished wonders just for the sake of expressing the unspoken. You sent out Valentines to friends, loved ones, and faraway crushes. It was an excuse to be profuse with one’s feelings. It was the one day you were not only allowed, but encouraged, to put your longing, lust, and love into writing, and to send it out into the world.
Unfortunately, nowadays Valentine’s Day is a point of contention. I know very few people who celebrate this sweet holiday with the kind of romantic abandon depicted in old Victorian verse. Between the begrudging of the day’s commercialism, the bitter dispiritedness felt by those who have been hurt within or without love, and the general scorn we tend to nurse in our culture towards any unfiltered displays of emotion, Valentine’s Day has been indefinitely put out to sea.
But I think that’s unfair. Like any calendar holiday, Valentine’s day can be whatever you make of it. You can see Valentine’s day as a lackluster obligation or you can choose to embrace the one day we have set aside in our culture to celebrate love and show those you care about that they are precious to you. Long story short: I have many cherished friends and family members who live far away from me and I thought, wouldn’t it be lovely if they woke up Valentine’s Day morning to a sweet surprise in their mailbox?
It began with a trip to “the bins.” For all of you who have never experienced the Goodwill Discount Bins, picture in your mind a large warehouse full of all the piles of clothes and junk unworthy of the Goodwill shelves. Now see a battalion of bedraggled treasure hunters, sourfaced and shuffling from bin to bin in a kind of driven stupor. It’s overwhelming. As long as I stay far away from a newly brought-out bin, an event that causes those bin-fanatics who have been lurking in the shadows to descend like vultures, I can handle the experience. Honestly, sometimes you find incredible stuff. It’s like a magic eight ball. In theory, anything could pop up. But, if you pour your mind into what you wish to see, somehow, just the right message always appears before you.
This time I went to the bins with the intention to find lace, floral prints, and plethora of red fabric. Lo and Behold, I found them all…plus some.
Among other things, a body pillow cover, a doll’s apron, and an infant’s picnic dress all became the lovely material of my Valentines. That evening I put on my trusted podcasts, settled in with some tea, and got to work.
I enjoyed every minute of crafting these valentines. It felt right to put my energy into something that would mark this day as something sweet and good… no matter what craziness and sadness life might have in store.
Now, at the end of it all, with each Valentine presumably nestled into their respective mailboxes, I feel nothing but joy.
Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!