We stopped for a break on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, near the Native Peoples Museum. The air and ground had mounds of cottonwood fluff…. Seeds drifting, released to the midday winds, falling……..caught in the wild roses below, falling in drifts against resistant structures on the ground…… I carefully plucked up small wads of cotton-engulfed seeds and felt “called” to pick emergent buds of the wild rose. I returned to the opened door on the passenger side of the truck, looking for a napkin to put my collectibles, hands full of Cottonwood and rose…..
I saw an animal emerge from the dappled shadows on the floor of the truck…… a cat, wild, smallish with black encircled gold spots. I stepped back with a gasp, confused, questioning what I was seeing. I shifted my gaze to clear my mind. It was there, real as life itself. I shifted my gaze again, and the image faded into the dappled shadows produced by the leaves of the cottonwood trees overhead. I was feeling a bit ill that day, and thought I must have been fevered and was seeing things. I told my friend that I think I was hallucinating, and that I saw a wild animal, a cat of some sort, in the truck……
I have been diving into my memory to scavenge any and all details of that visitation. I went online and looked at pictures of wild cat species from around the globe, and I came upon an exact image of what I saw……. a Margay. It is a small cat that is native to Central and South America, and LIVES IN TREES…..in primarily evergreen and deciduous forests. It is often referred to as a Tree Ocelot, and may spend its entire life in the trees. There is no literature on the Spiritual symbolism for such an animal. Other wild cat species are known to have a connection with both the physical and spiritual world. From the information I have been able to gather, these animals are seen both as a Guide and a fierce Protector. It differs from the Ocelot not only in size (It is smaller), but in agility. It has special ankle joints that are extremely flexible. It is remarkably agile; its ankles can turn up to 180 degrees. It can grasp branches equally well with its fore and hind paws, and it is able to jump up to 12 feet horizontally, and has been observed to hang from branches with only one foot.
Wisdom of this species may Include gifts or guidance offered by the Ocelot: regeneration through solitude; connection with physical and spiritual worlds; ability to be in two places at once; clear vision; and connection to the unseen.
With spring and summer seasons beginning to Rise, I become a totally different beast. I spend hours out of doors sniffing the air, eyes on the ground, rapidly identifying most of the plants that come within view. I admit it, I am a junky…..and have to feed my habit of wildcrafting culinary and medicinal herbs. Botany was my soft spot in academia, and has become a skill I simply adore. I spend hours upon hours simply looking for and harvesting delectable and healing plants.
Honeysuckle flowers are the sweet heralds to the coming of summer. I love their aromatic, sugary scent that fills the air. Last summer I made multiple batches of Honeysuckle Syrup and cough drops and thought you might like the recipe.
Honeysuckle flowers have a variety of medicinal qualities including anti-inflammatory relief for headaches, they reduce fever, are excellent for bronchial spasms and coughs, and protects against viral and bacterial infection. In addition to its medicinal uses, the syrup is mild, and can be used simply as a sweetener in your cup of tea or drizzled over pancakes.
Pick the blossoms in the early morning, preferably before the heat of the day begins. Lay the blossoms out and remove the green sepal end at the base of the flower. Rinse the blossoms gently and place in a small pan. Create an herbal decoction by pouring 2 cups of boiling water over 1 cup of packed honeysuckle blossoms. Let this steep for a minimum of one hour. When cool, place the pot over a low flame and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low for about 30 minutes to reduce the liquid volume to 1 cup. Watch carefully. When completed, strain the decoction and compost the flowers.
To 1 cup of decoction, add 1 cup of sugar and 1 tsp of lemon juice. Bring to a low boil and cook until it begins to thicken. Pour immediately into hot sterilized jars, put on scalded canning lids and hand tighten. Place jars apart by a couple of inches to cool. Sealed syrup last up to a year when stored in a cool, dry place.
I make cough drops by boiling the decoction and sugar to a hard candy stage. I prepare a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with confectioners sugar. I spread the sugar evenly in the pan and make small depressions using the bottom of a small glass vial. I then pour the candied decoction into the depressions with a small Pyrex measuring cup. Let cool and wrap each drop in wax paper. Store drops in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.
I found myself in a conumdrum this morning when working on a paper mache sculpture of a large bird. I want to put some fine feathers on it, but was not able to find what I was looking for as a tutorial online. Most of what I found on very excellent paper sculpure sites were recommendations that seemed just too heavy and thick than what I am looking to do.
So, I began to fiddle, ripping up small pieces of paper to curl them and place them on the head of the sculpture. I fiddle, wiggle, pinch, push with whatever I have on hand to make things work. I struggle, persist, initiate, and feel triumphant in the smallest of success. I moan, grind my teeth, get peeved and feel thwarted when the project does not unfold easily…….Easily? Why should I have a paradigm that process SHOULD BE easy? There is no guide to show me what to do, no booklet with instructions I can follow….this project is all on me to unfold. So I place a few shreds of paper on the bird. Lovely, I think….only to realize that they are too thin to withstand handling and time itself. A weak point. Resolving this weakness takes more brainstorming and digging through the tools I have in my studio. I have decided to use gesso and modge-podge to thicken the paper strips and toughen them up.
It’s kind of like Life in a nutshell. I have an inkling of how to make something happen in my life……..let’s say for example, learning how to self-love. There are lots of books, tutorials, video guidance out there about the subject. I can glean some preliminary ideas about how to approach the subject. Yet I still have to go through initiating changes in my paradigm, struggle to remember to be mindful of food, water and movement during the day. Much less learn by trial and error what works best for me. I have to address my weak points in order to be successful, and need to look around in my Life to find the ingredients to use to shore myself up. Meditation, prayer, timers, chalk boards for reminders, even my dog who reminds me to get out and walk. I am never sure about what will work best for strengthening my own fiber and resolve to change. I have to try things and ideas out, apply them and see what works.
“Life in Death”
Paper-mache Construction (2017)
I constructed a paper mache mask this past October in honor of All Souls Day (Nov 1st) and Dia de Muertos, celebrated on November 2nd. At first, I attempted to paint the mask in the tradition of Hispanic artisans, but found I could not. I am not Hispanic, and it made no sense to me to attempt to mimic one…..
I am however, a collage artist. I applied my skill to try and explain what death means to me….. I looked at lots of pictures in magazines and chose those images that had a symbolic resonance about death and dying. Death is as much about Life as being born. Everything on this planet is birthed into being, and everything passes away. Nothing and no one is free from this Transformation.
I need to explain that I “borrow” symbolic images from a variety Peoples. I mean no disrespect to anyone or any culture in doing this. I am of mixed heritage, with my genetic makeup comprised of Spanish, Mexican, French, English and Irish roots. I simply believe that symbols are part of the human subconscious and is a language we all can understand.
I began my collage layers at the top of the skull using pictures of the dark night sky with stars. We come from starburst. My next layer laid down over the forehead was of dawnlight, symbolic of Life awakening in us as well as in all living things. I chose the image of a hummingbird feeding on a flower on the forehead. Hummingbirds have many symbolic meanings, but the Taino tribes of South America saw the hummingbirds as a symbol of rebirth. In fact, the hummingbird was the symbol for the one who spread life across the world.
Pink roses grace multiple locations on the mask. Their symbolic meanings were first recorded in Greek mythology. It was believed that roses originated from Adonis, who was the deity of plants and rebirth. Pink roses symbolize gratitude, grace, admiration, and joy in life.
On the left side, you will find the Coyote and Deer. In Native American stories, the Coyote is an important messenger of personal transformation Not all Native American stories see the coyote as only good or only evil, but most believe he represents a balance. Balance cannot exist without both good and evil, life and death, beginnings and endings. In Celtic symbolism the Deer is both male and female – the Hind is the feminine aspect who can access the fairy world and teaches humans about spirituality. The butterfly is a symbol of change, joy and color. The exquisite blue butterfly was considered a miracle of transformation and resurrection. The Bluebird is a symbol of the angelic realm. It’s meaning is one of happiness grace and delight.
New art forms take time to unfold. I’ve been teaching myself to make photographic montages for the past month. It was a spontaneous expression, I never even thought about working with photographs before. I have been working in collage and montage for 2 years now. All hand made, cut out pictures from magazines, glued to sharkboard or cardboard mounted. The process takes days and are quite unique. For example, I finished a “Holy Card” series of 15 smaller pieces which depict teachings from my Catholic background as a child. The montage below is titled “The Garden of Gethsemane”. It symbolizes the story of Yesuah’s betrayal the night before he is killed. Red is an important color in Hebrew traditions and represents “life in the blood”. Mars at the top symbolizes agitation, strife, aggression. Each item used in this construction is cut out by hand and pieced together.
I have applied this concept to taking photographs and layering them using multiple photo editing programs. The current montage series relates to my love of Mother Earth, and reflects my interest in Nature as a biologist, botanist, ecologist and herbalist. A real different medium to work with, especially with taking photographs. This piece is comprised of 5 different pics: A selfie of me, trees in my back yard, a sunset over Ash Creek, a photo of clouds and another pic taken using crystal reflections.
This one is titled “Heart Song”. I have a few posters and cards to be added to my Etsy store for purchase. They will be available at the end of January…… enjoy!
I want to update my blog post to include the jewelry I have posted on my Etsy storefront named “FoxMtnFolkArt”. I know that folks have been trying to gain access to the site, but I am a little bit in arrears in catching up with my blog post and sharing sites.
I had a conversation yesterday with my older sister, and she recommended that I clarify who I am and what drives me to make the jewelry compositions I create. For example, I am currently in the process of creating a montage series called “Gaia” this year. I plan to have the series printed up as stationary cards and perhaps small posters. She did not understand what the word “Gaia” meant or the theory behind it…..
First and foremost, I am a biologist/ecologist at heart. My artistic expression is seated deeply in the science and physics that explain our world. Gaia is a concept formed in the 1980’s of the Earth functioning as a living organism, having a consciousness of its own. It’s natural systems work just like any other organism it has created on this planet. The earth breathes, digests, respires, has internal checks and balances to keep it healthy. I took my first class on “Global Ecology” as a graduate student at the University of Nevada Reno. I still have the book. My eyes were opened to the theory of Gaia as I studied the complexity of her chemical and nutrient cycles and delicate interactions of the atmosphere, oceans, geology and biota of this place. My respect for this planet became entrenched within my heart at that time.
My interest in rocks and geology came about from working in mineral exploration with an exceptional woman, Dr. Nancy Parduhn-Jackson. She (We) built a company named Cerus Exploration Technologies Inc. located in Sparks, NV back in the late 1980’s. She specialized in soil bacteria, more specifically Bacillus cersus, a microbe which has evolved with the capacity to survive and thrive in metalliferous soils. I was hired on as a laboratory assistant and to develop the use of plant tissue analysis through biogeochemical assay to locate buried ore deposits. Our combined exploration techniques were surprisingly successful. This work took us into the field where we laid out sampling grids for collection of soil and plant samples. We spent a lot of time looking at the ground, and rocks in particular. Nancy taught me so much about geology….jasperoids, jadeites, beryl, altered andesites etc. Rocks that had been changed under high temperatures, pressure and water in the mantle of the Earth crust.
My geologic learning was a natural influence in working with semiprecious stones. My own curiosity has lead me to expand and learn about the electromagnetic fields of the earth, the vibrational frequency of atoms, and the vibration within matter and all living things. Although the theory of chakras is introduced from India, the idea of energy centers within the human body makes sense. The new physics of string theory and the effect of planetary electromagnetism on the human body is being studied…..fasinating stuff to this nerd in sheep’s clothing. So, back to jewelry creation…..
I use semiprecious stones in my jewelry. I understand the resonance principal behind Crystal healing or stone healing. Although empirically it is difficult to prove that wearing a quartz crystal will enhance the vibration of the human electromagnetic field for balance and healing, I can understand the probability that it could. That is why I create jewelry with stones identified by various sources to resonate with various energy centers of the body…….
So now you know where I come from when creating my art pieces. Visit my storefront on Etsy…..FoxMtnFolkArt. Enjoy!
Belly Button Musings on a Tuesday Night….
This process we call Life can never be “won”, only played from the authetic center of who I am, who You are. We stand in “this” moment … connected with all that has gone on before, all that is going on now, and with everything that is yet to come to this Planet. We are part of a colossal epic, whose story is measured in geologic time. Eons made up of star dust and processes that stretch back billions of years … which will continue on in its own fluid trajectory for billions more.
We are a conscious creation, hardwired to thousands of intricate layers of interdependent relationships which are essential for the creation and sustainability of Life in all its forms. Fungi depend upon bacteria, bacteria depend on enzymes, enzymes feed off of basic minerals and release their waste into their surroundings. We are Children of Gaea, awake in a realm of potential, possibility, creativity… of things being born, and of things dying. Delicate and perceptive, we travel a fragile journey with and in this Mystery of staggering Beauty.
It is the mind that creates separation, it severs the Soul from the rich soil of its Beginnings… It tricks us into “thinking” we are adrift, in disjunction with that which has both birthed and sustains us. Ask the Stone People, who are the Memory Keepers of this Place, about our story. Ask about the stories of all of the Children who have Risen in this place. They knew this World before even water was brought from the sky, before the oceans were born. Ask them about the intricacies of Balance, of the self-regulation of homeostasis that lies deep within the fabric of this World…. A World that creates consciousness in its many varied offspring…
I can only Stand mute before my Mother… squishing my toes into Her mud as my eyes and ears are filled with the cacophony of bird song winging overhead. I weep from the Fullness of a driving west wind against my back. And whisper a prayer of deep gratitude when listening to the heartbeat within my own chest….
Science Monday – Dyeing wool with Wolf lichen.
Today’s experiment was dyeing 4 large skeins of 2-ply handspun wool using Wolf lichen (Letharia vulpina). It is a common lichen found in pine forests. I collected some last week while out on Ash Creek fly fishing with some friends. I came upon some blown down limbs while gathering wild rose hips for winter tea. It took only a few moments to pull it loose from the bark and fill a medium sized bag of the green stuff.
I have used this lichen once before, and the yarn came out a bright green. To help tone the color down a bit, I put in 2 cups of ground coffee into the pot along with the lichen…. after boiling, straining and immersing the wool into the decoction, the result produced a nice burnished gold color. Kind of like the color of Autumn leaves, especially of the elm tree….
You do not need to “fix” this dye to retain it’s color. Wolf lichen has a chemical in it that makes it permanent on natural fibers …
I awoke early this first day of Autumn, 4 am to be more precise. I found myself welcoming this fog-filled morning on my front porch with a cuppa coffee in hand. It was cold … the first real cold morning I have felt since Spring. I greeted the morning stars, in particular, Orion. Soon that constellation will be dominating our night skies as we circle through the winter months. Orion is an old friend, one who has heard many of my heartfelt discourses in the early morn or late night hours….
The morning found me organizing the herbs I have been gathering over the summer months. Actually, my Hawthorn Tincture is created over a period of 4 months. I collect the flowers and the first emerging leaves in early June. I place them in a jar to tincture in alcohol until September when the berries ripen on the tree. I then add the crushed berries to the mixture and let it age another 4 weeks. Hawthorn is a heart ally, oxygenating and balancing the Heart as it ages.
Each year I tend to my own personal first-aid herbal cabinet in preparation for potential illnesses we might experience with the changing of seasons. I grow some of the herbs in my gardens, others I gather in the wild landscape. Most of my herbal preparations are safe to use for coughs, fevers, viral infections, anxiety, insomnia, salves for burns and rashes. I really didn’t think I had foraged very much this year, but when stripping leaves from dried twigs and filling jars with their aromatic gifts, I realized that I had prepared exactly what I needed. The scent and oil from stripping catnip leaves left me feeling quite euphoric….
I prepare a basic apothecary to dip into for medicinal teas and compresses. Many herbs are common weedy species and easy to grow in the garden or forage in the wild. My herb cabinet consists of 24 key herbs: Alfalfa (nourishing); Dandelion Root (diuretic); Catnip, Lemon balm, California poppy, and Hops (sedatives and nervines); Red Clover (tonic for blood and liver); Plantain (coughs, bronchitis, diarrhea, dysentery); Mullein (coughs, bronchitis); California mugwort (promotes vomiting); Mormon Tea or Ephedra (bronchitis, sinusitis); Yarrow flowers (common cold, hay fever, stomach discomfort, induces sweating); Feverfew (fever, arthritis, tinnitus, vomiting); Peppermint and Spearmint (used to treat so many ailments); German Chamomile (antispasmodic, sedative) and of course, dried Rose petals (cardiac tonic, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-parasitic). They also have a delicate flavor when infused for tea…
My basic preparations: Goldenseal Tincture (antibacterial, antiviral); Hawthorn tincture (heart health); Black cottonwood salve (inflammation, arthritis pain); Chickweed and Plantain salve (bug bites, rashes, skin irritations); Lemon balm and Feverfew salve (for joint and muscle pain); and Elderberry with Chokecherry syrup (coughs, bronchitis).
For those of you who are relatively new to preparing and storing wild herbs, make sure to store them in airtight containers in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Label them clearly, making sure to post the year of collection. Herbs lose their potency over time … I try to replace their contents every year. All in all, a handy home apothecary to use for mild ailments.
Thank you Sara Steffey McQueen for you gift of the goldenseal root from your woods. It made an EXCELLENT tincture!
All Blessings to my friends in both the northern and southern latitudes….Namaste.
For any and all who have Irish roots….. just finished this little diddy. It is constructed from 16 layers of different kinds of paper.
Altar Bowl titled “Éire”. It’s name is taken from a LANDSAT photo of Ireland placed in the center bottom of the bowl. The dark purple/blue outer layer symbolizes the oceans surrounding the island, while the colors of the interior represent the green of the Island with her cities and landforms. Ibis feathers with vintage button and Swarovski crystal.
Not fishing? Then FORAGE! … Hawthorn berries for heart tincture, apples and crabapple from an ancient orchard, Hops for sleep, Choke cherries for wine, Mullein for coughs, Alfalfa for Vitamin K, and Amaranth for the birds…. a great afternoon!
I went to visit a very old orchard today, the same one I visited last Spring. These ancient fruit trees have not been tended to or even watered during summer for over 50 years. Their bark is split and portions of the trees are even dead… but the bucks snooze in the deep grass under their shade to escape the summer heat and to hide. I disturbed a 6-point buck when I wandered in to find some fruit. Look what I found!
Surreal day …. smoke from local wildland fires covered the sun. Glad we had a reprieve from such smothering smoke this summer. We had many bright days and starry nights to enjoy. Now comes the fire….fish were not biting today.