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Daisy gets her butt in gear.

Spring has sprung at the Green Goddess Gardens.  No matter what your calendar says, or how much snow is currently outside YOUR front door (sorry Aida), winter is over here in Savannah.  Ring the bells!  Hooray!  Hooray!  Okay, fine, so it does still get down to the upper 30s some nights, and we’ll have at least one more good freeze before the warm weather is here for good – BUT –

The robins are back.  The trees are budding.  Green shoots are breaking out of the earth and reaching for the sun, who climbs higher in the sky and stays longer every day.  I have all but abandoned my socks.  This is a time of much rejoicing for our heroine Daisy.

And yet…

I spent as much of the winter as I could snuggled in my bed.  I read there.  I wrote there.  I ate there.  I made my phone calls there.  I watched movies with Little Boy and the Herban Cowboy there.  I was, as ol’ Bill Shakespeare would say, a slugabed.  It was glorious.

Now that the weather is turning, there is suddenly SO MUCH to do.  All the crap I procrastinated all winter is piling up and beginning to laugh at me behind my back.  Tree removal.  Toilet repair.  Little Boy’s haircut.  Making skin cream.  Fixing bikes.  Pruning plants.  Cleaning the chicken coop.  Oil change. 

And that’s just what I’ve been putting off because it was “too cold.”  I’ve also got a filthy house, no clean laundry, and an empty refrigerator/freezer.  There’s also the spring garden to prepare and plant. 

My To Do List has somehow achieved sentience and is trying to kill me.  And my winter inertia is making that a very real possibility. 

So today Little Boy and I hauled our lazy behinds outside, blinking hard at the bright sunshine.  We breathed deep, clear breaths into our dusty lungs.  We shook off the winter and got to work, shoveling compost, raking pine straw, and sharing our sandwiches with the chickens. 

It does feel good to get moving, though you couldn’t have told me that yesterday.  I guess that’s it then.  My winter pity party is over, and my butt is officially in gear.  Time to stop driving the Herban Cowboy to work and let him ride his bike for the workout.  Time to start my morning walks back up.  Time to haul Little Boy to the library in the bike trailer.  Time to forage for wild greens and herbs.  Time to go outside and play.

Meet me out back by Aida’s glider and wear your play clothes.

Roses from the Herban Cowboy, sent backstage when he came to see my play (The Good Body @ Muse Arts Warehouse). Also pictured: seeds for the spring garden!

When summer comes, I'll plant cucumbers here again. This year I'll plant them in these raised cement thingies I found at the dump.

Is it me, or is my compost pile starting to look like the Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock?

Yarrow sprouting through the pine straw outside Little Boy's bedroom.

First veggie bed is ready for compost, mulch, then planting. I'll have to protect this bed from any freezes we still might get.

I need to move that wagon before they figure out how to hop the fence with it and devour the garden.

That is my toe, not a juicy worm Mavis. Back off, bad girl.

Aw. Looked like 5 fat, pink worms to me... --Mavis

Daisy tells a graphic birth story.  You have been warned.

Well dear readers, Fern has had herself a Baby Boy.  As of this writing, he is exactly 48 hours old, 6 pounds and some change, and he looks like a pink Mr. Magoo with long hands and feet.  I’m totally his favorite.  Fern and her Honeyman are busy adjusting to life +1, so I shall unfold the tale for you….

In the wee, wee hours of Monday morning (or late, late Sunday night really), Baby Boy let Fern know it was time to be born.  So Fern and the Honeyman set off for the birthing center, calling cowgirl M to join them.  The predawn hours were spent in the first stages of labor, sleeping when possible, singing and breathing when sleep wasn’t possible.

I, meanwhile, was sleeping peacefully, then having my usual morning of coffee and cats and chickens and Little Boy and getting the Herban Cowboy off to work.  Just before 8am, M calls me and tells me Fern is 6cm and progressing nicely, so I have another cup of coffee and read another chapter of my book.  At this point, I assumed we had hours and hours and hours, so I casually dressed Little Boy and we finally dragged our butts to the car and headed out the door.

I called M as I left, wondering if I should go let Fern’s chickens out on the way, but the urgency in M’s voice dispersed all other thoughts.  “Um, I think you need to come right now and hurry.  She’s at 10cm.

“What?  Already?  Ohmigod.  I’m on my way.”  Pedal to the metal.  I decided if I got pulled over, I’d stick my belly way out and tell the cop I had to get to the birthing center to have a baby (technically that would not be a lie).

I was the last of the birthing party to arrive.  Back in the birthing room, Fern was in the whirlpool tub with her Honeyman behind her, supporting her.  I joined the midwives, M and the photographer, who documented the event.  The lighting was dim and the only sounds were the whispers of the women and the bubbling of the water in the tub.

And that was what astonished M and I the most.  Here was this woman, with a baby’s head pushing past her pelvic bone, and she squatted quietly in the water, occasionally moaning with her breath as she pushed through the contractions.  Um, wow.  M and I shared giggled confessions behind our hands at how much we had screamed and cursed as we’d pushed our children out of our bodies.

And Fern was so beautiful!  And not in an “oh isn’t childbirth beautiful” kind of way.  I mean literally, truly, powerfully beautiful.  She is a slender woman anyway, and her pregnant belly only added a graceful curve to her middle.  Her skin was dewy and unblemished, her chestnut hair piled gently on top of her head.  I couldn’t stop staring at her, naked and laboring, every part of her perfect and gorgeous.

You know a woman’s true self when she gives birth.  Y’all, when it happened to me, it was awful.  I was a fat, sweaty, naked, angry animal with a puffy face and frizzy hair.  I screamed like a Viking during every contraction, cursing and belching and crying in between.  There was so much sweat and poop and blood.  At one point, I even begged Death to take me.  There was no such drama for Fern.

After more than an hour of coaxing the kid towards the light at the end of the tunnel, the midwives got Fern out of the tub and into the bed to move around and change positions.  We tried a few different ones, everyone taking turns holding her up or squeezing her hands.

Standing?  No.  Hands and knees?  No.  Laying over a yoga ball?  Um, no.  Finally, Jill (the midwife leading our team) says in her thick South Georgia accent, “Well.  I hate to do this, ‘cuz usually the mamas hate it, but let’s get you on your back honey.  I hate to do it, but sometimes it’s just the magic you need.”

So we flipped Fern like a pancake and propped her up with some pillows, the Honeyman snuggling beside her in the bed.  Sure enough, not long after that, Baby Boy’s head starts coming out.

Okay.  So even though I’ve actually had a baby this way before, and I’ve seen pictures and videos, I have never actually witnessed a live human birth.  And that right there Ladies and Gentlewitches, is the coolest thing I have ever seen.

Jill said, “Somebody get the mirror.”  Ooh!  I’m on it.  I can do that.  I grabbed the big hand mirror and held it up between Fern and Jill, angling it so Fern could see all that was happening.  And Fern, who had had her eyes closed the entire time I had been there, suddenly opened her eyes wide and watched.

The waves of the contractions crashed bigger and bigger, each crest bringing us closer and closer.  With each push, Fern saw more and more of the baby she’d been growing inside her.  We held her up, we murmured our encouragement and love, we watched in agony until finally –

POP!

We all gasped as his little face appeared.  M and I began quietly sobbing with joy (such a strange feeling).  And then with an unceremonious mmmmbloomp, he was out.  Jill wiped him off and put him on Fern’s chest to be kissed and cooed at and fallen in love with, while the rest of the team sprang into action, cleaning up various fluids and baby’s first poop (mmmm is for meconium!), delivering the placenta and finishing the paperwork.

With the hand holding part over, M and I decided to make a graceful exit.  We left the happy new family in the bed, Baby Boy already a champ at latching on and nursing.

So that’s it kids.  Our newest little Herban Cowboy has arrived.  Fern has requested no visitors or phone calls if possible for this first week.  Facebook messages are fine, since she can get to them at her leisure.  If you are one of her friends and you are dying to be helpful, bring food!  Visitors are overwhelming, but food is necessary.  M and I are doing our best to keep the new family fed, but more help is always needed.  You can always call me or M to find out what you can do.

Thanks to all who have breathlessly awaited our new arrival.  And in the coming weeks, Fern will emerge from her New Mommy Cave to tell us her story herself.  And post pictures.

Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate. Albert Schweitzer

fern considers the fine art of listening

well, folks, we are in the final stretch.  just 6 days until my due date.  wow.  really?  have we come this far already?

i have been blessed by an outpouring of support from so many kind and generous people in my life.  especially by my cowgirls.  with aida, daisy, and the wise and wonderful M, i have managed to find my own space to learn and to grow with my child.  the wisdom and support shared by these amazing women help to ground me in my intuition, into my own innate wisdom.

i think one of my favorite things about sharing with the cowgirls is that each of us genuinely listens to each other.  we share our stories, we bless our homesteads, we aim not to judge, and we flow.  this leaves a sacred space for sharing, and for finding our own way, however different or similar it may be to the witch beside us.  we honor that which is sacred within, while appreciating the variations that make us individuals.

each witch has her own brand of wisdom to share.  daisy leans toward the practical, giving books and nourishing food and good humor to us all.  aida shares her pain, her dirt, and her physical and emotional strength.  the wise and wonderful M shares her heart, her warmth, her gentleness.  and we all share our hands and other tools for helping when we can.

in addition to sharing wisdom and resources, the cowgirls put no demands on one another.  we assist when we can, knowing that the day will come when we may need a helping hand, or four or six, in our gardens, our homes, our births.  we share without the thought of reward, yet we find security in knowing that our own needs will be met when it is time.

never in my life have i had friends like these.  we are sisters, women, mothers and guides.  we weave a web of life, of growth.

simple gifts- mint, sage, and thyme

i have been seeking a kind of network like this for goddess knows how long.  i was seeking before i knew i was seeking, before i knew what i was missing.  somewhere along the meandering path, i set my heart’s compass to love, and i have continued to stumble into the most beautiful and enlightening situations.

that said, i have learned in my young age to be careful of the kinds of help i accept.  the cowgirls don’t call ourselves ‘helping’ one another; we prefer to think of it as simply doing what we do, what feels right for every creature involved.  often, we enjoy the doing as much as the person in need enjoys the assistance.  and we always, always have a good time doing it.

too many times we fall into the trap of self-sacrificing.  many of us have been raised with the judeo-christian mores of self-sacrifice, with the notion that this makes us somehow better than others, better than even our selves.  and while, yes, it is good to shed some of our selves from time to time and give forth to someone else who may be in need, to force ourselves into a state of ascetic piety doesn’t really help anybody.  plus, it makes us not fun to be around.

gifts that keep giving- mabel and esther

i got a lot of flack from my sister about throwing my new family a party in lieu of letting her plan a baby shower.  she griped and complained, “when will i ever have another opportunity to do something for you?”  yet, as i discussed my wishes with her regarding food and guests, she met my requests with contempt and sarcasm.  so much for doing something for me, huh?

recently, two high-school girlfriends also wanted to do something for me.  i acquiesced, still feeling quite satisfied from the anticipation celebration.  i asked that my sister and mother be included, since they hadn’t had the “opportunity to do something” for me.  they agreed, and asked me about my needs here in the final two weeks of pregnancy.  i told them the truth- we were well stocked, and that all we needed now was cloth diapers.  we set up a registry for them, and intended to add a little money as we made it, or to ask others to contribute to our fund, until we had enough to get a good supply of diapers.

it’s funny how people seem to think they know what is best for you.  i loved all of the gifts i received from the women in attendance- i got adorable clothes, shoes, blankets, and yes, money (going straight to the diaper fund!).  i even got a gift certificate for homemade baked ziti!  but oddly enough, from the two women who wanted to “do something” for me, i got exactly the opposite of what i needed, or wanted.  i feel a little guilty for thinking this way, but i can’t help but wonder what about my requests seemed to them to be not in my best interest?  one friend spent a considerable amount of our time together casting doubt upon my birth choices, and the other spent a crazy amount of money on items we already had or did not need in the first place.  while i felt touched initially at the thoughtfulness of these women “doing something” for me, at the end of it, i felt a bit slighted and a little angry that my wishes had been so easily dismissed.  now i have two large bags full of items i can’t use that i have to take back to target, and still no cloth diapers.  at least now i’ll have a store credit when i’m in a pinch, or at the very least, items to re-gift when my next friend gets pregnant.

the cowgirls never cease to inquire honestly what each others’ needs are, and then listen, consider, and thoughtfully give.  i appreciate the books, herbs, chickens, bathrobes, mobiles, food, and rituals shared by these women during my time of need.  but most of all, i appreciate their commitment to the fine and delicate art of  listening.

the most sacred gift of all- space to grow and discover

Time slows down

Fern gets the boot.

Well, dear readers…  this earth mama is in the final stretch.  Eight days to go until my due date.  Of course, any intuitive mama knows that baby comes when baby comes.

It helps to have a timeframe to focus on, even though I am not a time-conscious person.  Especially these days.  Nighttime is when I toss and turn and walk around and eat, daytime is when i sleep, eat, and cry.  Sometimes it’s the other way around. I forget which day it is.  Dishes pile up, and dogs and rarely get fed before noon.  Teeth go unbrushed for hours some mornings, and as I type this, i am still in my nightgown (perhaps the only comfortable clothing I have left), and I’m trying to remember if I showered 2 days ago or 3.

To add to my frustration, I have managed to injure my left ankle.  I saw an orthopedist yesterday who thinks it could be a stress fracture.  It seems that between the added weight, and a pregnant woman’s bone density, I could have a few hairline fractures in my precious and longsuffering foot.  This not only causes me to walk with a limp, but is now causing stress on my right leg.  And as you can imagine, my poor back is crying out for relief from both the baby and the awkward postures.

So the doc prescribed me one of those funny boots.  Which takes a lot of pressure off of the foot, but causes me even more back pain.  After the baby comes, and my lady parts have begun to resume their natural shape, I will go in for an X-ray.  Ugh.  I figure at this point, my back is more important than my foot for labor, though I had planned to move about as much as possible.  I’m applying ice packs regularly, which temporarily relieve some of the inflammation, and trying to still do some yoga to keep my spine strong and balanced.

Come around and visit me if you can.  You will find me sitting in my glider, reading and crying.

Daisy catches up.  A little.

Today is partly sunny and almost 70 degrees.  That seems to be how winter in Savannah goes.  It’s freezing for 2 or 3 weeks, then for about a week it’s 70 degrees with alternating rain and sunshine.  It’s a delightful taste of spring every few weeks, and it makes the winters here very tolerable for a cold hater like me.

The freezing temperatures over the last few weeks kept me and Little Boy mostly indoors.  I stayed in my warm bed with my fluffy comforter as much as possible,  reading, researching, and hanging out on Facebook way too much.  Little Boy built castles with his blocks, had parties with his plastic dinosaurs, and drew endless dragons on dollar store paper tablets.

But there’s no time for watching movies or making cookies today.  We’re busy catching up on the homestead chores here at the Green Goddess Gardens.  Spring is mere weeks away, and we have lots to do before we plant the first seeds in the spring gardens.

My serious little farmer. I interrupted him while he was "busy" working on some sticks.

The biggest problem we’ve been dealing with are the chickens.  With not as much green stuff growing in January, the girls have picked our backyard clean.  Nothing left but old grass roots and pine straw.  If I want to plant food for us to eat, I’ve got to keep those pesky birds out of the garden. 

I love when they follow him around the yard.

We started out by stringing chicken wire around about half the backyard.  Well, those acrobatic biddies were able to easily fly over the 4 foot barrier!  I began rescuing them from the back lane several times a day.  The Herban Cowboy and I despaired about being the white trash folks on the block whose chickens are always in the alley. 

I finally remembered I could clip their wings, and a bit of internet research and a few YouTube videos later all 5 girls got clipped.  Note:  If you’re going to do this, do it first thing in the morning before you open the coop.  Take them out one at a time, clip and release.  If you let them all out first, then you’ll just have to catch them, running around the muddy yard while your 3 year old laughs hysterically.  Trust me.

The wing clipping seems to have done the trick.  Only Mavis has gotten out since then, and only once.  Have to keep an eye on that one, that Mavis.

That brought the girls down to earth, but we had another enemy to conquer:  the crape myrtle tree in the garden.  She blocks so much sun, and we need all the rays we can get in our shady little backyard.  So last weekend, the Herban Cowboy climbed the ladder and sawed down the branches/trunks about halfway up.  I chopped them up with loppers and a hand saw, hauling the branches to the chicken side of the yard.  The bare trunks of the tree still stand, but those are a manageable enough size that I can saw them down and haul them off at my leisure, without jeopardizing the garden fence.

She'll be hauled to the dump and mulched (everyone sing with me): It's the CIRcle of LIIIIIFE!

As of this writing, the Herban Cowboy is outside stapling up a chicken wire fence.  Update:  He just came in and announced that he’s 5 minutes from completion, but has to run to Home Depot for more staples.  I love that guy.

Anyway, this is a huge deal here at the homestead.  The reasons our fall garden failed were lack of sufficient sunlight and the chickens, who kept flying over the barriers we created, eating everything they could get their beaks into that WAS growing.  I’m still mad about the turnips. 

Chicken wire fence!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  thank goodness I don’t have to live off this land!  I really can’t beat myself up too much, the yard was nothing but blackberry brambles and pokeweed when we bought it, and each season has brought more lessons and more food than the season before.

I haven’t been able to do much in my garden for the last few months, but now I have no more excuses.  Well, except when the freezing cold temperatures return.

Strength in numbers

Fern touches on a sensitive subject

In these final days of pregnancy, I have been doing a lot of resting.  Of course, I do my exercises and swing my hips as often as possible (lordisa, do they hurt!), but I must admit I have been spending a lot of time off of my feet.  This has facilitated me doing something I don’t really do- watch TV.

A large part of our meager income is thanks to the honeyman’s graphic design skills.  While I am not typically a TV watcher, honeyman likes to have it on while he works- being from the Big Apple, he works well in chaotic and noisy environs.  So, of course this means that as I am sitting on my big butt, I, too, have been watching TV.

It’s worth noting that we do not have cable.  Which means our choices are blessedly limited- cable TV can make a person batshit crazy with all of the inane choices available.  But this also means that even when we don’t want to see them, there are some pretty heavy, fear-mongering shows on network TV.  Shows such as CSI and others like it can’t seem to go five minutes without uttering words such as “rape” and “sexual assault.”  There was a time when I would have felt compelled to watch such shows (many, many moons ago), but since life is scary enough, these were the first to go when I stopped watching TV more than 10 years ago.  In addition to the crime-dramas, there are the readily available news shows, also heavy with the fear.  And it is one of these shows that has inspired this post.

This past Friday evening, the honeyman and I rented a movie (the A-Team was awesome, ya’ll!) and made some pasta for one of our final date nights as non-parents.  We turned on the tube while we were waiting for dinner to finish, and set up our little nest for comfortable action-movie-watching.  The show that was on was a news show featuring the Peace Corps.  As we watched, a story unfolded about a lovely, idealistic young woman who was murdered while teaching in a foreign country.  She had discovered that one of her fellow volunteers had been sexually assaulting some of their young female students.  An email and an information leak later, and the young woman was found dead in her hut, after letting her dog out.

The show went on to feature other women who had been assaulted and raped while on duty with the Peace Corps.  It was gut-wrenching to watch, but I wouldn’t stop.  The honeyman kept checking in- was I sure I wanted to watch this?  I nodded, and remained steadfast. As I listened to these women tell their stories on national television, thoughts of my own fears and experiences began to surface.  I went to the places in my heart that for so long I had ignored, suppressed, pushed down, way deep down.  It’s only been in the recent present that I have begun to accept and deal with my own experiences with such an unfair and atrocious reality.  And I, like so many women, must answer to these memories every day.

There was a time in life when I thought that I could erase the things that had happened to me.  I could numb my fears with alcohol, with food, even with sex.  It wasn’t until I found some compassion for myself, and began to tell my own story, that the healing began.  And it’s funny- it’s still only beginning.  Not a day goes by when I don’t remember it, when I don’t feel it.  It never stops happening.

I won’t patronize you with numbers and statistics on sexual abuse and it’s prevalence in our culture and others around the world.  Statistics don’t heal, they don’t comfort, they don’t understand.  Instead, I encourage you- hell, I demand you- to tell your story.  Tell it, and tell it again.  Find your tribe.  Dance to your pain.  Look it in the eyes and laugh at it.  Own it.  Wear it on a t-shirt, make art about it, have a party to celebrate it.  Make it yours.  You will find others like you.  And as much as it hurts to know that others have endured something like you have, investigating your pain earns you strength, resilience, and best of all, love.  It’s not magic, people.  But it kind of is.

It’s taken me a lot of time, effort, crying, sharing, walking, dancing, tree-climbing, singing, screaming and other sorts of unorthodox therapies to come to a place where I can face my demons.  It hasn’t come easy, but it has come abundantly.  I now have a loving tribe, women and men in my life who listen in earnest and share healing love energy.  It’s taken a lot of sorting through the rubble of acquaintances and experiences to find my true friends.  I am continually astounded at what I discover about the women in my life each time we share in ritual.  I find more strength and loving within myself, and I see it reflected in the faces of my tribeswomen- and in the men in our lives.  I see the faces of the oppressors, of the barbarians softened into faces of respect and protection in the man I love and the men who love the powerful women in my life.

I’ll never stop holding out hope that one day such stories will be something we read about in the herstory books and we try to imagine the horrors of, like we do the Holocaust.  But until then, I will delve down deep into my own pain, and while I am there, will take the hands of the women like myself, and smile, as we walk our paths to a place of healing.

Peace, peace, peace.  Ferocity and love to all who have been hurt in this way.  May we find each other, embrace, and dance on.

Following are some suggestions for how to find your tribe, how to protect yourself, and how to nurture the love within.

-       First and foremost, share your story.  Whether it’s through a support group, a dance class, an herbal lecture, or a sewing circle, find a group of women, and start talking.

-       Get out in nature.  Breathe in the air, put your bare feet on the ground, feel the life in a huge tree.  Reconnect with Mother Earth.  She has infinite healing powers.

-       Take care of your health.  You will feel better and have more stamina for the healing work when you feel and look your best.

-       When you are out and about alone, walking, biking, running, skateboarding, or whatever, navigate well-lit and well-traveled areas, and always let a trusted girlfriend know where you’ll be and when you expect to be home.  It may sound goofy, or even dependent, but knowing someone has your back is empowering, and let’s face it, it’s just a damn good idea.

-       If you live alone, consider getting a dog.  Preferably a medium-sized to large one.  Yes, it is a big responsibility.  But a dog will be more loyal to you than any gun, knife, or taser, likely won’t be wrestled from you and used against you, and will be a deterrent before any need arises to use force.  And there are trainers who specialize in pairing guard dogs with women specifically for this purpose.

-       Make art and journal.  Be as messy as you can be when you create.  Life is messy and erratic, and abuse gets on our hands and hearts.  When you can see your fears and your dreams come alive in color and texture, they will be more easy to recognize in real, waking life.  The power lies in awareness.

-       Finally, love your Self.  I cannot stress this enough.  No matter who you are, what you’ve done, where you come from, or what you think you look like, be your most beautiful and loving Self.  Be your own best friend, laugh, and forgive.

Wilddog Ollie and the Bulldozer- home security systems, personal trainers, therapists, and potential weapons of mass destruction.

Healing blessings to all.

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