Friday, October 21, 2011

Of Apples, Applesauce, and Autumn

A cold October wind moans through the windows. The sky is moody and the light is muted.  But our house is bustling, warm, and filled by the delicious scents of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cooking apples.  In our house, this is the season for making applesauce.  This year we canned 160 jars over three days using five pressure cookers, two Roma Food Strainers and eighteen half bushel bags of assorted “seconds” from Schobers Orchard in Monroeville, NJ.  It's a highly anticipated process that involves the whole family; and on a cool truly "autumnal" day like this, it also turns us inward toward hearth and home.  

It's easy to understand why the apple has been an important symbol across cultures and history.  Baked, sauced, or au naturel, apples taste delicious, are pleasant to look at, store well,  and are a great excuse to take a trip to a local orchard and have a bit of harvest fun.   Hmm...Eve is often painted handing Adam an apple for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. For the Norse it was a symbol of youth. It gave the Celts a desire for fairie.  

The apple is also a great way to illustrate the seasonal cycle. That's why many a kindergarten teacher uses apple tree art projects . Bare in the winter, lovely, fragrant flowers in spring, fruit in late summer, and golden leaves and a final harvest come autumn.  

An apple can also help Pagan parents convey their beliefs to their children. Beneath its bright, shiny skin, right in its center, is a five pointed "star."  Spreading some paint on a sponge and helping your little one press the half sphere into it and then onto a piece of paper is a great way to have some fun together while giving your child a sense of the connection between nature based beliefs and a part of nature. Earth, air, fire, water, and spirit hidden within a womb forging the cycle from bud, to leaf, to petal to fruit.  

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Time Between

My husband, six year old daughter, and I took a walk through the woods and farmland of the Brandywine Valley this afternoon. The sky was cloudless and blue; the air summer warm.  But tan fields of  dry corn stalks, the first  yellow leaves spiraling down, and high honking Vs of geese  heading south left no doubt that Autumn is here.   

Ramsey Farm's tractors rumble and bump  up and down the  hills  dropping families off at the pumpkin fields.  This is my favorite season of the year because is stands between.  It is the ripened fruit on the withering plant.   It is a time of transition and transformation.

Today the woods brought this lesson home.  As we began our walk, we stopped to look at a Black Rat Snake  sharing the trail and  enjoying a patch of  sunlight.  I explained to out little girl that soon it would grow cold and the snake would find a hollow log, a burrow, or even a space under our wood pile where it would  spend the winter hibernating.  

We too are basking in the sunlight of this warm day.  Enjoying it all the more because we know that soon the warmth will  depart.  

Towards the end of our walk,  I found a snake skin on the trail.   I held it in the palm of my hand and felt the tingle of its residual energy.  I explained that  the old skin had become too small and maybe too full of parasites --that the process of shedding old skin takes work,  but that  the snake emerges with a beautiful new skin and travels on leavening the old skin behind.  

 Just as we neared the small parking lot, our  daughter exclaimed, "Eew mommy! Poor possum!"
A small  possum lay  on the side of the trail where the tractor had cleared underbrush.   As we stepped around it, we talked a little about the natural cycle of endings and beginnings--the possum would return to the earth, but in the spring new baby possums would be born.   

Through nature walks and observance of nature based spirituality,  our six-year old daughter knows  that there is a cycle--that  every living thing  is born, changes, and will someday die. As she moves toward the light, cuddles her doll and talks about kindergarten, the cycle isn't something she dwells upon--nor would we want her to do so.  But as middle-ages adults, we carry and accept this reminder  that we are all blessed and bound into this cycle; that death leads to rebirth; darkness to light, and that we all shift from one existence  into another.