Dec 232011

Walking Stick Cholla (Cylindropuntia spinosior) skeleton in the snow.

Last night while I laid back in our old wood-fired clawfoot tub and felt the giant snowflakes falling on my face in the dark I was entirely consumed by how beautiful and precious these long nights and cold air are to me. All around me in the evergreen forests of my home, the snow fell silently and the ice grew a little further over the surface of the river that runs through the center of the canyon.

While I’ve always enjoyed the quiet and beauty of Winter, it seems to me that this particular cold season is the most pleasurable and lovely I’ve ever experienced. Part of this is no doubt simply due to how much I needed the slowing down that this time of the year brings for our family. Another aspect is my deepening relationship with the special medicine of the snow moons. It’s so easy for us plant-obsessed folks to feel abandoned by their herbal allies as they recede into dormancy. This combined with the lack of sunlight and insane way in which our culture insists we keep up the pace of Summer is a dangerous equation that often results in depression, lethargy and sadness.

Along with building up adequate Vit D levels for the first time in years, I’ve been immersing myself in the pleasure of the long nights with evening walks in the snow by star and moonlight. Climbing trees and gazing out over the sparkling canyon, or sitting for long periods of time examining the growth patterns of lichen or the slow descent of leaking resin have also assisted me in staying connected to the plant I love. Evergreen medicine, food and scents have been nigh on an obsession this Winter, with Loba and I competing for who can make the tastiest Fir-flavored treats and me working feverishly to figure out the most effective ways of infusing the scent and medicine of the evergreens, lichens and resins into all of my current projects.

Creating hand-ground incense from local plants to burn on the woodstove, formulating coniferous forest inspired perfumes and an endless stream of new elixirs, syrups and vinegars are all ways I’ve been engaging my senses and enjoying the current season. Our family enthusiastically celebrates the Solstice but leaves out the baggage-laden gift giving tradition which frees us all up to spend more time just indulging in the pleasures of long evenings together, seasonal food and inventing every possible White Fir flavored recipe.

Barks and roots, lichen and mushrooms, resin and sap, needles and boughs are my lights in this fertile, rich darkness of Winter. In too many years past, I found myself wishing for the season to pass me by in sleep and to live in perpetual green and constant flowering. While I certainly realized all the reasons why the land and we humans need the rest and time turned inwards, I met this shift in seasons with a certain amount of resistance and defiance. This year I finally realize, gut-deep, how much I benefit by the sweet silence and visceral rooting that can take place only now. Such a huge shift has left me not only enjoying the snow and dark, but relishing it and realizing I’ll actually feel sadness when the wheel turns and the next season emerges, even as I welcome the return of the light.

These pictures tell the story of a few of my recent rambles through the white mantled forest of my canyon home and the life that surges through the land even during the coldest nights.

New Mexico Ground Cherry (Physalis foetens var. neomexicana) seed husk shines a beautiful ivory-gold against the snow.

New Mexico Ground Cherry (Physalis foetens var. neomexicana) shines a beautiful ivory-gold against the snow.

Red Stemmed Filaree (Erodium cicutarium) blooming in shelter of a rock crevice even under the snow and ice.

Gorgeous Juniper Mistletoe (Phoradendron juniperinum subsp. juniperinum) in fruit.

Piñon Pine (Pinus edulis) resin leaking from a wound in the tree.

Pointleaf Manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens) bark red and curling in contrast with the evergreen leaves.

Harvesting early Narrowleaf Cottonwood (Populus angustifolia) resinous buds from a fallen tree.

Bracket fungi growing on a Juniper tree.

Silk Tassel (Garrya wrightii) leaf.

Scarlet Beehive Cactus (Echinocereus coccineus) persisting beneath the ice.

A Cliff Fern (Woodsia spp.) peeking out from under a rock on the side of the mountain.

Tarantula in the snow.

The amazingly fragrant Desert Cypress (Cupressus arizonica) infusing into oil on the wood stove for medicine, sensory bliss and food.

A great way to become more deeply connected to the seasons while studying earth-centered herbalism is by taking the Weaving the Wheel of the Year course with my long-time friend and Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference teacher, Darcey Blue!

  18 Responses to “Evergreens and The Longest Night: A Solstice Celebration in Pictures”

  1. Such a beautiful post. The pictures of the Juniper Mistletoe are out of this world. It looks like an alien creature.

  2. Kiva,
    This post is just superb!
    The little lichens look like a galaxy all their own.
    I also love the tarantula photo.
    Continued Solstice Happiness to you and yours!

  3. A beautiful reminder of what the winter can mean to we who rush from season to season too busy to actually see what is around us. Thank You

  4. Kiva, Thank you for showing us the beauty under the snow.

  5. A Nancy Scott song says, “What Winter reveals, Springtime conceals.” Thank you for what you bring to us all.

  6. So beautiful! The outdoor clawfoot tub…wow…I took a walk last night with my young one and we enjoyed the sleet and the dusk.

  7. I enjoyed this post very much. It’s reminding me to begin to enjoy the long winter season (never my favorite, occasionally appreciated, rarely enjoyed) along with taking notes from my daughter and her husband. They experience the long winter months by hiking on different trails most cold weekends. I was an avid outdoors girl growing up in Oklahoma, and over many, many years, have become more of a door to door gal (from the front door to the car door, from the car door to the work door, etc.) The winters in Oklahoma are quite severe with the near constant wind and ice storms, but it’s short lived. From 18 to 50-something, I’ve been in the northern states…something I’ve never gotten used to…I will make a better attempt.

  8. Dear Kiva Rose,
    As an herbalist I find your posts inspiring…. This one in particular gives me pause to ponder the changing seasons…….. Thank you……..
    PS… your photography is wonderful

  9. Instruction to incense?
    Beautiful post!!!!

  10. Beautiful, Kiva! White pine is what grows where I live – spruce, hemlock, some fir too but not nearby so it’s white pine I’m loving most right now. Your posts inspire my inspiration! Thank you.

  11. Thanks again of your words and photos Kiva. It is true that the herbalist/botanist/naturalist part of me does want to see new and known plants and critters, but I am appreciative of the time to catch up on projects. The number one is organizing and labeling all the photos I have taken over the past warmer months and so my brain is kept occupied learning the living things around me as I sort them out on this here computer.
    And I have time to savor your words and photos. Thank you

  12. Lovely…This speaks to me in a profound way. I will be taking a walk in the winter woods soon :~) Thanks Kiva

  13. Kiva, your posts are much desired. I love your sweet words that clearly show the love you have for our nature and it’s never ending beauty. My fav of your photos (although they were all amazing) is the Pinon pine sap, this is my favorite and most popular in making my Trementina Drawing Salve. Just Beautiful! Blessings from New Mexico.

  14. loving this post Kiva and all your pictures!!!! thank you for sharing!

  15. Hello,
    I enjoyed this post very much. It’s reminding me to begin to enjoy the long winter season (never my favorite, occasionally appreciated, rarely enjoyed).Really Excellent post.=Thanks for Sharing information..

  16. Thank you for such a wonderful and inspiring post! Love the photographs and am glad to have found your blog 🙂

  17. Kiva, thank you for sharing your powerful insights, beautiful thoughts and photos. Your words & images speak to my heart and transport me to your lovely land, so I can enjoy the beauty with you. I live in Houston in the downtown area & enjoy nearby heavily wooded nature preserves and Buffalo Bayou. We don’t have much of a winter here, often enjoying Spring-like weather during winter months. My lovely Meyer lemon tree gets confused, blossoming in December. You inspire me to learn how to make infusions, body butters, incense, & other delicious-sounding connections!!

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