Summer Solstice Arrives

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hildegard of Bingen and Spring

As tomorrow brings us the festival of Imbolc and the looking towards Spring in the Celtic Calendar, I was delighted to find the following writing of the German mystic Hildegard of Bingen (tenth century)
I am the breeze that nurtures all things green.
I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits.
I am the rain coming from the dew
That causes the grasses to laugh
with the joy of life.

The day is clear and cool, but I had another wonderful walk and found some of nature starting to show signs of shaking off Lord Winter...(but I am sure he will visit us again at least once or twice before the Equinox). Herewith some pictures:

Beannachaidhe (Blessings in Gaelic)


Friday, January 30, 2009

A Walk in the Mist

A cold, foggy and misty morning that draws me out for a short walk before I get some sleep.
The birds are out if you keep a close eye for them, and the sun and mist create an otherworld experience.

Here a few of the pictures of the walk before the cold and the mist turned my feet towards home.

The bird in the last picture is a bit out of focus, but I think the sense of cold and the last brown days of winter still come through.


Roman Goddess of Peace

January 30
Festival of Pax (Ancient Rome)

Pax is the Roman goddess of peace, and symbolizes the highest ideals of civilization. Celebrations honoring Pax, the Roman Goddess of Peace, are held . Her temple stood open in Rome during times of peace, but was closed during war. It remained open for over 200 years continuously during the Pax Romana, an achievement unimaginable in modern times. It was locked closed by the Christians who ultimately tore it down. The world has not known a year without war since.

From the wonderful Calendar site at:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A poem for Wednesday

Found this on a Goddess site, and have to share it:

We make our world by the life we lead,
By the friends we have, by the books we read,
By the pity we show in the hour of care,
By the loads we lift and the love we share.
~Alfred Grant Walton
Wise words indeed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More Camera Fun

A local Greenman who keeps watch over our garden:

Some pictures of Mount Baker as seen from our back windows

And a Redwing Blackbird has come to visit:

As Heathen Hermit noted to me, digital cameras are addictive.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Let me out!

Here is our little Bianca demanding to go out in the cold frosty morning to chase, I did not let her out just now, wanting our feathered friends to have a bit of cat-free breakfast dining.

Not to mention that Bianca believes it to be warm and welcoming outside....she usually is out for about 15 minutes during the cold and then we see her at a window, begging to be let in.


A New Camera...

I have recently purchased a digital camera and after being overwhelmed by the 200 page instruction manual (I kid you not!), I have begun to experiment.
Here is a picture of Mount Baker in the early and very cold January morning of the first day of the Chinese New Year.

More to come...


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Robert Burns

As Scots and others who love the Bard of Scotland meet tonight to rightly celebrate a man whose poetry and at least one song is known the world round, I would like to share a bit of Rabbie that is dear to me as these writings show Burns to be as equally passionate about the sad state of affairs in the world, as he was passionate about the lasses he admired and pursued with great energy.

I am unable to find where the following passage occurs in his writings or where I once found it many, many years ago, but I think a person could do much worse in life than to let the following be a good guide to a life:

"No doubt I will have much to answer for,
Yet my philosophy is simple enough:
Whatever mitigates the wars or increases
the Happiness of others to whatsoever extent,
that is my criterion of Goodness.
Whatever injures Society as a whole, or
any one Person in it, that is my measure
of Iniquity.
And if I could, I would wipe all tears from all eyes."

And while we know of the songs of Robert Burns that touch upon many subjects from wee mice in the fields to love in hayricks, he also cast a fierce eye upon those in power who failed to strive to protect those under their oversight as the last stanza of his poem "Logan Braes" so eloquently declaims:

O wae be to you, Men o' State,
That brethren rouse to deadly hate!
As ye make mony a fond heart mourn,
Sae may it on your heads return!
How can your flinty hearts enjoy
The widow's tear, the orphan's cry?
But soon may peace bring happy days,
And Willie hame to Logan braes!

One of the best renderings of this wonderful ballad of a woman celebrating being married and then forced to lament for her husband gone to war is sung by the incomparable Jean Redpath, a true treasure of Scotland.

So raise a glass to the poet, warily contemplate the haggis if you have it, and do not forget the man who loved his fellow travelers so dearly.

Aye and Cheers!


Friday, January 23, 2009

Another Cold Morning

Temperature is about 25 degrees according to one of the internet weather sites, 30 degrees in the shelter of our front porch. But the frost is thick on the car windows as the sky here turns rosy with the soon to be seen sun painting the Cascade Mountains various shades of pink

Found the following poem on the Farmer's Almanac website and just have to post it:

Keen gleams the wind, and all the ground
Is bare and chapped with bitter cold.
The ruts are iron; the fish are found
Encased in ice as in a mold.

–Charles De Kay (1848–1935)

Charles De Kay was an American poet, U.S. Consul General and art and literary critic of the New York "Times" as it was then note.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Wintery Morn

The day here promises to be again mostly crystal clear with more sun than we have seen for awhile. And as I have been rejoicing in the better weather and also thinking about the anniversary birthday of Robert Burns this coming Sunday, I was reminded of one of my favorite Scottish painters of the last century--Joseph Farquharson (1846 - 1935), who painted wonderful landscapes of Scotland.
Among his most well known are those of Winter landscapes, and his evocations of the chill landscapes are bone chilling.
As I have written earlier, my mum's ancestors were from the Scottish highland's on her dad's side and having walked some of these highland hills during better weather, I can well imagine the strength and dedication required of those who, without modern amenities, had to care for the land and the livestock.

By the way, according to my copy of "The Herbal Almanac" written by Linda Ours Rago, this 21st day of January is St. Agnes Day, patron saint of young girls and 'twas a day for maids to acquire sweethearts by following various customs including fasting and special prayers at night for a true love.

Be warm,


Saturday, January 17, 2009

By the Way...check out the Virtual Cat!

As a long time admirer of cats and delight in being owned by two of them (well, they do share ownership of my wife Kim and I), I just had to add the Virtual Cat which I first saw on the Heathen Sanctuary blog. Move your mouse (of course!) around the kitty and see and hear what happens.

It is probably true as a good friend of mine (not the most avid cat lover himself) was heard to remark that the main purpose of the internet is to provide cat pictures and now Virtual cats.



Aye, Time again to Wassail the Apple Trees

This being the 17 of January and the day Twelfth Night was celebrated under the old calendar in England, the good pagan/heathen/Celtic custom (among others) of Wassailing the Apple trees was in order. To borrow freely from the great British Life and Culture of the Woodlands Junior School in UK, "Apple tree wassailing is a ceremony which involves drinking to the health of the apple trees" and to ask the Lord of the Orchard (my conjecture from the GreenMan's perspective) to help with a bountiful harvest.
Not to mention a great excuse to have a wee nip or two to keep warm in the days before central heating!
Go visit the Woodlands Junior School site...there is a great deal of delightful information and a great way to honor our ancestral past.



Thursday, January 15, 2009

Some Candles for the Dark of January

I found this lovely and inspiring illustration on a Google search along time ago and thought it perfect for this time of the year when the nights are long, the days short and often gloomy. The illustration comes from the wonderful Brighids Academy in Ireland and although I attempted to contact them for permission to use this, their email is not working. So I post it anyway with the hope if they see it, they will understand my wish to share their light with you.

Their site by the way is here:



Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Some Harp Links

I have added some of my favorite harp links at the top of the page, and will add more now and then.

These are great places to find harp resources, music, cd's and more. I will be adding a separate section in the near future about the growing field of Harp Therapy and what harpers and clinicians are discovering about healing with the harp.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Plough Monday

I grew up on small rural farm south of Seattle and I remember my Granpa keeping bees, raising chickens for selling eggs, and he also stabled a horse in the old garage/barn. (By the time I was four or five, the horse was gone, but he continued to raise chickens and keep bees).

Since we also had an orchard with many kinds of fruit trees (apples, pears, plums, cherry) and we kept up a large garden with corn, squash, tomatoes and vegetables, I spent many hours after school working to help my parents maintain our small bit of heaven.

And with my mum's father's ancestors having come to Canada on the ship Hector in 1773 following the Highland Clearances and my father's ancestors hailing from England, I and my sister grew up with a rich heritage, both spoken and sung, of the British Isles.

Here's bit of lore from an earlier time reflecting a more slow and attentive connection to the Earth and the turning of the seaons.

The first Monday after Twelfth Night is Plough Monday, a day when ploughmen traditionally blackened their faces and marked the end of the Christmas period for the agricultural communities.

As agricultural work was scarce in the winter, farm labourers disguised themselves, by blacking their faces with soot, to get money by dragging a decorated plough around the larger houses in the villages. As they dragged the plough they would shout out "Penny for the ploughboys!".


Saturday, January 10, 2009


Don't know if this will work, but I am experimenting with adding a MIDI file of music to this blog post for folks to enjoy. I have loved the music of Neil Gow (a Scottish composer of the 18th C.) for a long time and this piece entitled "Neil Gow's Lament for Second Wife" is a piece I love to play on the harp.

So here is the MIDI from Tony's Celtic Music Pages( great resource for Celtic music and information)

Okay, just checked how this works and you will have to use the link to listen to the piece of music, I am not able to have it play from the blog post. (This old dog is busy learning new tricks...).


A quote for Saturday

I have been cleaning up my music files (a long ways to go) and found a number of quotes, one of which I have been particularly fond:

"Thig crioch air an t-saoghal ach mairidh gaol agus ceol"
"The world may come to an end but music and love will never die"

More quotes to come as I attempt a bit of early Spring cleaning and re-tune the harps after all our cold weather. I have two, one a small lap harp I take with me to the hospital, and one with 36 strings that lives mostly in the house...with a rare trip out now and then.


Friday, January 9, 2009

The North Wind Doth Blow

As the cold fog rolls in tonight and the rain continues, I found myself reading the January chapter of "A Calendar of Festivals" by the wonderful English writer Marian Green. (She has also written books on the wiccan and pagan paths). At the end of the January chapter she quoted part of the children's poem about the Robin which here is so well illustrated by the artist Walter Crane.

I often wonder just how our feathered friends manage in the dark and the cold, and I wish we had a warm barn for them and for the wee four footed creatures of all kinds.


The North Wind doth blow,

And we shall have snow,

And what shall the poor robin do then?

Poor thing!

He'll sit in the barn,

And keep himself warm,

And hide his head under his wing,

Poor thing!

The North Wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,

And what will the dormouse do then?

Poor thing!

Rolled up like a ball,

In his nest snug and small,

He'll sleep till warm weather comes in.

Poor thing!

January bares his two sets of teeth.

Remembering that January is named for the Roman god Janus who is represented with two faces looking in opposite directions, we are feeling the double bite of widespread flooding along with many slides on our highways which have stranded thousands in our area.

Turning to one of my favorite books of the "keeping of the months of the year" (The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady), I found the following quote from the Faerie Queen by E. Spenser:

"Then came old January, wrapped well
In many weeds to keep the cold away
Yet did he quake and quiver like to quell
And blewe his nales to warm them if he may;
For they were numbed with holding all the day.
And hatchet keene with which he felled wood
And from the trees did lop the needless spray."

Methinks that the month has more than a wee bit of bite left in it, I am afraid...but time will tell.

From the verrra soggy Pacific Northwest,


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Now the floods...

As my mum used to say, if it's not one thing then it's another. And be careful what you pray for!

At last the weather has warmed up here in Ferndale and the snow has left us, but torrential rains in the last day or so with more on the way have created huge runoffs in the local rivers and flood warnings have been posted for the next few days.

This morning the local radio station was noting that some streets in Bellingham have been closed due to as much as three feet of water in the streets and this is before the full impact of the floods has occurred. Luckily we live on one the hilltops above Ferndale, but by Friday the usual roads to the freeway may be under water and we will have to find another way to be out and about.

For moment, dry and warm in Ferndale...hoping this is true for those reading this post.


They're rolling out the guns again, hurroo....

As I read the morning news (and evening and nightly), I wonder if peace and justice will ever be possible for so many of the world's peoples. I cannot help but think of an old Irish ballad/lament entitled "Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye"that although many know(especially in the more familiar version of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again") fewer know of the last stanza that calls out for action against war and it's terrible tragedy.

After a number of verses detailing the terrible damage and toil that war takes on those who answer the call to fight, the last verse makes no bones about what needs to be done:

"They're rolling out the guns again, hurroo, hurroo
They're rolling out the guns again, hurroo, hurroo
They're rolling out the guns again,
But they never will take our sons again,
No they never will take our sons again,
Johnny I'm swearing to ye"

I first heard the full version of this song on a wonderful LP of Martha Schlamme singing at Carnegie Hall that my mother had and would play for my sister and I.

For those interested and willing to take a stand against war I recommend (among others), the following organizations that have a long and distinguished record of trying to stem the tides of war:

War Resisters League at
The Fellowship of Reconciliation at
The American Friends Service Committee at

Perhaps this will be year in which the seeds of peace and love can be sown more fully.

Peace and Blessings,


Sunday, January 4, 2009

A few new gadgets

All right, I admit it...I love gadgets and have to be careful not to go overboard, but I have added three items that might be of interest. A Tolkien quote gadget that will hopefully change daily, a link box to various weather sites (a passion of mine), and a Celtic Radio box that will provide a bit of audio fun. And had to add a little Owl for some priceless wisdom....and to honor the Goddess of the Night.



Saturday, January 3, 2009

A New Greenman

The new Greenman on the right side of the blog comes from the wonderful and enchanting site Not only is the title delightful, but this a site filled with lore, wisdom, art and myth to keep one busy for many hours on end.

Kathleen Jenks, the creator of Mything*Links is to be commended, nay adored, for all that she has found and created for us.

Have fun exploring....


Friday, January 2, 2009

J.R.R. Tolkien for the New Year

As I look forward to the coming year I draw comfort and a reminder of the the work that is to be done in a passage from J.R.R. Tolkien that is framed in our office

"The Rule of no realm is mine,
but all worthy things that are in peril as the world
now stands, those are my care.
And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task
if anything passes through this night
that can still grow fair or bear fruit
and flower again in days to come.
For I too am a steward. Did you not know?"

'Tis true we are in some dark times, but Tolkien reminds us that we do have a stewardship to follow and with a resolute heart we may make a difference.

For me, this is not only a New Year's resolution, but one for each and every day of the year.



Some New Music on the playlist

As the old year fades and new year arrives, thought I would change the playlist. You will find Celtic (of course), some medieval, and some of my favorite songs from Peter Paul and Mary as a reminder that there is still work to be done for peace, for freedom and for a better world.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

A New Year's Surprise...

When I went into work at the hospital last night, there was (unexpectedly) half an inch of a snow/slush mix on the ground with a light snow mist falling. So I took the four wheel drive and carefully drove to work.
The real surprise came when I drove home this morning, into a light bit of snow on the freeway, but much more in Ferndale. I crept up the hill to home where a winter wonderland has materialized. A perfect picture postcard.
So the first New Year's resolution is to learn how to use the small digital camera we have so I can post photos in a much more timely fashion.

Of course the birds took priority...filled the feeders, put more suet out and the bird mob scene promptly ensued. Such delicate creatures, I worry how they will survive the winter...and bless them for the delight to the eyes and ears they give to us, season in and season out.

Happy New Year and wishes for a more blessed year to come to us all.