Friday, February 8, 2013

Cycles, Composting and Creativity

Landscape with Snow (Paysage enneigé), by Vincent Van Gogh
late February 1888. Oil on canvas, 15 1/16 x 18 3/16 inches
(38.2 x 46.2 cm).  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York,
Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Hilde Thannhauser 84.3239
Silent Moon - How can we find silent time to restore and regenerate our enthusiasm for our lives/work/relationships? ~
CAYA's Full Moon Questions.

“Only to a magician is the world forever fluid, infinitely mutable and eternally new.  Only he knows the secret of change, only he knows truly that all things are crouched in eagerness to become something else, and it is from this universal tension that he draws his power.” ~ Peter Beagle

“In nature the life-death-rebirth cycle is clear as we watch flash fires ignited by lightning level the prairies.  It may appear that all life is gone, lost to the ravages of flame and smoke, but within days, tiny green shoots begin to poke above the surface of the soil.  Mother Earth has cleared the land for new life.  Even in my garden I sense the seasons and the cycle of life-death-life.  Perennials planted in my yard years ago go through their seasonal life span: a new green shoot, a blooming tulip, soon gone, but the bulb below the soil holds all the necessary ingredients for repeating the cycle again next spring.” ~ Kathleen A. Brehony, Awakening at Midlife

Ohio Story:
A guy is nursing his beer at a downtown Cleveland bar.  For over twenty minutes he’s been studying the pictures that decorate the place: Cy Young, Doris Day, Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Bob Hope, Jessie Owens, Orville and Wilbert Wright, Toni Morrison, Thomas Edison, Bernadine Healy, Erma Bombeck, Rita Dove…  He leans over and asks the bartender.  “What’s with Ohio?”

The bartender shrugs and tops off another order.

“How does Ohio get all these famous people?  You know 8 presidents and 25 astronauts...”

The bartender nods.  “Four months.”

“Come again?”

“We Ohioans are blessed with four months.”

“I don’t think I’m following you.”

“Ohio winters.  That gray, snow and cold that people from other states complain about, well it has an opposite effect for us Ohioans.  We are taught at an early age that the best time to fertilize dreams is during an Ohio winter.  It makes you contemplate.  You know – chew on it and compost the stuff that doesn’t work.”


"To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1.

Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds


I love Ohio winters.  The cold temperatures that bite your cheeks, icy sidewalks and the gray sky days?  Not so much.  What I like is the stillness of the time.  I find this seasonal period always inviting me to rest, be silent and to listen.  It calls me to gather unfinished projects or those that are broken and to decide to: fix them, finish them or unravel them.  Spiritually, I know it’s a way for making room for something new.

I see winter as the ebbing part of an endless cycle. It reminds me of the ocean’s tide gently pulling back before the next surge forward.  Winter is the nighttime when dreams percolate as you sleep and all you have to do is choose one star to follow the next morning.  To exhale is winter.  The air rushes out of my nose and I can feel my shoulders relax for a bit or enough to catch my breath and focus my thoughts.    

As a gardener, I value this part of the seasonal cycle.  I’m hoping this year’s frigid temperatures will decrease the bug population.  (2012 bean patch was continually munched down and my salad mix had Alpine lacey holes).  I’m hoping it will create a big sugar rush in the Maple trees so that that the cost of a gallon of syrup will go down. (2012 too warm of a winter).
My compost bin also likes the winter.  The freezing and thawing (1/29/2013 60F and 2/1/2013 16F) helps break down the vegie matter into this primordial black stuff that T spreads into our garden.  The unwanted egg shells, used teabags, cabbage core and the moldy lentil soup that was forgotten in the frig all magically turns (science speak - decomposes) into this green silky film.  It then mixes with the other earthy smelling brown matter in the bin.  By October, the end product is this ultimate fertilizer for next year’s garden.


“The ancient rhythms of the earth have insinuated themselves into the rhythms of the human heart. The earth is not outside us; it is within: the clay from where the tree of the body grows. When we emerge from our offices, rooms and houses, we enter our natural element. We are children of the earth: people to whom the outdoors is home. Nothing can separate us from the vigor and vibrancy of this inheritance. In contrast to our frenetic, saturated lives, the earth offers a calming stillness. Movement and growth in nature takes its time. The patience of nature enjoys the ease of trust and hope. There is something in our clay nature that needs to continually experience this ancient, outer ease of the world. It helps us remember who we are and why we are here.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace


Many of my poems, knitting projects and short stories have come from the scraps transformed in my creative compost bin.  The yule scarf that I’m working on for a friend has evolved out of an intended sweater I was knitting 25 years ago.  Every time I’ve looked at the beautiful red yarn and unfinished sweater in my basement, I immediately thought of the bad memories attached to it (i.e., old abusive boyfriend, laughing ex-friends (1980s) who thought knitting was an old lady activity, family members who believed I couldn’t finish anything I started).  This past January’s full moon I decided I needed to let go of those memories and tossed them onto my creative compost pile.  Immediately, I felt a winter – a stillness, a soft place with clean snow, and the ocean’s tide pulling back.  As January's moon let go of her fullness, I found a new and lighter place in my psyche.  The red yarn was free to become something new. 

Cable Scarf @ BEMS

Knitting Activity
Spirit Stitch’s Irish Fisherman Cable Scarf or Cindy’s wish for a fruitful day at the sea.

You will need a cable needle in addition to the regular knitting needles (I used 5 American needles)

Cast on 42 on regular knitting needles.
Knit 4 rows (8 rows total – down and back)

Row 1: Knit 8 (purl 1 knit 4) 6 times knit last 4 stitches
Row 2: Knit 8 (purl 4 knit 1) 6 times knit last 4 stitches
Row 3:  Knit 8 (purl 1 knit 4) 6 times knit last 4 stitches
Row 4: Knit 8 (purl 4 knit 1) 6 times knit last 4 stitches
Row 5: Knit 8 (Cable stitch Back the 4 purl 1) 6 times knit last 4 stitches
Row 6: Knit 8 (purl 4 knit 1) 6 times knit last 4 stitches

Repeat 1- 6 to desired length

Knit 4 rows (8 down and back) at the end of the scarf.

Note:  I crossed my cable needle behind for this scarf - this is different than the Youtube video.

Additional Reading on Composting

Dreher, Diane. Inner Gardening: Four Seasons of Cultivating the Soil and the Spirit. William Morrows. 2001.

Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones. Shambhala Press. Boston, Massachusetts. 2005.

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