Dandelion Greens in the River of Time


It started out innocently enough. My sister asked me if I knew which plants wee flowers and which were weeds growing in her rock garden. She reached down, pulled up a Dandelion then tossed it over the embankment as we debated over the profusion of growth. The North Carolina mountains know how to make spring seem like heaven, perfect sunshine and only the slightest of breezes. Today was like that and we were doing the gardening and yard work. Mostly, we just wanted to be outside.

Some less rural people do not understand how important it is to know what to pull up and what to leave in a garden (flower or vegetable). Weeds are a divine joke on humanity. They grow faster than domesticated plants and have evolved the most effective and irritating ways of spreading so this brief consult was important.

She walked away and I reached down automatically and pulled up another Dandelion. I held it for a moment in my hand, looked at the bud in the center and the spreading long green leaves when the memories hit. I remembered my Aunt Betty, a small wry woman, bent over in her farmhouse yard, digging Dandelions and piling them into a market basket. She would look up at me occasionally smiling, a contented woman. I remembered my grandmother standing at the kitchen sink carefully cleaning a huge stack of Dandelion greens in her country kitchen, paring knife in hand. Dandelion greens were always a country rite of passage, served with ham or along side Sunday chicken dinner. We topped them with salt, vinegar and lots of butter.

I remembered digging Dandelion greens myself as a young woman to supplement our food. My son loved them. They were free, nutritious and bountiful.

Today they are a sudden connection to people I loved long ago and now. Looking around, I saw a small harvest of them. One person’s weeds is another person’s treasure. With each Dandelion I pulled I felt the line of my mothers with me, felt grandmothers and aunties who gathered wild food including Dandelion greens to keep their families going. I feel them watching with approval. Unlike my immediate family, I follow old ways and when this connection occurs, it is like dipping your feet in a river of the Divine.

I brought my green treasure inside, washed then soaked the greens and separated the roots. It had been several years since I cooked Dandelion greens but they aren’t difficult. My sister made breaded chicken and mushroom pasta while I boiled the greens. Just the two of us feasted that day but I remembered other family dinners that overflowed onto folding tables covered in linens and scavenged chairs. Food and family.

Later, I cut up the Dandelion roots and put them out to dry. They make a good medicine for the hepatic system. Another sister gave me a large mortar and pestle for Solstice last year and I wanted to use it. Eventually, the dried roots will be pounded into near powder and preserved. This is my own tradition now. These Dandelions have started a resurgence in me. More herbs will follow. Already this spring, I have noted where the Bloodroot and Coltsfoot grow on the mountain. There will be more Dandelions, too. No doubt accompanied by more memories.

Love and Pancakes

Some women are just complex.They live life by the moment, take the hand of the wind and dance as long as they can. And they do it all with a cool, even silent, demeanor that belies the tempests of their hearts.

My grandmother was one of those women. Born in 1892 in a small town in northern Pennsylvania, she learned early just how pretty she was. Her father was a supervisor in the local tannery and lived in town. Their apartment was over a mercantile store next to a hotel which had a shady reputation around the whole county. Six year old Mabel, my own sweet granny, would dance around the front lawn as waiting men watched and laughingly gave her pennies. What the men were waiting for was why the hotel had such a reputation. This lasted until her horrified mother caught her and switched her behind all the way home. Mabel had learned something from this experience that far out lasted the sting of the switch. She had learned to dance with abandon.

By the time 1927 rolled in, Mabel was on her fourth marriage, shocking the rural society she grew up in. Along the way, she had gone from a two cow dowry with husband number one to a good sized dairy farm with husband number four, a man named Nelson. She worked hard and was shrewd with money. She got up early, made breakfast for her husband and the hired farm hands then worked the rest of day both in the house and on the farm. Nelson was the opposite of her. Grandma later told me he was lazy and a “mama’s boy.”  He got up in the morning, took the buggy to town where he visited a pool hall then his parents.  It was his favorite routine.

Nelson came home from this routine one day when they were a farm hand short. Mabel was in the barn shoveling manure out of the drops when he came in wanting to know where his supper was. Her response was less than civil. He told her she needed to act like a wife and get up to the house and fix his dinner. He then made the first disastrous decision of the day when he slapped her. The second disastrous decision came when he turned his back on her. She promptly struck him over the head with her shovel as hard as she could. Fortunately for him, she was a petite woman and did not kill him. Unfortunately for him, she landed a forceful enough blow to knock him unconscious. Looking disdainfully down on him as she stepped over him, she went to the house. By the time he woke up all of his personal belongings were on the porch. He came up the door, peered in to see her sitting with a shot gun across her lap glaring at him. He had never seen her use a gun but his aching head reminded him she could be very serious so he climbed into the buggy and went to his parents’ house.

An hour later, his parents were knocking on the door, calling out to her to reassure it “this could be worked out.” She resumed her seat with the shot gun. They looked in at her then took his things off the porch and left.

The next visitor was her father. He walked in, looked at her and shook his head.”I guess you are done with this one,too<” he commented. “I’ll tell them they better just let it go.” Disgusted, he left.

After everyone was gone and the dust had settled, she went down to the barn where Art, my grandfather, was working. She said “I am going to give you a choice. You can lay that bottle you are so fond of down and come stay in the house with me or you can keep that bottle and keep sleeping in your bunk.” He looked up her, startled. She walked away.

My grandmother never told me what attracted her to him or any love story. She simply told it like I said but I know she had to have been checking him out. He was twelve years younger than she. Wiry built with thick wavy hair and shockingly blue eyes, I know she had her eye on him for a bit. He was a gentle man and had a remarkable way of taming and comforting animals of all kinds. He grew up hard, his father left him and his three siblings to return to Montana. Art’s mother was a sickly diabetic. Leo, the oldest of the siblings quit school at twelve to work in the lumber camps. Art followed at fourteen, also quitting school for employment. His two sisters married young and died young during a tuberculosis outbreak. He became the typical town drunk while young with a cycle of working hard followed by binges that found him sleeping behind buildings or in the grass by roads.  He knew starvation and desolation early and drowned those memories in alcohol.

Art thought about a lot of things that evening. Mabel was still beautiful. An old man once stopped in the street in a nearby town when I was fourteen and asked if I was related to her. Surprised I said yes, she was my grandmother. He said she was the most beautiful woman in the entire valley and could dance with anyone she wanted to. He had a faraway look in his eye when he told me that and I knew he was one of her admirers. He said I looked like her. Maybe Art was thinking about her beauty, a little stunned with her offer. Maybe he was wondering if he could quit drinking. Maybe he was wondering if this is what love feels like when he knocked on her door that evening and began a forty-seven year  relationship. I was with her the day he died in November 1973. I watched her wilt a little that day.

I lived with my grandparents growing up. They didn’t have one of those quiet cuddly relationships. It was tumultuous and unpredictable. She was jealous of other women. He was innocent of other women. She gave up throwing things at him during their impassioned arguments when her arthritis and balance got bad. He never threw things back at her but he learned to duck. When he had enough of her anger, he would shout back, frequently standing in front of her. He didn’t do that often but when he did, she became almost demure, quiet like she knew she had gone too far. There would be peace in the house for along while after. She tested his love even into her seventies.

Shortly before Art died, Mabel was in the hospital for her heart or something. I was determined to take care of my grandfather so I got up early and set out the ingredients for pancakes.My grandmother proudly made him pancakes every day of their marriage. He stood in the doorway watching me. Finally he spoke. “You don’t have to make me pancakes. You make them just like Mabel and she makes the worst pancakes I have ever eaten.”

He got ham, eggs and toast that morning. I got a lesson in love. Over forty years of those “worse” pancakes and he never said a thing to her. Never brought it up even in the midst of an argument. What an awesome man! He really did love her. She loved him as well. May they be blessed wherever they are. I miss them both.




Hawks & Doves

I was on the front porch this afternoon helping my sister install porch railings when the screeching of a bird interrupted us. We both looked up and immediately ran to the sun room where the macaws live with a small conure, Mr. Stubbs. I thought a snake had gotten in. All was quiet there and suddenly the shrieking had stopped so we returned to our work.

Again we were interrupted by desperate shrieks of a bird. I walked around the house, picking up a shovel in case it was a Copperhead who had found dinner. The shrieks continued in the trees just up the mountains. I shrieked back, loudly and sharply to see if I could shake something into sight. Breaking from the tree line came a Mourning Dove with a small hawk following a short distance behind it.. The dove made a sudden right into the trees across from the driveway. The hawk circled back then disappeared back up the mountain still on the hunt.

Omens and messages come unexpectedly, in the most curious places. Some even show up in your own backyard. What message was sent today in this most unusual sight?  A narrow miss for the dove who very well could have been lunch without my intervention and its own quick wits. The hawk was determined the dove would be hers and was relentless in its multiple attacks. Was it the dove or the hawk that was the message? I am thinking it is both. There is a thing to ponder.

My America is immersed in the darkest of times and under constant threat of succumbing to treachery in its highest places. It is a time of unspeakable evil and vile acts. The turning point is now. Time to act. Just hitting a sticker button on Facebook or sharing disturbing news is not enough. Action requires more than twitching a finger. It requires standing up, raising your voice, marching and joining others to shift the flow of things back to human decency.  Being just a dove will not work. We cannot sway things by timid acts or sudden flights. Being a hawk is not enough. Random targets just distract attention from what really needs to be done.

Be both the hawk and the dove. Know when to fly  talons extended and beak ready to tear. Be dogged and determined, but also know when to be the dove and dive out of reach among the camouflage. Being the dove may be an easier path but the world needs as many hawks as it can find right now.  Learn to be the hawk as well.

A war unlike any other has started. Time to put old habits away and fight for all you are worth. The fate of our nation and the world depends on you, hawk and dove.



Song of the Warrior Witch

Song of the Warrior Witch

I am daughter of old power
born of star dust and wild earth

I am wind raging, ocean waves rising
I am vessel born to carry Light

I know the sly ways, the clever ways
for they were there with my first breath.

I am dragon’s heart, eternal guardian
I am mind and long memory.

I am my own my death time and again
I am my renewal in Her Gardens.

I am Realm Walker .
I am Wild Reaper.

I am Past, Beginning and Now.

I walk where I will for Magic
is always within and beside me.
I am my own wand and staff
always ready to defend Light.

I am my sisters and brothers who
tread fearlessly forward, armies of one.

I see the dark but not fear for
I am the warrior awaited.

I am the Mothers, the Maidens, the Crones
raising my voice with theirs both
a moon howl and an incantation.
I walk between veils and centuries
to arrive at the very moment I am needed.

I am the Warrior Witch come to turn tides.

By Theresa “Tree” Higgins
all rights reserved

Dirt and Dust

I spent the day getting my hands dirty, the kind of dirty that embeds soil under the fingernails and turns the knees of your jeans a rich brown. I had to move strawberry plants which had arrogantly spread out in all directions and pull up the withering remains of plants that fed us throughout the summer. These mountains reminds me to be prepared for the coming winter by preparing the beds for spring. As my sister weeded her flower gardens, I  hoed the earth while glancing up at leaves falling from trees. It the between time. Between summer heat and cold fingers of winter reaching out. It is between time of life and seeming death. We Pagans call it the Thinning of the Veil, a time when the living and the dead are closer than any other time. It is the when we reach out to our ancestors and beloved dead for a brief acknowledgement of each other.

My time spent hands deep in earth is precious. It is a meditation of life and death in the fall. The tomatoes tasting so sweet in my mouth this summer are gone. I tossed their shriveled remains over the mountain. I pulled them up thanking them for their sustenance and tossed the shriveled remains over the mountains praising them for their bountiful lives. I think they are relieved to be released from their earthly duties and struggles. I wonder, when it is my turn to be pulled up and thrown to the wind if I will be relieved as well. I will be sixty one next month which makes it a pertinent meditation today.

I lost a good friend on Monday. We were a day apart in age. He was quite extraordinary. I met him over twenty years ago when his wife told me to come on by and use their tools to do the brakes on my Mercury Cougar. I used to have to do most of my own mechanical work because my pockets were never deep enough. When I got to their house, Joel was under a Ford 250 truck pulling the transmission. A couple of other men were standing around helping him as he called for assistance. He rolled out from under the truck on a mechanic’s dolly and smiled up at me. After introductions, he rolled back under the truck and I commenced  pulling a wheel. The next time he came out from under the truck, he said he needed a break. One of the guys reached a hand down and pulled Joel to a sitting position as his wife, Elaine, brought a wheel chair out from the garage then assisted him into it. I looked back at my wheel and stared intently at it stunned at the marvel of what his condition was and how he was rising above it.  I later learned he was a T4 paraplegic and had been since he was twenty three. It was the beginning of a long and wonderful friendship with both of them. My admiration for his ability to always move forward through life never waivered. He was a courageous and intelligent man. He died suddenly in his own bed on his back looking up, his wolf talisman in his hand. He took death as he took life…uniquely, on his terms and unflinching. Pagan to the very end.

It is October. Harvest time. Samhain. Thinning of the Veil. He was a precious harvest. I thank him for the sweetness of his friendship, the wisdom of his councel. I will do a ritual of blessings to ease his passing soon but I do not think he needs that ritual. I can feel him moving joyously now on the other side of the Veil. I need the ritual. I need to say goodbye and send my love with him. I need to write his song and cast it to the wind. Maybe the wind will carry it and plant it again elsewhere, a seed of courage and independence that becomes another Joel.



Crocus at the Edge of Time

Rising orb lights
the world with indifference,
raises muttering voices
lights the assembly line
lights storm trooper boots
that stand along hardtop
paths where people shuffle
this direction, that direction-
wherever the boots point them.

Frogs call to one another in
the pond by forest, fireflies
rise and dance erratically in air
while crocuses at the edge of
time bloom after raising faces
to capture warm light then
quickly bow heads once again
shrinking into themselves as
the rhythmic pounding boots
announce their arrival.

I would rather be a crocus
at the edge of time, face
briefly lit than on an
assembly line herded by
boots or be the boots that
never feel warmth or know
the joy of spreading petals.