Thursday, November 19, 2009

Moon When All is Gathered In

Early this month I harvested my last Cherokee Trail of Tears beans just before the rains came. I cut down the fennel and put the rest of those seeds in the compost because they had been exposed to too much moisture already. The time of harvesting marigold seeds had passed because it's just too darned wet. There were some chocolate cosmos and tall coneflowers blooming along with the smaller tagetes, but now even they are sodden and bedraggled. I'm kicking myself because I did not harvest our hops before they rusted, but I do like the look of them climbing on the rails of our front stairs. I hope the bees are warm and dry inside their hive square dancing and playing canasta, or whatever they do to amuse themselves over the long winter months.

Vancouver has had light frosts since mid October, and at least one hard frost in November, but mostly we just have the weather that feels colder than it really is because it is so wet. And have I mentioned the wind? Yes, there is that too, blowing the scraps of wet oak leaves into your face and causing the rain to seep into every pore of your exposed flesh. The wind shakes the rain from trees full of fat robins feasting on bright red berries, so that the water drops right down the back of your neck and you curse yourself for buying this jacket on sale because it did not have a hood.

The Algonquin call the November Moon the Full Beaver Moon, either because they trapped the animals for winter furs or because the beavers were getting ready to hibernate. Most of the Native North American names for this month's moon acknowledge the frost and the beginning of winter. It's poignant to see that for the Mowhawk nation it was a Time of Much Poverty, but for the Potawatomi it was literally the month of their Thanksgiving turkey feast. In times past, rivers froze, hides were scraped, and the snow began to fall. The Wishram Moon name could very well describe the Vancouver moon in November: Snowy Mountains Morning Moon. And so all has been gathered in and winter is on its way to Vancouver. Sigh. My friend reminds me that every day now is one day closer to spring.

Algonquin: Full Beaver Moon
Anishnaabe: Freezing Moon
Abenaki: Freezing River Maker Moon
Assiniboine: Frost Moon
Cherokee: Trading Moon
Eastern Comanche: Heading to Winter Moon, Thanking Moon
Cree: The Moon the Rivers Begin to Freeze
Creek: Moon When the Water is Black with Leaves
Haidi: Snow Moon
Hopi: Month of Fledgling Hawk
Kiowa: Geese-Going Moon
Lakota: Moon when Winter Begins
Mohawk: Time of Much Poverty
Potawatomi: Month of the Turkey & Feast
Shawnee: Long Moon
Sioux: Moon of the Falling Leaves
Tewa Pueblo: Moon When All is Gathered In
Tlingit: Scraping Moon
Winnebago; Little Bear's Moon
Wishram: Snowy Mountains in the Morning Moon

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Memorium

I spent part of All Soul's Day at the MOP Garden. I was relieved to see that the bee garden hadn't been vandalized since I last visited and calendula and marigold were still blooming. One stray honeybee was desperately searching the rain-drenched petals of a yellow marigold for pollen or nectar. A syrphid fly hovered above the calendula. One of the reasons I grew the larger or "African" marigolds was to use them in an altar for the All Souls evening at Mountainview Cemetery, but I ran out of time to assemble it. So I decided to make an impromptu wreath for Leonard's garden.

Leonard was one of the guerilla gardeners who would plant things in the bee garden when I wasn't looking. I was frustrated when plants appeared in spaces we had designated for other flowers, especially when some of the rogue plants were unlabeled or contained invasive species. One day I discovered that the wiry man who'd been mysteriously repairing our willow fences was an avid gardener and loved "rescuing" plants other people were throwing away. When I finally met him and explained my point of view, he was very accomodating. "I'll give you a bed to plant in," I said, and I pointed to a bed just south of the bee garden surrounded by a willow fence. He filled it with a hodge podge of flowers and vegetables--from geraniums to broccoli.

Then about three weeks later, Leonard's partner saw me and told me the shocking news. My guerilla gardener had died suddenly of a drug overdose. His partner seemed very resigned, and still in shock himself. They had been together for many years. Leonard had been living with HIV and addicted to drugs for a long time. "This garden was his refuge," his partner said.

We left his garden as it was and kept it watered until one day someone pulled up all the plants. I was angry and sorrowful. It's a heart-breaking place to work sometimes, the old MOP, but it was another humbling experience of letting go of controlling nature in a public space.

After making the wreath, I harvested the tobacco I planted with seeds from Dan Jason that were grown from a 1000 year old tobacco plant. I sowed them quite late in the season, which is why they didn't bloom.

There's a lovely green amaranth plant in the garden. The seeds are just ripe now.

I left the calendula for the bees. There was some white sage and a bit of anise hyssop blooming as well, but I harvested most of the hyssop for seeds.

There was a big movie shoot happening down the hill and they were attempting to bounce sunlight off a reflective screen. It's lucky they had sunlight at all at this time of the year.

I savored my time in the garden, knowing it was one of the last beautiful warm days of 2009. The golden light shimmering through the yellowing leaves of the willow trees, and the honeybees were milling about the entrance to the hive. There are still bits and pieces of Leonard's mystery plants in the corners of the bee garden, and I don't have the heart to pull them out.

All your sad or merrying, you must tell the bees.

Good-bye Leonard, Gordon, and Peter. The gardens grow on in memory of you.